Lord Ballyedmond brought key people together in his home as part of an important role he played in the peace process, a former senior Ulster Unionist has said.
The leading industrialist, who was buried on Monday in Newry, died recently in a helicopter crash. Tributes have been paid to the fact that he built a pharmaceutical empire which created 3,000 jobs and plays a key role in Northern Ireland exports.
But speaking to the News Letter after the peer’s funeral, Lord Kilclooney, a former senior UUP member, also spoke of his contribution to the political process.
He described Lord Ballyedmond, Eddie Haughey, as “a fantastic ambassador for this Province and a very close personal friend”.
When asked to describe his friend’s greatest contribution to the peace process, the cross-bench peer said: “Once again bringing people together. I met people in his own house that I mightn’t have had the opportunity to meet otherwise.”
Answering the same question, Lord Maginnis added: “He was an intelligent man, he was more than that – probably the most determined man I have ever met. And if he wanted peace in Northern Ireland, he worked for it.”
The News Letter understands that around the period 1995-97 the late industrialist acted as “a conduit” between leading members of the UUP, and new Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, Fianna Fail and the Conservatives.
It is understood he provided the discrete location and hospitality for key people to engage in delicate talks.
His son, also Edward, told mourners on Monday: “Martin Luther King fascinated my father” and said the Tory peer would often sit at home at night listening to speeches from the American.
While he enjoyed building walls in his renovation projects he enjoyed “breaking down walls” in politics, he said. And while it may have seemed as though his political allegiances “fluctuated” between Irish and British political parties, he said, his aim was always to bring the two sides “closer to stability and equality”.
The funeral featured St Francis of Assisi’s prayer for peace, the Fields of Athenry and Robbie Burns poetry.