The long and distinguished life of Maurice Hayes

Morning View
Morning View

When someone has lived such a long and distinguished life as Maurice Hayes did, it is easy on their death to remember their latter achievements.

This is because a dwindling number of people are old enough to remember their earlier ones.

Since Dr Hayes died just before Christmas, at the age of 90, there has been much mention of the fact that he played a key role in reform of policing. This was indeed another milestone in his impressive curriculum vitae, but he was already in his 70s when the Patten report came out in 1999, and had by then retired from a successful career in the civil service.

Every year this newspaper reports on government papers that have been newly released after being closed for decades (and we will be doing so again from Friday). In the government papers from the 1970s and early 80s, Maurice Hayes was like other distinguished civil servants such as Ken Bloomfield and George Quigley a constant presence, writing memos or speaking in key meetings.

An Irish language and GAA enthusiast, he was one of the few Catholic civil servants near the pinnacle of administration in the Province back then. As the tributes since his death have shown, ranging from Jim Wells MLA to Lady Sylvia Hermon MP to leaders of Sinn Fein and the Irish government, Dr Hayes was respected on both sides of the community divide and both sides of the border, later becoming a senator in Dublin.

His wisdom, diplomacy and moderation won many admirers.

He also had the grit to help push along serious governance. One of his roles was permanent secretary at the Department of Health, Stormont. Later he chaired a study into health provision in Northern Ireland. It issued findings almost 20 years ago, which included rationalisation of hospital provision.

Politicians still lack the will to implement that recommendation, despite numerous subsequent expert reports that reached the same conclusion.

Dr Hayes will be a much missed public and private figure.