- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 20, 2005

LONDON — Britain’s former secretary for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, a colorful politician who played a pivotal role in the province’s peace process, died in a hospice south of London yesterday. She was 55.

A popular and outspoken character, Mrs. Mowlam served in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government for four years from 1997 after recovering from a brain tumor.

“Mo was surely one of the most remarkable and colorful personalities ever to come into politics. Great company, utterly irreverent, full of life and fun,” Mr. Blair said.

“Yet behind that extraordinary front presented to the world was one of the shrewdest political minds I ever encountered.”

Mr. Blair shifted her from Northern Ireland in 1999 to a lesser ministerial job. Before stepping down from politics in 2001, she topped a poll as the public’s choice to succeed him as prime minister.

In the run-up to the Labor Party’s 1997 election victory, Mrs. Mowlam told just her husband and Mr. Blair about her condition, only going public when a newspaper commented on her weight gain and haggard appearance.

She had received a new course of radiotherapy treatment in recent months, which affected her balance. Earlier this month she fell and banged her head, never regaining consciousness.

In government, Mrs. Mowlam took the high-risk step of visiting hardened pro-British paramilitaries in Northern Ireland’s notorious Maze prison in the run-up to the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.

Former President Bill Clinton, a major player in the Northern Ireland peace drive, also paid tribute to Mrs. Mowlam.

“Mo was an integral part of building a peace process in Northern Ireland,” he said. “Her persistence, toughness and good humor were legendary. All of us who worked to support peace in Northern Ireland owe her our gratitude.”

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern agreed.

“Mo Mowlam worked tirelessly in the negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. “She was prepared to take risks for the peace process, risks to secure agreement and risks to implement it.”

Mrs. Mowlam was born in September 1949 near London. Her postal worker father was an alcoholic and she attributed her toughness to that painful fact. She was elected member of Parliament for Redcar, northeast England, in 1987 and married banker Jon Norton in 1996.

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