Belfast Telegraph

Inez McCormack one of five Northern Ireland people added to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

By Chris Ryder

The late Inez McCormack, trade unionist and human rights activist, is the only woman among five people from Northern Ireland to be named in the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (DNB).

The others are Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney, heroic priest Fr Alec Reid, nationalist politician and former MP for South Down Eddie McGrady, and Ernest Nicholson, the Old Testament scholar from Portadown.

The Oxford DNB is the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture worldwide - from the Romans to the 21st century.

Inez's husband of 38 years, Vincent McCormack, said she "would have had something to say about being in a minority of one".

"She often found herself isolated as she swam against the tide," he said. "She would be dismayed at the current political impasse.

"She would be bitterly disappointed at the failure to deal with issues around political inequality and human rights, and to utilize to the full the measures contained in the Good Friday Agreement - though not entirely surprised.

"She always believed that rights and human dignity were not obtained once and at a stroke, but had to be defended.

"She would contend that the current political breakdown underscores the need to support and implement fully the Equality and Human Rights section of the Agreement, rights she had fought for all her life.

"Without Inez there would not have been a Human Rights and Equality section in the Agreement, but without her input there would not have been a clear statement of what was required to bring about real change.

"Such change, for low paid workers, for Catholics, for women, has transformed life in Northern Ireland, but that change must remain a central part of policy and practice, irrespective of the administration," he added.

Inez came from a Protestant background. Her maiden name was Murphy, and many assumed she was Catholic. Yet she was not just non-sectarian, but actively anti-sectarian, always making a secure space for her union members to express their identity.

Inez was diagnosed with multiple cancers in September 2013. She spent the last four months of her life helping many of those who loved her to come to terms with her impending death, which occurred on January 21, 2013.

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