East Derry SDLP Assembly Member John Dallat, who is retiring from politics, was among those invited by the Irish Government to attend the Commemoration of the Easter Rising in Dublin.
The veteranKilrea politician said it was his “last official duty in a political life spanning 39 years and it was a very special occasion”.
“The commemoration at the GPO and other events were truly measured and reflective and took into account the complexity of historical events and their legacy, “ said Mr Dallat.
“In every way the events acknowledged the multiple identities and traditions which are part of the overall story and of the different ideals and sacrifices associated with them.
“The Irish Government went to extra-ordinary lengths, within reason to be inclusive and non-partisan without abandoning its loyalties and I believe achieved that with a very high level of success.
“Let me hope that in the years ahead and by agreement the political progress made in recent years through the Good Friday Agreement can continue and all the people of Ireland will at last be united not just as a piece of land but as a people.”
The first SDLP mayor of Coleraine said the engagement was particularly poignant for him on a personal level.
‘This was my last official duty in a political life spanning 39 years in public life and it was a very special occasion to be invited to witness such a dignified, confident and inclusive event which represents the modern Ireland that I believe in.
“When I entered politics to be part of the political process there was a sense of hopelessness but yesterday the world was invited to witness the modern inclusive Ireland and, in particular its Defence Forces, who have served the cause of peace with the United Nations in many parts of the world since 1960 and continuously since then. “
In 1977 Mr Dallat ran for a seat on Coleraine Council, a seat he held for 33 years and where often he was a lone voice in a sea of unionists.
During his time on Council, John was mayor of the borough and met a host of dignitaries during his time, including the Queen and Prince Charles.
“Personally, I never had any great desire to be mayor, but I enjoyed it and I’m glad I did it.”
He hopes now to spend more time with his family.
He has six grandchildren, of all ages, and he said he wants to travel with Anne in his Morris Minor Traveller and catch up with friends in Carndonagh.