Belfast Telegraph

Unionist tributes to 'the scrupulously fair' Maurice Hayes

By Brett Campbell

Unionist politicians have joined tributes to Dr Maurice Hayes, who will be laid to rest today in Downpatrick.

DUP MLA Jim Wells described the former civil servant as "a man of authority, who had a unique ability to delicately balance controversial issues".

"Maurice became a Henry Kissinger-type figure in Northern Ireland and proved himself to be a real diplomat," said the South Down MLA.

"He was one of few Catholics to rise to dizzying heights at a time when that was extremely difficult and it indicates how much he was respected."

Mr Wells said they only ever disagreed over the GAA, but never crossed swords.

He added: "Maurice was a great fan and I wasn't - even in that field he was a leading light."

Mr Wells, who worked with the former senior civil servant in the Stormont Assembly of the 1980s, maintained contact with Dr Hayes after his retirement.

He said: "Maurice remained committed to reconciliation to the very end and Northern Ireland is a poorer place without him; we need more people like him."

He recalled asking Dr Hayes to chair "fiery" political debates between himself and his UUP rival Dermott Nesbitt as they fought for votes in South Down due to his reputation as a "totally impartial and fair man".

"It was like asking someone to go into a bear-pit, but he did a great job.

"The fact that two unionists felt so confident in him says enough - he was scrupulous," he added.

Former First Minister Lord Trimble also praised Dr Hayes's qualities, in spite of his role in transforming policing, which stirred unionist anger.

The recommendations to strip the force of its name and emblems as outlined by the Patten Commission - of which Dr Hayes was a member - was branded a "gratuitious insult" by the Tory peer in 1999.

"The way the Patten Report was presented caused enormous hurt and that hurt persists to this day," he said.

"But Maurice was a hugely distinguished public servant who coped well in the face of extreme difficulties due to terrorist violence and political instability.

"By and large society has succeeded, and Maurice certainly played a role in that."

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt mourned the loss of one the "greatest intellects" of an entire generation.

"Maurice understood how things work and had the remarkable ability to analyse the most complex situations and explain them with utter clarity," he said. "He gave a full life of public service and whatever people may think of specific acts or opinions, we owe a debt of thanks for his engagement."

DUP Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also paid tribute to "one of the most highly respected civil servants" in Northern Ireland.

"Maurice made a major contribution to the life of our community as well as helping to keep public services going during some of the most difficult years of the Troubles," he said.

Describing Dr Hayes as a mentor, chair of the Public Health Agency Dr Andrew Dougal said: "He was blessed with powerful gifts of intellect which he wore with unfailing modesty.

"His insightful analysis of strategy for health and social care ensures a legacy which will endure."

Dr Hayes is survived by his wife Johanna (Joan) and children Clodagh, Margaret, Dara, Garrett and Ronan, and his eight grandchildren.

He will be buried in Down Cathedral graveyard following a Requiem Mass led by Fr Sean Rogan in St Patrick's Church, Downpatrick, at noon today.

Belfast Telegraph

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