Sweetman, Michael John (1935–72), director of the Irish Council for the European Movement, was born 27 June 1935 in Dublin, elder son among two sons and four daughters of Patrick Sweetman, solicitor and county registrar, of Johnsbrook, Fordstown, Navan, Co. Meath, and his wife Mary (‘Mimi’), daughter of John (Jean) David Digues La Touche (1861–1935) of Tours and Kiltymon, Co. Wicklow. Educated (1949–1953) at Glenstal Priory School (subsequently Glenstal Abbey School) and UCD, he graduated BA (1956).
After graduation he worked briefly in England (December 1956–January 1957) to raise funds for an engagement ring. He then returned to Ireland before moving to Canada (1957), where he worked in advertising (1957–9). After two years he refused a directorship with the company to return to Ireland (1959) where he took up a post with Córas Trachtala Teo (CTT). He subsequently returned to Canada (1961–2) to manage the offices of CTT, later taking up the same role in New York (1962–3). He finally returned to Dublin to head (1964) the newly formed trade advisory section of CTT; the same year he left CTT to become director of information with the Federation of Irish Industries (FII) (later the Confederation of Irish Industry).
In addition to his career in business he was involved in politics. Described after his death as ‘the leading light of the talented central branch of Fine Gael in 1965’ (Ir. Times, 19 June 1972, p. 1), he was both policy adviser and speechwriter to the Fine Gael candidate, T. F. O'Higgins (1916–2003), during the 1966 presidential election. He later became director of foreign trade with the FII, during which time he wrote a report, Challenge: industry and free trade (1968). Dealing with the consequences of free trade for the Irish economy, this document was highly praised and regarded as the fundamental factor in propelling the FII into the primary position amongst employers' organisations of the time. At the same time he gained prominence within Fine Gael as a progenitor of the Just Society policy with, among others, Declan Costello. The following year he stood for the dáil in Dublin North-west and was defeated by only 160 votes.
With the transformation of the FII into the Confederation of Irish Industry (CII) (1969–70) he became director of business policy and a vocal campaigner in favour of Ireland's joining the EEC. He thus wrote a pamphlet for the Irish Council of the European Movement (ICEM) entitled The European Community: why Ireland should join (1970), and toured the country to take part in the debate (January 1971–July 1971). Seconded to the ICEM as permanent director (July 1971), he retained his connections with the CII as special business consultant. His profile increased, as he ran the campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on EEC membership in May 1972 and was credited with a significant role in its success. After the referendum he turned his attention to preparing Irish industry for the impending consequences of membership. He thus contributed to Management: the journal of the Irish Management Institute (January 1972, June 1972). In conjunction with his European activities he began to explore the idea of using the EEC model as a solution to the burgeoning troubles in Northern Ireland, and shortly before his death he was working on an article that was published posthumously as The common name of Irishman (1972). He was killed, along with eleven other prominent figures from Irish business, on 18 June 1972, en route to Brussels for a fact-finding mission in preparation for EC membership, in a BEA Trident air crash, four miles outside Heathrow airport, London.
He married (March 1957) Barbara, daughter of Joseph Becker, tea merchant, of 16 Palmerston Rd, Dublin, and Margaret Becker (nee O'Dwyer). They had three sons and three daughters. During Sweetman's childhood he lived in Co. Meath. After settling in Dublin he lived in various suburbs and finally (from April 1972) at 20 Park Drive, Ranelagh, Dublin.