Belfast Telegraph

Tributes paid to civil rights hero

Tributes have been paid to one of the founders of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, Professor Kevin Boyle, who has died.

Originally from Newry in Co Down, he had helped set up the movement that sought to force peaceful change in the 1960s by pressing for an end to anti-Catholic discrimination in the region.

President of the Labour Party in the Irish Republic Michael D Higgins said his efforts, plus additional work in the field of human rights across Ireland and overseas, represented a major contribution.

"I heard with great sadness of the passing of Kevin Boyle whose courageous leadership in the human rights movement has placed so many in Ireland in his debt," he said.

"Kevin Boyle was a champion of civil and human rights for more than 40 years. He was one of the inspirational figures behind the original civil rights movement which sought progress and democratic reform in Northern Ireland through peaceful means."

Professor Boyle studied at Queen's University Belfast where he was involved in the People's Democracy group and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. He later served as founding director of the Irish centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland in Galway (NUIIG), and advised Mary Robinson when she was UN High Commission for Human Rights.

Professor Boyle, understood to have died on December 26, was also a director of the Human Rights Centre in the University of Essex.

Mr Higgins added: "I had the great privilege of working with Kevin Boyle as a colleague in NUIIG where he was an inspiring figure and teacher on the importance of human rights in law. His background in sociology meant that his interdisciplinary contribution was original, generous and ground breaking.

"On his move to Essex, he retained all his connections with colleagues in Ireland and went on to serve as advisor to President Mary Robinson during her period as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Those of us who knew him personally will feel the loss of a warm friend with a great sense of humour and enormous courage in bearing his illness."

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