Maurice Hayes' family and friends’ glowing tribute to 'a gigantic figure in Northern Ireland public life'
Warm tributes from the worlds of politics, sport and arts have been paid to Dr Maurice Hayes, who died peacefully in hospital on Saturday morning following a short illness. He will be laid to rest in his home town of Downpatrick tomorrow.
His daughter Clodagh said on Twitter that she was “so proud” of her father, adding that he had given a life of public service.
She added: “A true polyglot who taught us to treat everyone with the same respect, no matter where they come from or what they do. European man of the year 2003. Kindness personified.”
His son Ronan said he was “heartbroken but so proud”.
Former Northern Ireland Office minister Sir Richard Needham said Dr Hayes was “a really gigantic figure in public life in Northern Ireland”.
He added: “We always say people will be missed but he will be missed with such wisdom and because he was listened to by everybody from every side of the community really.”
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, the former head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, recalled a man of “great fairness and broadness of mind”.
He added: “I personally will miss him very much and this society will miss him too.”
Dr Hayes, a long-time contributor to the Belfast Telegraph, rose to the top ranks of the civil service, becoming permanent secretary of the Department of Health.
The Queen’s University graduate was also involved in the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement and was a major contributor to the Patten Report which transformed the RUC into the PSNI.
Irish President Michael D Higgins hailed him as a visionary.
He said: “As part of an extensive contribution to Irish public life, Maurice Hayes chaired the National Forum on Europe, and his approach was widely praised by all political persuasions. He brought a strong commitment to a pluralist and inclusive vision of society to his work in Seanad Eireann and as ombudsman for Northern Ireland.”
Peter Osborne, the chair of the Community Relations Council, said Dr Hayes “made a huge contribution to this society over the many difficult years”.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute to Dr Hayes as “a towering figure in Irish public life” from sport to politics.
“A life truly well lived,” he added.
Pianist Barry Douglas said: “So sad to hear of the passing of Dr Maurice Hayes. A giant who understood all sides in Ireland. An inspiration. RIP.”
Staff at St Patrick’s Grammar School — where Dr Hayes once taught — offered their condolences to his family.
It said: “Beyond his very public role as a member of Seanad Eireann and Down GAA, Maurice was a former pupil, member of staff, lifelong supporter and close friend.
“We extend our sympathy to the extended Hayes family at this sad time.”
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams praised the “significant contribution” which Dr Hayes made in the political, cultural and sporting arena.
“He made an important contribution to the Patten Commission on policing, was ombudsman for the north, a Gaeilgeoir, a Seanadoir 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.”
South Down MLA Chris Hazzard paid tribute to the “giant” figure who left a lasting legacy.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “a man of many talents”, adding that he was “always balanced, fair and even handed on Northern Ireland matters”.
Dr Hayes’ body will be waked at his home in Bulls Eye Park in Downpatrick today.
He will then be laid to rest at Down Cathedral graveyard tomorrow after requiem Mass in St Patrick’s Church at noon.