Belfast Telegraph

Former senior civil servant and GAA figure Dr Maurice Hayes dies age 90

By Christopher Woodhouse

Former senior civil servant and GAA figure Dr Maurice Hayes has died, aged 90.

Dr Hayes died in hospital on Saturday morning after a period of ill health.

He rose to the top ranks of the civil service becoming permanent secretary of the department of health and was the first Catholic to be appointed NI Ombudsman.

The Queen’s University graduate was also involved in the 1974 Sunningdale Agreement and was a major contributor to the Patten Report which transformed the RUC into the PSNI.

In a TV interview this year with journalist Eamonn Mallie he said of his career: “I believed I had to prove that a Catholic could do the job as well as anyone else.”

In 1997 and 2002 then taoiseach Bertie Ahern nominated the life-long Irish speaker for a seat as an independent in the Seanad.

The Killough man played hurling for Down and as county secretary he is credited for leading the team to their All-Ireland football victory in 1960, the first Northern Ireland county to do so.

Current Down secretary Sean Og McAteer told Sunday Life: “The 1960 breakthrough was a testament to his organisational skill, he had a vision which came to fruition.”

Mr McAteer said the sympathies of Down GAA were with his wife Joan and family circle.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams extended his sympathy and condolences to the family of Dr Hayes.

Mr Adams said: “Over many years Maurice Hayes made a significant contribution to the political, cultural and sporting life of the island of Ireland and especially County Down.

"He made an important contribution to the Patten Commission on Policing, was Ombudsman for the North, a Gaeilgeoir, a Seanadóir in the Oireachtas, and is credited by many for Down’s legendary senior football win in 1960 which saw the Sam Maguire Cup brought north for the first time.

"I knew Maurice over many years. We didn’t always agree but he was passionate about the peace process and about building a better future for the people of Ireland. He will be greatly missed."

Sinn Fein MP for South Down Chris Hazzard said: “I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to Maurice’s wife Joan and extended family, undoubtedly Maurice’s passing will be a huge loss to them all.

“Maurice was a giant of a figure both locally in Downpatrick and throughout Ireland. Despite excelling at most things he put his hand to, Maurice always was a very humble person whose Lecale roots meant the world to him.

“I was very fortunate to spend some time with Maurice in recent years as we chatted all things politics and the fortunes of his beloved Down GAA.

“The thoughts of all in South Down are with the Hayes family at this tough time. May they take consolation in the love that Maurice possessed for them all and the enduring legacy he leaves behind.”

Requiem Mass will take place at St Patrick’s  Church, Downpatrick next Wednesday December 27 with burial  at Down Cathedral, the historical burial place of St Patrick.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

From Belfast Telegraph