John Dallat’s Inishowen connections
Tributes poured in from far and wide last week as news broke of the death of respected County Derry MLA John Dallat.
The well-known SDLP man died aged 73-years-old, having suffered from cancer in recent years, his death bringing to an end a political career spanning 40 years.
Many people in Inishowen will be aware of his strong connections to this area. His wife Anne is from Inishowen and John himself taught here in the 1970s.
In fact, during the Civil Rights campaign in Derry he was working in Carn and spoke about that last year during the 50th anniversary of the campaign.
Mr Dallat said that at the time, as a young teacher, he had written to three different technical colleges in the North asking for application forms “but didn’t return them because one of the questions was: ‘What is your religion?’ and I threw them in the fire and applied for a post in Donegal where I spent six very happy years in an environment where religion or politics was never discussed and the students were both Catholic and Protestant.”
As a young teacher, he worked in the Technical College in Carn and also spent a period of time working in the newly opened Carn Community School.
In his later political life, Mr Dallat was a constant supporter – and regular user – of the Lough Foyle ferry service and also campaigned strongly in support of the Malin Head Coastguard Station, emphasising its importance in rescues on both sides of the border.
Tributes last week were led by SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood – another man with Inishowen links – who described the late SDLP veteran as “a fierce and forensic champion of people and the public interest as well as a good and loyal man.”
I never him myself but my wife, who came across many, many politicians during her time as a journalist at the Derry Journal, had dealt with John Dallat countless times. She described him as a man of the people he represented and “one of the good guys.” He was always a pleasure to deal with, she recalled.
In politics, not every one is a good guy, but John Dallat certainly seems to have been one.