Former Northern Ireland Secretary Patrick Mayhew dies

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Patrick Mayhew dies

SIR Patrick Mayhew, who has died at the age of 86, was Britain's longest-serving Northern Ireland Secretary.

Under John Major’s premiership, he served from 1992 until 1997.

Mr Mayhew, whose full name was Patrick Barnabas Burke Mayhew, was usually addressed as Paddy.

He came from Irish Protestant stock in Co. Cork, and was an unusual British politician — as he actually wanted the job as Northern Ireland Secretary, although his record in the North was mixed.

Many of his decisions caused anger, nonetheless he got on well with Albert Reynolds, but less so with Reynold’s successor John Bruton.

As one Irish official said of him: “He may be a Southern Irish Unionist – but first and foremost, he is a Cork man.”

In a very significant move for the peace process, Mr Mayhew became the first secretary of state to meet the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams in 1995.

Although the meeting did not immediately bear fruit, it led to further contact between the factions which eventually led to the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Mayhew himself was a cautious man, working as a barrister before becoming a politician, he brought a measured tone to the Six Counties.

He is reported to have described the peace talks as “like riding a bike", adding: "You want to go as slowly as possible, but not so slow that you fall off."

Patrick Mayhew, who was married with four sons, had been suffering from cancer and Parkinson’s Disease for some years. He died on June 25.