Irish MP dies after going on cliff walk

THE body of a prominent member of the Irish Republic's Fine Gael opposition party was recovered from the sea off the coast of Cork yesterday.

Hugh Coveney, 62, a former minister for defence and a wealthy businessman, was reported missing on Saturday night, nine hours after he set off for a cliff walk with his three dogs close to his home. His body was recovered by naval divers from the sea at Crosshaven, County Cork.

He is a former Lord Mayor of Cork who served was minister for defence and the marine in the three-party government led by Fine Gael from December 1994. In May 1995 he resigned after it was made public he made a phone call to the chairman of the semi-state gas board, asking him if his family business was being considered for a business deal.

He then served as a junior minister in the department of finance and was on the government ministerial team for the peace process in 1996 and 1997. Until his death, he was Fine Gael's frontbench spokesman on agriculture and food. He was a member of the Irish parliament, the Dail, for Cork South-Central, a seat held since he won a by-election in November 1994. He had started his career in national politics in 1981. He was known as one of the "merchant princes" of Cork, having substantial business and commercial interests.

He is survived by his wife Pauline Brown, his six sons and one daughter. Five of his children are currently on a round-the-world sailing trip on his boat, in an attempt to raise money for the Chernobyl Children's Charity. Tributes were led by Irish premier Bertie Ahern.

Fine Gael leader and former premier John Bruton described Mr Coveney's death as "an unmitigated tragedy".

Mr Coveney was in the news last week when it was disclosed that he had been questioned by the Moriarty Tribunal, investigating links between business and politics in the Republic.

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