McEntee pays tribute to Austin Currie

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has expressed her condolences to the family of Austin Currie, a founding member of the SDLP who died yesterday aged 82.

Mr Currie had a long political career and was one of the few elected to parliament on both sides of the border. He moved to Dublin in the 1980s and joined Fine Gael, running for president in 1990.

Mr Currie served as a minister of state in the rainbow coalition a few years later.

Minister Helen McEntee said: "I am very saddened to hear of the death of Austin Currie. He was a politician I greatly admired and a man of extraordinary courage, compassion and conviction. A pivotal figure in Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland and a founding member of the SDLP, he resolutely pursued peace and justice for all communities and he never yielded in his opposition to the appalling violence perpetrated during the troubles.

"Austin served with distinction as a member of Dáil Éireann from 1989 until 2002 and was a pioneering Minister of State for Children in the Departments of Education, Health and Justice between 1994 and 1997. He brought his usual passion to that work - I know he cared deeply about making a difference for disadvantaged children. He also continued his dedicated work on the peace process in the Dáil through his insightful contributions. He spoke movingly on the legislation to establish the victims’ remains commission in 1999 recalling his friendship with the family of Columba McVeigh and the trauma inflicted on the McVeigh family by his disappearance – he reminded us of the terrible and unrelenting human cost of conflict.

"All of us on this island owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his life’s work. We also owe it to him to ensure that the peace he pursued so resolutely is maintained and strengthened.

"I wish to offer my sincere condolences to his wife Annita, to my colleague Senator Emer Currie, and to Estelle, Caitríona, Dualta and Austin at this sad time.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis"

President Michael D Higgins paying tribute said:

"His outstanding service to the people of this country as an advocate and politician will stand as his proud legacy. It was pleasure and privilege to have worked with him as a colleague in politics," President Higgins said.

"He will be remembered as a public representative who gave outstanding service to people of the island of Ireland over so many decades."