Development & Alumni Relations Office 


Gerry Burns, BSc (Died 18 February 2020, aged 85)


Full obituary available online


Gerard Bernard Burns was born in the Lower Falls, Belfast, in 1934, the second youngest of three sons and two daughters to Bernard Burns, a shipyard worker, and his wife, Sarah (née Poland). He attended primary school locally; received secondary education at St Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School; and then attended Queen’s University Belfast, graduating with a BSc in Economics.


After graduation he worked first with the Northern Ireland Civil Service, then as a lecturer in economics at Armagh Technical College, before becoming chief executive of Fermanagh Council at a difficult time in the mid-1970s. Throughout, his aim was to make Fermanagh one community. He worked successfully with all and produced co-operation on issues of common interest.


Following retirement from the Council in 1996, Gerry went on to be Northern Ireland’s Ombudsman and chaired the review on the future of secondary education, leading to the Burns Report in 2000 recommending the end to the controversial 11-plus transfer test. He also was a Board member of the Irish Times, Governor of the Irish Times Trust and pro-chancellor of the University of Ulster.


Gerry was a survivor of the Enniskillen bomb of 1987. He had been due to lay the wreath on behalf of the Council at the ceremony, as he did every year. Although uninjured, he knew some of the dead and injured, and the atrocity deeply affected him. In the aftermath he and the late Gordon Wilson set up the Spirit of Enniskillen project, dedicated to promoting reconciliation among young people.


Gerry died in hospital after a short illness. He is survived by his daughters, Yvanna and Nuala, sons Gerard, Declan and John and sister, Una. He was predeceased by his wife, Moyra.


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