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RIP Civil rights champion and SDLP founder Austin Currie dies aged 82

"His decision to squat a council house in Caledon in June 1968 is widely seen as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement"

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Austin Currie

Austin Currie

Austin Currie

ONE of the earliest champions of civil rights in Northern Ireland, Austin Currie, has died aged 82.

The widely respected politician, who served in parliaments on both sides of the Border, passed away in his family home.

Mr Currie was an active member of the civil rights movement in the North in the 60s and 70s before becoming a founding member of the Social Democrats and Labour Party (SDLP) with John Hume and Seamus Mallon. He was later elected as a TD for Fine Gael.

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

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Austin Currie and his daughter, Senator Emer Currie. Photo: Arthur Carron

Austin Currie and his daughter, Senator Emer Currie. Photo: Arthur Carron

Austin Currie and his daughter, Senator Emer Currie. Photo: Arthur Carron

In a statement, Mr Currie's family said they were heartbroken to announce his death.

"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," they said.

"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.

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Austin Currie with his wife Annita at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in 2012. Photo: Tom Burke

Austin Currie with his wife Annita at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in 2012. Photo: Tom Burke

Austin Currie with his wife Annita at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in 2012. Photo: Tom Burke

"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.

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"From Edendork in Co 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."

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Austin Currie, former MP, TD and Irish minister, who has died at the age of 82 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Austin Currie, former MP, TD and Irish minister, who has died at the age of 82 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Austin Currie, former MP, TD and Irish minister, who has died at the age of 82 (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Co Tyrone politician served as an elected member of parliament in the North for 22 years between 1964 and 1986.

During his time working in Northern politics, he and his family were regularly subjected to threats, intimidation and physical harm.

In the late 80s, he moved to Dublin where he ran successfully for Fine Gael in the 1989 general election.

The following year, he was put forward by Fine Gael to contest the presidential election.

He finished in third place, behind Brian Lenihan Senior and the ultimate winner of the election, Mary Robinson. Mr Currie went on to retain his seat in the Dublin West constituency in two later Dáil elections.

Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood paid tribute to Mr Currie.

"Austin Currie was a titan of the civil rights movement and one of the forefathers of our party," Mr Eastwood said.

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