MOURNERS at the funeral of the former SDLP leader Seamus Mallon, who died at the weekend, noted that as many Protestants as Roman Catholics called at his home at Markethill, Co. Armagh, to extend their sympathies.
The requiem mass for the veteran politician, who steered his party through the worst of the “Troubles” and was recognised as one of the key architects of the Good Friday Agreement, was also an important ecumenical affair.
Among those attending the service, which was held at St James of Jerusalem, Mullaghbrack, and conducted by the RC Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Eamon Martin, were the former UUP leader David Trimble, the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and a former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, sat beside the Sinn Fein deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill.
One of the concelebrants, Fr Michael Woods, said that the multi-denominational nature of the congregation was in itself testament to the influence and respect that Mr Mallon commanded across Ireland.
In his address, Dr Martin said that the former SDLP leader “was determined to help put things right, to make a real difference, and to leave the world a better place than it was when he entered it and was baptised in this parish, back in 1936.”
“People sometimes speak of ‘the noble vocation of politics’. Seamus Mallon was a shining example of someone who gives their life in a vocation of service”, he said.
Paying tribute to the late SDLP leader, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, said in a statement: “Seamus Mallon was by profession a teacher and then politician, a leader and risk-taker. He was an outspoken opponent of violence, who saw a better way of living if the people of this island learned to understand each other better; a peacemaker firmly committed to building a better future for all. Sympathy and prayers are extended to his family and colleagues at this sad time.”