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Tributes to driver hailed saviour of Belfast to Derry rail link

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Inspiration: Colm Joyce

Inspiration: Colm Joyce

Inspiration: Colm Joyce

Tributes have been paid to a founder member of the lobby group Into The West credited with saving the Londonderry-to-Belfast railway line.

Colm Joyce (48), a Translink train driver based at the Waterside station in Derry, passed away suddenly on Thursday from a suspected heart attack.

Paying tribute, Eamon McCann from Into The West said the proposal to close the railway line between Derry and Belfast would have gone ahead had Mr Joyce not alerted him and others to the situation.

Mr McCann said: "It is not putting it too high to say that if it hadn't been for Colm, there probably wouldn't be a rail link today between Derry and Belfast.

"It was when a plan emerged to close Derry's last remaining rail connection that Colm, a train driver based at the Waterside station, collected a few of us together and presided over the formation of our rail lobby.

"Ever since, he has been a mentor and a source of inspiration for us all."

Mr McCann, speaking on behalf of all members of the lobby group, said news of Mr Joyce's death brought a deep sense of sadness and shock.

He continued: "Members and supporters of the rail lobby Into The West have been shocked and saddened by news of the sudden death of Colm Joyce, one of the founding members of ITW 20 years ago and an inspiration to us all through the ups and downs of our campaigning ever since.

"Colm's death has hit everyone in Into The West hard. We have yet to come to terms with it.

"We have lost a dear friend as well as a dedicated fellow campaigner.

"Colm was an active and enthusiastic member of his union, Unite.

"We will in time organise an appropriate celebration of Colm's life and pay proper tribute to his role in fighting for rail and for the interests of the north west.

"We tender our deepest sympathy to his wife Aisling and their sons, Matthew and Pearse."

Belfast Telegraph