Garrett O'Connor

Dr. Garrett O’Connor, a leading Irish psychiatrist renowned for his work on addiction treatment, died peacefully at home in Aughrim, Co. Wicklow on September 1. 

He was the husband of beloved Irish actress Fionnula Flanagan - the two had made their home in Beverly Hills, California, where he served for many years as the president and CEO of the Betty Ford Institute. 

Dr. Garrett O’Connor was an internationally renowned psychiatrist, recognized for his expertise in the clinical assessment of fitness-for-duty in safety sensitive personnel, as well as for his extensive clinical experience in corporate risk and workplace addiction liability.

Dr. O’Connor was born in Dublin and graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in 1960. He studied psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He served as the President and first Chief Executive Officer of the Betty Ford Institute (BFI) and sat on the Board of Directors of the Betty Ford Clinic. 

Prior to his appointment as President of BFI, he served as Medical Director of the Betty Ford Center’s Licensed Professionals Treatment Program and Chief Psychiatrist of the Betty Ford Center. Dr. O’Connor also founded and guided the Clinical Diagnostic Evaluation Program at the Center. He taught in the Departments of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and UCLA. 

A main focus of Dr. O’Connor’s work for the past 20 years was the malignant shame that can stem from cultural or familial trauma, and how it can carry on to future generations. In 2012, He authored a widely-read article on malignant shame among the Irish for IrishCentral’s sister publication Irish America magazine

Married to actress Fionnula Flanagan since 1972, Dr. O’Connor and his wife lived in California for over 30 years. 

In 2010, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Dublin.

In 2011, Dr. O’Connor gave the keynote address at Glucksman Ireland House NYU University Day, the theme of which was “Who Do We Think We Are? The Irish Family.” He spoke of the role of colonial occupation and oppression in the development of what he terms “malignant shame” and its role, in turn, in the disease of alcohol addiction in Irish and Irish-American families. 

His official obituary reads: “Beloved husband of Fionnula Flanagan and loving father of Matthew and Turlough O’Connor and Mary Lee-Woolf. Deeply mourned by the Buckley, O’Connor, Flanagan, Kavanagh and Corcoran families, devoted daughters-in-law Julie O’Connor and Mary Cleary; grandchildren, Kalina and her partner Ryan, Tom, Finnian, Serena, Clayton, Aidan, Olivia; great-grandchildren Mason and Cove, friends and colleagues. “Reposing at Byrnes Funeral Home, Main Street, Aughrim, Friday 4th September, 6pm to 8pm. Funeral Service, Saturday September 5th, 3.30pm Mount Jerome, Dublin. California Memorial at a later date. No flowers please. Donations, if desired, to the Rise Foundation, www.therisefoundation.ie