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Former NI secretary Mo Mowlam dies

[Posted: Fri 19/08/2005]

Former Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, has died. She was 55.

Ms Mowlam was admitted to a London hospital at the end of July, where she was said to be in 'critical but stable' condition. As her condition continued to deteriorate, she was moved to a hospice in Kent.

It is understood that it was Ms Mowlam's wish that she not be kept alive artificially.

Doctors gave no details of her illness and did not say whether it was connected to a brain tumour she had previously suffered. However it is known that she suffered a fall in her home prior to being admitted to hospital.

Tributes have been pouring in for the popular politician both here and in the UK. The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, said that she was someone that Irish people 'held in great affection and esteem'.

"Although she had been fighting serious illness for several years, news of the death of Dr Mo Mowlam will be met with a great sense of sadness by all who knew her. Even at her lowest moments, she always seemed to have enough energy and enthusiasm to lift an occasion and to inspire those around her", Mr Ahern said.

Former British Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, meanwhile described her as a 'hell of a woman' and a 'fighter'.

Ms Mowlam served as NI Secretary from 1997 to 1999. She played an instrumental role in the negotiations that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Her approachability and lack of formality during these negotiations was seen as a major factor in their success.

Her willingness to take risks was also noteworthy. In 1998, she entered the infamous Maze prison and spoke face-to-face with loyalist prisoners, after it became clear that that the peace process needed their backing. The UDA/UVF prisoners had previously withdrawn their support for the process. However following the talks with Ms Mowlam, they announced that they were rejoining talks.

Unbeknownst to many people, she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 1997. She secretly underwent treatment for this just before being made NI Secretary by the then-new Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

She quit politics in 2001 after spending 14 years as an MP. In recent years, she had become increasingly critical of her former party leader, Mr Blair.

She leaves husband, Jon Norton.

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