NDP MLA Eileen O'Connell dies

Provincial politicians took some time to remember and offer kind words about New Democrat Eileen O'Connell. The Halifax-Fairview MLA passed away Wednesday after a two-year battle with breast cancer.

Tenacious, committed and determined. Those are just some of the words being used to describe the teacher-turned politician. Just two months ago she helped her friend and colleague Helen MacDonald win the leader's job.

"When she knew something was right she just continued to work hard at it," MacDonald says. "And that kind of commitment is something we can all use a little bit more of."

MacDonald says O'Connell was not only committed to her constituents and her battle for better education, but she also believed in her party.

"She believed from the bottom of her heart in what it was to be a New Democrat in Nova Scotia," MacDonald says. "She knew that we could make Nova Scotia a better place."

Premier John Hamm also offered kind words in O'Connell's memory. "I always listened to Eileen in debate," he said. "Because she never got up to speak unless she had something really to say." Hamm says he'll miss O'Connell's humour and quick wit, as well her occasional poetry in the legislature, as will many others.

Eileen O'Connell was 53 years old. She was first elected to the legislature in a byelection in 1996 and was re-elected in 1998 and 1999.

Arrangements are now being made for a memorial service and her family is asking the public to respect their privacy. Messages for the family can be left at the NDP Caucus Office at 424-4134, or can be e-mailed to her constituency office at fairview@navnet.net.