Belfast Telegraph

Tributes as former NIO minister Paul Goggins dies at 60

BY NOEL MCADAM

Nationalists and the Orange Order have joined to pay respects to the former Northern Ireland Office minister Paul Goggins, who has died.

Tributes from across the political spectrum flooded in for the 60-year-old Labour MP who passed away just a week after collapsing while out running.

At the beginning of the first Prime Minister's Questions of the year, David Cameron said: "He was a kind and a brilliant man who believed profoundly in public service.

"He did vital work as a Northern Ireland minister, playing a quiet but essential role in delivering the absolutely essential devolution of policing and justice powers in Northern Ireland, particularly at the Hillsborough Castle talks.

"He was liked and admired right across the House and always treated everyone, in whatever circumstances, with respect. He will be greatly missed and we send our condolences to his wife Wyn, to his children and to his family."

The DUP and SDLP were among parties which issued statements, as senior MPs and MLAs voiced their sadness.

First Minister Peter Robinson said: "Without doubt, Paul was a genuine friend of Northern Ireland and his work contributed to achieving the settlement secured for the province."

The party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the death was a great loss to Labour and Parliament, while Executive minister Edwin Poots said: "He was always approachable and helpful, and had a caring personality."

Former UUP Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said: "In the NIO he was Minister for Health and made a major contribution to the lives of virtually every single person in the province, including the smoking ban."

East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long said: "He was a true gentleman, with a heart for and an interest in Northern Ireland that outlasted his time as a direct rule minister."

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said Mr Goggins "made a huge contribution to solidifying the peace process in Northern Ireland". South Down MP Margaret Ritchie added: "He was a man of immense stature and great integrity."

The party's Foyle MP Mark Durkan, who knew Mr Goggins well, said: "Even when one differed from his stance, as I clearly did on MI5 in Northern Ireland, he was never dismissive, patronising or facile. He was conscientious of purpose instead. He never simply hid behind his brief to avoid showing concern or consideration for other issues."

And the grand secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, said: "The institution worked closely with Mr Goggins during his tenure as Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office and always found him to be one of the most constructive and understanding elected representatives to work with.

"Paul was a very hard-working minister and a man of great integrity, who was 100% committed to doing his best for all the people of Northern Ireland."

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers told the House of Commons: "He was an excellent Northern Ireland minister and one of the kindest, most sincere and most popular members of this House. He will be much missed."

Labour leader Ed Miliband said it had lost one of its most "dignified, humane, wise and loyal" parliamentarians. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called him an "outstanding public servant".

The Republic's Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, said he was "saddened" to hear of the death of Mr Goggins, who had "worked closely" with Dublin during his time at the NIO.

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