Veteran NI Labour politician and author dies

Right Hon David Bleakley passed away on Monday aged 92
Right Hon David Bleakley passed away on Monday aged 92

Veteran NI Labour politician Right Hon David Bleakley CBE has passed away aged 92.

Mr Bleakley will be remembered as a teacher, a preacher and an author as well as a politician.

Born in Strandtown in east Belfast in 1925, he had worked as an electrician at Harland and Wolff.

He wrote more than a dozen books including a biography of his friend CS Lewis.The pair struck up a friendship in 1945 when Mr Bleakley studied economics at Ruskin College in Oxford after winning a trade union scholarship.

He became involved in politics in his early twenties when he joined the NI Labour Party. At the third attempt he won a seat in the Northern Ireland Parliament for the Belfast Victoria ward in 1958.

He was made the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont before losing his seat in 1965.

In 1971, then Prime Minister of NI, Brian Faulkner, appointed Mr Bleakley as Minister for Community Relations. He resigned before the end of his term in order to highlight the failure of the government to include non-Unionist parties and the decision to introduce internment.

Taking a break from politics he attended Queen’s University and went on to teach at Methody in the 1970s.

A lay preacher for much of his life, Mr Bleakley was general secretary of the Irish Council of Churches from 1980 to 1992, during which time he received a CBE.

He was an advisor to the Alliance Party in 1992 and returned to stand for the Labour Party in Belfast East in the 1998 Assembly election, but was unsuccessful.

Mr Bleakley’s wife Winnie passed away last year and he is survived by his sons Brian, Desmond and Peter. Mr Bleakley’s funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.