Remembering Seamus Mallon
A chara. – I had the good fortune to serve in Seanad Éireann with two men I would say deserved to be called great. They were John Robb and Seamus Mallon. Both were true to their own traditions and yet relentlessly challenged their own traditions.
Seamus Mallon was an Irish nationalist, steeped in its traditions. He felt and lived a life that was relentlessly Irish (he talked about the difficulty of taking the oath of allegiance in the House of Commons) but alongside that and more than most he had sympathy for and understood his neighbours and friends from a totally different tradition. That was sometimes seen in the apparently trivial, as when he endeavoured to get the date of a Dundalk race meeting changed so as not the tempt the “brethren” away around the 12th.
And he never ever wavered in his opposition to violence as a political weapon, whether used by the state or those who claimed to act for the Irish people. Hence his determination to attend every funeral of victims of politically motivated violence and the abuse he sometimes received as a result. He was brave beyond words, living in an overwhelmingly loyalist area. He never subscribed even in the most nuanced way to “what aboutery”. Violence was unequivocally, unambiguously, always wrong, justified by nothing, however horrible. He devoted his life to the pursuit of reconciliation and to the development of institutions which supported it. He suffered for those principles. He was truly great. – Yours, etc,
of Seanad Éireann,