Daughter leads tributes to former Batley councillor who died on holiday in Vietnam

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Tributes have poured in after a former councillor died while on holiday.

Former Batley West councillor Peter O’Neill, 68, died of unknown natural causes whilst swimming in the ocean in Vietnam with his family over Christmas.

Mr O’Neill stepped down from his role as councillor in May and he was later replaced by his daughter Marielle.

She said: “I am devastated at the loss of my beloved father. My dad was a man of the highest integrity and a high moral character.

“Where he saw wrong he tried to right it, where he saw injustice, he tried to fight it.”

Mr O’Neill was devoted to his wife of 42 years Gillian, his children Dawn, Sean and Marielle and grandchildren Ella, Teo, Jude, Ben and Ted.

He represented his ward for eight years and was an active member in the Kirklees Labour Party.

Coun Marielle O’Neill said her father had strong Labour values and was passionate and committed to the causes hebelieved in.

“He was the most non-judgemental person who always saw the good in others,” she said. “He always gave 100 per cent to everything he did and would go out of his way to help people.

“He will be sorely missed by his family and the local community.”

Batley West Coun Gwen Lowe said: “We are all really shocked and saddened by the news.

“When I first started as a councillor Peter was my agent and we formed a wonderful friendship.

“He was really caring and we laughed and cried together for many years. He will be sadly missed.”

Former colleague and fellow cabinet member Coun Shabir Pandor described the news as a shock, but praised Mr O’Neill as “a man of very high morals and strong principles”.

“He was a very thoughtful, strategic thinker and a very compassionate and very caring person.”

Coun Pandor said Mr O’Neill was a fun person to be around, who “had an awareness of everything around him, and always use to bring a view and opinion which many people may not have thought of.”

He said: “He will be missed but we’ve got his daughter who will carry on his legacy.”

Baroness and councillor Kath Pinnock tweeted: “Very sad news about Peter. Generous with his time, sincere in his views and a true campaigner for social justice.”

Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox said: “Peter was a hard working, deeply committed and passionate advocate for many many causes, not least as a councillor for Batley West. He threw his heart and soul into everything he did and was respected and loved because of it. He had an acute sense of duty and principle that guided his many battles for those less fortunate than himself.

“His death is incredibly sad and unexpected and he will be missed, by many people in Batley and beyond.

“The kindness, friendship and support that Peter and his family showed me personally were major factors in me becoming the MP for Batley and Spen. I will never forget that.

“My thoughts are with his family.”

A funeral and celebration of Peter’s life will be held in Batley and everyone who knew him is welcome to attend.

Contact Coun Marielle O’Neill at Marielle.O’Neill@kirklees.gov.uk for information about the funeral.