Hundreds of mourners attended a small Co Armagh church last Wednesday to pay their respects to the wife of former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon.
Gertrude Mallon (nee Cush) passed away at her home in Markethill, last Monday, following a long battle with dementia.
She had been cared for by her husband after he retired from politics in 2005.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, ex-party leader John Hume, and former taoiseach Brian Cowen were among those who turned out for Mrs Mallon’s funeral in the Church of St James, Mullaghbrack, just outside her home town.
Nichola Mallon, SDLP MLA for North Belfast, told the News Letter the service was “emotional, intimate and dignified”.
“There was a very large turnout, with hundreds coming to pay their respects to this remarkable woman,” she added.
“The priest paid a lovely tribute to Mrs Mallon as a mother and grandmother, explaining that she was a nurse by profession and by nature; a very compassionate lady.
“He also talked about her support for her husband Seamus, adding that in politics it is always the elected representative who gets the accolades while the spouse is often a key player behind the scenes.
“I never had the honour of meeting Mrs Mallon, but I have been keenly aware of the huge role she played in the SDLP’s life.” Speaking on Tuesday, SDLP leader Mr Eastwood said: “Gertrude will long be remembered as a pillar of strength and a source of hope for SDLP members in Armagh during the darkest days of conflict, none more so than her devoted and beloved husband Seamus.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny also offered his condolences, adding: “I visited Gertrude and Seamus in their home last year in Markethill and saw first-hand the love and devotion they had for each other.
Gertrude had been ill for some time and, along with her carers, Seamus demonstrated the commitment towards her in his personal life that was a central tenet of his public, political life.”
Following the service, Mrs Mallon was laid to rest in the grounds of the church.