Former junior minister and Fine Gael presidential candidate Austin Currie has died at the age of 82.
Born in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, Mr Currie served as a TD for the Dublin West constituency from 1989 to 2002 and was a member of the Parliament of Northern Ireland for East Tyrone from 1964 to 1972.
He is the father of current Fine Gael senator Emer Currie.
A statement from the family said: “The Currie family is heartbroken to announce the death of Austin Currie.
“After a long and eventful life, he died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Derrymullen, Co Kildare. He had just celebrated his 82nd birthday.
“Austin was married to Annita for 53 years. They were a formidable team whose love for each other and their family saw them through some of the worst times in Northern Ireland’s recent history. He is survived by his children Estelle, Caitriona, Dualta, Austin and Emer, their partners and 13 grandchildren.
“Austin, who was born in Co Tyrone, was the eldest of eleven children. His decision to squat a council house in Caledon in June 1968 is widely seen as the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.
One of the founding members of the SDLP along with John Hume and Gerry Fitt, Austin played a key role in the politics of that era.
“In 1989, he won a seat in Dublin West for Fine Gael and pursued a successful career as TD and minister until retirement in 2002.
“Our Daddy was wise, brave and loving and we thank him for the values that he lived by and instilled in us. He was our guiding star who put the principles of peace, social justice and equality first.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.
A ‘principled man’
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has led the tributes to Mr Currie, describing him as one of the “founding fathers” of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.
Mr Martin said he was saddened to hear of the death of Mr Currie, adding: “He did so much for people, as a peacemaker and in politics, serving in the Dail and as Minister of State with distinction. My sympathies to his family,” he said.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also expressed his deep sadness on the death of Mr Currie.
He described Mr Currie as a pioneer of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, saying that he was one of the outstanding politicians of his generation, highlighting discrimination against nationalists in issues like housing with a famous sit-in protest at Caledon.
“He helped to organise one of the first Civil Rights marches in Northern Ireland, and went on to co-found the Social Democratic & Labour Party with John Hume and Gerry Fitt,” he said.
“Austin moved his political career south of the border in the 1980s and became a Fine Gael TD in Dublin West, the constituency which I am currently honoured to represent alongside his daughter, S