Two great Irishmen - Seamus Mallon (left) who is to be made a freeman of Drogheda next month with the late Dr. TK Whitaker who was made a freeman of Drogheda in 1999. Photo courtesy SDLP.
One of the towering figures in the decades-long search for justice and peace in Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon, is to be given the freedom of the Borough of Drogheda on June 8th.
The announcement was made at last night’s meeting of Councillors of the Borough of Drogheda and was warmly welcomed by all except the three Sinn Féin Councillors, Kenneth Flood, Joanne Byrne and David Saurin who voted against the move.
The announcement came in the form of a prepared statement read out by the Deputy Mayor Cllr. Richie Culhane in the absence of the Mayor Cllr. Pio Smith, which read:
"I am happy to offer the Freedom of Drogheda to Seamus Mallon as I believe that he is a patriot in the true sense of the word and has worked to unite protestant, catholic and dissenter like a true Republican.
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“Mallon was a straight talker and his goal in politics and life was to progress society in a manner that benefited all. Having a go at other political parties or communities for the sake of it was not his style, instead he tackled issues like inequality, Irish unity, lack of housing, unemployment and he did this for both Catholic and Protestant.
“All people who live on the island of Ireland owe Seamus Mallon a deep debt of gratitude for the significant role he played in engendering hope in a time of despair and in helping to create new and better inter communal relationships on this island."
During the sixties Seamus Mallon was deeply involved in the civil rights movement, especially in his native Armagh. In 1979, when John Hume went from being deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) under Gerry Fitt to leader, Mallon became deputy leader.
Mallon was elected to the first power-sharing Assembly in 1973, and to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975. In 1982 Mallon was appointed to Seanad Éireann by the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey.
Seamus Mallon was the Deputy Leader of the SDLP from 1979 to 2001 and first Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2001.
In 1994 Mallon was elected to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and was a member of the SDLP team at the all-party negotiations that opened in Belfast in June 1996 when he famously remarked that whatever emerged would be "Sunningdale for slow learners."
Other dignitaries who have been awarded the freedom of Drogheda include Mr. Mallon’s comrade in the SDLP, the Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, who was honoured in 1981, Pope John Paul II, Charles Stewart Parnell and Eamon De Valera and more recently, Fr Iggy O’Donovan in 2013.
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