Seamus Frederick Mallon (/ˈʃeɪməs ˈmælən/; 17 August 1936 – 24 January 2020) was an Irish Nationalist politician who served as deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2001 and Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party from 1979 to 2001.
2 Introduction to politics
3 1982 Assembly and Westminster
4 Peace process and 1998 Assembly
6 Personal life
8 External links
Seamus Mallon was born in the largely Protestant village of Markethill and was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newry and St Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh. As a career he (like his father) chose teaching, and became headmaster of St James's Primary School in Markethill. Mallon was also involved in the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), playing Gaelic football for Armagh. He first played club football for Middletown during the 1950s then with Keady Dwyers, Queen's University and Crossmaglen Rangers.
He was also involved in amateur drama and wrote a play which won an All-Ireland amateur drama play award.
Introduction to politics
During the 1960s, he was involved in the civil rights movement, especially in his native Armagh. In 1979, when John Hume went from being deputy leader of the SDLP (under Gerry Fitt) to leader, Mallon became deputy leader. He was elected to the first power-sharing Assembly in 1973, and to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975 representing Armagh. Between May and December 1982 Mallon was appointed by the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey to the Republic's upper house, Seanad Éireann.
1982 Assembly and Westminster
In 1982, Mallon was elected to the new Northern Ireland Assembly, set up as part of then-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Prior's rolling devolution. However, due to his membership of the Seanad he was, following a challenge by Unionist politicians, disqualified. Under legislation of the time, no elected member of a British parliament or regional assembly could serve in a parliament outside the United Kingdom or Commonwealth without losing their British seat. That restriction was removed with regard to the Oireachtas by the Disqualifications Act 2000.
In 1986, he was elected to Westminster as an MP for Newry and Armagh, a seat he held until 2005. He won the seat in a by-election to replace Jim Nicholson, who had resigned his seat in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, along with all the other Northern Irish unionist MPs. Nicholson was the only MP to fail to be re-elected.
Peace process and 1998 Assembly
Mallon was elected to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in 1994. He was a member of the SDLP team at the all-party negotiations (the 'Stormont talks') that opened in Belfast in June 1996. He has frequently been quoted as saying that the Good Friday Agreement, which resulted from the talks in 1998, was "Sunningdale for slow learners". The Good Friday Agreement led to the setting up of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which was elected in June 1998, with a power-sharing Executive. Mallon was elected as member for Newry and Armagh, and in December 1999 became Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, serving alongside Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble.
Mallon remained a strong opponent of IRA violence, and was also in favour of police reform in Northern Ireland.
He retired in 2001, along with John Hume, from the leadership of the SDLP. Mark Durkan replaced both – Hume as leader and Mallon as Deputy First Minister – when the Northern Ireland Executive was re-established following a suspension.
Mallon did not contest his seat in the Stormont Assembly in the 2003 elections, and stood down at the 2005 Westminster election. His seat was taken, as expected, by Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin.
His autobiography, A Shared Home Place, written with Andy Pollak, was published in 2019.
Mallon's wife Gertrude (née Cush) died in October 2016. Their daughter Órla is married with one child. Mallon continued to live in Markethill in retirement.
Mallon died in County Armagh on 24 January 2020, aged 83.
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