Former SDLP West Belfast MP and MLA Dr Joe Hendron has paid tribute to Austin Currie following his death on Tuesday.
Dr Hendron served with Mr Currie in the 1982 Northern Ireland Assembly and the two were party colleagues for many years.
Dr Hendron said:
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of my close friend and colleague Austin Currie. He brought an intelligence and humour to politics that earned him the regard of many of his contemporaries in the North and South of our island.
“Like many of us of that generation Austin saw the way people within his community, his family and friends, were being treated by the state and he knew it could no longer go unchallenged. His brave stand at Caledon in 1968 inspired many of us to get involved in the civil rights movement and later the SDLP.
“His protest and the civil rights demonstrations it spawned led to the establishment of the Housing Executive, which helped put an end to housing discrimination and still exists today to find homes for those that need them. His passion for helping people secure decent quality housing led to him becoming Housing Minister in the Executive, where he worked tirelessly on behalf of local people.
“I must also pay tribute to his wife Annita and family who suffered greatly for the political stand he took. He was targeted by both republicans and loyalist thugs who laid siege to his family home, but still his commitment to peace and building a shared society never wavered. My thoughts go out to all his family and friends.
“Austin Currie has left a huge legacy, he changed this place forever for the better and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.”