Former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Seamus Mallon has died, aged 83. Mr Mallon was conferred with the Freedom of Drogheda by then Mayor Pio Smith in 2018.
Mr Mallon passed away in Co. Armagh earlier on Friday, it has been confirmed. He played a vital role in the Good Friday Agreement and then served as deputy first minister in the power-sharing administration alongside first minister David Trimble. He had been a prominent member of the civil rights movement in the North during the 1960s and joined the SDLP who he represented as an MP in Westminster until 2005.
Mr Mallon, who served as Deputy Leader of the SDLP for 22 years, was recognised for his role in the peace process at a ceremony at the Highlanes Gallery in the town by Councillor Pio Smith in June of 2018.
Speaking upon being bestowed with the Freedom of Drogheda, Mr Mallon said he was “greatly humbled by this honour.”
“I am delighted to see the benefits the Good Friday Agreement has brought to Drogheda, to Louth and to the other Border counties over the years,” he told those in attendance at the ceremony.
Labour councillor Pio Smith and former Mayor of Drogheda, speaking at the time, said, “Séamus played a huge role in building the peace that has brought great benefits to the whole island, and the Border counties in particular.
“Since he entered political life in 1962, Séamus Mallon is the only politician to have sat in Westminster, Stormont and in the Oireachtas, as a member of Seanad Éireann.”
Mr Mallon was the 34th recipient of the Freedom of Drogheda, with previous awardees including President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, SDLP leader John Hume and Pope John Paul II. Earlier this month, UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason became the latest person to have the honour bestowed upon them.
This evening many tributes have been paid to Mr Mallon. Labour Senator Ged Nash said, “I was privileged to call him a friend. A man of peace, lifelong opponent of violence and a champion of equality, justice and reconciliation on our divided island.”
Green Party candidate for Louth and former councillor Mark Dearey commented, “Ireland has lost its greatest peacekeeper.”
Declan Breathnach TD said, “Seamus Mallon has died. One of the greats of Constitutional Nationalism and a champion of peace on this island.” Dundalk Municipal District councillor Maeve Yore commented, “I am so sad to hear about Seamus’ passing tonight. I had the pleasure of meeting and thanking him for his lifetimes commitment to Peace on our Island when he received the Freedom of Drogheda.”
“We need more people like Seamus Mallon in politics now more than ever. I send my condolences to Orla his daughter, Mark her husband, his beloved granddaughter Lara and extended family.”
Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd paid tribute to Mr Mallon, saying he was “an outstanding Irishman, patriot, politician and peacemaker. A firm believer in justice and equality for all, and a fierce opponent of bigotry, violence and discrimination.” Party colleague and MEP Mairead McGuinness said he was “a great leader and peace builder.”