Former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon has died

Former Northern Ireland deputy first minister and civil rights campaigner Seamus Mallon has died aged 83.

He passed away in Co Armagh this afternoon, Friday 24 January.

Mr Mallon was involved in the civil rights movement and the SDLP in the late 1960s.

He went on to play a key role in the peace process, leading to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

He then served as deputy first minister in the power-sharing administration with first minister David Trimble.

President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to Seamus by saying: “I am deeply saddened by the passing of Seamus Mallon, former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, former member of Seanad Éireann, and lifelong civil rights campaigner. His reputation as a politician and community activist of unsurpassed courage, civility and fairness is held by all those who had the privilege of knowing him.

“Few people have influenced the peace process in Northern Ireland more than Seamus Mallon, a formidable opponent and, a tough negotiator in speech and act, but always honest and honourable. He was a man who demonstrated integrity and courage in the face of opposition and threat, playing a vital role in building the peace process.

“He was instrumental in bringing into being a meaningful discourse that heralded a new possibility of civil rights within a shared island.

“Seamus Mallon served with distinction in Westminster, Stormont and in the Oireachtas as a member of Seanad Éireann and his ability to build relationships in support of peace and reconciliation leaves a lasting legacy, not just in the North but across Ireland.

“I witnessed at first hand his deep commitment to seeing an end and a fair representation of the troubles in Northern Ireland and I am honoured to share the Freedom of Drogheda with him.

“A person of deep humility in the little things as well as the major issues, Sabina and I have been fortunate to meet Seamus on many occasions and we were always struck by his great sense of humour and warmth of character. His death leaves a gap that will be difficult to fill.

“To his daughter Orla, his grandchild, and all those who knew and loved him, Sabina and I send our deepest sympathy.

“Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute to Mr Mallon, saying “Ireland has lost one of its most fierce champions for justice, equality and peace”.

Mr Eastwood said: “Seamus Mallon was a force of nature.

“In the darkest days of conflict, when hope was in short supply, Seamus represented the fierce thirst for justice that ran through the SDLP and through communities that had lost so much to political violence.

“His passion for peace underpinned by truth, justice and reconciliation came from a lifetime as a proud son of Markethill where he was born, grew up and raised his own family. It didn’t matter who you were, where you worshipped or what your politics were, there was always help to be found at Seamus’ hearth.

“I joined the SDLP because of people like Seamus Mallon. His absolute opposition to the murder and maiming of our neighbours, his immense work to reform policing and deliver a new Police Service that could command the support of our entire community and his unrelenting commitment to making this a place we can all call home inspired so many young SDLP members.

“Throughout my political life, Seamus was a constant source of guidance, advice and, when needed, some robust critical reflection. His support has been an immense source of personal pride. I hope that I’ve done him proud in return.

“Seamus lived for Ireland and worked for all of its people – we are all the better for it.”

Member of the MLA Mike Nesbitt added: “Very sad to hear of the death of Seamus Mallon. He was a tough character but with a big heart and a deep thinker about our future.”

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