Saturday 25 November 2017

Obituary: Lord Mason of Barnsley

He was Secretary of State for the North who cracked down on paramilitaries, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

FROM MINER TO LORD: Roy Mason (right) served as Northern Ireland secretary at the height of the Troubles
FROM MINER TO LORD: Roy Mason (right) served as Northern Ireland secretary at the height of the Troubles
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

When I made a passing comment about Roy Mason in the 1980s to a London-based Irish diplomat, he glowered and told me of his recent introduction to Mason in the House of Lords. Hearing his Irish-language first name, Mason said: "I'll call you Paddy."

"If he calls me that again," said the ambitious young high-flyer, "I'll punch him."

When I had the occasional drink in a Lords bar with Gerry Fitt - the socialist republican ex-leader of the SDLP, who had abandoned Belfast for London when his house was firebombed by the IRA - I avoided mentioning Mason, whom he called 'that wee fucker'. Gerry was convinced that - as Secretary of State successively for Defence and the North - Mason had created the conditions that brought about the hunger strikes and thus gave a new lease of life to the IRA and Sinn Fein.

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