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Tributes to union leader Frank Bunting

By Catherine Lynagh

Tributes have been paid to former Northern Ireland teachers' union leader Frank Bunting who has lost his battle with cancer.

Mr Bunting, the northern secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO), was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2009.

His cousin and fellow trade unionist Peter Bunting described him as a non-sectarian man "dedicated to all workers". "He contributed in a number of senses to an inclusive society in Northern Ireland," he said.

The west Belfast man, who announced his retirement earlier this year, worked as a teacher before spending 20 years with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Peter Bunting added: "He was dedicated to teachers and all workers. He was to the forefront of rejuvenating the May Day festival."

Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "Frank's loss will be felt by those right across the education sector, but it will be felt most keenly by those closest to him and my thoughts are with his family circle at this difficult time."

Mervyn Storey, DUP chairman of the Assembly's Education Committee, said Mr Bunting was "someone with a passion for his profession". "While Frank and I had different views on issues relating to education, I always found him to be willing to engage and courteous in his manner,'' he said.

SDLP education spokesperson Conall McDevitt said Mr Buntingwas a thoughtful union leader - "honest, noble and talented''.

In one of his last interviews, Mr Bunting told the Belfast Telegraph last year that he had opted for a trial treatment in an effort to prolong his life. He said: "I had chemotherapy but I also went for the trial drug at the same time.

"At the time I was given my diagnosis I thought about what I wanted to do, about whether I wanted to go travelling to somewhere like Thailand, but I didn't want to do that.

"I just wanted to continue working. I get a lot of pleasure out of it, it's a very interesting job."

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