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An old friend from my Alliance Party days, Mervyn Jones, died suddenly last week. He was 66.

When I saw the news (via a mutual friend on Twitter), I stared at the computer screen for a few minutes, as you do, and then wrote down a couple of memories of him for my Facebook readers, particularly those who knew him.
This is really sad news.

My activist days are long behind me now, but I'll always remember Mervyn for a particular act of kindness in the mid-1990s; he brought me as his guest to a civic dinner in Belfast City Hall, and spent the evening filling me in on his life experience and his personal philosophy - contrarian, sceptical and decent. He was one of the quiet heroes of Belfast politics then, and I guess since.

It seems somehow an appropriate commentary on his devotion to his political role that colleagues realised something must be wrong when he unexpectedly missed last night's City Council meeting.

I last spoke to him only a few weeks ago when, generous as ever, he helped me out with a relatively minor but crucial communications problem, expecting nothing but my thanks in return.

They don't make many like him, and now there is one less. My thoughts are with his family. (Mervyn would not really have appreciated anyone's prayers.)
Rather to my surprise, most of this appeared as part of a newspaper story yesterday, bracketed with the party leader's own tribute to Mervyn.

There is a part of me that is annoyed that the journalist who wrote the piece did not contact me to check if it was OK to use my words. (For the record, the editor of the newspaper apologised to me when I contacted her to complain, and of course I accept her apology.)

On the other hand, the primary audience who I really wanted to reach were Mervyn's loved ones. I don't know them, and they don't know me. So they won't have seen my Facebook post, but they will have seen the newspaper piece. And if giving them some comfort and reassurance that Mervyn's influence for good had spread more widely than they perhaps realised, comes at the cost of me being very slightly miffed about how the information reached them, it's a price I am willing to pay; their feelings are what really matter in this case.

But it's also a reminder that in these days, anything you put online (or indeed may have put online years ago) can be considered fair game by a journalist in a hurry.

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