Born July 13, 1926 Died May 25, 2009 By DAVID TORRANCE Eamonn Gallagher, who has died of cancer aged 82, was a Glasgow-born Irish diplomat who played an important role in the early years of Ireland's membership of the European Economic Community (EEC), and later gave authority to the SNP's case for automatic membership of the European Union (EU) post-independence.

In the 1970s, Gallagher, as director-general of fisheries at the European Commission (EC), was one of the architects of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy, of which he was later critical. His route to Brussels came via Ireland's Department of External Affairs (later Foreign Affairs), where he headed the European division and became a deputy secretary of the department.

During a successful first Irish presidency of the EEC in 1975 Gallagher attracted the attention of the External Relations Commissioner, Sir Winston Churchill's son-in-law, Sir Christopher Soames. He recognised Gallagher as a tough but successful negotiator and, after a brief period working for Soames, he was asked by the Commission President, Jacques Delors, to establish and run the EC's fisheries directorate. Later, and as an active member of the Scottish National Party's Brussels branch, this allowed Gallagher to develop the case - along with his friend, the late SNP MEP Professor Sir Neil MacCormick - for an independent Scottish role in Europe. , Gallagher declared: "There could be no sustainable legal or political objection to separate Scottish membership of the European Community".

He went on: "A democratic Scotland, fully capable of accepting and exercising its responsibilities in the European Union, answers completely to the constitutional and statutory requirements of membership, and the Community - with its customary practical ingenuity - could readily resolve the institutional questions that arise in, for example, those of Scotland's voting weight in the Council, membership of Parliament, membership of the Commission and so on."

He was born in Glasgow to Donegal parents. The family returned to live near Letterkenny, but Gallagher never forgot his Glaswegian roots. After school, he studied at University College, Dublin, and, following stints working at Ireland's Revenue Commission and Department of Health, he joined the External Affairs department as a third secretary in 1949.

In addition to several positions within departmental HQ in Dublin, Gallagher enjoyed overseas postings at the Irish consulate-general in Boston (1950), New York City (1951) and at the Irish embassy in Brussels (1961) and finally Paris (1963).

He made his name, however, as head of the Department of Foreign Affairs' newly- created Anglo-Irish Division. He travelled extensively in Northern Ireland and was central to the development of the Irish government's response to the Troubles.

In 1976, Gallagher joined the European Commission on special leave. After running its fisheries directorate, he served as a special adviser to Jacques Delors and as the EU's representative to the United Nations. Gallagher retired in 1980 but served as a member of the Opsahl Commission from 1992-93, an independent citizens' inquiry into the political options for Northern Ireland. An active member of the Institute for European Affairs in Brussels, Gallagher and another Irish former Commission official, John Temple Lang, co-authored an influential pamphlet on the democratic rationale for the EU's institutional balance. Both men recently argued and lobbied against the Lisbon Treaty, specifically against the loss of a permanent Commission seat for Ireland, but also against what they saw as the increasing institutional weight of the Council of Ministers to the detriment of small member states.

A keen golfer, Gallagher was a member of the Royal Golf Club de Belgique and a club comprising regulars at the Wild Geese, an Irish pub in Brussels. A celebrated wit, he also loved paintings and poker.

He died in Brussels and is survived by his partner of more than three decades, Nora O'Brien, his estranged wife Dorothy Kelley, and three daughters from that marriage.