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Maurice Hayes 1927-2017

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The contribution made by the late Maurice Hayes to the cause of peace and progress in Ireland was exceptional on an enormous range of fronts.

Dr Hayes, who will be buried later today after his death at the age of 90, devoted his life to public service, and deserves to be regarded as one of our country's greatest citizens.

He was a constitutional nationalist to the core of his being who was always determined to reach out to the unionist tradition, to explain his position, to understand other views and to explore the possibilities which could follow.

Dr Hayes essentially made Ireland a better place through his endeavours in the course of his central role in major developments and the insights he invariably offered along the way.

His extraordinary career included periods as town clerk of Downpatrick, chair of the Community Relations Commission, Boundary Commissioner, Ombudsman, senior Stormont civil servant, chair of the Ireland Funds, director of Independent News and Media and an Irish senator.

Among his most complex and sensitive tasks involved his work with the Patten Commission, overseeing the reforms which led to the creation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and had a hugely beneficial effect on our society.

However, perhaps the achievement on which he looked back with the most affection was when the strategy he formulated as Down GAA secretary helped his native county to take the All Ireland football championship across the border for the first time in 1960.

Dr Hayes was also a noted Gaeilgeoir, a writer and an academic, and, despite moving in the highest circles, was an enthusiastic user of public transport and a familiar face on buses between Downpatrick and Belfast.

He was an individual of unparallelled integrity and sharp wit throughout his days, and, while his loss will be most keenly felt by his family, people across Ireland from all backgrounds have good reason to be grateful for his legacy.

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