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SDLP founding member and civil rights activist Austin Currie dies at 82

Austin Currie, one of the founding members of the SDLP and a civil rights activist has died at the age of 82.

He later moved to Dublin in the 80s and began a career as a Fine Gael TD.

The former presidential candidate is survived by his wife Annita, their children, Estelle, Caitriona, Dualta, Austin and Emer, their partners and 13 grandchildren.

His family said that they were heartbroken to announce the well-respected politician’s death.

They said: “After a long and eventful life, he died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Derrymullen, Co Kildare. He had just celebrated his 82nd birthday.

“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.

“He is survived by his children Estelle, Caitriona, Dualta, Austin and Emer, their partners and 13 grandchildren.

“Austin, who was born in Co Tyrone, was the eldest of eleven children. His decision to squat a council house in Caledon in June 1968 is widely seen as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

“One of the founding members of the SDLP along with John Hume and Gerry Fitt, Austin played a key role in the politics of that era.

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

“Our Daddy was wise, brave and loving and we thank him for the values that he lived by and instilled in us. He was our guiding star who put the principles of peace, social justice and equality first.

“From Edendork in county Tyrone to the bog of Allen, Daddy was most at home with his beloved Annita and his family, surrounded by newspapers and grandchildren. We will miss him deeply.”

Taoiseach Michael Martin was one of the many that paid his respects to the politician this evening.

He tweeted: “Saddened to hear of the death of Austin Currie, one of the founding fathers of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

“He did so much for people, as a peacemaker and in politics, serving in the Dail and as Minister of State with distinction. My sympathies to his family.”

Leo Varadkar expressed his own deep sadness upon hearing the news.

He said: ““I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Austin Currie, and extend my sympathies to his family.

“A pioneer of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, Austin was one of the outstanding politicians of his generation, highlighting discrimination against nationalists in issues like housing with a famous sit-in protest at Caledon.

“Austin moved his political career south of the border in the 1980s and became a Fine Gael TD in Dublin West, the constituency which I am currently honoured to represent alongside his daughter, Senator Emer Currie.

“He served as a Minister for Children’s Affairs in the Rainbow Coalition under Taoiseach John Bruton, before retiring from politics in 2002.

“I knew Austin as a brave, courageous, and principled man. He was blessed with extensive political insight and boundless humanity.

“Above all, he cared most about bringing peace to this island by peaceful means, something he worked towards throughout his political career, and was vehemently opposed to political violence.

“My thoughts are today with his family, and his extensive circle of friends and acquaintances.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

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