Tributes paid to key player in Northern peace process

TRIBUTES were paid last night to a Irish civil servant, Dermot Nally, who played a key role in the peace process. Mr Nally died suddenly last night in St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin, aged 82.

Having served five taoisigh, the former Government secretary was credited with helping forge a political settlement in the North.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen described Mr Nally as a distinguished public servant who will be particularly remembered for his contribution over many years to resolving conflict on the island: “With key roles at Sunningdale and in the development of the Anglo Irish Agreement, he continued to be involved after his retirement in December 1992.

“He was additionally a pioneer and enthusiastic advocate of Irish membership of the EU, attending all meetings of the European Council from Ireland’s accession until he retired.”

The Taoiseach said Mr Nally’s death will be noted with regret by all with whom he worked over the years.

“Taoisigh, ministers and official colleagues alike had a high regard for his acumen and for his advice on issues of administration and government.”

Mr Nally is survived by his wife, Joan; brother, Fergal; sister, Sheila; son, Brian; and daughters, Ailbhe, Maura, Sheila and Catriona.

When it was signed, the Anglo Irish Agreement confirmed that there would be no change in the status of the North without the consent of a majority of its citizens. However, it also gave the Republic an advisory role on the North’s governance and was bitterly opposed by unionists as a betrayal and the first step towards a united Ireland. Just a week after the agreement was signed, 100,000 unionists gathered to demonstrate at Belfast City Hall.

Mr Nally also contributed to the 1993 Downing Street Declaration, which saw British prime minister John Major and Taoiseach Albert Reynolds deliver the terms they hoped would lead to peace and multi-party talks. It argued for self-determination on the basis of consensus for all the people of Ireland.

It argued that any agreement had to be based on the right of people on both parts of the island to “exercise the right of self determination on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland if that is their wish”.

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