Rev Brian Kennaway was ‘a great man whose honesty, integrity, holiness and courage was totally genuine’

Rev Brian Kennaway has passed away in hospital
Rev Brian Kennaway has passed away in hospital

Tributes have been paid to former Presbyterian minister and political commentator Rev Brian Kennaway, who has passed away peacefully in hospital.

He had been husband of Elizabeth, father of Ian, Mark and David, father-in-law of Fran and loving Grandpa of Sophie and Jennifer. He died on Monday.

Rev Kennaway was brought up in north Belfast and after a time in industry graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 1972.

He attended Union Theological College Belfast and was ordained into the Ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1976, a socially conservative cleric who served in Crumlin, from where he retired in 2009.

After that he continued to serve on a number of church committees.

He joined the Orange Order in 1964 and wrote extensively on Orangeism and Unionism for newspapers and journals, although left the organisation in more recent years.

Author and commentator Ruth Dudley Edwards described him as a “dear friend” adding that he was “a wonderful man whom I will greatly miss”.

She noted that he was a supporter of former UUP leader David Trimble and the Good Friday Agreement.

He did not support joint church services with the Catholic church, she noted, but he was “profoundly religiously tolerant”.

She added: “He would talk to anyone, and made working relationships with republicans.”

The minister was a former President of the Irish Association, which works to promote co-operation across the island of Ireland. In a tweet, it said it was “deeply saddened” to hear of his death and that he was “deeply committed to the values of dialogue and debate across the island”. Speaking at the 75th Anniversary of the association, he said “we are committed to a positive future in this our island home – because this island belongs to all of us” it added.

Former Presbyterian Moderator, and personal friend, Very Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, said Mr Kennaway, in his faith convictions, did not have shades of gray. “Issues always seemed for him, black and white, right or wrong,” he said. “Nevertheless, he had this canny ability to work with and to garner respect from people with whom he profoundly disagreed on matters of social and political concern to Ireland, north and south.”

Veteran NI journalist Chris Ryder described him as “A great man whose honesty, integrity, holiness and courage was totally genuine” while fellow journalist Hugh Jordan affirmed him as “A great man indeed”. Commentator Tom Kelly added that he was “a lovely guy .. a real thinker and progressive”.

Former Stormont Minister Danny Kennedy described him as “a man of independent thought but he was also a solid Ulster man and a dedicated Minister of the Gospel”.

He was a contributor to the Dictionary of Irish Biography and in 1998 he received an International Visitors Programme (IVP) scholarship sponsored by the United States Information Agency (USIA).

He examined the diverse nature of Education and Church Life, as well as various Conflict Resolution programmes.

In 2003 he visited South Africa as part of a Parades Commission initiative, funded jointly by the Parades Commission and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa

He lectured regularly on history and Orangeism and his book, The Orange Order: A Tradition Betrayed, was published in 2006.

Brian served on the Irish Government’s Inter-Departmental Committee, for the development of the Boyne Site, and was a regular contributor at the Police College of the RUC/PSNI. He was an active member of The Irish Association, serving as President 2009–2014.

He was appointed a member the Parades Commission by the Secretary of State for a three year term 2011–2013, and later served on the Advisory Board of the Institute for British-Irish Studies, at University College Dublin.

He continued to be a regular write and commentator on NI politics, Orangeism and religion up until his death.

A private committal followed by a Service of Thanksgiving will be in First Donegore Presbyterian Church, Ballyclare, on Friday at 1pm.