Tributes paid following the death of noted historian Eamon Phoenix

Political leaders have paid tribute to noted historian Eamon Phoenix, who has died at the age of 69.

He was an academic at Stranmillis University College, a long-term contributor to the Irish News newspaper and a familiar face on broadcast stations.

He died peacefully at home in Belfast after a short illness, surrounded by his family, and is survived by wife Alice, daughter Mary-Alice, son-in-law Stuart and granddaughter Nicole.

Irish premier Micheal Martin described Dr Phoenix as a “historian of rare talent whose invaluable insights did so much to illuminate the story of Ireland’s politics and past”.

“I especially pay tribute to his contribution as a member of the Irish Government’s Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations,” the Taoiseach said.

“His work brought new levels of understanding to our society’s past, and what may lay ahead.

“A thorough gentleman, his passion for history and politics never failed to shine through in his published work or frequent media contributions.

“My deepest sympathies go to his wife Alice, daughter Mary Alice, family and friends.”

Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she was deeply saddened to hear of Dr Phoenix’s death.

Stormont Exhibition
Historian Dr Eamon Phoenix with Assembly Speaker Alex Maskey

“Eamon was a gifted communicator who has been publishing and contributing to many valuable and important pieces of historical writing, reflection and analysis for almost four decades,” she said.

“His passion and enthusiasm for Irish history and politics brought it to life raising public awareness and interest across society for today’s generation.

“His distinctive contribution to building the peace on this island was clear to all, and particularly through his regular columns in local newspapers and appearances on radio and television, and his important involvement with the decade of centenaries.

“His valuable writings and insights into our past leave a powerful legacy for future generations.

“My thoughts are with Eamon’s family, friends and colleagues in academia and in the Irish News at this sad and difficult time.”

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he was incredibly saddened by the news.

“Eamon takes to the grave an insight into the history of these islands that few will ever rival,” he said.

“Our deepest sympathies to his wife, daughter and wider family.”

SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said Dr Phoenix was universally recognised as being impartial and fair minded.

“Eamon taught for years at Stranmillis University College and was renowned for his mesmeric and musical speaking voice,” she said.

“No man knew more about the history of Ireland, and particularly the North and the tragic historical circumstances that shaped the attitudes of all of us on this small piece of earth.

“He was recognised as being impartial and fair minded by everyone and could travel anywhere without issue due to his recognition as a man of integrity and honesty.

“He was particularly in demand for centenary events over the last few years and he had his own opinions which he expressed quietly when asked and they included the futility of the use of violence and the missed opportunities by all sides to show generosity, especially in the early 20th century.

“Eamon has left a vast spoken word archive with the BBC, his On This Day column in the Irish News, which stretched back to events reported from 50 to 100 years ago, will be an essential source for historians for years to come. I can personally testify that John Hume was an unstinting admirer of his work, particularly his magnum opus Ulster Nationalism.”