A constant poll topping TD who made her mark on Roscommon politics died over the weekend in Dublin at the age of 88 years.
Fondly called ‘Mrs. Joan Burke’ when she stood for a bye-election in 1964, which followed the untimely death of her husband, Deputy Jimmy Burke. Roscommon folk, particularly in her own Fine Gael party, continued calling her ‘Mrs. Joan Burke’, when talking publicly about the four times Dail winner.
A Cork native, and a nurse by profession, Joan Burke was a widow at 36 with two children under five years of age, when she was asked by Fine Gael to contest the 1964 by-election. She topped the poll and continued doing so for the subsequent, 1969, 1973, and 1977 elections. Her success at the latter election was no mean feat, writes David Flynn, because the government of Fine Gael and Labour got a pasting at the polls, similar to recent elections, and Fianna Fail got an extra 20 seat overall majority.
She suffered an accident in 1976, and reluctantly went for the 1977 General Election, but retired from politics before the 1981 election.
Mary Flynn, who lives in Athlone was a friend and neighbour of Joan Burke’s in her native Tulsk. Mary was a member of the traditional music, McHale family from Tulsk, and was sister of the late champion tin whistle player, Tom McHale.
“She was a lady, and the friendship I had with Joan grew out of my father’s friendship with Jimmy Burke, and Joan was a guest at my wedding in 1967,” said Mary. “It’s very sad to hear of her death, and may she rest in peace.”