IRISH community leaders have paid tribute following the death of Labour MP Tony Lloyd.
Mr Lloyd, who was one of the longest-serving MPs in Britain, was a committed supporter of the Irish community and a proud member of the diaspora.
In a statement his family confirmed his death yesterday afternoon following a battle with cancer.
“We are absolutely devastated to announce the death of Sir Tony Lloyd, our beloved Joe, Dad and Grandad,” they said.
“He died peacefully this morning, surrounded by his family, as was his wish,” they confirmed.
Described as a man whose passion was “helping others” Mr Lloyd’s family said he was “working until a few days before his death”.
First diagnosed with cancer last year, Mr Lloyd said in a statement made on January 11 that it had “transformed into an aggressive and untreatable form of leukaemia”.
He added that he and was leaving hospital to “spend the time I have left with my family”.
The 73-year-old, who was born in Stretford, Greater Manchester, to parents with Irish roots, went on to become a Member of Parliament, a role which he held for a total of 36 years.
First serving as the MP for Stretford from 1983 to 1997, her was the MP for Manchester Central from 1997 to 2012 and later represented Rochdale from 2017 until his death this week.
Between 2012 and 2017 Mr Lloyd was the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner.
He was also the interim Mayor of Greater Manchester from 2015-17.
From 2018 to 2020 he was Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Northern Ireland.
In 2022 the MP secured a historic debate on the Irish diaspora in Britain in the House of Commons.
During the discussion, which took place on St Patrick’s Day, he shared his pride in his own Irish heritage, stating: “Those of us who have some claim to an Irish background are very proud of that background.
“I grew up in the very Irish city of Manchester, and in an Irish part of that city, listening to Radio Eireann at breakfast every morning,” he added.
“I am proud to be part of the hand-me-down Irish diaspora,” he explained.
“I am proud because the Irish in Britain represent the best of modern Britain, as do all those who weave the tapestry of what we are as a nation.”
Tributes and condolences have flooded in from friends and former colleagues within that diaspora and across Ireland following his death.
SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said his passing was “heartbreaking”.
“Tony Lloyd was a good friend and a great political figure,” the MP for Foyle said.
“Like many others who had the privilege of knowing him, I am devastated to have lost a fierce friend and a good person.
“Tony has such a strong affinity and connection with Ireland,” he added.
“I was delighted to have him with us in Derry over the summer. He was full of advice, support and good craic.
“He was as at home in Derry or Donegal as he was with his beloved family in Rochdale and Manchester.”
Former Irish Ambassador to Britain, Adrian O’Neill also paid his respects, upon hearing the “very sad news”.
“Tony had a deep understanding of Ireland,” he said.
“As Shadow Secretary of Northern Ireland, he was admired and respected on all sides,” he added.
“Tony was unfailingly helpful and courteous and will be greatly missed.”
The Irish Embassy in Britain has also shared its condolences, stating they are “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Tony Lloyd MP, who served as Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and worked to support many Irish community organisations in Britain throughout his career”.
Umbrella organisation Irish in Britain, which represents Irish organisations across the country, claim Mr Lloyd was “a great friend of the Irish community in Britain”.
They further described him as “a champion of the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions that turned history on these islands”.
Funeral details have yet to be announced.