Richard Burke (politician)

Richard Edward Burke (29 March 1932 – 15 March 2016) was an Irish Fine Gael politician who served as European Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration from 1982 to 1985, European Commissioner for Taxation, Consumer Affairs, Transport and Parliamentary Relations from 1977 to 1981 and Minister for Education from 1973 to 1976. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1969 to 1976 and 1981 to 1982.[1]

Richard Burke
European Commissioner for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration
In office
1 April 1982  5 January 1985
PresidentGaston Thorn
Preceded byMichael O'Kennedy
Succeeded byHenning Christophersen
European Commissioner for Taxation, Consumer Affairs, Transport and Parliamentary Relations
In office
6 January 1977  6 January 1981
PresidentRoy Jenkins
Preceded byNew office
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister for Education
In office
14 March 1973  2 December 1976
TaoiseachLiam Cosgrave
Preceded byPádraig Faulkner
Succeeded byPeter Barry
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1981  30 March 1982
ConstituencyDublin West
In office
June 1969  June 1977
ConstituencyDublin County South
Personal details
Richard Edward Burke

(1932-03-29)29 March 1932
New York City, US
Died15 March 2016(2016-03-15) (aged 83)
Castleknock, Dublin, Ireland
Political partyFine Gael
(m. 1968)
Alma mater

Early life and education

Burke was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932. He was raised in Upperchurch, County Tipperary, and educated at the Christian Brothers School, Thurles.[2] He went on to study at University College Dublin (UCD) and King's Inns.[3] He worked as a teacher before embarking on a political career.[2]

Political career

His first political involvement was with the Christian Democrat Party founded by Seán Loftus. However, he soon became a member of Fine Gael, becoming a member of Dublin County Council in 1967. Two years later, in 1969, he was elected to Dáil Éireann for the first time, becoming a TD for Dublin County South.[4] He was immediately appointed Fine Gael Chief Whip by party leader Liam Cosgrave.

In 1973, a new Fine Gael–Labour Party coalition government was formed, and Burke was appointed Minister for Education. During that period in power he joined the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, in voting against the government's own Contraceptives Bill. In 1976, he won an internal cabinet battle with fellow Minister Justin Keating for the nomination as Ireland's European Commissioner. In that position he succeeded Patrick Hillery, who returned to become President of Ireland.

Burke did not contest the 1977 general election, but on the completion of his four-year term as a European Commissioner, he accepted an invitation to stand at the 1981 general election for Fine Gael, on returning to Ireland from Harvard University after his fellowship year at Leverett House from 1980 to 1981. He was elected a TD for Dublin West.[5]

However, Burke was not appointed to the short-lived cabinet of Garret FitzGerald. At the February 1982 election, he retained his seat,[4] but Fine Gael lost office; Charles Haughey formed a minority Fianna Fáil government with the support of independent deputies. Haughey's short-lived cabinet, in the absence of suitable and available members of their own party, nominated Burke for acceptance by the European Council and European Parliament as a European Commissioner, for the second time, where his seniority resulted in his nomination as a Vice-President of the Commission.

Later life and death

After Burke left politics at both Irish and European level, he became President and chief executive officer of the Stichting Canon Foundation in Europe until his retirement in 1998.

Burke died on 15 March 2016 and was survived by his wife Mary and five of his six children. He was predeceased by his son Joseph.[6]


  1. "Richard Burke". Oireachtas Members Database. December 1976. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  2. "Richard Burke: Twice-appointed EEC commissioner". The Irish Times. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  3. "Former minister and commissioner Burke dies". RTÉ News. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  4. Walker, Brian M., ed. (1992). Parliamentary election results in Ireland, 1918–92. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. ISBN 0-901714-96-8. ISSN 0332-0286.
  5. "Richard Burke". Retrieved 15 January 2011.
  6. "Dick Burke, former minister for education, dies aged 83". The Irish Times. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
Political offices
Preceded by
Pádraig Faulkner
Minister for Education
Succeeded by
Peter Barry
Preceded by
Patrick Hillery
Irish European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Michael O'Kennedy
Preceded by
Michael O'Kennedy
Irish European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Peter Sutherland