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John Hume pays tribute to 'great courage and courtesy' of Peter Barry

Published 28/08/2016

Peter Barry played a key role in the Anglo-Irish Agreement
Peter Barry played a key role in the Anglo-Irish Agreement

John Hume has hailed Ireland's former tanaiste (deputy prime minister) Peter Barry as a peacemaker of great courage.

The wealthy businessman and shrewd political deal maker was a key player in Anglo-Irish relations during one of the most difficult periods of the Northern Ireland Troubles in the mid-1980s. He died on Friday aged 88 and his funeral will be held in Cork tomorrow morning.

The founder of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and Nobel prize-winning peace process architect Mr Hume said he was a source of strength for all who stood against violence.

"Peter was a constant companion to the North throughout our most challenging times as we walked the treacherous path to peace.

"Implacable in his opposition to all forms of violence and injustice, he will long be remembered in this island's story as a man of great courage and courtesy."

The businessman from Cork, who built the Barry's Tea brand into a household name in Ireland, forged a successful political career spanning decades.

From a political dynasty started by his father, the former lord mayor of Cork was first elected a TD (MP) in 1969. He went on to become deputy leader of his Fine Gael party.

Until he retired from national politics in 1997 he served in a number of senior government positions including the education, transport and environment portfolios.

But it was in his role as Foreign Affairs Minister in the years leading up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement - credited with being a stepping stone to the Good Friday Agreement - that he is best remembered.

Mr Hume said it was not just his work on negotiating the Anglo-Irish Agreement between then Irish premier Garret FitzGerald and then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that distinguished him but also his commitment to its faithful implementation.

The accord gave Ireland a consultative role on Northern Ireland affairs for the first time and met the fiercest of unionist protests.

Mr Hume noted: "He keenly understood that historic handshakes marked the beginning not the end of our challenges."

He said Mr Barry was hard-headed and sure-footed in his political dealings but always demonstrated a personal grace.

"He brought a real empathy to his engagement on the North alongside a critical determination to lay the groundwork for peaceful progress."

Mr Barry died peacefully in his native city on Friday morning surrounded by his family. He had four sons and two daughters, including sitting Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune.

Most of Ireland's political elite is expected to attend his funeral at 11:30am on Monday morning at St Michael's Church, Blackrock.

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