Northern Ireland news

Tributes to Omagh solicitor Pat Fahy who 'campaigned tirelessly for human rights for all'

Patrick Fahy was with family members when he died in the Palliative Care Ward at Omagh Hospital on Thursday evening

SOLICITOR and republican activist Patrick Fahy, who campaigned tirelessly for human rights "for all", has died.

Mr Fahy was with family members when he died in the Palliative Care Ward at Omagh Hospital on Thursday evening.

Qualifying as a solicitor on November 19 1970, he founded Omagh practice Patrick Fahy and Co Solicitors two years later and his determined advocacy over 50 years saw Queen's University Belfast award him a doctorate in Human Rights in 2013.

Three yeas earlier, he had gained his masters degree in human rights law, a cause he had a lifelong dedication to.

Chairman of the Omagh Civil Rights Committee, in April 1969 he was among leaders of a civil rights march in Omagh which was confronted by a large number of RUC officers and loyalist counter demonstrators.

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the young man took the opportunity to speak to those opponents.

"When the march was blocked Pat and others, including Michael Farrell and Ivan Cooper, addressed the civil rights marchers," he said.

"Speaking directly to those a short distance away who were opposing civil rights and blocking their route Pat said that it was not the intention of the civil rights campaigners to `replace one system of discrimination by another, the rights of all would be secure'."

He articulated the "prize" he and fellow campaigners continued to fight for in the intervening decades as "a just and open society in which human rights and social justice will be our emblems...where all sections of our people will be treated equally, but the vulnerable, especially the old, the disabled, women and children will be given special respect and care".

Over half a century, his legal work saw Mr Fahy represent, among others, the family of murdered nationalist councillor Patsy Kelly, who went missing in 1974 after locking up a bar in Trillick, his body later found weighed down in a lake 20 miles away.

He also worked on behalf of the family of Paddy McElhone, a 23-year-old with a severe learning disability who was shot dead by the British army in the same year.

Adrian O'Kane, of Patrick Fahy and Co Solicitors, said he had "represented his clients with distinction, ensuring that their rights were defended".

"To his very final days in palliative care, Omagh, where he was receiving the very best of attention, Pat was asking about this case or the other."

Campaign group Relatives for Justice said he "was a friend to many who faced injustice and ill treatment. He stood up when it was unpopular and dangerous".

His doughty defence of clients was summed up on social media with users quoting the advice given to those in need of legal representation: "Say nothing (til) you see Fahy".

A founder member in 1977 of the Irish Independence Party and leader for its eight years of existence, he became a committed supporter of Sinn Féin, acting as Pat Doherty's election agent during his successful West Tyrone Westminster campaign.

His sporting life saw him play for Tyrone minors in 1961 and 1962 and a spell as chairman of Wolfe Tones GAC in his native Drumquin.

Mr Fahy's public wake is between 11am-9pm today at the family home, with arrangements for mourners to park at Drumquin GAA Clubrooms in McGirr Park, 31 Omagh Road where transport will be provided.

Requiem Mass will be in St Patrick's Church, Drumquin tomorrow at 11am.

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