| 6.4°C Dublin

'Wonderful, brave and blunt'- Good Friday hero Mallon dies at 83

Close

Seamus Mallon was a former deputy leader of the SDLP

Seamus Mallon was a former deputy leader of the SDLP

PA

Seamus Mallon was a former deputy leader of the SDLP

In his own words, Seamus Mallon was simply there to help people.

The former deputy SDLP leader and one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement who passed away at the age of 83 yesterday, downplayed his key role in the peace process.

In a poignant interview last year, the former Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly was humble about the role he played in achieving peace in the North.

"I would simply put it this way; I got some things right, we got some wrong, but I was able to get on from the ones that were wrong to put them right.

"And as regards the ones I got right, I just regarded them as a stepping stone onto the next big issue," he said.

Cancer

"It's impossible to assess one's role but I'll put it this way: At the very heart of my involvement in politics was to help people, especially to help people in a divided society, where awful things were being done to them and I hope I helped in those circumstances."

His death following a battle with cancer drew tributes from across the political divide last night, both north and south.

Referring to him as a "lifelong civil rights campaigner," President Michael D Higgins said: "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.

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

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar praised his work on bridging divides: "History will remember Seamus as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, a committed peace builder and a tireless champion of an inclusive Ireland."

Former UUP leader and the first First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, said that while he and Mr Mallon didn't always see eye to eye, he had a deep respect for him.

Speaking on RTE's Six One News last night, Mr Trimble said he had visited him as recently as last weekend after learning he was seriously ill and had also planned to visit this weekend.

"There were disagreements but at the end of the day, Seamus was committed to peaceful, democratic solutions and was prepared to do the work," he said, adding that Mr Mallon didn't "have much time for people not prepared to do the work".

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "one of the most important architects of peace in Northern Ireland".

"Brave, blunt, often prepared to swim against the tide if he felt it right," he wrote on Twitter last night.

"I spent many hours listening to him and learning from him. He had a brilliant turn of phrase and sharp wit," he wrote

"He could be difficult but never ill intentioned."

Mr Mallon was "tough to negotiate with but always for a purpose," he added.

Honour

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said last night that he had the "honour and pleasure" of knowing and working with Mr Mallon for almost 40 years in which time he "got to know, admire and respect a wonderful person".

Noting how he was a key negotiator for his party in the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement, he said Mr Mallon remained "a strong opponent of violence from all sides.

"He was an extremely able parliamentarian at Westminster and Stormont and was the MP that contributed most to the reform of policing in Northern Ireland by his work on the passage of the legislation in Westminster."