Tributes were paid yesterday to Sir John Gorman, a prominent unionist member of the Assembly and Second World War hero.
Sir John died, aged 91, after a career in which he was a senior Catholic RUC officer, director of security for BOAC (a forerunner of British Airways), Housing Executive chief and deputy speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
He was elected an MLA for the new Assembly in 1998 and was chairman of the Northern Ireland Forum from 1996-98.
His achievements were recognised by his knighthood, Companionship of the Victorian Order and British Empire, Military Cross and his appointment as a Deputy Lieutenant.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt MLA described Sir John as “one of a kind”.
“It is rather poignant that on the very day we complete a European election count to return Northern Ireland’s MEPs to Brussels, we should learn of the death of a man who liberated that city 70 years ago,” he said.
“Sir John was a war hero who was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in Normandy. He was a great public servant who spent 17 years in the RUC and was chair of the Housing Executive.
“More recently he was an Ulster Unionist MLA representing North Down, was deputy speaker of the Stormont Assembly and a leading Catholic unionist.
“I had the pleasure of working with Sir John when he was director of the Institute of Directors. I saw at first hand just how impressive a character he was and Northern Ireland owes him a great debt.
“The last time I was with him was at a branch meeting of the party in Killyleagh last year. He was barely mobile and said he was there simply to support me.
“I was humbled by that gesture and in his death I am inspired to deliver better politics as a tribute to his memory.”
He sent his “deepest sympathies” to Sir John’s family and many friends.
UUP MLA Danny Kennedy said he was “greatly saddened” by Sir John’s death. “Sir John had a distinguished record of service to the nation and Northern Ireland in particular,” he said. “Obviously he came from a Catholic background but he was an unashamed unionist and was admired by many.”
Alliance North Down MLA Stephen Farry said Sir John served North Down with distinction and was “always fair and honest as a politician”.
Assembly Speaker William Hay MLA said the constant theme through Sir John’s life was one of public service, adding that he was “an affable and thoughtful character” who as Deputy Speaker “attracted the same huge respect across the entire chamber as he did in the community”.