Former shadow NI secretary Kevin McNamara dies aged 82

Kevin McNamara was viewed as being sympathetic to the united Ireland cause
Kevin McNamara was viewed as being sympathetic to the united Ireland cause

Former Labour MP Kevin McNamara, who was the shadow Northern Ireland secretary during some of the most crucial years of the early peace process, has died at the age of 82.

Mr McNamara, who represented Hull North from 1966 to 2005, died at his home in Formby, Merseyside, after he was suddenly taken ill while on holiday in Spain.

During his long parliamentary career he took on a range of different jobs including chairing select committees and taking on opposition portfolios before becoming shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1995.

He was viewed as being sympathetic to the united Ireland cause.

For example, a 1993 report in The Independent newspaper said: “In a strongly worded speech that had not been cleared in advance with the Labour leader, Mr McNamara pledged Labour support for retention of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, which date from 1937 and declare that the Irish state consists of the whole island.”

His family said he became unwell while staying in the town of Carboneras and was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, despite having no previous symptoms and being pain-free.

They said he was evacuated from Spain by air ambulance on July 28 and spent two nights in Southport and Formby District General Hospital before returning to his home.

In a statement, his family said: “He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family, following a short and unexpected illness.”

It said: “Kevin’s family wishes to thank all those in Carboneras and Almeria, including medical staff, cleaners and caterers, and the local Catholic clergy, for their professionalism, care and consideration.

“Thanks are also due to the Free Spirit insurance company for facilitating Kevin’s desired return from Spain, and to all the NHS medical and other staff, including district nurses and the palliative care team, in Southport and Formby.”

Mr McNamara was born in Liverpool in 1934, was educated at St Mary’s College, Crosby, and University College Hull where he obtained a law degree and met his future wife, Nora. They married in 1960.

He became head of history at St Mary’s Grammar School, Hull, and then a law lecturer before unsuccessfully contesting Bridlington for the Labour Party in 1964.

He entered the Commons when he won Hull North in 1966.

During his long parliamentary career he took on a range of different jobs including chairing select committees and taking on opposition portfolios before becoming shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland between 1987 and 1995.

Mr McNamara is survived by his widow, Nora, and three sons and a daughter.

Another of his sons died before him.