Denis Gilhooly

China and formerly of Surrey, England and New York, USA

3 Aug, 2021

Founder and CEO, Global He@lth 2030 Innovation Task Force, a leading pioneer in the advancement of future global healthcare systems.

Died on 18th December 2020 after a short illness in Beijing, China.

Predeceased by parents Anne Gilhooly (nee Byrne) and James Gilhooly. 

Dear brother of Brenda and Marian. He will be sadly missed by his sisters, nieces Kathleen, Siobhan and Elizabeth, relatives and friends. Rest in peace.  

Funeral mass will take place at St. Anne’s Church, Sligo on Tuesday 10th August, 2021 at 2:00pm. Funeral will proceed to Creevelea Abbey Cemetery.

If you were unable to watch the funeral mass live, you are welcome to watch the recording, which you can find by clicking ‘Recorded Funeral Mass’ below.

Donations in memory of Denis to the Kevin Bell Trust care of The Foley and McGowan Funeral Home, Market Yard, Sligo.

You are welcome to send a message of condolence to his family below.

You are welcome to leave a message of condolence below for the family – please see form at bottom of page. Alternatively, you can send a private message to the family on


  1. Rest in Peace dear Denis gone before your time so sad and so far from home. Condolences to Marian and Brenda Mass offered.

  2. I was very saddened to hear of the loss of Denis. It was an honor to work with him on global digital health initiatives. He represented the most vulnerable in societies around the world, striving to make their lives better. His literacy genius captured the minds of great leaders. In his work for the UN, The World Bank and The Broad Band Commission and during the current pandemic for the WHO, he constantly shrived to make a positive difference in the world. He was tremendously proud of being Irish. My deepest condolences to Brenda, Marian and the wider family. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Rest in peace Denis.

  3. I knew and worked with Denis for many years, most especially on his UN-related efforts to improve health care around the world. Denis’ energy matched his expansive vision and there was never a time that I can remember that his excitement about doing good in the world diminished. He had a refreshing belief in the power of technology to facilitate change. His literary background gave an unexpected puckish charm to our many interactions to which I always looked forward. I will miss him greatly but feel a profound gratitude that he was a part of my professional and personal life.

  4. Denis has left this world a poorer place. Gone too soon and we will miss you hugely. The great chats and the quotes and the stories you could tell!
    Love you Den
    Lisa & Kieron

  5. Rest in peace our dear cousin Denis, so many happy childhood memories of good times shared. God bless you on your final journey. Much love Henrietta, Steve, Alex and Nathan xx💙

  6. Heartbroken to know Denis has left us. We have many happy memories. Rest in Peace dear Denis. Sending love to Marian and Brenda and the family. Kay and Janet (Pledge). x

  7. Condolences to Marian and Brenda on the death of dear Denis Mass is offered

    A. Maureen and U Harry and family

  8. Will always remember you dear Denis. Such great memories of our childhood. Love and condolences to your lovely family.

  9. Farewell Denis old friend. We’ll miss you dearly
    John and Madeline Williamson

  10. Our thoughts are with all his family and friends. He had an original mind, which will be badly missed in these illogical times. Love Frankie and Lillie

  11. Denis was a gift to us all. His untimely passing was a shock. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Denis meant many things to many people. I always enjoyed his Irish sense of humour, his belief in people and what could be done by working together. He had an infectious enthusiasm, and written and spoken eloquence that took him on an unusual life journey, from his first job as a mental health nurse, to the highest levels of international development. He was passionate about the promise of digital health for saving lives and suffering. He saw the big picture and how the pieces connected. We sometimes spoke about our faith and that this work was God’s work. I feel sad that Denis is no longer with us. I believe we can best honour his memory by continuing the journey Denis began in digital health – with a people-centered approach. May he rest in peace.

  12. We were very sorry to hear the sad news of our good friend Denis, he was taken too soon and had so much more still to offer. We will miss him and his calls from all over the world recounting his latest experiences. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Marian and Brenda.

    Kevin & Una

  13. Just as your final journey from Beijing to Sligo, Denis, your whole life was an odyssey.

    Few knew of the obstacles you overcame to make the indelible mark that you did on global policy and local friendships. Born in England of Irish parents, you faced the challenge of being both British and Irish with a love of both cultures. As a Gilhooly, you were always rooted in the romantic Irish heritage, but your love of the English language transgressed borders and identities. As a young journalist, you were stricken by polio, but bore and overcame this with grace and humour. At barely 40, you were the victim of a shooting in Washington DC, and despite that bullet to the brain, your love of the United States was unbroken and in Samuel Beckett manner, you went on – another 20 years despite the impaired vision and attendant difficulties. To your close friends’ continued astonishment, you were invincible.

    You had an innate sensitivity and generosity, especially toward the vulnerable in society, and a pronounced capacity to assimilate the complexities of the networked economy and society. Africa and the Caribbean, in particular, always had a special place in your heart. Always ahead of your time and your years, you married concepts and foretold developments that shape the modern converged view of health, equality and technology. This is why you were, and still are, so highly respected among policy makers, business leaders and entertainment professionals worldwide.

    All the while, you maintained your bonds to family and friends. Close mentors and friends, in ways that they will never disclose, very personally acknowledged your contribution to the advancement of the digital health agenda that is so critical to our world today. Denis truly treasured this support and recognized it in his personal circles.

    You sacrificed much for your dedication to the Ideal and for this, we are eternally grateful. Rest in peace Den, and in the knowledge that your gentle soul, genius mind and vulnerable heart will continue to inspire across the continents of this world.

    Brenda, Marian, your loss is enormous. Denis was unique. His departure brings so much heartache, but memories of Denis bring so much happiness. Forever young, forever clever, forever fun and forever loved. Heartfelt sympathies,

    Marie & the Dowling Family

  14. We were so sad to hear the news that Denis had passed. He had so much more to offer the world with his expertise on digital health. He was enthusiastic about his work and we were fortunate to be able to see him participate in one of the UN galas. We enjoyed his talks on literature, medicine, music, and reminiscing on childhood family times. We had spent time together in Surrey and in New York and we would talk about the interesting differences in places where we had traveled. He appreciated the great things of living in NYC but his heart belonged to Dromahair. I fondly recall when I had introduced him as my English cousin and he reminded me that he was my Irish cousin! It just feels right and peaceful to know that his final resting place will be in Ireland. Rest in peace dear cousin Denis and we will miss you. With love,
    Rosaleen Byrne and Al Mason

  15. Denis was one of the brightest minds I have come across in my professional life. His unique thinking and ability to have a panoramic vision was associated to a kind generous heart and a wonderful sense of humour. I miss him very much already. He leaves a major gap in the world of digital health for development. My deepest condolences to his family and close ones. May you rest in peace dear Denis. Love, Florence

  16. May you rest in peace Denis. Our thoughts and prayers are with Marian, Elizabeth and other family members at this sad time. The McCarthy family.

  17. My heart felt condolences to the family and friends of Denis – a close friend of mine for over 25 years. I had an opportunity to work closely with Denis on several projects in NY, France, UK, China, India and Africa. He was full of energy and ideas. I spoke to him just a few days before we lost him. It was a shock to me to hear of his sudden loss. He had a dream to transform digital health initiatives globally. I will miss my dear friend Denis very much.

  18. Dear Brenda and Marian
    We were so sad to hear of Denis passing. He was always interested in what you had to say, and gave everyone he spoke to a sense of being special, as well as being so interesting himself. What an invaluable contribution he made to so many world health initiatives.
    You will miss him very much.
    Love Anne and Philippa Vafadari

  19. It is hard to say goodbye to Denis, but it often felt as if he was on the brink of leaving us. Leaving us behind with his great intelligence, his understanding of how the digital world might be, his flights of fancy – poetic, fantastical.

    We were callow youths over forty years ago when we first met at the Cambridge college which was not the University. Important as he wore the refusal to realise his potential by trying for the preeminent UK university with his usual perversity, pride and pugnacity. His voice so low and tentative when he asked me out on our first date I misunderstood. I thought we were going to a party in London. I dressed for one. His natural reserve was appalled by my outfit his sense of humour delighted by the fun he could have at my expense. We were, in fact, going to see the great muse of Samuel Beckett, Billie Whitelaw, in Happy Days at the Royal Court. Like Denis it was brilliant, agonised, darkly funny, special.

    Over the forty plus years of knowing one another there were many happy days with Denis, but these were equalled by those which bore the marks of sadness, concern and frustration. Den had many demons. His friends and family often bore the brunt of worry. Sometimes his life so rickety that it was a wonder it continued as long as it did.

    He was, as so many have already said very special. I loved Denis. I was one of the women he asked to marry him. We had the good sense to step back from that and so he was still in touch, sending me things he’d written that he thought ‘I’d love’ from China. I wish, at the very end I’d had a chance to tell him just how deep my love for him had been, but I hope somehow he knew.

    Another friend has used the term ‘puckish’ about Den, I think it’s perfect. He was a provocateur, endlessly poking things and people to find out how far he could push it. Knowing that without the grit in the oyster and sand in the Vaseline there would be no innovation or merriment.

    My sincere condolences to Brenda and Marian, your brother was unique. He was a restless soul and I hope he will find peace in Sligo where we can think of him and remember him at his best.

  20. Denis, you’ve been like a brother, a kindred spirit, a kind human, one of a kind. What a combination of wit, charm, insight, courage, fortitude, eloquence, style, idealism, realism, pragmatism, vision, integrity, intelligence, responsiveness, respect, inspiration, companionship, ability, creativity, and resiliency. We intersected and traveled together on many roads—telecom reform in Europe, low-earth satellites around the globe, broadband communications at the UN, international telecommunications in Geneva, tele-health in poor countries—with Denis the creative spark to light up a stodgy environments, then move on to challenge the next. But the winds blew harder, and in time they extinguished this flame, whatever the medical cause. How I will miss you, the conversations we will never have, the panels we will never share, and the ideas that will never arise. Goodbye, brother Denis.

  21. Sending our sincerest condolences to Brenda and Marian. What a beautiful resting place to be close to Dromahair. Rest in peace dear cousin Denis.

  22. Denis, I can’t believe you’re no longer walking on this earth. Much too young to leave all those who collided with you. No ordinary life, you’re missed.

  23. Our deep sympathy on the untimely passing of Denis. We will remember his caring and cheerful personality. Your
    cousins in New York. May you rest in eternal peace.

  24. Dear Brenda and Marian, thinking of your grief and sorrow but also the intense pride you must feel for the extraordinary work Denis accomplished in his lifetime. And for you, Denis, a poem. Inspired by that Spring – Summer, in 1977, when our friendship and love was budding and you began your metamorphosis. You lasted far longer than you ever thought you would back then but that is little consolation for those many of us who loved you over the years.

    Happy Days


    You’d dug on a dig, in Scotland, you said.
    As, apparently impressed, you scanned my poetry collection –
    on the shelf above my bed (much of it ‘stolen’).
    Gleeful, you turned,
    and held out a book to me –
    You’d uncovered Hopkins wedged
    between the Yeats,
    Hughes and Heeney.

    Search over you sat
    reading aloud,
    thirstily –
    Your low soft voice urgent,
    mastering the mystery of the words,
    spoken, as it were,
    just for me.

    It was a Sunday evening. You had skipped Mass. You were on my bed. Speaking of agony.
    No-one understands how doubting the existence of God can destroy the soul, better than he, you said.

    (I turn to Hopkins, and “over again, I feel thy finger and find thee”)


    I wore
    your father’s jacket.
    Your socks.
    Your tie.

    Luckily, you had the perfect, old, grey suit to complete your nonchalant
    Stephen Daedalus-look – another relic from Jim’s younger days.
    You giggled
    at the irony.
    This was before you had ‘acquired’
    my granddad’s plaid shirts, from Canada, and
    that crew-neck coral red jumper – my mother’s actually.
    Too small for you
    but you liked how
    the long, knit slit drew attention
    to your strong (“swan”) white neck –
    your best feature, you said.


    I don’t remember much detail of your epiphany
    at Maryvale.
    After the Retreat?

    You spoke of a rush of insight.
    That you knew you had to launch –
    your genius
    grown unseen
    in the dark like a pearl.
    To cast off from your familial shores,
    to release yourself into the light.
    To unfurl –
    like a slippery, dazed, inchoate
    new born. Or
    A bud bursting
    through loam.

    I do remember how it hit you –
    as we drove along the valley, through the fields,
    in the chill early morning sunshine – so sublime!
    Blear-eyed, hungover, wistful –
    a first night,
    when we had slept
    rapt, blissful.
    Held tight.
    Our minds
    and bodies

    Rest in Peace
    Rest in Peace.

  25. My love to you Brenda and Marian. Many memories bubble up when I think of you Denis. In 49 years there was never one meeting nor conversation when we did not slip from sorrow to poetry to joy to laughter. I was secretly very proud of you Denis though I teased you mercilessly. You were able to be of service to many people. Your heart went out to those on the margins of society who suffered in silence, whom the Western world could and did help thanks to you. You lived your life through Shakepearean wisdom. You loved this quote: “This life, which had been the tomb of his virtue and of his honour, is but a walking shadow; a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” But Denis here’s the rub, your life was full of passion and achievment. It did signify something. It was a heroic and humane life. Goodbye Denis. Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

  26. So sad to hear the news. I will always remember going for a trip to Paris visiting Uncle Denis , I was 13 y and my brother 16 . It was the first time i saw Paris . Denis was ever so nice and made us feel home . Sincerest condolences to all the family Pascal

  27. My memories of Denis go back a long way to our formative years. Early childhood days at St Joseph’s Primary School, making our First Holy Communion together and KSC Christmas Parties which our Dad’s organised. Then on to St. Andrew’s Secondary , youth club, Maryvale Retreats and helping with the sick in Lourdes.
    It was during a 6th form debate that everyone sat up and took notice of Denis and where his wit and intellect was revealed to us all. His love of Donne, Joyce and Shakespeare was apparent but it was then we knew he would go on to greater things.
    He did and I am proud to have known him and glad I got to see him again a couple of years ago.
    I still have the Complete works of Shakespeare and the book of Yeats poetry he gave me for my 18th & 21st which I treasure.
    Rest well Denis in peace .
    My love and condolences to Marian, Brenda and all your family.

  28. I am sorry that you’re no longer here. This planet needs you, Denis. Miss you, my friend.

  29. Dearest Den-boy, as he loved to call himself. When we met in Paris some 3 decades ago, he said “you have no idea what you’re getting into”. How right he was.

    Denis was a giant in every way- his stature, his brain, his humor, his kindness, his unconventionality… I think very few people who met him ever forgot him, for many different reasons. He and my father formed such a bond, I hope they’re now talking up a never-ending storm into the early hours of the morning once again.

    And I hope he’s with his great friend Pierrick – “Jeeloolee”, as he called Denis, with the strongest of French accents.

    “Nothing will come of nothing”, one of Denis’ favorites. Denis did so many “somethings” and what came to him was everything.

    Denis inspired me and I loved him very much. For all he was, and all he is in my heart and in my mind. We can never say it too often when someone is with us and want to have said it so much more when they’re gone.

    Thank God, he lived long past the 33 years he expected.

    Brenda my heart is with you and your family. Thank you for everything you have made happen today, the people you’ve brought together to celebrate his life. Denis loved you so.

  30. My thoughts and deep condolences to Brenda and Marian. The funeral mass brought memories of the few but memorable childhood family moments enjoyed together. Delighted to see and hear so many of his friends and colleagues speak of his humanitarian work. Rest in Peace my cousin.

  31. Denis, you will be sorely missed. I remember with fondness our time at school together as well as our first jobs together in Boots the Chemist in Leatherhead, we had fun!
    Condolences to both Brenda and Marian, may you rest in peace.

  32. Wow! What a Truly Inspirational Man you were; when all I can think about is “what am I having for dinner?”. And that is precisely why your phenomenal work will not come to an end, but will continue elsewhere in another time, enriching the lives of many more! Thinking of you Denis and the Happiness you brought! 💕🌈

  33. Dear Denis,

    rest in peace. I will miss you.

    „There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.“ (Mahatma Ghandi)

    My heartfelt condolences to your family.


  34. From Tennessee to Sligo, no more midnight making of vacancy. It’s true some crops require vast acreage, but this harvest is in.

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