An archive of material that sheds fresh light on the development of the SDLP from the early 1970s has been made available by the University of Galway.
Hugh Logue’s papers “show a long trajectory in politics from the early ‘70s in Northern Ireland to the lead up to the Good Friday Agreement, and then its impact and implication in the North,” said archivist Dr Barry Houlihan. “They are really significant.”
From Co Derry, Mr Logue took part in civil rights marches and was present on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972. First elected for the SDLP 50 years ago, he went on to work in the European Commission before becoming chief special adviser and speechwriter at the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister following the establishment of the power-sharing Executive in 1998.
The archive includes multiple manuscripts and annotated drafts of his testimony to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, as well as early SDLP political and election literature and material documenting the European influence on Northern Ireland from the 1990s.
Among the key pieces is a letter from Mr Logue to former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon just as the news was emerging of the “utter horror” of the 1998 Omagh bombing. In the letter, he asks “are we, bomb by bomb, to be dragged down, or to be hauled back from the peace-building destiny for which such a vast majority voted?”
“Our task remains to give voice to that overwhelming vote,” he wrote.
Mr Logue was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Galway on Monday in recognition of “a lifetime dedicated to civil rights, human rights, equality and peace in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Europe”.
He said he was a “very special honour” and he was “as delighted as I was surprised” to receive it.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Logue called for the convening of another New Ireland Forum, 40 years after the first was set up by the government to discuss the future of the island, and said it should have a “largely similar remit” and “take testimony from all, and in all the four provinces – maybe even in Stormont”.
He contributed to the original Forum, and a copy of its final report, signed by all involved, including John Hume and Mr Mallon, is also among the documents in the archive.
Mr Logue said he envisaged a referendum on Irish unity should be called “by the end of this decade” and “it is precisely because 50 per cent plus one could be a result, that we must strive to secure a much greater majority”.
“That can only be achieved by dialogue and persuasion based on facts that facilitate integration of North and South, not intimidation.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Logue emphasised the need for “profound consideration…I don’t think we should hurry it, I think we should have consultation, persuasion and dialogue”.
He said he believed that following Brexit “there are many within the…unionist community who cherish their European identity and I think would want to look at options which would allow them to be European as well as British and Irish”.