Publisher Barry O’Kane, who has died aged 47, was one of Northern Ireland’s larger-than-life characters, with a passion for newspapers, magazines and the entertainment business.
He was a familiar figure in his home village of Crumlin, Co Antrim, where he lived with wife Jennifer and their three young children, Aine, Bronagh and Barry Billy.
He was the man behind the Crumlin News and was busy launching another paper, the Co Antrim News, when he became ill at his home in Weavers Meadow.
A son of the late Jim O’Kane, a Republican Labour councillor who owned the Starry Plough pub in the New Lodge area of Belfast, Barry got a taste for publishing and journalism when he started the Big Buzz entertainment magazine, of which he was editor.
He and Jennifer were behind the original Big Buzz Awards and down the years invited well-known television personalities to Belfast to take part. Barry, a brother of comedian Jake O’Kane, used to take over the Europa Hotel for the entertainment nights at which there were more than 20 categories and which were a highlight of the showbusiness calendar. Apart from his weekly papers, Barry published the Good Wedding Guide, the Good Food Guide and the Hair and Beauty Guide.
And he had just come up with the idea for a magazine called ‘Battered’ for the fish and chip trade. He was also behind the Chip Shop Awards.
Paying tribute to Barry, Michelle McTiernan, of PR Management, said: “He was a well-loved figure, especially in his home village of Crumlin where people are shocked at the suddenness of his passing.”
Broadcaster Robin Elliott, a friend of Barry’s, added: “He definitely was larger-than-life and a dedicated family man who worked non-stop for charities like Shine a Light and Starlight.”
David Neilly, manager of the Limelight Club in Belfast, below where Barry once had an office, said: “He was always willing to stop for a yarn about the entertainment business and showbusiness characters when he passed by the Limelight on his way down from his place on the first floor.
“He knew most of the local entertainers personally.”
The Crumlin News office in the village has been closed as a mark of respect until further notice.