Séamus Mallon awarded freedom of Drogheda despite Sinn Féin objections
Former SDLP deputy leader praised for ‘huge role’ in the peace process
Mayor of Drogheda Pio Smith presents Séamus Mallon with the Freedom of the Borough District of Drogheda at the Highlanes Gallery, Drogheda. Photograph: Jimmy Weldon
Former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Séamus Mallon has been conferred with the freedom of Drogheda in Co Louth.
Mr Mallon, (81), former deputy leader of the SDLP, entered politics in 1962 and has been recognised for his role in the peace process.
The freedom of Drogheda was bestowed on him in a ceremony at the Highlanes Gallery by Mayor of Drogheda, Councillor Pio Smith on Friday evening.
Accepting the award, 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,”said Mr Mallon.
He is the 34th recipient of the Freedom of Drogheda. Previous awardees include President of Ireland Michael D Higgins; former president Mary Robinson; SDLP leader John Hume; Fr Iggy O’Donovan, and Pope John Paul II.
Mr Smith, a Labour Party councillor, said it was fitting that this acknowledgement was extended to Mr Mallon in the year of the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.
“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,” said Mr Smith.
Sinn Féin was last month criticised for attempting to block Mr Mallon being made a freeman of Drogheda arguing that its own former leader, Gerry Adams, was more deserving of the honour.
The party’s councillors voted against the proposal to award Mr Mallon the honour but all other local councillors voted in favour.