Tributes paid to former MP David Bleakley

Mr Bleakley’s last political foray was an unsuccessful bid for an Assembly seat in east Belfast in 1998
Andrew Madden

FORMER Northern Ireland MP David Bleakley has been remembered as someone who was "dearly loved by the people of east Belfast".

Mr Bleakley died peacefully in hospital on Sunday at the age of 92.

Born in Strandtown in 1925, he studied economics at Oxford University and later attended Queen's University Belfast.

He joined the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) in the 1940s and contested the Northern Ireland Parliament seat of Belfast Victoria in 1949 and 1953 before eventually winning it in 1958.

At Stormont, he was made the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, before losing his seat in 1965.

In 1971 he was appointed as Minister for Community Relations by Brian Faulkner, a position he held until the Parliament of Northern Ireland was abolished in 1973.

He was later elected to the Assembly and its successor, the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention.

In 1984 he received a CBE and after the NILP dissolved three years later he joined the Alliance Party, where he was an advisor in the all-party talks from 1996-98.

Over the course of his life the career politician also wrote more than a dozen non-fiction books, including a biography of C.S Lewis.

Former Green Party MLA Brian Wilson knew Mr Bleakley for more than 50 years and said he was a politician who was "totally committed to peace".

"He was an inspiration to many and dearly loved by the people of east Belfast. I recall during one of my Assembly campaigns he canvassed with me in Bangor market," he said.

"I amazed to see dozens of shoppers from Castlereagh and east Belfast thanking him for something he had done for them as MP over 30 years ago.

"His death is a sad loss for the people of Northern Ireland."

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