Former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon criticised by NIO official

State Papers 1990: Mallon described by senior official as ‘not at his best on legal matters’

Seamus Mallon, former SDLP  deputy leader  and former deputy first minister: said a bill of rights for Northern Ireland could not co-exist with the current emergency legislation. Photograph: Tony Harris/PA

Seamus Mallon, former SDLP deputy leader and former deputy first minister: said a bill of rights for Northern Ireland could not co-exist with the current emergency legislation. Photograph: Tony Harris/PA

 

Official criticism of Seamus Mallon of the SDLP emerges in this year’s files released by the Public Record Office in Belfast. The context was a report by an official from the Northern Ireland Office, SA Marsh, of the political affairs division, from a debate at the SDLP conference in November 1990 on the administration of justice.

According to the report, Mr Mallon, then deputy leader of the party, spoke with “passion” during a debate on a bill of rights for Northern Ireland, but said that such a measure could not co-exist with the current emergency legislation. In his view, the administration of justice was more fundamental than politics, while a political settlement in the North would be impossible to achieve without resolving the issue of confidence in the system of justice and security.

Peter Bell, a senior official at the Northern Ireland Office, said of the reported speech that Mr Mallon was “not at his best on legal matters”.