Former US president Bill Clinton has led tributes to Seamus Mallon, an architect of the Northern Ireland peace process who has died aged 83.
Mr Mallon was the original Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, sharing power with Unionist leader David Trimble after the Good Friday Agreement.
A former deputy leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), he played a pivotal role in the establishment of power-sharing government.
Mr Clinton described him as “a hero of the peace process and a profoundly good man”.
“From his earliest entry into politics, Seamus never wavered from his vision of a shared future, where neighbours of all faiths could live in dignity or from the belief he shared with John Hume and the entire SDLP that non-violence was the only way to achieve that goal,” he added.
First Minister Arlene Foster said Mr Mallon “was instrumental in bringing about peace for our people and that contribution should not go unrecognised”.
The DUP leader had earlier quoted from Mr Mallon’s maiden speech in the Commons, following his election as MP for Newry and Armagh in 1986.
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“As Seamus said, ‘We have two stark and clear choices. We can live together in generosity and compassion or we can die together in bitter disharmony,” she tweeted.
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said Mr Mallon was a significant political figure “who made a huge contribution to the politics of peace and Good Friday Agreement”.
“His mark on history is indelible.”
Mr Mallon, a former school teacher and principal, developed an interest in politics through his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
He had a reputation for straight-talking and repeatedly challenged the IRA to end its campaign of violence and pursue Irish unity by peaceful means.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar described him as “one of Ireland’s greatest political leaders.”
“History will remember Seamus Mallon as an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, a committed peace builder and a tireless champion of an inclusive Ireland,” she said.
“He always opposed sectarianism and discrimination in any form. When others in his community advocated violence, Seamus had an unswerving commitment to constitutional nationalism. He was a peacemaker who put us on the path to reconciliation.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MP said Mr Mallon was one of the reasons he had joined the party, describing him as “a force of nature”.
“In the darkest days of conflict, when hope was in short supply, Seamus represented the fierce thirst for justice that than ran through the SDLP and through communities that had lost so much to political violence,” he added.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said Armagh and Ireland had “lost one of our most respected sons and bravest leaders”.
“He will be remembered as a man of integrity and great courage who was not afraid to speak up or call it as it was – even at great personal risk,” he said.
“To his dying day, Seamus Mallon remained a man of hope for a brighter future – a shared and respectful future where we will all experience a sense of belonging.”
SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/seamus-mallon-tributes-paid-to-force-of-nature-stormont-peacemaker-11917014