The death of former South Down MP Eddie McGrady signals the loss of another of the pivotal figures in local politics over the last half century. A founder member of the SDLP, he won the South Down seat from Enoch Powell, and laid the foundations of a bulwark against the rise of Sinn Fein. Like John Hume in Foyle, it was his solid constituency work, carried on by his chosen successor, which stopped republicans making further gains against the party.
Mr McGrady won friends across the political divide due to his integrity and unflinching opposition to violence. He was also a staunch defender of his local hospital and fought long campaigns over what he termed health risks from the Sellafield nuclear plant. His name recalls the heyday of the SDLP when it was the predominant voice of nationalism and his loss will be keenly felt by colleagues as well as the constituents he served so loyally for so long.