Nuala McKeever: my heartache at death of partner
Actress's shock as she finds body
One of Northern Ireland's best known actresses has spoken of her shock and distress after the sudden death of her partner Mike Moloney.
Comedienne Nuala McKeever has been left grief-stricken after discovering the well-known performer dead at his north Belfast home on Saturday.
His body was found close to a ladder and it is not clear if the 59-year-old director of the Prison Arts Foundation suffered a fall or perhaps a heart attack.
A post-mortem to establish the cause of his death is to be carried out.
Mike, an Australian father-of-one who had been living in Northern Ireland since the 1970s, has been described as an inspirational character by all who knew him.
On Sunday night, an emotional Nuala said her partner had touched the lives of many people.
"His friends and family are heartbroken," she said.
"The tributes people have been paying to him are overwhelming.
"He was a part of the lives of so many people. He was a very inspirational man and gave people so much joy.
"He gave people the chance to shine when they needed it most and made them believe in themselves."
In 1985, Mike founded the Belfast Community Circus while a lecturer in physical theatre at the Belfast Institute of Further Education. He then worked as a drama specialist for the Northern Ireland Prison Service from 1991 to 1997 .
He joined the Prison Arts Foundation in 1997 as a development officer and had been its director since 2005.
Close friend Geoff Moore, a Prison Arts Foundation board member, said several ex-prisoners have been in touch to say their lives were changed forever by Mike and the arts programmes he ran.
"Mike was absolutely adored by prisoners," Geoff said.
"They knew he was a person who had their welfare at heart.
"Because of Mike, many of them gave up criminal activity and became decent members of society.
"Many say they owed their lives to him." Northern Ireland's arts community has been left shocked and saddened by Mike's sudden death.
Actor Dan Gordon worked with him and prisoners from Hydebank on the Sons of Ulster play and documentary.
"His death is an absolute tragedy," Dan said. "Such a loss; the space Mike Moloney has left behind him is huge.
"He thought outside the box, he was never flustered and he worked with people most want nothing or little to do with.
"The loss to Prison Arts will be incalculable."
Belfast actor and director Peter Quigley said: "Mike was nicknamed Belfast's Wizard of Oz. He did so much for the circus and his prison programmes transformed the lives of so many people."
Katie Richardson, singer with Katie and the Carnival, was also upset to learn her mentor had died.
"I've known Mike since I started out in the arts," she said.
"He was very supportive and so incredibly encouraging and caring."
Meanwhile, a statement on the Belfast Book Festival Facebook page said: "Mike inspired and empowered many people to change there lives through art."
Mike's family in Australia are making their way to Northern Ireland. His funeral is likely to be towards the end of this week.