The Roscommon-born Doherty, who became ill on Saturday while on a weekend break, died in intensive care at Letterkenny General Hospital at 10:45 a.m., the Irish Times reports, surrounded by his family. He was 60.
The former Garda officer and Fianna Fail D_il deputy rose to prominence under the leadership of Charles Haughey.
Doherty?s ministerial career, however, ended before he was 40 because of a phone-tapping scandal. Ten years later, Haughey was forced to resign as taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader when Doherty implicated him in the scandal in a dramatic television interview.
Speaking shortly after his death was announced, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Doherty as a friend and a man of “very considerable ability.?
Ahern said that Doherty had become a man of “renewed and deep religious belief” in recent years. ?I know his faith was a very important part of his life,? he added.
?After a promising early career in An Garda Sioch_na he entered politics and enjoyed a career that had its full share of controversy and that was seldom far from the center of events,? the taosieach said.
Fellow Roscommon Fianna F_il TD Michael Finneran said Doherty was a household name in the county and affectionately known as “The Doc.?
Finneran added: ?He was a people’s politician who was probably known the length and breath of the country. He had a brilliant wit and a quick turn of phrase.?
Fine Gael TD Denis Naughten paid tribute to his former constituency colleague, describing him as a “political legend in his lifetime, nowhere more so than in his native Roscommon where he was the last Cabinet minister for the county.”
Doherty was elected to the Dail in Jack Lynch?s landslide General Election victory in 1977. When Haughey won the Fianna Fail leadership in 1979, Doherty became a junior minister at the Justice Department, serving until the general election defeat of 1981. The Roscommon-Leitrim deputy was promoted to justice minister in the second, short-lived Haughey government of March-December 1982.
The following year, it was revealed that Doherty had approved the tapping of the phones of journalists Geraldine Kennedy, now the editor of the Irish Times, and Bruce Arnold.
The scandal also brought an end to the career of popular Garda Commissioner Patrick McLaughlin and that of Assistant Commissioner Joe Ainsworth, both of whom approved the order for the tapping. (Doherty had served as a detective under McLaughlin in the Garda Special Branch.)
In 1992, Doherty, on the RTE program ?Nighthawks,? gave an account that undermined the party leader?s contention that he knew nothing of the phone-tapping at the time. The junior coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, successively demanded Haughey?s resignation as taoiseach. Albert Reynolds was elected to replace him.
Doherty, who was based in Cootehall near Boyle, lost his seat in the 1989 general election and served for a time as cathaoirleach (or chairman) of the Senate.
Doherty quickly returned to the Dail, but the various controversies that had surrounded him prevented elevation to higher office. He won praise, though, for his chairmanship of a key committee during his last Dail term.
He retired in 2002, and concentrated on his property interests, according to the Irish Times. However, the past continued to haunt him. In a book published last year, former government press secretary Frank Dunlop alleged that Doherty gave his Cabinet colleague Ray Burke a copy of a Garda report into planning corruption allegations against Burke. Doherty declined to comment on Dunlop?s claim other than to say: “It’s irrelevant, I’m retired . . . Let him mind his business, and I’ll mind mine.”
Doherty is survived by his wife Maura and four daughters, Rachael, Cara, Leah and Evelyn. His mother died last month.