A tribute to Sean Brown
A tribute to Sean Brown



An inquest has opened at the High Court in Belfast into the murder of GAA Gaelic sports official Sean Brown by a loyalist death squad in May 1997. It heard details of the support for the family by the late poet Seamus Heaney, who also hailed from the village of Bellaghy, County Derry. The following is a tribute to Mr Brown written by the poet while in Greece.


Sean Brown’s murder was shocking and sinister. I have known two generations of the Brown family.

They are people of great probity, much respected in the Bellaghy district, so my heart goes out to them at this moment.

I heard the news in Olympia, just after I had visited the stadium where the original Olympic games were held, and given Sean Brown’s role as chairman of the Gaelic Athletic Club in Bellaghy, I could not help thinking of his death as a crime against the ancient Olympic spirit.

The Greeks recognised that there was something sacrosanct about the athletic ideal and regarded any violence during the period of the games as sacrilegious.

Athletics and drama, two of the great civilising activities of Greece, were two of the activities which Sean Brown promoted, in his capacity as a lifelong member of the local Wolfe Tone’s Club.

He was a man of integrity and good will, qualities which were manifest when he presided at an event organised in January last year to celebrate the award of the Nobel prize to this particular Bellaghy man.

Many things were precious about that evening including Sean’s presentation to me of a painting of Lough Beg and the country around it, where we both grew up.

But even more important was the fact that the celebration was attended by people from both sides of the Bellaghy community, Protestant and Catholic.

He represented something better than we have grown used to; something not quite covered by the word ‘reconciliation’ because that word has become a policy word - official and public.

This was more like a purification, a release from what the Greeks called the miasma, the stain of spilled blood. It is a terrible irony that the man who organised such an event should die at the hands of a sectarian killer.

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