Belfast Telegraph

SDLP's Geraldine Donnelly was campaigner for justice and equality, funeral told

Geraldine Donnelly’s funeral took place at St Patrick’s Church, Crossmaglen, yesterday
Geraldine Donnelly’s funeral took place at St Patrick’s Church, Crossmaglen, yesterday
Geraldine Donnelly
Alasdair McDonnell was among the mourners

By Mark McConville

Former SDLP councillor Geraldine Donnelly was someone who "made her mark on a room as soon as she entered it", her funeral was told yesterday.

The 69-year-old, who died suddenly on holiday on Saturday, June 29, was remembered as someone who "exuded warmth and compassion, drawing people towards her with a smile and a kind word".

The funeral took place at St Patrick's Church in Crossmaglen yesterday with interment in the adjoining cemetery.

Fr Kevin Cullen presided over the Mass and told the gathered mourners she "seemed to have a mental filing cabinet of every person she ever spoke to".

He added: "Put simply, she loved people and seemed to always have some common interest to share with every single person she met."

Mrs Donnelly served as a councillor in south Armagh for 11 years, including a stint as deputy mayor of the former Newry and Mourne Council from 2011 to 2012.

She was remembered as "a great campaigner for justice and equality" who "saw no distinction between the man on the street and the one holding the highest office".

Fr Cullen added: "She was never particularly enthusiastic about the attention but understood that publicity could make things happen in a way that nothing else could.

"She sacrificed her privacy for the greater good. She also took great delight in negotiating her way around bureaucratic processes.

"She used every trick in the book to push the boundaries without actually breaking any rules. Usually the official caved in - she wore them down by sheer niceness."

Tributes flooded in for Mrs Donnelly following her death, with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood describing her as the "beating heart of the SDLP in Armagh".

Breege Quinn, whose son Paul was beaten to death by the IRA in 2007, praised Mrs Donnelly as she had "given her all" in her efforts to help the family secure justice.

Above all, Mrs Donnelly was remembered as a family woman who could only be distracted from a heated debate by "one of her 10 adored grandchildren".

Fr Cullen concluded: "She would appreciate the tributes and the tears. She understood, and often shared with others the pain of grief, but she would not want the suddenness of her passing to define our memory of her."

Mrs Donnelly is survived by her husband Sean, children Niall, Sandra and Karen, and 10 grandchildren.

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