Sir John Leahy, British diplomat, Died at 87

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Sir John Leahy was born on February 7, 1928, and died on November 17, 2015.

He was a senior British diplomat. He later became Chairman of Lonrho.

Sir John was educated at Tonbridge School, Clare College, Cambridge and Yale University.

After National Service in the R.A.F., Leahy joined the Foreign Office in 1952 at the age of 24.

Sir John began his career with a position in the Central Department as “Desk Officer”, responsible for dealing with the Soviet zone of post WWII Germany (i.e., “East Germany” and occupied Austria).

In a series of diplomatic appointments, Sir John became assistant private secretary to Selwyn Lloyd, Minister of State, who later became Foreign Secretary during the Suez crisis.

Sir John also served as Foreign Office spokesman and was later seconded for a time in the Northern Ireland Office as Under-Secretary of State.

Back at the Foreign Office, Sir John was appointed ambassador to South Africa and subsequently became the FCO’s Deputy Under-Secretary of State (DUSS) for Africa and the Middle East. His last diplomatic appointment was as High Commissioner to Australia.

Regarded as having “a safe pair of hands”, Sir John carried out a number of sensitive assignments on behalf of the British government, and came face to face with leading political figures of the day.

For example, in April 1984, Sir John was sent to Jamba in Angola to secure the release of 16 Britons who had been taken hostage by the Angolan rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi.

At the time, Savimbi’s UNITA guerrilla movement was financed and supported militarily by the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The mission was successful and Sir John brought the captives back to London.

After his retirement from HM Diplomatic Service, Leahy held several non-executive appointments, including being a director of the Observer newspaper, before joining Lonrho as a non-executive director in October 1993.

Sir John became Chairman in November 1994. On 2 March 1995, after many internal upheavals, the company board dismissed the controversial businessman (Tiny Rowland), one of the Joint Chief Executives.

In 1997 Leahy was succeeded by Sir John Craven.

Sir John passed away at age 87 in November 2015.

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