Niall Andrews, politician: born Dublin 9 August 1937; TD (Fianna Fáil) for Dublin South 1977-87; MEP 1984-2004; married (one son, two daughters); died Dublin 16 October 2006.
Niall Andrews was one of the most individualistic figures in Irish public life, with a penchant for supporting causes shunned or neglected by others. As a member first of the Dáil and later of the European Parliament, he championed overseas development aid and took a keen interest in international affairs.
Asked what he regarded as his proudest achievement, he replied: "I made the Third World an issue." Although he held office for only a fleeting moment, he was a legendary vote-getter for the Fianna Fáil party in Dublin, where electors plainly admired his nonconformist attitudes.
He belonged to a powerful political dynasty established by his father, Todd Andrews, who was regarded as a founding father both of Fianna Fáil and of the Irish state itself. Todd's early revolutionary career in the war of independence included active service, arrest and imprisonment, a hunger strike, internment and a prison escape. Todd's sons Niall and David went into politics with Fianna Fáil, the latter serving as Irish foreign minister. Niall Andrews briefly held junior ministerial office during his 10 years as a member of the Dáil.
A member of Fianna Fáil's liberal wing, he played only a marginal role in the years when the party was convulsed by the issue of the leadership of Charles Haughey. In one impassioned speech he accused the media "of trying to execute Haughey just as the leaders of the 1916 Rising had been executed".
He spread his wings much more during his 20 years, 1984-2004, as a Member of the European Parliament, interesting himself in issues all over the world. The Fianna Fáil figure Eoin Ryan described him as "somebody who was never afraid to champion a cause that he believed in":
Whether it was on human rights or overseas development aid, if he believed in an issue he would
fight tooth and nail for it. Whether it was Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four, he was somebody who really went out of his way to fight for those people.
Andrews's more controversial causes included that of the so-called Colombia Three, the Irish republicans held in Central America on an alleged IRA mission in 2001. Acting as an international observer he visited Colombia and supported their claims of innocence. He also campaigned for the release of the Dublin-born aid worker Margaret Hassan, who in 2004 was kidnapped and later killed in Iraq. He opposed international sanctions against Iraq, saying they served only to create division in the Middle East.
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, yesterday hailed Niall Andrews's
passionate commitment to human rights around the world. He highlighted the cause of the oppressed and was a passionate advocate for those who had few if any advocates at all.
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