Former Alliance deputy leader Seamus Close was 'man of integrity'
Seamus Close OBE, who has died following a short illness with liver cancer, was a former deputy leader of the Alliance Party, and a well-known political figure and media communicator. He was 71.
Throughout his political career, he made a major contribution to consolidating the centre ground in a divided society.
His death comes following recent local council elections when a surge in support for the Alliance Party saw it take 53 seats - an increase of 21.
His passing has taken place when yet more talks are beginning to restore working devolution at Stormont.
Seamus Close was known for his feisty character and direct conversational style - often laced with humour. Whether people agreed with him or not, they were aware he was a man of integrity who cherished the centre ground in politics.
Current leader Naomi Long paid tribute yesterday, describing him as a hard-working, astute politician who advocated for ordinary people and someone who had "put in the hard yards" for the Good Friday Agreement.
Former Alliance leader, David Ford said that while he didn't always agree with Mr Close, he never doubted his "unwavering commitment" to the party's principles.
The DUP leader Arlene Foster said in a tweet that Mr Close was "admired and respected across the political spectrum".
Seamus Anthony Close was born on August 12, 1947, and in his early 30s he began his political career by standing for Alliance in the second Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election in August 1981, a pivotal period during the hunger strikes.
Soon afterwards his political base moved to the then new Lagan Valley constituency and he became Alliance chairman between 1981-82, and then deputy leader for a decade from 1991.
He was a member of the 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly for four years, and a member of the Northern Ireland Forum from 1996.
In the 1998 election to the new Northern Ireland Assembly, he topped the poll in Lagan Valley, and in the 2001 general election he had the highest vote of any Alliance candidate.
In June of that year he resigned as deputy leader but held his seat in the 2003 Assembly election.
In 2006 he resigned from regional politics, but he had already made an important contribution to local government.
He was Mayor of Lisburn from 1993-94. .
Seamus Close is survived by his wife Deirdre and his children Christopher, Brian, Stephen and Natasha, and the wider family circle.