Unsung hero of peace process

Unsung hero peace process
NI Secretary Sir Patrick Mayhew and Ireland’s Foreign Minister Dick Spring in Dublin in February 1995 where they worked on the historic Downing Street Declaration

Tributes have been paid to longest-ever serving Northern Ireland Secretary of State Patrick Mayhew who died on 25 June aged 86.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden, formerly a long-serving MP for Tunbridge Wells, also served as Attorney General for both England and Wales and Northern Ireland during his career and is seen as a key contributor to Northern Ireland’s peace process.

He was the longest-serving Northern Ireland Secretary in history. His mother, Sheila, was a member of the Roche family – Anglo- Irish Protestants from Co. Cork. As a boy, Lord Mayhew spent several holidays in Ireland especially in West Cork, where he developed riding and hunting skills.

He maintained his connection with Ireland throughout his life and, before heading to Stormont, said: “I have a great love for the Irish people which doesn’t stop in either direction at the border.” He played a vital role in the December 1993 Downing Street Declaration, formulated by John Major and Albert Reynolds, which led to the IRA ceasefire the following September.

A liberal member of the Conservative party, he was also a significant player in the Westland affair, a crisis that threatened the position of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. And he was heavily involved when the government tried to ban the publication of Spycatcher, the memoirs of former MI5 agent Peter Wright.

A statement from Lord Mayhew’s family read: “He had lived with cancer and Parkinson’s for several years. He worked hard for peace in Northern Ireland.” British politicians were quick to display their affection for Lord Mayhew and recognize the impact he had on the nation.

Current Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: “It is with great sadness that I heard of the death of Lord Mayhew. “Patrick Mayhew was the longest serving Northern Ireland Secretary since the post was created in 1972. It was a role he carried out with great distinction from 1992- 97. “In particular he will be remembered for his role in the Downing Street Declaration, which laid the foundations for the Northern Ireland peace process and the long, painstaking negotiations that helped pave the way for the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

“Lord Mayhew was a man of absolute integrity, devoted to the rule of law and a true gentleman in politics. He will be greatly missed. “My sympathies are with his widow, Jean and his family at this time.” Communities Secretary Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, said: “Patrick Mayhew, an outstanding MP for Tunbridge Wells, former Secretary of State and friend has died.

Much loved and respected, will be deeply missed.” And Baroness Stowell of Beeston, Leader of the House of Lords, tweeted: “Very sad to hear Lord Mayhew of Twysden has died. “As longest-serving SoS, he played a massive part in achieving peace in N.Ireland. “As a friend & colleague, Paddy Mayhew was supportive, a great source of wisdom, and always fun to be with. Condolences to his family.”

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