Death of former Westmeath county manager

The death has taken place of the former manager of Westmeath County Council, Jack Taaffe.

Mr Taaffe, who was just a month short of his 90th birthday, died on Sunday evening last, May 14, at his home at Rathcolman, Mullingar, surrounded by his family.

Although born in Mayo, Mr Taaffe grew up in Athy in Co Kildare, where his father - who actually trained as a teacher - served as a sergeant with An Garda Síochána.

Mr Taaffe was educated at the CBS school in Athy, and after leaving school joined the public service. He served in various roles in local government, spending time in Kildare, Roscommon, Offaly and Laois, before being appointed assistant county manager in Mayo from where, in 1981, he came to Westmeath as county manager, a post he geld up to 1998.

A polished, intelligent man, he presided over Westmeath County Council during a difficult time, when planning issues were very much to the fore and he had to balance the competing demands of those who harked for the less stringent planning approach of the 1960s and 1970s with the swing towards tighter zoning and away from the scattergun and ribbon-style development of the past.

Projects with which he was particularly associated were the development of Belvedere House, Park and Gardens and also, the Athlone and Mullingar bypasses, and also the arts centre in Mullingar. He was also involved in the start of the Enterprise Centre in Bishopsgate Street.

Former Westmeath TD Paul McGrath said Mr Taaffe was an excellent manager, as well as a man of both integrity and vision.

“He was straight and he was decent, and while there would have been lots of heavy debates in the council chamber, he would have left them behind once the door was closed.”

Following his retirement, Mr Taaffe remained active: he served on many interview boards as well as accepting the role of chairperson of the Mullingar Integrated Arts Centre and indeed in 2003, he was selected to serve as chairperson of the Midland Regional Drugs Task Force (MRDTF).

Mr Taaffe was a keen GAA fan, and in latter years, loved nothing better than taking his grandchildren by train to matches. He also enjoyed horse-racing.

Post-retirement, he also took up golf, enjoying greatly the camaraderie as well as the game itself, and he was part of a regular group who got together on Saturdays to play, and who would then go for coffee afterwards.

He greatly enjoyed travel, and fell in love with South Africa, which prompted an annual three-month stay in Capetown.

Mr Taaffe was a deeply religious man, and pilgrimaged each year for many years in Lough Derg.

Mr Taaffe is survived by his wife Frances; by his children Jon (Thailand), Karen Smith, Mullingar, Conor, Drogheda, Leslie Leavy, Coralstown, Paul, Mullingar and Joseph, Dublin; his sons-in-law Vincent Leavy and Martin Smith, daughters-in-law Áine (Culligan) and Rita (Grewal); his much-adored grandchildren John Anthony, Lesley-Ann, Kira, Vinóg, Jill, Ian, Maiya, and Anisha; his brothers, George, Tony and Francis; his sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives, extended family and many friends and former colleagues in local government.

Mr Taaffe will be reposing at his home in Rathcolman, Mullingar, today, Tuesday from 4pm to 7pm and the requiem Mass will be celebrated at 2pm on Wednesday in the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar followed by burial in Walshestown Cemetery, Mullingar.

The Mass may be viewed live on