Reflections on Paddy O’Hanlon

I’ve just caught David McKittrick’s obit for Paddy O’Hanlon, one of the first of his generation of SDLP founders to die. I last met him on the fringes of the Bloody Sunday tribunal a few years ago. Not the least of Paddy’s attributes was his good humour and fellowship and the absence of a life of subterfuge – unlike so many of Sinn Fein who because of their past deeds or associations and whatever their talents and present intentions, will always find it hard to win wholehearted trust. My reminiscences with Paddy instantly reminded me what a decent bunch that group sitting together in the photograph were and what a tragedy it was that the unionists of the day failed to do business with them thirty-odd years ago.

  • New Yorker

    Thanks for posting this Brian. We lost a great man when Paddy died last week. He was a first rate thinker, excellent communicator, fine author, true Irishman and wonderful person. As you mention, he was extremely witty and full of humor. He had many friends around the world. He appreciated all cultures and points of view and would vigorously debate them if he did not agree.

    Compared to the current crop of politicians in Ireland, North and South, he was head and shoulders above in terms of intellect, vision, and personal character. May he be with Anne in the hereafter.

  • lapsedmethodist

    I was in a farmyard once, around 1968 , when an RUC inspector called to oversee the renewal of a shotgun licence. As one of the proposed uses is control of vermin, our jolly RUC inspector wondered aloud if ” O’Hanlon comes under that category ”
    It was at that point that I realised that being a protestant wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

  • Blinding

    May Paddy o’Hanlon Rest In Peace

    Reguarding Unionists missing opportunities.

    That is one of the predominant hallmarks of Northern Ireland since its creation.
    We can only hope it does not continue to be so.

  • Chris Donnelly

    “…who because of their past deeds or associations and whatever their talents and present intentions, will always find it hard to win wholehearted trust.”

    Ditto unionist and loyalist leaders, Brian, who don’t exactly inspire ‘wholehearted trust’ on t’other side today- nor when their period of absolute domination within the state was coming to a violent end.

    Much of that comes down to an openness to accept difference and move beyond past perceptions, whilst not forgetting nor necessarily forgiving injustices and grievances suffered.

    For instance, in spite of their role in the UVF, both the late David Ervine and Billy Hutchinson found a receptive and accomodating audience in the northern nationalist community. Of course, nationalists could have found innumerable excuses to avoid dialogue, refuse to invite such individuals into their communities to speak,make preconditions to discussions (we’re still awaiting UVF decommissioning…) and demand ‘a/b/c’ prior to talking.

    But they didn’t, and important relationships were forged.

  • Peter Fyfe

    My reminiscences with Paddy instantly reminded me what a decent bunch that group sitting together in the photograph were and what a tragedy it was that the unionists of the day failed to do business with them thirty-odd years ago.

    The sadder thing is how little they asked for. No constitutional change, no reunification and no abolition of the RUC. Just human rights and the belief people should be treated fairly. In a so-called christian country, it is such a terrible shame. Luckily for my generation people like Paddy O’Hanlon and John Hume existed and demanded basic rights over ten years before I was born. I am certainly one person that owes the man my gratitude.

  • Scaramoosh

    “and what a tragedy it was that the unionists of the day failed to do business with them thirty-odd years ago.”

    Do you honestly believe that if they had, that we would not have had the Provisionals’ pointless 30 year campaign and the corresponding loyalist backlash?

    My personal view is that it would not have made one jot of difference. The troubles and the resulting long journey towards politics by the extremists on both sides, was something of a foregone conclusion, that could not have been held back by the hand of history.

  • dubh driocht

    A great man gone – a good send off today in Mullaghbawn.Paddy paved the way with a commitment to anti-sectarianism without diluting his love of Ireland.He was larger than life, full of fun, and the only downside was that he didn’t side with Down.

  • TK

    Paddy was a complex man. An unbelievable orator. He spoke in O neills in Forkhill the night Mallon won in 1986 and I thought we had elected the wrong man. Those days the SDLP was the lead party in South Armagh. He fought many demons – and he could be brillant but rude, abrupt and arrogant- attributes he shared with many other successful SDLP politicans – for that matter any successful politican. He once told me that politics exposes and then destroys the weaknesses within the politican -I think that is a more accurate definition than enoch powell’s