Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to Northern Irleand Labour veteran David Bleakley after death at age of 92

By Victoria Leonard

Former Northern Ireland politician David Bleakley, who died on Sunday at the age of 92, has been remembered as a man who "personified the possibilities for East Belfast".

Tributes to Mr Bleakley, who passed away peacefully in hospital, were led by former chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) Brian Garrett.

Mr Bleakley was born on January 11, 1925 in Strandtown. He worked in the Harland & Wolff shipyards and became involved in trade union activity.

He studied economics at Oxford University's Ruskin College and later attended Queen's University in Belfast.

Mr Bleakley then became head of economics and political studies at Methodist College from 1969 to 1979.

He joined the NI Labour Party and won the Northern Ireland Parliament seat formerly known as Victoria in Belfast in 1958.

At Stormont he was appointed chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, but lost his seat in 1965. In 1971 he was appointed Minister for Community Relations in the Cabinet by Brian Faulkner.

After the Parliament of Northern Ireland was abolished, Mr Bleakley was elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly and its successor, the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention.

He stood as an Independent community candidate for the 1979 European Assembly election, but was unsuccessful.

Mr Bleakley received a CBE in 1984. He was general secretary of the Irish Council of Churches from 1980-1992. In 1992, after the NILP was dissolved, he joined the Alliance Party and was an adviser during the all-party talks.

In the 1996 Northern Ireland Forum election he was a member of the Democratic Partnership list and stood in Belfast East, but was not elected.

In 1998 he joined the Labour Party of Northern Ireland and stood in Belfast East in the Assembly election, but was unsuccessful.

Mr Garrett described Mr Bleakley as "quite an orator" and a "very moral man".

"He was very personal about the need for change in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Although the title of leader was never conferred on him, he was regarded as a leader. He was very affected by the Labour government of the forties and I admired his courage - he was very loyal to the Labour Party. He was quite a man and very much an East Belfast MP. He personified the possibilities for East Belfast."

Mr Bleakley is survived by his sons Brian, Desmond and Peter. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

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