President leads tributes following death of former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke

President leads tributes following death of former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke

TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke, aged 89.

"It is with sadness at his passing that I would like to pay tribute to Peter Brooke, who Secretary for Northern Ireland, during which time he made a positive and valuable contribution at a significant juncture in the peace process,” President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins said in a statement.

Current Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has also paid tribute, stating: “I was very sorry to learn of the passing of former NI Secretary, Lord Brooke.

“As one of my predecessors, Peter played a pivotal role in laying the foundations of the peace process.

“We are indebted to him for his public service working for the betterment of everyone in NI.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin has also sent his condolences,  stating: “Very sorry to hear of the passing of former Secretary of State for NI Peter Brooke. Peter played a pivotal role in the emerging Northern Ireland peace process, helping pave the way for an end to violence. My condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.”

Mr Brooke was the Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster constituency from 1977 to 2001 and served in the cabinets of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments.

During his political career, Mr Brooke was made Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1987 before taking on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland role in 1989.

NI Secretary Peter Brooke pictured in 1990 meeting Irish Fianna Fail Minister for Foreign Affairs Gerry Collins for an Anglo-Irish Meeting in Dublin

He is credited with bringing Irish republicans to the negotiating table with the British government for the first time since the 1970s.

In a public statement made in 1990 he said Britain had no "selfish strategic or economic interest" in Northern Ireland and that they would accept unification, if it was the will of the people.

"It is not the aspiration to a sovereign, united Ireland against which we set our face, but its violent expression," he explained.

That speech is deemed to have paved the way for the Downing Street Declaration of 1993, which accepted the principle of self-determination on the basis of consensus for all the people of Ireland.

However, a controversial episode in 1992 is widely deemed to have brought his time as NI Secretary to an end.

In January 1992 Mr Brooke was a guest on RTÉ's Late Late Show with host Gay Byrne.

He appeared on the show on the same day that an IRA bomb attack took place in Teebane, county Tyrone, which killed eight men.

Although Mr Brooke had spoke of his “despair” over the tragedy, he went on to sing a rendition of Oh My Darling, Clementine on the show which drew mixed reactions from the audience.

While he offered his resignation after the incident, admitting he had caused offence, it was refused by then Prime Minister John Major.

However, he was replaced as secretary of state after the 1992 general election.

Following a period of time on the backbenches in parliament, Mr Brooke returned to cabinet once more during his political career, taking up the post of Secretary of State for National Heritage from 1992 to 1994.

Following his retirement from his MP role in 2001, Mr Brooke was made a life peer, becoming known as Lord Brooke of Stoke Mandeville.

Born on March 3, 1934, Peter Brooke died on May 13, 2023, aged 89.