ST. JOHN’S: Vere Bird Jr., the elder brother of former Prime Minister, Lester Bird, has died. He was 76.
Bird Jr., the first son of the island’s first Prime Minister, Vere Cornwall Bird, died of pulmonary heart failure at the Dr. Joey John’s clinic on Sunday.
Bird, an attorney, entered politics in 1981 and served as minister of agriculture, as well as minister of aviation, information and public service. He also served as chairman of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP).
At Public Works and Communications he oversaw the reconstruction of the V.C. Bird International Airport, which was the subject of controversy after it was discovered that he had granted a contract for the construction of a new runway to a company in which he was a shareholder.
He was later fired after a scandal in which Israeli weapons, sold to Antigua & Barbuda, were found in the hands of the Medellin cartel of Colombian drug smugglers and a report by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper recommended that he be prohibited from holding public office again.
Despite that report, Bird returned to government in 1996 serving as minister of science, technology and communications. Following the 1999 general election he served as minister of trade, industry, agriculture, lands and fisheries.
The ALP lost the general election in 2004 and five years later Bird and six other senior ALP members, including his brother, were arrested for participating in an unauthorized May Day rally. The seven politicians were found guilty of public order offences, although the trial was delayed following a seizure suffered by Bird. He suffered two more seizures in 2010, after the completion of the trial.