Former MLA and war hero dies

Published Tuesday, 27 May 2014
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Former Ulster Unionist Party MLA Sir John Gorman has died at the age of 91.

Originally from Omagh, Co Tyrone, he was best known for being one of the very few high profile Catholic unionist politicians in Northern Ireland.

However, before his entry into politics, Sir John was a familiar name as a decorated war hero of the Second World War and a leading business figure.

A member of the Irish Guards, he was awarded the prestigious Military Cross for his actions in leading his crew to safety after their tank came under fire from the Germans.

He was promoted to the rank of captain, and after the war left the army to become an RUC inspector.

Sir John also headed the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and was the first chairman of the Northern Ireland Forum for Political Dialogue.

He stood for the Ulster Unionist Party and was elected representative to the Assembly in 1998, representing the North Down constituency. He went on to hold the position of Deputy Speaker of the Assembly.

Sir John received many awards during his lifetime - he was knighted by the Queen in 1998 and also held the title of Deputy Lord Lieutenant of County Down.

In 2007, he was awarded with the French military decoration Croix De Guerre for actions during World War II.

He was an impressive character and Northern Ireland owes him a great debt.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said Sir John was "one of a kind".

He said: "It is rather poignant that on the very day we complete a European Election count to return Northern Ireland's MEPs to Brussels, we should learn of the death of a man who liberated that city 70 years ago.

"Sir John achieved success in a number of fields. He was a war hero, a great public servant and a leading catholic unionist.

"I had the pleasure of working with Sir John when he was Director of the Institute of Directors.

"The last time I was with him was at a branch meeting of the Party in Killyleagh last year.

"He was barely mobile and said he was there simply to support me.

"I was humbled by that gesture and in his death I am inspired to deliver better politics as a tribute to his memory.

"He truly was one of a kind and we are all the poorer for his passing. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and many friends."

Sir Reg Empey, former leader of the UUP, also paid tribute to him saying Northern Ireland would be a poorer place due to his passing.

"It was the variety and breadth of his achievements. He was a decorated soldier and commanded a tank in the Second World War," he said, before discussing his career in business, law enforcement and politics.

"All in all, he made a tremendous contribution to public life and commercial life in Northern Ireland.

"I remember him because of his charm - he was a delightful person, he was well-read, he was courteous.

"His breadth of vision and knowledge made him a very entertaining person to talk to - and to be in his company socially or indeed, politically."

Sir John died at a nursing home in Co Down, close to his family home in Killyleagh.

© UTV News
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6 Comments
daisy in duck wrote (146 days ago):
This is sad news...a true gentleman and am sure he will be buried as he lived..with great dignity.
blueboy in co antrim wrote (147 days ago):
Went to the Ulster with Sir John and found him great company and an expert on all the WW1 battle fields He will be sadly missed by many who had the pleasure off meeting him. RIP, Sir John
sadly missed in bangor wrote (147 days ago):
its a pity we don't have other people like sir john in government instead of a load of terrorists from both sides.
Norman Boyd in Newtownabbey wrote (148 days ago):
I am saddened to learn of the passing of Sir John Gorman. Whilst our unionist politics were very different he was well respected by everyone and was a true gentleman during my time in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Norman Boyd Former MLA for South Antrim
Rab in Belfast wrote (148 days ago):
Rest in peace sir your duty is done....
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