Belfast Telegraph

Seamus Close funeral hears of one of the former Alliance deputy’s proudest moments

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The funeral of former Alliance Party deputy leader Seamus Close has taken place in Lisburn, five years to the day since he enjoyed his proudest moment in the same church.

Mr Close (71), who served as an MLA in Lagan Valley for nine years, died on Tuesday.

He had been diagnosed just six weeks ago with a rare form of liver cancer which failed to respond to treatment.

Parish priest, the Very Reverend Dermot McCaughan, told mourners at St Patrick's Church that the highlight of Mr Close's life had been in the very place his remains now lay, five years ago almost to the hour, when he had walked his daughter Natasha up the aisle.

"That was a great memory of his life," Fr McCaughan said.

"Grief is the memory created by love. Seamus had wonderful recollections of his family time and years spent together.

"One thing his family can draw some comfort from today is that Seamus was spared the anguish and pain of their passing. He never experienced a day without the love and presence of his family.

Family and friends at the funeral of Seamus Close in Lisburn yesterday
Family and friends at the funeral of Seamus Close in Lisburn yesterday
Family and friends at the funeral of Seamus Close in Lisburn yesterday
Seamus Close
Alasdair McDonnell
David Ford
Alban Maginness
Naomi Long

"Six weeks ago, when he was diagnosed, he reflected calmly and poignantly on the cross he was about to carry at a time when he still had so much to live for.

"While it was anguish for his family, he told them to 'keep their chins up'.

"Seamus was a man of courage and integrity and we salute him for his inspiration, strength and grace. He resigned himself to God's will."

Mr Close (below) began his political career in his early 30s and was first elected to Lisburn Borough Council back in 1983 and in 1993-94 served as the borough's first non-unionist mayor.

He also served as an Assembly member for Lagan Valley from 1998 until 2007.

Over three decades he held a number of roles in Alliance, including party chair between 1981 and 1982 and deputy leader from 1991 until 2001 when he resigned, citing differences with the leadership of Sean Neeson.

He retired from politics in 2006, having contested 20 elections over a 33-year period.

After his retirement he became a regular contributor to a range of political programmes on the broadcast media.

Among those attending his funeral yesterday were Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and former leader David Ford.

Mr Close is survived by his wife Deirdre, children Christopher, Brian, Stephen and Natasha.

In a statement, the Close family said: "It is hard not to feel cheated or robbed of the hopes and dreams we had planned for the years ahead as a family, however it gives us great comfort to hear all the kind words from others who knew Seamus as a man of the people, who prided himself on his integrity and honesty.

"Most people will remember Seamus as a formidable, passionate politician, who connected with people from all walks of life to help bridge political divides and build a better, more peaceful future for Northern Ireland.

"To us, however, Seamus was the greatest family man you can imagine.

"He was a doting grandfather to Thomas, Rory and little Emily, and provided his four children and wife Deirdre, with a lifetime of happy, loving memories that will continue to live on in our hearts.

"Seamus' greatest achievement in life was his family first, and his political career second.

"We couldn't have asked for a more loving, caring husband and father. For that we will always be grateful.

"In true Seamus Close spirit, he fought his illness with the same dignity, courage and determination he had during the peace talks 20 years ago, right until the very end.

"In his final moments he was surrounded by us, his family, where he used the last bit of strength he had left to whisper: I love you."

His funeral took place from his home on Moira Road, Lisburn and following Requiem Mass in St Patrick's Lisburn, his remains were buried at Holy Trinity Cemetery.

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