Irish News

Thursday 21 August 2014

Leading trade unionist Inez McCormack dies

David Young

Published 21/01/2013 | 19:19

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LEADING Northern Ireland trade unionist Inez McCormack has died, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has announced.

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The well known women's rights campaigner from Derry had been battling cancer.



Mrs McCormack, who was in her 60s, counted US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among her friends and was played by Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep in a play about her life.



Active in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, she rose to become the first female president of the ICTU.



Current president Eugene McGlone said her track record in women's and human rights was "unequalled".



"Her work in promoting the cause of labour and social justice in Northern Ireland was known world-wide," he said.



"Inez's commitment to social justice began in the '60s when she became active in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement.



"She followed this on when she became a trade union and equality activist before becoming the full-time official of the National Union of Public Employees. She also held the post when NUPE was reconstituted in a merger as Unison.



"Her unstinting passion was recognised and she received many justifiable accolades."



Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of Unison, said: "The sad day thousands of workers and trade union members have been dreading has come and Inez McCormack, has left us - but only in the flesh.



"Inez will never leave us in spirit.



"She has touched the lives of thousands of ordinary women and men and she has succeeded in what she set out to do. She has made a difference."



The Irish president Michael D Higgins said Mrs McCormack was a passionate and committed human rights activist who fought all her life and in so many settings for the creation of a fairer society for workers, for minorities, and for women. In her pursuit of a better and more equal world she demonstrated courage, integrity and true grit in pushing against the boundaries of exclusion.



As the the first President of ICTU, the first woman full-time official of the National Union of Public Employees; the first woman Regional Secretary of UNISON the first woman elected to the Northern Ireland Committee of Congress and its first woman Chair, she left behind a great legacy.



He added: "Inez will be remembered as a great pioneer, who broke through so many challenges and barriers, a brave fighter, and a person of extraordinary generosity whose contribution to an inclusive citizenship and a better world has been immense."



The Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said she was a fearless opponent of injustice and a determined champion of civil rights, equality, women's and workers rights, and fair employment.



He said: "For decades Inez was a tireless and effective advocate from her days in the civil rights movement in the 1960's and through her years as a trade union leader. She was particularly effective in the USA in support of the MacBride campaign for fair employment in the six counties.



"She was a passionate and articulate campaigner who helped place equality at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. Inez devoted her life to fighting for the oppressed and disadvantaged. She had a deserved international reputation as a human rights activist."



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