Friday, June 14, 2024


A PHOTOGRAPH of a Kilcoo man congratulating Mo Mowlam as the Good Friday Agreement negotiations neared their successful conclusion has ended up on display in the Ulster Museum. Pascal McCaffrey, then a classics teacher at Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock, had felt compelled to make his way to nearby Stormont after a Holy Thursday half-day, and later, as momentum built towards the April 1998 deal, found himself face to face with the secretary of state outside Castle Buildings. Their handshake was captured by photographer Frankie Quinn – the picture also features wellknown journalists Martina Purdy and Eamonn Mallie (or the back of his head, to be more precise) – and now forms part of a permanent display at the city museum. Speaking to the Mourne Observer, Pascal highlighted that he had previously met the Labour MP by chance in Hillsborough. “I found Mo quite a refreshing individual,” he said. “She was very different from her predecessors – her patrician predecessors who came with an Etonian accent. “Mo spoke the language of ordinary people and wanted to hear from ordinary people. “She did a tremendous amount of the spadework of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and I don’t think it would have happened without her.” The teacher explained that, upon leaving school that day, he felt the urge to head straight for Stormont. “I got my Easter holidays on Holy Thursday – we had a half-day,” he said. “The school was over on a hill, it was overlooking Cherry Valley, and we could see Stormont very clearly from it. “I went over that day and I was pretty confident that I would have no difficulty getting in, as I knew so many of the participants. “When you are teaching in a school, you get to know a lot of people. “It was a moment in history I felt it was important, if I could be at it, to participate in. “The agreement was pretty much concluded at that stage, and then the participants came out. “Senator [George] Mitchell, General [John] de Chastelain and the others came out, but then the discussions continued through the night. “I remember there was a fall of snow and Ian Paisley was protesting. “I was very happy that I did go over.” Over the course of his career, Pascal, who only recently discovered that the photo was being displayed, got to know John Hume – whom he described as “a statesman and a visionary” – very well, and shared many conversations with former South Down MP Enoch Powell, with whom he had “classics in common”. A lover of Italian Renaissance literature, the Kilcoo man held the position of chair of the NI Classical Teachers Association, and lectured on Dante and Petrarch in Padua, Verona and Vicenza in Italy.

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