The SDLP’s Colum Eastwood has led tributes to the wife of former Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon, who has died after a long battle with dementia.
Gertrude Mallon (nee Cush) passed away at her home in Markethill, Co Armagh on Monday, having been ill for a number of years.
Mrs Mallon had been cared for by her husband after the former SDLP deputy leader retired from politics more than a decade ago.
SDLP leader Mr Eastwood described Mrs Mallon as a “lifelong SDLP member who stood against violence alongside her husband Seamus from the early days of conflict”.
Mr Eastwood added: “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.
“Close family members of politicians often bear the greatest burden. And given Seamus’ towering political stature and fierce opposition to violence in south Armagh, Gertrude and their children had a lot to bear.
“But it was her strength in the face of such visceral opposition, her unyielding commitment to peace and her unconditional support for Seamus that contributed as much to our political process as any negotiator.”
Former SDLP leader John Hume also offered his condolences, describing Mrs Mallon as “the beating heart of the SDLP in south Armagh”.
In a statement, Mr Hume said she had been “a tower of support to Seamus”, adding that her contribution to peace, politics and people across the island of Ireland was “immeasurable”.
SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty said Mrs Mallon had been “a rock to her husband, Seamus, through the most difficult days of the Troubles”.
He added: “She was a woman of courage who did not flinch even in the face of bomb and bullet.”
Paying his respects, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said: “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.”
Mrs Mallon will be buried on Wednesday following 11am Requiem Mass at the Church of St James, Mullaghbrack, outside Markethill.