TRIBUTES have been paid to a lifelong republican activist and former IRA prisoner who spent many years living in North Belfast.

Kevin Mulgrew (65) died peacefully at his home in Dundalk on Sunday after a battle with cancer.

Kevin grew up on the Tyrone/Derry border before moving to North Belfast in the 1960s.

He dedicated himself to the republican movement from when he was a teenager and was arrested for the first time, along with two of his brothers, in 1972 and taken to the notorious Girdwood Barracks.

His brother, Colm was shot dead by loyalists in Belfast in 1976.

In 1983, he was sentenced to 963 years in prison for 60 offences, including the killing of UDR man Julian Connolly, on the word of IRA informer Christopher Black.

Kevin during the time of his arrest in the 1980s

Kevin during the time of his arrest in the 1980s

He was one of 22 people sentenced to more than 4,000 years in jail in the ‘supergrass’ case but only served five years before his conviction was quashed in 1986.

Kevin moved to County Louth in 1990 and was a key figure in the election of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams to the Dáil in 2011, and his subsequent re-election with party colleague Imelda Munster in 2016.

He continued to work for justice and was involved in a number of organisations including the seminal ex-prisoners group, Fáilte Abhaile, as well as the Muirhevnamor Community Council and later, Louth Leader Partnership.

North Belfast Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said: “Republicans in North Belfast and the wider republican family were devastated to learn of the passing of Kevin Mulgrew.

“Kevin was a man that needs no introduction to republicans the length and breadth of this island. From a teenager he dedicated every ounce of his being to resisting occupation and securing a better future for his community and country.

“Whatever the struggle required, Kevin was there to be found.

“An ex-political prisoner and stalwart of our struggle, Kevin brought immense energy and enthusiasm to every aspect of his activism and life.

“Kevin was a supporter of the peace process and a republican activist until the end, he played a pivotal role in successfully organising and building Sinn Féin in Louth over many years.

“Kevin showed his mettle not only in his political activism, but in recent times how he bravely fought his illness.

“He will be missed greatly by all that had the pleasure of knowing him and working with him, but none more so than his loving family.

“I want to send my sincere condolences to his wife Rosie, daughter Therese, sons Kevin and Dominic, his grandchildren and wider family circle.”

Kevin is survived by his loving wife Rosie (née Hale), daughter Therese, sons Kevin and Dominic, and their partners Stephen, Kelly and Rachel, grandchildren Clíodhna, Caoimhín and Saorlaith, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, extended family neighbours and his many friends.

His funeral Mass took place at the Church of Holy Family, Dundalk yesterday (Wednesday)  followed by burial in Saint Patrick's Cemetery.