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Former PM Tony Blair pays tribute to respected ex-Tele correspondent Des McCartan

By Staff Reporter

Ex-UK Prime Minister and international statesman Tony Blair has paid tribute to former Belfast Telegraph Westminster correspondent Des McCartan, who has died.

In a heartfelt message, the Edinburgh-born former Labour party leader spoke of his sadness at learning of Mr McCartan's death.

"I was very sad to hear about the tragic and untimely death of Des McCartan," Mr Blair said.

"Des was a much respected, insightful and widely admired journalist, professional to the core. Although he spent most of his career in Westminster, he was passionate about Northern Ireland and its people - and that was reflected in his always sensitive and thoughtful coverage of the peace process.

"He will be sorely missed by all those who had the pleasure of knowing him for the kind and compassionate man that he was."

Mr McCartan fractured his skull in a fall on March 22, the same day as the terrorist attack on the Houses of Parliament.

He was taken to St Mary's Hospital in west London, which was also treating people injured in the attack.

Mr McCartan never regained consciousness, and his life support was removed a week later.

Mr Blair's tribute comes a day after his former spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, also paid his respects to Mr McCartan.

"I am so sad to hear of Des's death. He was a fine journalist and a good man," Mr Campbell said.

"He was acutely aware of the special place in the politics of Northern Ireland that the Bel Tel had, and he took real care over what he reported and thought deeply about the impact his reporting could have.

"He cared deeply about the story because he cared deeply about where he came from," he added.

Desmond joined the Belfast Telegraph in 1968, after previously working as a reporter for the East Antrim Times, and began reporting on the beginning of the Troubles when a period of serious rioting led to the arrival of the Army on Belfast's streets.

He left the newspaper after 33 years to become chief press officer at the Privy Council Office, with responsibility to the then Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook.

Requiem Mass for Des McCartan is to be held at Ealing Abbey on Friday, April 21, at 2pm.

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