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Northern Ireland tributes to 'kind, vulnerable' It girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

By Claire O'Boyle

Showbiz names from across Northern Ireland paid tribute last night to Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, who died yesterday aged just 45.

The former 'It girl' passed away at home in London, just months after revealing she was battling a brain tumour.

Gloria Hunniford said Tara, Prince Charles' god-daughter, had an "incredible presence".

Socialite Tara, who spoke of her battle with drugs in the past, was found dead at her south west London home yesterday.

Police said they were treating her death as unexplained but not suspicious.

TV veteran Gloria, who interviewed Tara over the years, said: "I met Tara a few times, interviewing her and running into her at different events.

"I remember her incredible presence to this day. She was not one to be overlooked or ignored, and despite a lot of negativity that surrounded her because of drugs, underneath she was a very talented person and her presence was felt the moment she walked into a room.

"I know she played the piano very well and I remember her doing really well on a TV talent show. I'm very sad she's passed away because she really did have a lot to offer."

Chris Love, who runs Belfast's Love PR, met the former I'm A Celebrity Star when he was working at Paul Rankin's Cayenne restaurant.

"I was working as the host at the time, and it really was the place to be for celebrities when they came to the city," said Chris.

"But while most were really in and out, very businesslike for their meal, Tara was different. She was really a very warm, bubbly person and you could tell straight away why she was called an 'It girl'.

"She wasn't pretentious at all, she was very engaging and a lot of fun. She was dressed all in black with a little Louis Vuitton weekend bag.

"I know she had her troubles with drugs and things, but the night I met her she was lovely."

Chris recalled an incredibly kind gesture Tara made during her stay in the city. "She was staying at the Europa and she'd bumped in to a newly married couple," said Chris.

"She had a suite but said, 'What good is it to me?' So she swapped rooms with them. It was such a nice thing to do I've never forgotten it - or her."

After starring alongside Tara on 2007's Comic Relief Does Fame Academy - which Tara went on to win with her memorable performance of These Boots are Made for Walking - former Miss Northern Ireland Zoe Salmon said she was deeply saddened to hear about Tara.

"She was an incredible talent and an all round entertainer," the former Blue Peter presenter said. "We lived together in the Academy and I slept opposite Tara. She was so much fun to be around, she was the life and soul of the party.

"What I will remember most about Tara is her generosity and thoughtfulness. I recall her lending me an item of clothing and then insisting that I kept it. I still wear it all these years later."

Enniskillen-born actor Charlie Lawson, best known for his role as Jim McDonald in Coronation Street, tweeted that he had met her on several occasions.

He described her as "vulnerable, affectionate, and lovely - liked her a lot".

In November, Tara revealed she had been fighting a brain tumour since January 2016. She said: "I went to the doctors to talk about my latest blood test results when I got back from skiing in January. I said, 'What does this mean? Can you translate it?'

"And the doctor said, 'As I suspected, you have a brain tumour'.

"I got terribly frightened. I started thinking, 'I'm going to die, I'm going to die. I've only got a couple of weeks to live.'"

She was also suffering from an auto-immune disease which left her with tiredness, joint pain and acute anaemia.

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