LIAM HOURICAN was regarded by his friends as the best of his generation at University College Dublin, not just because of his huge gifts as a talker and writer, but because of his great heart and spirit. As his close friends reacted with horror to the news of his death at 49, on holiday in Co Kerry, as one man (and woman) they knew that - as Liam Hourican would have done for them - they must set out instantly to be with his family. So Peter Sutherland, Director General of GATT, and his wife got off the plane that was to take them to a function in Geneva, Anthony Clare with his wife and four of his children arrived from his mother's funeral in Dublin, and many others flew and drove to the remote house near Cahirciveen to participate in a wake of which Liam would have been proud.
It lacked him, of course - welcoming, expansive, exuberant, argumentative, hilarious, outrageous and loving. Disputes would end in hugs, magnificent invective against some (usually) absent foe or great recitations. Auden's 'The Shield of Achilles' I remember being thundered out at 3am in a Dublin suburban street.
Liam was a solitary and only child, his youth split between a small town in Roscommon and a boarding school in Sligo. He reached university at 17, unencumbered by childhood angst and determined to live life to the full, serve his country and found a dynasty. He hugely enjoyed everything that life produced - the offerings in a butcher's shop in Brussels, a great picture, wicked Philip Larkin letters or a fine claret.
Hourican succeeded for a time in his patriotic endeavours. Starting as the London correspondent of Radio Telefis Eireann he became its trenchant and courageous Northern Ireland reporter during the terrible years of the early 1970s. Being shot at, kidnapped and threatened with death heightened his joie de vivre and reinforced his burning commitment to fight the IRA and their perversion of the Irishness that he lived and breathed along with his passionate commitment to Europe.
A member of the cabinet of Richard Burke, Ireland's Commissioner at the European Commission, from 1976, Hourican came back to Ireland in 1981 as Press Secretary to Garret Fitzgerald's government. It was a job which involved a great financial sacrifice as well as intense dedication; it ended suddenly in 1982 when the government fell on a trivial issue. RTE, from which Hourican was on a long sabbatical, found themselves unable to give Liam any job. Complex political manoeuvres rescued him from the dole and took him back to Brussels, this time as No 1 in the Irish Commissioner's cabinet. Later he became a Commission employee. Making him inspector of their overseas offices was, Hourican said, like giving a drunk the keys to an off licence. He travelled and relished the world.
For Liam it was a sadness that, despite his passionate commitment to Ireland, he had ended up an exile. Yet his consolations were great. With his wife, Patricia, he created the beginnings of his dynasty. Their six surviving children are as clever, funny and audacious as he could possibly have hoped. Like his myriad friends, his family mourn the loss of a great life- enhancer.