Tributes to flamboyant unionist peer Laird, dead at 74
Tributes were being paid last night to one of Northern Ireland's most colourful politicians after the death of Lord Laird at the age of 74.
The House of Lords cross-bencher had been a long-time member of the Ulster Unionists, and was renowned for his love of Ulster-Scots culture.
It is understood he died in hospital last night after having been ill for some time.
John Dunn Laird joined the Lords in July 1999, becoming Baron Laird of Artigarvan.
He established the successful John Laird Public Relations firm in 1976, later called JPR.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said: "My deepest sympathies go to Lord Laird's family and in particular to his wife Carol and his children Alison and David.
"John was a larger than life character, who cared deeply for Northern Ireland. He will be sadly missed by his family and wide circle of friends."
Ulster Unionist peer Lord Rogan said: "John was a lifelong friend and unionist, and was the best man at my wedding. We entered the Lords together in 1999 and shared an office in the Palace of Westminster.
"He was a great stalwart for Northern Ireland and I deeply regret his passing. Lorna and I send our condolences to Carol, Alison, David and the wider family circle."
Ulster Unionist chairman Lord Empey added: "I've known John since we were in the Young Unionists together.
"He had a lifetime commitment to unionism and Ulster-Scots culture which he demonstrated in his own colourful and flamboyant way. I want to express my condolences to Carol, Alison, David and the wider Laird family."
The kilt-wearing unionist served as chairman of the cross-border Ulster-Scots Agency, but found himself at the centre of controversy in the role after it was revealed that he had spent thousands of pounds on taxis between Dublin and Northern Ireland for "personal security" reasons.
Often the Lords' most expensive peer when it came to annual expenses, he justified himself as good value, estimating that he had asked around 14,000 written questions in 18 years.
In 1970 he became the youngest MP in the old Stormont parliament, after winning the seat of Belfast Saint Anne's in a by-election caused by the death of his father, Dr Norman Laird.
He was expelled from the Ulster Unionist parliamentary party in 1972 after backing a DUP motion opposing a ban on Twelfth parades.