Husband of Alliance's ex-deputy leader dies
The husband of a former Assembly Speaker who was dubbed 'Mr Alliance' has passed away after a battle with cancer.
Derek Bell, who gave unwavering support to Alliance's ex-deputy leader Eileen Bell, died on Tuesday.
The party activist worked at Northern Ireland's Housing Executive in the darkest days of the Troubles and will be buried tomorrow in Roselawn cemetery, south Belfast.
He died peacefully at his Co Down home where he lived with his wife on Bangor's Maryville Road.
The family have asked for donations to be made to the Cancer Focus charity instead of being spent on funeral wreaths.
Mr Bell's wife Eileen was the first Catholic woman to become Speaker in the Northern Ireland Assembly, a position she took in 2006.
The then-Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain praised her as "hugely respected across the political and community divide in Northern Ireland".
But Mrs Bell's late husband Derek was last night said to have been the driving force behind her success, as he carried out relentless campaigning for Alliance and advised his wife throughout her career.
Mrs Bell was reportedly too distraught yesterday to speak about her husband's death.
Alliance MLA for East Antrim Stewart Dickson last night paid tribute to Mr Bell for helping his wife to success and supporting the party.
He said: "Derek and Eileen were for years known as 'Mr and Mrs Alliance'.
"Derek was a tremendous support of Eileen during the years when she was the party's general secretary and Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
"Derek always drove her everywhere as Eileen could not drive, and he was an active party canvasser and an adviser on party policies.
"He contributed so much to the life of Alliance and was one of its leading lights as he gave so passionately to its aim of uniting Northern Ireland's communities.
"He will be sorely missed by Eileen and the party."