Belfast Telegraph

Goggins helped 'solidify' peace

Paul Goggins has been hailed for helping to solidify peace in Northern Ireland, as politicians from both sides of the region's traditional divide paid tribute to the late Labour MP.

Mr Goggins, who was a minister of state in the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) under the last government, was described by local representatives as a gentleman respected by all who knew him.

Leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the former direct rule minister for justice was a politician of outstanding ability.

The 60-year-old MP, who died last night just over a week after collapsing while jogging with his son, was involved in the crunch negotiations that led to the devolution of justice powers from Westminster back to Stormont in 2010.

"As an NIO minister he made a huge contribution to solidifying the peace process in Northern Ireland and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for all of his work," South Belfast MP Dr McDonnell said.

"I had the privilege of knowing Paul as a colleague, a wise counsellor and a friend.

"Aside from his outstanding ability as a minister in Northern Ireland, everyone who knew him will attest to his tremendous personal humility and deep compassion for those on the margins of society.

"A man of great faith, his first concern was always for the vulnerable."

Democratic Unionist deputy leader Nigel Dodds said he was " truly saddened" by the Wythenshawe and Sale East MP's death.

"Paul was a gentleman who was not only respected but also liked by those whom he came into contact with," the North Belfast MP said.

"During his time as a minister, and after, Paul was a friend to Northern Ireland and I know that like colleagues, I found him to be genuinely interested in doing the best for the province.

"Paul's loss will most deeply felt by his family, but it is also a great loss to his Party and to Parliament as a whole."

Deputy leader of the cross-community Alliance party and East Belfast MP, Naomi Long, said: "He was a true gentleman who had a heart for and interest in Northern Ireland that outlasted his time as Minister of State.

"He served the public in Northern Ireland and in his constituency with integrity and grace.

"He is a huge loss and will be genuinely missed by those of us who knew him personally and many more who never had that privilege, but benefited from his work and commitment.

"My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues at this sad time."

The Orange Order also paid tribute to Mr Goggins.

Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Drew Nelson, said: "The (Orange) Institution worked closely with Mr Goggins during his tenure as Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office and always found him to be one of the most constructive and understanding elected representatives to work with.

"Paul was a very hard-working minister and a man of great integrity, who was 100% committed to doing his best for all the people of Northern Ireland.

"His death is a grave loss to British politics in general and to Northern Ireland politics in particular.

"On behalf of the Orange Institution, our sympathy and condolences go to Paul's family at this deeply traumatic time."

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson described Mr Goggins as a man of "integrity, warmth and decency".

"He had a great ability to work with people in Northern Ireland," said the DUP leader and East Belfast Assembly member.

"Without doubt Paul was a genuine friend of Northern Ireland and his work contributed to achieving the settlement secured for the Province."

The former East Belfast MP added: " I had the privilege of working with him in the House of Commons and counted him as a friend as well as a Parliamentary colleague.

"He was widely respected by all those who knew him and he will be remembered with great affection and as a true friend to many."

The Irish Republic's deputy prime minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore hailed the contribution made during Mr Goggins's tenure in the Northern Ireland Office.

"During this time he worked closely with the Irish government, particularly on justice and security issues," he said.

"He served his constituents and the people of Northern Ireland with great integrity and wisdom and his death is a loss to the profession of politics.

"I wish to extend my condolences to his family and to his colleagues in the British Labour Party".

Stormont's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also expressed his condolences to Mr Goggins' family.

"I got to know Paul well when he served as a minister here," said the Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MLA.

"I always found him to be a genuine man with a real interest in our issues. Paul worked hard with all the parties in what was a challenging time in our history.

"Paul was highly regarded by all those who worked with him, from right across the political spectrum, and his death is a great loss to the political arena and to his beloved family and many friends."

Current Stormont Justice minister and Alliance party leader David Ford said he was shocked by the news.

"I have known Paul for many years and value the work he did through his appointment to the Northern Ireland Office, where he had responsibility for security and prisons," he said.

"As the last Minister before the devolution of justice he worked tirelessly to ensure that the justice system was ready for devolution and was generous with his time to me as incoming Minister. He played an instrumental role in the successful devolution of justice and earned the respect of politicians from across the divide.

"Even since the devolution of justice in 2010 Paul maintained his interest in Northern Ireland and I received a phone call from him one year after the devolution offering his congratulations on progress made.

"Paul was a gentleman in every sense, who cared about the people he worked with and those he represented. His death will be a great loss not only to his family, but to his constituents and to Parliament."

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