How did Niamh Bhreathnach die? Ireland’s Ex education minister cause of death explained

Niamh Bhreathnach
Niamh Bhreathnach


The minister who abolished college tuition, Niamh Bhreathnach, has passed away. Let’s see, how did the ex-education minister die and Niamh Bhreathnach cause of death in detail.

How did Niamh Bhreathnach die?

Former Labor TD for Dn Laoghaire was named minister for education on her first day in the Dáil in 1992. President Michael D. Higgins announced the death of Bhreathnach in the Twitter post.

Ms. Bhreathnach, a former Labor Party TD from Dn Laoghaire, was also named a senior minister on her first day in the Dáil. She was best known as the minister of education who abolished third-level fees in 1996.

In a tribute, President Michael D. Higgins said she had left “an extraordinary legacy of educational reform.” The statement reads,

That legacy includes the abolition of third-level undergraduate tuition fees and significant increases in education spending.

The introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme, and making the Transition Year programme available to all second-level schools, any of which on its own would reflect a significant term in office.

“Her period as Minister for Education saw marked reductions in the pupil-teacher ratio… She was also a real advocate of the Educate Together movement, at a time when the debate on patronage in Education was difficult but vitally important, and several Educate Together schools were opened during her time in office, including the Educate Together School in Galway.”

Who was Niamh Bhreathnach?

Niamh was one of a civil servant couple’s five daughters, born in 1945 to Clare-born Lena Donnellan and Dubliner Breandán Breathnach.

Her father was the main force behind the development of Merrion Square’s Irish Traditional Music Archive and Henrietta Street’s Na Póbairi Uilleann (NPU).

The five girls in their family went to Sion Hill Secondary School and Carysfort National School while growing up in Blackrock.

Following her training as a Froebel teacher, Ms. Bhreathnach worked as a teacher in the inner city’s Cook Street neighborhood before managing a busy remedial practice until her election to Dáil Éireann in 1992.

Labor leader Dick Spring requested her “to do” something about disadvantages on the day of her appointment as minister in November 1992.

Remarkable works:

She created initiatives like “Breaking the Cycle” and “Early Start” by drawing on her experience from her time living in Dublin’s inner city.

The goal was to significantly improve the educational opportunities for families with lower incomes.

Radical educational initiatives characterized her tenure at the department. Her track record places her alongside pioneering ministers in that field like Paddy Hillery, who was involved with funding for education, and Donagh O’Malley, who instituted free secondary education.

In 1990, Ms. Bhreathnach won the first-ever vote for Labor Party chairman.

Additionally, while serving as minister, she launched the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, which at the time sparked controversy, the Social Personal and Health Education programme, the new examination subject of Civic Social and Political Education; and Leaving Certificate Applied.

The standardization of the school year, the expansion of the support teacher service and the school psychological service, and the designation of the Regional Technical Colleges as Institutes of Education were structural issues she addressed.

She also spoke about certification of further education, school governance, and the designation of Regional Technical Colleges as Institutes of Education.

The Irish University Act of 1997 and the repeal of undergraduate tuition fees at third-level institutions are two university-related initiatives that Ms. Bhreathnach will always be linked to.
The latter, though it was meant to offer more equity, has remained debatable.

While fees were eliminated, the annual student contribution tax was raised to €3,000 by succeeding governments in more stable economic times.

Political career:

Ms. Breathnach remained involved in local politics after losing the 1997 election and represented Blackrock Ward in Dn Laoghaire Rathdown County.

She presided over several committees before being chosen as the Cathaoirleach in 2004–2005.

She served on the boards of directors for AHEAD (the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) and the Dn Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology (IADT).

Niamh Bhreathnach cause of death:

Niamh Bhreathnach has died at the age of 77. Ms. Bhreathnach was referred to be “one of the two or three best ministers for education that the country has ever seen” by former Labor adviser Fergus Finlay.

Niamh Bhreathnach cause of death was not known yet. She was remembered by many people on social media and they made condolences to her.

She is survived by her husband Tom Ferris, their two children Cliodhna and Macdara, Bryan, her son-in-law, Tom and Alice, her grandkids, Sghle, Fionnuala, and Éadaoin, as well as a large number of other family members and friends. Her sister Eibhlin predeceased her.

Tributes to Niamh Bhreathnach:

Ruairí Ó HEithir tweeted,

Very sad to read of the death of Niamh Bhreathnach. Having endured many mediocre ministers of education in my time as a teacher, her period in office really stood out.

BrendanHowlin tweeted,

So sorry to hear of the death of a dear colleague Niamh Bhreathnach. An education innovator, a progressive force in Irish education and a courageous champion for equality. She will be greatly missed.

Keith Mills tweeted,

R.I.P. Niamh Bhreathnach, one of only two people to serve their entire time in the Dáil as a minister. The damage she did by doing away with college fees, is still with us today.

Ivana Bacik tweeted,

Deeply sad at the loss of our dear friend, comrade and ally Niamh Bhreathnach. She leaves a tremendous legacy, and we will all miss her so much. Thoughts and deepest sympathies with Tom, Cliodhna, Macdara, all her family, friends and wider community. RIP.

Ged Nash TD tweeted,

A true reformer and radical in the proud @labour tradition has left us. From Breaking The Cycle and Early Start to the Leaving Cert Applied, Niamh changed countless lives. Sincerest condolences to Tom, Cliodhna & ⁦@macdarabueller⁩. Rest in peace.

Labour Dún Laoghaire posted,

We are deeply saddened in Labour Dún Laoghaire to learn of the death of Niamh Bhreathnach. Niamh served as a Minister, TD, Senator and Councillor.


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