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Tributes to ex-MLA Francie Brolly who has died

Francie Brolly

Tributes have been paid to former Sinn Fein MLA Francie Brolly, who passed away at his home in Dungiven yesterday.

Mr Brolly - father of GAA pundit Joe Brolly - was also an Irish language activist who taught the language at night classes in Limavady, and will also be remembered as an accomplished musician and GAA enthusiast.

Mr Brolly spent most of his political life as a member of Sinn Fein, serving on Limavady Borough Council before taking a seat at Stormont from 2003 to 2010, where he was the party's spokesman on Culture, Arts and Leisure.

It was during his tenure as an East Londonderry MLA that Mr Brolly was arrested in 2005, held overnight and questioned about the IRA's 1972 Claudy bomb atrocity in which nine died.

At that time Mr Brolly gave an interview to BBC NI's Spotlight in which he said if anyone needed to know who carried out the Claudy bomb, it was him, as his arrest had linked him to the atrocity anyway, and while he vehemently denied any knowledge of who was responsible, he recognised "there will always be people out there who say there is no smoke without fire".

Mr Brolly broke away from Sinn Fein in 2018 in protest against the party's pro-abortion policies and joined his wife Anne, who left Sinn Fein two year earlier, in a new conservative republican party, Aontu.

Aontu's deputy leader and long time friend Dr Anne McCloskey described Mr Brolly as a "gentle soul". She added: "Francie and Anne were such an incredible team and they shared a searing intellect, caring and a deep, deep faith and deep, deep compassion for the human race.

"They were not without their bothers. Francie was interned early in their relationship, but they were as one and they were as in love on the day he died as they were when they met.

"Francie, although he spent a life time in Sinn Fein, both he and Anne were individuals who very much took their own decisions, and the culmination of that was that when Sinn Fein required them to support abortion - which was against their deeply held fundamental principles - they wouldn't do it. Francie always said: 'We didn't leave Sinn Fein, Sinn Fein left us'."

Party leader Mary Lou McDonald described him as "a committed and dedicated Irish republican", who was "a fine political representative, a campaigner and a musician".

Deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said he was "a significant figure in the political life of east Derry for many years and will be missed by many".

Dungiven Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey said Mr Brolly's death was a terrible loss to the town.

He said: "Francie Brolly was a gentleman, a great Irishman, a family man who loved the simple things in life.

"He devoted his whole life to helping people and no matter when you saw Francie he had a smile on his face."

The SDLP's John Dallat MLA said: "Francie was beyond party politics and I regarded him as a friend that I could trust.

"As well as the Irish language, GAA, music and many other talents, Francie was incredibly amusing and entertaining. He will be sadly missed."

Fr Joseph Varghese said Mr Brolly, who along with his wife attended Mass daily in the parish, was an integral part of Dungiven.

He said: "Francie's death has left us all deeply shocked and saddened. He played a very active role in the church. He was an eucharist minister, a reader and was a member of the choir.

"Francie's presence in the parish will be sorely missed and I offer my condolences to Anne and the rest of the family."

Belfast Telegraph