John Doris, a former councillor and chairman of Down District Council, and a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, died last Saturday in St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin. His funeral took place yesterday at St Patrick's Church in Downpatrick.
Mr Doris, who also ran a well-known optician's business in Downpatrick, helped to found the SDLP in August 1970. In doing so he worked closely with leading politicians including Gerry Fitt, John Hume, Austin Currie, Paddy Devlin, Ivan Cooper and Paddy Wilson in setting up the party to promote understanding between North and South, and to work for Irish unity by peaceful means.
In paying tribute, the current SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said: "As an SDLP founding member, John Doris lived his life in the service of others. He had a deep passion for his community of Downpatrick, which he represented with dignity for so many years, as a councillor and chairman of Down District Council.
"John was also the election agent for the former SDLP member of Parliament, Eddie McGrady, and he played a seismic role in which Eddie unseated Enoch Powell."
Mr McGrady beat Powell in the 1987 general election and held the South Down seat until his retirement in 2010.
Mr Eastwood also said: "As well as his love for his community and his constituents, John Doris was deeply committed to the aims and values of the SDLP, working towards peace, social justice and civil rights throughout his life.
"He was a shining light in some of the darkest days. Even after his retirement, he remained a loyal SDLP member, and provided wise counsel to the new generation stepping forward in South Down and across the North."
Mr Doris is survived by his wife Mairead, his children Cliona, Marie-Claire, John Paul, Susan and Margaret, his grandchildren Isabella, Lucas, Thomas and Sabrina, his sisters Mary and Frances, and by his wider family and many friends.
His daughter Cliona has extensive experience as a solo harpist and chamber musician, and has performed throughout Ireland, Britain, Europe and the USA, and also widely on radio and television. She began her harp studies at the Belfast School of Music, and is a graduate of Queen's University and Indiana University in Bloomington USA. She is head of Orchestral Studies at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama in Dublin where she also teaches harp.