Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs on the death of Gerry Fitt

I was sad to learn of the death today of the late Gerry Fitt.

Lord Fitt was a man of great social commitment, personal courage, eloquence and wit. He was deeply committed to working class politics and closely identified with the economic and social needs of the disadvantaged communities in Belfast that he represented. This allowed him to effectively represent their interests in various fora, including Belfast City Council, the old Northern Ireland Parliament and the House of Commons.

Lord Fitt was, of course, prominently involved in the Civil Rights struggle of the late 1960s and was also a founding member of the SDLP in 1970 and its first Leader. In this capacity, he was a key negotiator in the talks that led to the Sunningdale Agreement and became Deputy Chief Executive in the short-lived power-sharing Executive of 1974.

Gerry Fitt's departure from the SDLP and the evolution of his later political career should not be allowed to overshadow his achievements during a period of immense stress and strain in Northern Ireland. Nor should it diminish the appreciation of his personal courage – demonstrated most vividly when his Belfast home was attacked in 1986 and he had to defend himself, his late wife and family.

I extend my personal sympathies and condolence to Lord Fitt's family and friends.

26 August 2005


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