William J. Flynn, a corporate executive and philanthropist who helped negotiate the landmark peace agreement in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, died June 2 at his home in Garden City. He was 91.
Mr. Flynn, whose parents were Irish immigrants, made more than 30 trips to Ireland to help bring about the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which ended decades of violence between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland. The accord stands today as the basis of Northern Ireland’s state as a member of the United Kingdom with a right to determine its own status.
He joined the Equitable Life Insurance Society in 1953 and rose through the ranks to become vice president of group operations before he went to Mutual Life Insurance of America Co. in 1971 as its president. He became CEO in 1982 and led the company until his retirement in 1994. He continued to serve as chairman until 2005, when he was made chairman emeritus, an honorary title that he held until his death.
The native New Yorker was involved in many philanthropic organizations. He was president of the American Association of the Order of Malta and chairman of the nonpartisan National Committee on American Foreign Policy. He was grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1996.
In 1983, he received the Ubi Caritas Deus Ibi Award, the highest honor of Catholic Charities.
Mr. Flynn, in an interview with Catholic New York in 1995, said he found it hard to look the other way when he was approached for assistance. “It’s difficult to listen to someone with a story about an organization that wants to accomplish something and feels that you can help them accomplish this mission. It’s hard to say no,” he said.
Mr. Flynn was born in Manhattan in 1926 and grew up in Queens. He received a master’s degree in economics from Fordham University and taught in public schools and at Regis High School in Manhattan for one year before serving in the Army and Air Force in the Korean War.
Mr. Flynn is survived by his wife, Peggy; his son, William; his daughter, Maureen Flynn Welsh, and by 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
His Funeral Mass was offered June 6 at St. Joseph’s Church in Garden City. Burial was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.