Tributes have been flooding in following the untimely passing of former south Armagh SDLP councillor Geraldine Donnelly.
Ms Donnelly, who retired from Newry, Mourne and Down Council in 2016, passed away while on holiday in Spain on Saturday morning.
Newry city councillor Michael Savage said Geraldine it is with a “deep sense of shock and profound sadness that we learn of the death of our esteemed colleague, former councillor and dear friend Geraldine Donnelly”.
He described her as “an outstanding public representative, devoted wife, mother and grandmother”.
“Geraldine was kind, caring and considerate to everyone she met,” he added. “She was someone we all truly respected and held in the highest regard.
“Her untimely passing will leave a huge void within her family and the community of South Armagh and the greater Newry area who she served with grace and integrity.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband Sean, her daughters Sandra and Karen, son Niall and wider family circle at this difficult time.”
Former ABC councillor and party colleague, Sharon Haughey-Grimley added: “I don’t quite have the words this evening to express my utter heartbreak at news that our beautiful Geraldine has passed away. What a shock to everyone who knew her.
“Geraldine was the gentlest soul I have ever known. Beauty in her heart, mind and person.
“She had a love for her family, her community and her land. She served South Armagh with integrity and might. She was strong in her beliefs and stood positively for peace and progress always.
“She was a colleague and a friend. Someone who I admired greatly. She had grace and sincerity.
“I’m finding it so hard to take in that she is no longer with us.
“Like so many others, I am utterly devastated and my immediate thoughts and prayers are with her husband Sean, her children, grandchildren and entire family circle at this tragic time and I know the entire community will rally around them as they prepare to bring Geraldine back to the land she loved.”
Lord Mayor of ABC Council Mealla Campbell said: “Devastated to learn of the sudden death of my dear friend and former SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly.
“Geraldine was an absolute lady, an outstanding public representative, devoted wife, mother and grandmother.
She was held in the highest regard by everyone who knew her.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her husband Sean, her daughters Sandra and Karen, son Niall and wider family circle at this difficult time.”
Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon said he was “absolutely devastated”.
“She could melt an iceberg with that big warm smile,” he said.
“She was a beautiful woman, a phone call lasted at least an hour and it always started and ended with family.
“She just wore her heart on her sleeve and if someone came to her with a problem, it became her problem to it was sorted. She was a real lady.”
Sinn Féin councillor and Chairperson of Newry Mourne and Down Council Charlie Casey, expressed his sympathy for a former council colleague.
“We are all shocked to learn of the sudden death of Geraldine Donnelly who served with Newry and Mourne District Council from 2005 to 2016.
“She served as Deputy Mayor in 2011 whilst I was Mayor the same year and we worked well together to serve the communities of Newry & Mourne.
“Geraldine was a well respected public representative and on behalf of my Party and my colleagues I extend deepest sympathies to Geraldine’s husband Seán, and the family.”
Sinn Féin MLA Megan Fearon commented: “So sorry to hear of Geraldine Donnelly’s untimely passing. She was a well respected representative of the South Armagh community for years.
“She was warm, friendly and very easy to work with. Thinking of her family and friends at this difficult time.”
Slieve Gullion Sinn Féin Councillor Barra Ó Muirí said: “Sad to hear of the death of former Councillor Geraldine Donnelly, a lady who always had a nice word to say and always had a smile on her face.”
SDLP MLA for Newry Karen McKevitt simply said: “Just sometimes there are no words.”
SDLP councillor Pete Byrne said: “Words have failed me all day and I still don’t fully believe that Geraldine is no longer with us.
“Geraldine was a lady in every sense of the word and she will be sorely missed by all who knew her.
“Her gentle soul and kind nature was her greatest strength as a public representative.”
He added: “For 11 years she quietly represented the people of south Armagh with dignity and respect.
“She was a beacon of integrity and never wavered from her principles. She was passionately SDLP and I was honoured to follow in her footsteps and continue her work.
“My thoughts are with Sean and her family at this difficult time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
“‘Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength’”.
SDLP councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick added: “Today we lost a most wonderful friend and colleague and we struggle to find the words or understand her untimely passing. Geraldine we will miss you dearly.”