Seamus Mallon

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Seamus Mallon
deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
1 July 1998 – 6 November 2001
Serving with David Trimble, Reg Empey (acting)
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Mark Durkan
Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
for Newry and Armagh
In office
25 June 1998 – 26 November 2003
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Dominic Bradley
Member of Parliament
for Newry and Armagh
In office
24 January 1986 – 11 April 2005
Preceded by Jim Nicholson
Succeeded by Conor Murphy
Seanad Éireann
In office
18 February 1982 – 24 November 1982
Taoiseach Charles Haughey
Constituency Nominated by the Taoiseach
Personal details
Born Seamus Frederick Mallon
(1936-08-17) 17 August 1936 (age 82)
Markethill, Northern Ireland
Political party SDLP
Spouse(s) Gertrude Cush
Children Orla
Residence Markethill
Alma mater St. Mary's University College
Profession Teacher
Religion Roman Catholicism

Seamus Frederick Mallon (born 17 August 1936) is an Irish politician who was the first deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2001. He was also the Deputy Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party from 1979 to 2001.


Seamus Mallon was born in the largely Protestant village of Markethill and was educated at the Abbey Christian Brothers Grammar School in Newry and St. Patrick's Grammar School, Armagh. As a career he chose teaching like his father, becoming headmaster of St. James's Primary School in Markethill.[1] 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,[2] especially in his native Armagh. In 1979, when John Hume went from being deputy leader of the SDLP (under Gerry Fitt) to leader, Mallon became deputy leader.[2] He was elected to the first power-sharing Assembly in 1973, and to the Northern Ireland Constitutional Convention in 1975[1] representing Armagh. Between May and December 1982 Mallon was appointed by the then Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, Charles Haughey to the Republic's upper house, Seanad Éireann.

1982 Assembly and Westminster

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, following a challenge by Unionist politicians, disqualified.[1][3][3] 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 was removed with regards to the Oireachtas by the Disqualifications Act 2000.

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 Irish unionist MPs.[2] Nicholson was the only MP to fail to be re-elected.

Peace Process and 1998 Assembly

In 1994 Mallon was elected to the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation. He was a member of the SDLP team at the all-party negotiations (the 'Stormont talks') that opened in Belfast in June 1996. In the course of the talks, he remarked that whatever emerged would be "Sunningdale for slow learners", referring to the 1973 Sunningdale Agreement.[4] He has frequently been misquoted as saying that the Good Friday Agreement, which resulted from the talks in 1998, was "Sunningdale for slow learners".[5] The Good Friday Agreement led to the setting up of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which was elected in June 1998, with a power-sharing Executive. Mallon was elected as member for Newry and Armagh, and in December 1999 he became deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, serving alongside Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble.[6]

Mallon has remained a strong opponent of IRA violence. He has also been in favour of police reform in Northern Ireland.


In 2001 Seamus Mallon retired, along with John Hume, from the leadership of the SDLP.[7] 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.[8]


He is married to the former Gertrude Cush, and they have one child. His daughter Orla is married with one child herself. He still lives in Markethill.[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Key players". The Daily Telegraph. 25 October 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Seamus Mallon: SDLP deputy leader". BBC News Online. 15 March 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 [1]
  4. O'Malley, Joe (29 September 1996). "No lifeboat anywhere as lame duck talks head for the rapids". Sunday Independent. 
  5. For instance, Downey, James (22 March 2008). "Sad to say, end of Paisley is no reason to chuckle". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  6. "Trimble, Mallon elected leaders of N. Irish Assembly". CNN. 1 July 1998. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  7. "Mallon ruled out as SDLP leader". BBC News Online. 20 September 2001. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  8. "Sinn Fein win Newry and Armagh". BBC News Online. 6 May 2005. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 
  9. [2]
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Hume
Deputy Leader of the SDLP
Succeeded by
Brid Rodgers
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Nicholson
Member of Parliament for Newry and Armagh
Succeeded by
Conor Murphy
Northern Ireland Assembly
Preceded by
Constituency Created
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Newry and Armagh
Succeeded by
Dominic Bradley
Political offices
Preceded by
Office Created
deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Mark Durkan