The former Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon, has died, aged 83.
Mr Mallon passed away peacefully at his Markethill home on Friday afternoon.
The former Deputy Leader of the SDLP was born and raised in the Co. Armagh town, where he spent most of his life.
The news was confirmed this evening by the party he was aligned to for most of his adult life.
SDLP Leader Colm Eastwood said that Ireland has lost one of its most fierce champions for justice, equality and peace following the passing of former deputy First Minister and SDLP Deputy Leader Seamus Mallon.
Mr Eastwood said that Seamus Mallon’s life’s work carved a pathway beyond our troubled past and gave us all the opportunity to build a shared home on our island.
He said: “Seamus Mallon was a force of nature.
“In the darkest days of conflict, when hope was in short supply, Seamus represented the fierce thirst for justice that ran through the SDLP and through communities that had lost so much to political violence.
“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.
“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.
“Throughout my political life, Seamus was a constant source of guidance, advice and, when needed, some robust critical reflection. His support has been an immense source of personal pride. I hope that I’ve done him proud in return.
“Seamus lived for Ireland and worked for all of its people – we are all the better for it.
“The pride of Seamus’ life was his dearly loved late wife Gertrude, their daughter Orla and granddaughter Lara. My thoughts and prayers are with Orla, her husband Mark, and Lara at this difficult time. I hope they’re comforted by Seamus’ incredible legacy and the indelible mark he left on the lives of so many people.”
Mr Mallon was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newry and St. Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh.
As a career he chose teaching – like his father – becoming headmaster of St. James’s Primary School in Markethill.
Mallon was also involved in the GAA, playing Gaelic football for Armagh. He first played club football for Middletown during the 1950s, then with Keady Dwyers, Queen’s University and Crossmaglen Rangers.