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Tributes to former MLA Billy Bell following death at 84

Billy Bell

Tributes have been paid to the former UUP MLA Billy Bell who has died at the age of 84.

Mr Bell was born in Belfast in 1935.

He worked in marketing and public relations running Billy Bell Promotions.

He entered politics in 1975 serving as a Belfast councillor and was Lord Mayor in 1979. He later was elected to Lisburn Borough Council again serving as mayor.

He was elected to the NI Assembly between 1982 and 1986 and later was an MLA for the new Assembly in 1998 for Lagan Valley serving until 2007. He was UUP spokesman for finance.

He also served on numerous public bodies including the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum Board and the Board of the NI Housing Executive.

He was also personal assistant to Jim Molyneaux for 20 years.

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Billy Bell elected in 1975

Billy Bell elected in 1975

Billy Bell elected in 1975

UUP MLA Robbie Butler MLA, who was mentored by Mr Bell, said he was deeply saddened at his passing.

“Billy had a long and distinguished career as a public representative," he said.

"Billy had the honour of representing the people of Lagan Valley in the Assembly – as I do now - and I have often heard his name mentioned by constituents.

"He was one of those people who was held in very high esteem, even by those who may have regarded themselves as political opponents. Although he was a proud unionist to his core, Billy wanted to make politics work in Northern Ireland and to find a path to a better, peaceful and more prosperous future for all our people.

“Billy, like the late Ivan Davis, was a member of the original Assembly team of 1998. Both men supported and mentored me in my political career and for their support, advice, kindness and wisdom, I will be eternally grateful to them.

“Billy made friends far more easily than he made enemies and the word I have heard most often associated with him was ‘gentleman.’

"He will be fondly remembered not just by his fellow Ulster Unionists, but by people right across Northern Ireland and indeed far beyond. On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party I would like to extend my deepest and sincerest sympathies to Billy’s wife Leona, the family circle and his many friends.”

Belfast Telegraph