Thursday 18 October 2018

Tributes to Irish-American Bill Flynn, who played 'pivotal' role in the Peace Process

Bill Flynn (right) with Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and Paula Dobriansky at an event in New York
Photo: John Harrison/PA Wire
Bill Flynn (right) with Martin McGuinness, Ian Paisley and Paula Dobriansky at an event in New York Photo: John Harrison/PA Wire

Michelle Devane

Ireland's deputy premier has led tributes to the late peacemaker Bill Flynn, describing him as a giant of Irish-America.

Simon Coveney tweeted that it was with sadness that he learned of Mr Flynn's death.

A prominent supporter of the peace process, Mr Flynn died in the US on Saturday, aged 92.

Mr Coveney said Mr Flynn was a key figure in US support for peace on the island of Ireland.

Mr Coveney wrote: "He showed real leadership in mobilising Irish American support for peace. Very proud of his contribution."

He added: "Our thoughts with his family and friends."

Bill Flynn (right) in New York with then Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon in 2000
Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Bill Flynn (right) in New York with then Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Seamus Mallon in 2000 Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Mr Flynn was the first Irish-American chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, the group that issued the invitation to former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to speak in the US in the 1990s.

Mr Adams expressed his sympathies to the family on the death of a man he called his "good friend Bill Flynn".

"I want to extend my sincerest condolences and solidarity to Peggy Flynn and the Flynn family," he said.

"He was one of America's foremost business leaders, as well as a patron of great causes in support of humanitarian, civil liberties and health issues."

He added: "In Ireland and among Irish Americans, he is also one of those, along with Niall O'Dowd, Chuck Feeney and Bruce Morrison, who played a pivotal role in creating the conditions for the IRA cessation in August 1994, and in opening up political support in the USA for the Irish peace process."

Mr Adams said he had known Mr Flynn for more than 25 years.

"In 1994 he arranged for the National Committee on American Foreign Policy to organise a conference on Ireland to which I was invited," Mr Adams said.

"I applied for a visa which was eventually agreed and I received a 48 hour restricted visa to New York.

"It was a key moment in the efforts for peace."

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald also paid tribute to Mr Flynn.

Ms McDonald said Mr Flynn made sure that he reached out to all those affected by the conflict and forged relationships with people from the Unionist and Loyalist backgrounds.

"His commitment to peace in Ireland remained till his death," she said.

Ms McDonald added that Mr Flynn would be missed both in America and in Ireland.

Born in New York, Mr Flynn's parents came from counties Mayo and Down.

A graduate of Fordham University, he received a CBE for his exceptional contribution to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

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