Tributes paid to former senator John Robb

President Higgins praises the surgeon’s ‘deep humanity’ following his death on Tuesday

John Robb pictured in the Dáil on February 14th, 1985. Photograph: Jack McManus/The Irish Times

John Robb pictured in the Dáil on February 14th, 1985. Photograph: Jack McManus/The Irish Times

 

President Michael D Higgins has paid tribute to John Robb, a former Irish senator and surgeon from Ballymoney, Co Antrim, who died on Tuesday.

Mr Robb, who was in his mid-80s at the time of his death, was a liberal Protestant who in 1982 founded the New Ireland Group, which was dedicated to shaping a new cross-community vision of Ireland. He also learned and spoke Irish.

He was appointed to the Seanad by taoiseach Charles Haughey in 1982 and served there for seven years.

President Higgins said that Mr Robb “was a voice not only for peace but for reconciliation, for recognising all traditions and beliefs on the island of Ireland, and the making of a future in which all in Ireland could share.

“One could not but be impressed by his deep humanity, and his unstinting efforts to encourage new thinking in politics. At a personal level, he was a joy to meet, always optimistic, an all-islander in the best sense.”

“To have known him as a friend and regular correspondent was a privilege,” added President Higgins.

‘Outstanding representative’

SDLP Assembly member Claire Hanna said Mr Robb “was an outstanding representative of the liberal Presbyterian tradition in the North, which was willing to engage with all traditions on the island, through his New Ireland Group”.

“He was probably the leading trauma surgeon in the Royal Victoria Hospital in [the] awful years of the early ’70s and was a doughty defender of our hospitals,” she added.

“He had a remarkable intellect and in middle age taught himself to speak, read and – unusually – write Irish to a very high standard,” said Ms Hanna.