Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin councillor Sean Donnelly (74) faced final illness with 'courage and grace'

Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer with his uncle Sean Donnelly, who has died, and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill

SINN Féin councillor Sean Donnelly faced his final illness with "courage and grace", his family said following his death yesterday aged 74.

The Co Tyrone farmer and "GAA stalwart" had been a lifelong republican activist before being elected onto the former Omagh District Council in 2011.

Returned onto the new Fermanagh and Omagh local authority, the Loughmacrory man was a sitting councillor up until his death from cancer on Thursday morning.

Mr Donnelly is the second councillor from the party to die in a week, following the passing of its Mournes representative Sean Doran last Friday.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said yesterday she is "deeply saddened" at the death of Mr Donnelly.

"I had the pleasure of visiting Sean recently with the Sam Maguire trophy, as an avid GAA man and Tyrone fan he was absolutely over the moon," she said.

"Despite his illness, he was in the very best of spirits.

"Sean was a lifelong republican and gael who worked tirelessly to drive positive change in the local community - his legacy will continue to live on in Sinn Féin, Loughmacrory GAC and the local community.

"My thoughts are with his wife Ita, sons Shane and Euan, daughters Tanya and Caoimhe, and all of Sean’s wider family circle."

Mr Donnelly was a founder member of Loughmacrory GAC and a football referee for decades.

The club said he was "a well-known and highly respected figure in GAA circles across the province" and had served as a past chairman, referee, committee member and recently received the President's Credo award.

His nephew, Sinn Féin assembly member Declan McAleer, said he was a "larger than life character".

"He was involved in every aspect of our local community, the GAA - he was the top football lotto seller every week, he was a pioneer, part of the Credit Union, a founder of the GAA club, a sitting councillor, a lifelong committed republican and Mass-goer.

"He was a very bubbly and warm character who endeared himself to everyone. The community is gutted.

"People are shocked and I personally feel it. He was never ill. He never drank or smoked and would have tramped 10 mile through the fields every day after cattle."

Fellow Sinn Féin MLA Nicola Brogan said "hearts are sore" in the area, describing Mr Donnelly as "a warm, light hearted, kind and generous man... (who) always had a word and a smile for you.

Mr McAleer said when his uncle has been stoic when he received his cancer diagnosis this summer.

"The courage and grace with which he accepted his illness was just inspiring.

"He was clearly someone who was at peace with himself and the new journey he was going on. He was amazing.

"He led a very good life and had a very good death in his home with his family around him."

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