Former Senator and surgeon who treated Troubles victims was "a voice for peace and reconciliation"

Dr John Robb, who served three consecutive terms as a Senator and worked as a surgeon in Belfast during The Troubles, died on Wednesday
John Monaghan

A SURGEON who treated victims of The Troubles and was one of the few northern Protestants to have served in the Republic's Seanad has been described as a "voice for peace and reconciliation" by President Michael D Higgins following his death.

Dr John Robb, who grew up in Ballymoney in Co Antrim and served three consecutive terms as a Senator from 1982 to 1989, died on Wednesday.

He worked as a surgeon at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast throughout some of the worst years of the Troubles.

He went on to found the New Ireland Group, which aims to achieve a "New Vision of Ireland through confidence building, consensus and peace".

The New Ireland Vision website, on which his writings were published, noted the impact of his work as a doctor during the Troubles on his political views.

President Higgins said Dr Robb was a "joy to meet" and an "all-Islander in the best sense".

He said: "He was a voice not only for peace but for reconciliation, for recognising all traditions and beliefs on the island of Ireland, and the making of a future in which all in Ireland could share.

"One could not but be impressed by his deep humanity, and his unstinting efforts to encourage new thinking in have known him as a friend and regular correspondent was a privilege."

SDLP South Belfast MLA Claire Hanna said Mr Robb was a family friend and an "outstanding representative of the liberal Presbyterian tradition" in the north.

"John was an outstanding representative of the liberal Presbyterian tradition in the north, which was willing to engage with all traditions on the island, through his New Ireland Group, she said.

"He had a remarkable intellect and in middle age taught himself to speak, read and-unusually-write Irish to a very high standard."


The son of a First World War medic who had tended to the wounded at the Battle of the Somme, he went on to wear a poppy in the Seanad.

In 2013, ahead of a referendum in the Republic on whether to abolish the Seanad, Dr Robb warned against the move saying that its removal could "exclude the possibility of northern input into southern politics".

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