DUBLIN -- Michael O'Leary, a deputy prime minister in the early 1980s, drowned while on vacation in France, his family and political colleagues said yesterday. He was 69.
Mr. O'Leary represented central Dublin in Dail Eireann, the Irish parliament, from 1965 to 1987. He later worked as a lawyer and a judge.
Colleagues said he drowned Thursday while swimming in a pool, days after he retired from the bench.
After his election to the Dail, he sought to steer Labour away from Ireland's dominant conservative parties but eventually recognized that Labour would need to cooperate with one of them to form a government.
He served as labor minister in a Fine Gael-Labour coalition government from 1973 to 1977, and became Labour leader in 1981 when his longtime rival, Frank Cluskey, lost his parliamentary seat.
At that time, Mr. O'Leary became the government's deputy leader and energy minister. But he resigned as Labour leader when that government collapsed a year later.
Prime Minister Bertie Ahern praised Mr. O'Leary as ''one of the wittiest and most entertaining men one could meet."
Ahern said Mr. O'Leary's greatest political contributions came in the years after Ireland joined the European Union in 1973, when as labor minister he ''introduced important measures to secure equality in the workplace and, in particular, equality for women."
He leaves his wife, Mary.