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Seamus Frederick Mallon ( ) born 17 August 1936, County Armagh is an Irish politician and former Deputy Leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Irelandmarker. He served as the first deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1999 to 2001 and as acting deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland in 2001.

Background

Seamus Mallon was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newrymarker and St. Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh. As a career he chose teaching, becoming headmaster of St. James's Primary School in Markethill. Mallon was also involved in the Gaelic Athletic Association, playing Gaelic football for County Armagh.

Introduction to politics

During the sixties he was involved in the civil rights movement, especially in his native Armaghmarker. In 1979, when John Hume went from being deputy leader of the SDLP (under Gerry Fitt) to leader, Mallon became deputy leader. He was elected to the first power-sharing Assembly in 1973, and to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975 representing Armagh. Between May and December 1982 Mallon was appointed by the then Taoiseach of the Republic of Irelandmarker, Charles Haughey to the Republic's upper house, Seanad Éireann.

In 1982 he was elected to the new Northern Ireland Assembly, set up as part of then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Prior's rolling devolution. However due to his membership of the Seanad he was disqualified. Under legislation of the time, no elected member of a British parliament or regional assembly could serve in a parliament outside the United Kingdom without losing their British seat. That restriction has now been removed.

In 1986 he was elected to Westminster as an MP for Newry & Armagh, a seat he held until 2005. He won the seat in a by-election to replace Jim Nicholson, who had resigned his seat in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, along with all the other Northern Ireland unionist MPs. Nicholson was the only MP to fail to be re-elected.

Famously, Mallon asserted that the Good Friday Agreement was "Sunningdale for slow learners", referring to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement.

Deputy First Minister

Mallon has remained a strong opponent of IRA violence. He has also been in favour of police reform in Northern Irelandmarker. In 1994 he became a member of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. Following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 Mallon became deputy First Minister in the Assembly, serving alongside Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble.

Retirement

In 2001 Seamus Mallon retired, along with John Hume, from the leadership of the SDLP. Mark Durkan replaced both; Hume as leader and Mallon as deputy First Minister, when the Northern Ireland Executive was re-established following a suspension.

Mallon did not contest his seat in the Stormont Assembly in the 2003 elections, and stood down at the 2005 Westminster election. His seat was taken, as expected, by Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin.

Personal

He is married to the former Gertrude Cush, and they have one child.


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