SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has paid tribute to former Mayor of Derry Willie O’Connell, who sadly passed away on Christmas Eve at the age of 89.
Mr O’Connell was a much loved and respected SDLP Council representative for the Shantallow area for many years, and spent his working life as a Compositor and later as a Proof Reader with the Derry Journal.
Mr O’Connell, who was Mayor of Derry in 1982/83, died peacefully at Altnagelvin Hospital just a few months short of what would have been his 90th birthday in February.
He was laid to rest at the City Cemetery following Requiem Mass at St Patrick’s Church, Pennyburn on St Stephen’s Day.
Mr Eastwood has expressed his deep sadness and offered his sympathy to the family of Mr O’Connell.
The Foyle MLA said: “William was a hugely respected figure in the SDLP throughout many of the most difficult and transformative years in Derry and across Ireland.
“He was a constant and loyal friend to John Hume in the dark days of our past.
“He was a central part of the movement in this city which knew and understood that the taking of human life was never the way to achieve a new and better Ireland.
“William loved serving the people of Shantallow as a public representative for many years and in turn he was deeply respected and appreciated by the community he served. He carried that pride for his community when he represented this city as its Mayor.
“That passion never left William, from the early days of civil rights to his career in the Derry Journal. He was above all else a proud Derry man.
“On behalf of the SDLP, I want to express my deepest sympathy to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.”
Mr O’Connell was beloved husband of Eileen, and loving father of David, John, Marie, Conal and Ronan, and a devoted grandfather of Lauren, Nicole, Christina and Athanasios.