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John DA Robb (died 13 February 2018, aged 85)


Born in Downpatrick in County Down before moving to Ballymoney in County Antrim, John David Alexander Robb was educated at Rockport School in Holywood, at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh and at Queen’s University where he earned a MB BCh BAO degree in 1957.

A notable Northern Ireland surgeon, John practised from the late 1960s onwards and throughout ‘The Troubles’, always striving to preserve the highest medical standards and to serve the entire community, from whichever tradition. He went on to become the world-leading surgeon for kneecap repair.

John was from a liberal Presbyterian tradition and was a member of the Wolfe Tone Society from the 1960s. Throughout his life, he wrote extensively on matters pertaining to political and social reconciliation on the island of Ireland. He helped to found the New Ireland Movement in Lombard’s Café in 1972 and in 1982 set up the New Ireland Group, which promoted a much wider vision of Irish society, ‘where Gael and Planter could work together and live in peace’.

In the same year he was appointed to Seanad Éireann by Taoiseach Charles Haughey. He was a member of the Seanad for seven years (over 3 terms) and remains one of relatively few Ulster Protestants to have served in the upper house of the Irish parliament. He was one of the first individuals to wear a poppy in the Irish Senate.

John also served for a number of years on Queen's Senate (the University’s governing body) and on Convocation (the graduate body), bringing his characteristic sharpness and wit to discussions and debates.

Paying tribute to him, Irish President Michael D Higgins said that John Robb was: “A voice not only for peace but for reconciliation, for recognising all traditions and beliefs on the island of Ireland, and the making of a future in which all in Ireland could share.

“One could not but be impressed by his deep humanity, and his unstinting efforts to encourage new thinking in politics. At a personal level, he was a joy to meet, always optimistic, an all-islander in the best sense.

“To have known him as a friend and regular correspondent was a privilege,” added President Higgins.

Examples of Dr John Robb’s written work can be found on the New Ireland Vision website.

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