Northern Ireland news

Tributes to Seamus Mallon who has died aged 83

April 10 2018: Seamus Mallon, SDLP, Monica McWilliams, former Womens Coalition and Peter Robinson, former DUP leader at Queens University to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Picture Mal McCann
Digital Staff

Civil rights campaigner and former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon has died at the age of 83.

The veteran politician has been described by his party as "a force of nature" who "represented the fierce thirst for justice that ran through the SDLP and through communities that had lost so much to political violence". 

Mr Mallon served as deputy first minister in the Executive alongside UUP leader David Trimble and was an architect of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Ireland "has lost one of its most fierce champions for justice, equality and peace".

“His passion for peace underpinned by truth, justice and reconciliation came from a lifetime as a proud son of Markethill where he was born, grew up and raised his own family. It didn’t matter who you were, where you worshipped or what your politics were, there was always help to be found at Seamus’ hearth. 

Read more: Seamus Mallon: Nationalists must show 'generosity' to convince unionists to back united Ireland

“I joined the SDLP because of people like Seamus Mallon. His absolute opposition to the murder and maiming of our neighbours, his immense work to reform policing and deliver a new police service that could command the support of our entire community and his unrelenting commitment to making this a place we can all call home inspired so many young SDLP members."

He described Mr Mallon as "a constant source of guidance" and "when needed, some robust critical reflection".

Mr Mallon is predeceased by his wide Gertrude and survived by his daughter Orla, son-in-law Mark and granddaughter Lara. 

Catholic Primate of Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said Seamus Mallon "remained a man of hope for a brighter future - a shared and respectful future where we all experience a sense of belonging".  

"A fitting tribute to his legacy would be a renewed effort by all our political leaders and by all of us to build that 'shared home place' which was Seamus’ vision and lifelong project."

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "Very sorry to learn of the passing of Seamus Mallon. My sincere sympathies are extended to his family & friends. As Seamus said 'We have two stark and clear choices. We can live together in generosity and compassion or we can continue to die in bitter disharmony'."

Tanaiste Simon Coveney tweeted: "Very sad to learn of passing of the great Seamus Mallon. He has made an extraordinary contribution to politics & people on this island. He was tough, intelligent and passionate, always working for peace and reconciliation.

"My sincere condolences to his family and friends. RIP."

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said Seamon Mallon was "fearless and courageous".

Alastair Campbell, former spin doctor to ex British prime minister Tony Blair, tweeted: "So sad that Seamus Mallon has died. He was one of the nice guys. And one of the great guys when it came to the peace process in Northern Ireland. He did not always get the biggest headlines because he didn’t shout the loudest. He had commitment and intelligence to match.

"He was motivated by the right things and went about them in the right way. He was a man of passionate views and beliefs always rooted in the desire to improve the lives of the place and the people he came from. But he was pragmatic not ideological in his pursuit of them. 

"My last dealings with him were over a little film we made for the @peoplesvote_uk campaign. We lost that one but it showed he fought to the end for what he believed. And his life and career as a whole were a huge success. His positive legacy in Ireland is immense. RIP"

Former prime minister Tony Blair issued a tribute: "Seamus Mallon 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 was someone deeply respected and admired across the troubled landscape of Irish politics.

"I spent many hours listening to him and learning from him. He had a brilliant turn of phrase and sharp wit which he would use to great effect. He could be difficult but never ill intentioned. Tough to negotiate with but always for a purpose. Even occasionally fierce but always wise. My deepest condolences to all his family. He will be much missed and mourned."

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith tweeted: "Seamus Mallon dedicated his political career to making Northern Ireland a better place. His leadership with David Trimble of the first Executive in 1999 set Northern Ireland on a new democratic course. I want to express my sincere condolences to his family, friends and SDLPlive."

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


Read more: 

July 1 1998: David Trimble and Seamus Mallon are elected first and deputy first minister respectively with speaker Lord Alderdice looking on 

October 20 2000: His Holiness the Dalai Lama meets Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon and presents him with a white scarf during their meeting in the Waterfront Hall 

May 23 2001: Seamus Mallon pictured yesterday at the launch of the SDLP manifesto as SDLP leader John Hume looks on. Picture by Hugh Russell

May 18 2019: Former Deputy Leader of the SDLP Seamus Mallon at home. Picture by Mal McCann 

May 18 2019: Former Deputy Leader of the SDLP Seamus Mallon at home. Picture by Mal McCann 

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