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Paschal O'Hare: Lawyer fought for social justice

Hard-working SDLP founding member was city councillor and MLA

Paschal O'Hare, who has died aged 81, was a well-known Belfast solicitor and a former SDLP councillor and representative at Stormont.

He was born in the Springfield Road area of Belfast and was educated at St Paul's PE school and by the Christian Brothers in Barrack Street.

He became a clerk at 16 in the Belfast solicitors' practice of James F Fitzpatrick and later he worked with a law firm in Birmingham.

During a colourful career, he lived for some time in Montana and served with the US Army in West Germany.

He later returned to Belfast and accepted an apprenticeship with the same firm where he had started as a clerk years earlier.

He qualified as a solicitor in 1969 and built up an extensive client-base, including those facing charges of terrorism, as well as several internees.

He was a founder-member of the SDLP and served two terms on Belfast City Council from 1977. Two years later, he was an unsuccessful candidate in the General Election, but he won a seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1982.

Paschal O'Hare (left) was well-known for his untiring constituency work and was particularly concerned about "the atrocious housing conditions and the Thatcher cuts".

He also believed firmly in a "strong, organised party to fight for people's rights and to work for a just solution" to the problems in Northern Ireland.

But he left the party over the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

He said: "Any party, north or south, which condones the return of Stormont in a six-county context is guilty of political treachery against the nationalist people of Ireland."

He also claimed that the agreement had "underpinned, underwritten and underscored the immoral and unjust partition of Ireland, so far as many northern nationalists are concerned."

The SDLP leader, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, in paying tribute, said: "Paschal O'Hare was tireless in his efforts and steadfast in his commitment to building fairness and social justice in his council and legal work."

He is survived by his wife, Eileen, and their six children.

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