Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Monday, 2 February 2009

NI peacemaker minister Magee dies

Rev Roy Magee
Rev Roy Magee had been suffering from Parkinson's disease

Reverend Roy Magee, who helped broker the loyalist ceasefires in the 1990s, has died.

He was 79 years old and had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

The Presbyterian minister, originally from north Belfast, was an influential figure in the talks between loyalist paramilitaries and the government.

The 1994 ceasefire was crucial in paving the way for the peace process and the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Donald Patton said Roy Magee was owed "a huge debt of gratitude".

"His living and working experience, particularly of urban Belfast, together with his integrity of character enabled him to gain the respect and confidence of those involved in loyalist paramilitarism and convince them of his belief, born out of his practical Christian faith, of the need to end violence and promote their cause by peaceful means," he said.

Former Presbyterian moderator the Rev John Dunlop also paid tribute to Mr Magee.

"He took the initiative which he didn't need to take to get involved in dialogue with loyalist paramilitary leaders in order to influence them and try to persuade them to move away from the activities in which they were involved," he said.

As a minister of the gospel I see myself as a spiritual policeman, encouraging people to live in accordance with the Law of God
Rev Roy Magee

"It was also dangerous because he was dealing with a number of extremely dangerous people and yet he was prepared to be taken to places in order to engage in dialogue where he was not sure where it was going or who he was going to be going with and this was extremely courageous."

Frankie Gallagher, who advised the UDA during their negotiations, said he was saddened by the news.

"He was a pillar for people in the loyalist community going through difficult times," he said.

"He brought stability and common sense. If it was not for him there would have been a lot more people killed and he will be a bad loss.

"He was very courageous."

Born the son of a fitter in 1930, Mr Magee was brought up in the Ballysillan estate in north Belfast.

He worked in churches in some of the toughest areas of Belfast, before settling in the Dundonald parish near Belfast in 1975.

Mr Magee traced his history of mediating for and between the loyalist paramilitaries to his ministry at Sinclair Seamen's Presbyterian Church in the Docks area of Belfast during the start of the Troubles in 1969.

His influential meetings with the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association/Ulster Freedom Fighters were not made public until nearly two years before their October 1994 ceasefires.

In an interview he said: "As a minister of the gospel I see myself as a spiritual policeman, encouraging people to live in accordance with the Law of God."

He added: "What I do is nothing more and nothing less than an extension of my pastoral work."

In 2004, he was awarded an OBE in recognition of his work.

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