SDLP founder member Austin Currie dies peacefully in his sleep

A leading figure in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement and joint founder of the SDLP, Austin Currie, has died aged 82.

PACEMAKER PRESS INTL. BELFAST. John Hume and Austin Currie talking at SDLP Conference in Newcastle.

Mr Currie was born in Edendork, Dungannon, the eldest of 11 children.

He served on the Northern Ireland Parliament for East Tyrone from 1964 to 1972.

In 1989 he won a seat in Dublin West for Fine Gael and pursued a successful career as TD and Minister until his retirement in 2002.

Paying tribute to Mr Currie SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone tweeted: "A huge contribution to Irish politics - my sincerest sympathies to the entire Currie family."

Mid Ulster District Council is expected to open books of condolence in towns arcoss the district to give local people an opportunity to extend their sympathy to the family.

Mr Currie's decision to squat at a council house in Caledon in June 1968 is widely seen as the beginning of the civil rights movement, which challenged inequality and discrimination against Catholics.

A family statement said: “The Currie family is heartbroken to announce the death of Austin Currie.

“Austin was married to Annita for 53 years. They were a formidable team whose love for each other and their family saw them through some of the worst times in Northern Ireland’s recent history.

The statement goes on to describe him as "wise, brave and strong".

The family said he died peacefully in his sleep in Derrymullen, County Kildare.

"We thank him for the values that he lived by and instilled in us," it reads.

"He was our guiding star who put the principles of peace, social justice and equality first."

Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced later.

--

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a copy of the paper. You can also support trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription of the News Letter.