12 April 2006

Gerry Adams pays tribute to Sinn Fein 'lynchpin'

:::u.tv:::

A Sinn Fein official who was heavily involved in the party's negotiating team at Stormont in the run up to the Good Friday Agreement has died, the party has confirmed.

By:Press Association
12 April 2006

Siobhan O`Hanlon regularly accompanied Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams into meetings in Downing Street where she acted as a note taker during critical talks with the Prime Minister Tony Blair.

She had been battling cancer for more than a year but died during the night.

Extending his condolences to Ms O`Hanlon`s family, Mr Adams said she had been the lynchpin of his office. She was a committed republican activist and a kind and gentle woman who cared deeply about her family and friends.

"Her stamina, forthrightness and determination in pursuing issues is legendary," the West Belfast MP said.

"Siobhan never allowed her illness, which she battled with a determination which amazed and impressed all who knew her, to distract her from her work. She continued that work right up until very recently.

"Siobhan was a close friend and an invaluable comrade. I have known her for many years.

"For the last 15 years she was the lynchpin around which my office functioned. For much of that time she was also the point of contact between us and the British and Irish governments. She also headed up Sinn Fein`s South African desk."

In 1997, she was part of the first Sinn Fein delegation to meet Tony Blair in Downing Street.

In October 2001, she accompanied Mr Adams on a visit to South Africa where they met Nelson Mandela and also unveiled at Robben Island Prison, where the former African National Congress leader was jailed, a memorial to 10 republican hunger strikers who died in Northern Ireland in 1981.

Her uncle, legendary IRA leader Joe Cahill, was a strong supporter of Mr Adams until his death in July 2004.

Mr Adams said Siobhain O`Hanlon`s death came at a poignant time for republicans as they prepared to take part in commemorations of the 1916 republican Easter Rising.

"This Easter will be more so (poignant) for all of us who knew, loved and respected Siobhan," he said.

"I want to extend the sympathy of Irish republicans everywhere to Pat and Cormac, to Siobhan`s mother Tess, and the O`Hanlon and Sheehan families."

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