Eddie McGrady

©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 18th October 2011 - Mandatory Credit - Picture by Matt Mackey/Presseye.com</p>
<p>Candidate for the SDLP leadership Alex Attwood pictured at the Stormont Hotel as he launches his campaign.<br />
Eddie McGrady. MP for South Down 1987–2010

3 June 1935–11 November 2013

Ever a quiet man, Eddie McGrady was held in high esteem throughout a long career and latterly through the many tributes received after his passing. McGrady first came to prominence as an accountant in the family firm, also sitting on Downpatrick Urban District Council from 1961. Initially an independent, he stood for the National Democrats in East Down at the 1969 Stormont general election and was a founder member of the SDLP in August 1970.

His organisational skills were recognised in his election as the party’s first Chairman. McGrady’s political brief widened to take in South Down, which he represented in the new Assembly (1973-1974) and the Constitutional Convention (1975-1976). In keeping with SDLP policy, he was elected to the second Assembly (1982-1986) but declined to take his seat. He also briefly led the Department of Executive Planning and Co-ordination in the 1974 Executive and served on Down District Council (1973-1989).

The “glorious twelfth” of June 1987 was the pivotal moment of his political life. After two close runs, McGrady unseated Enoch Powell – still a national political figure – with a 731-vote margin of victory. In the following years, his majority swelled as he attracted unionists and republicans alike who valued his constituency service.

As an MP, he was a calm voice for the farmers and townsfolk of the Mournes and its rolling hinterland. He could be stubborn, once driving the council lorry to break a bin strike in Downpatrick, but was an adamant supporter of the rule of law and respect between Protestants and Catholics.

St Patrick, Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell were all noted in McGrady’s maiden speech to the Commons.  Both communities, he noted, looked back to Patrick and “each still has a genuine longing for peace, founded on a just settlement that guarantees the rights of all and does not threaten the traditions, culture and identities of any.”

In later years, he was a member of the Northern Ireland Forum (1996-1998) and the new Assembly (1998-2003), and stepped down from Parliament in 2010. His last election in 2005 was the first without his wife, Patricia, who had predeceased him two years earlier. Eddie McGrady is survived by his daughter Paula, sons Jerome and Conaill, and a large family circle.

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