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Tributes to tragic Northern Ireland journalist Austin Hunter


Austin Hunter with his wife Jean

Austin Hunter with his wife Jean

Austin Hunter with his wife Jean

Tributes from family, colleagues and politicians have been paid to one of Northern Ireland's most well known and respected journalists, Austin Hunter.

A former editor of the News Letter, BBC broadcaster and PR man, Mr Hunter was 64 when he died on Saturday evening after being hit by a car while on a business trip to Bahrain.

His family said in a statement they were "absolutely devastated at the loss of a loving husband, father and grandfather".

They added: "We are deeply touched by the warm tributes paid by so many and they have given us some comfort at this awful time."

Mr Hunter began his 45-year career in the media as a newspaper reporter for the Strabane Weekly News and Tyrone Constitution before he went on to cover some of the worst days of the Troubles for the BBC.

His tenure as editor for the News Letter saw circulation rise to its highest in eight years.

Later he worked in public relations for the BBC, the police, and the Orange Order.

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Known as a lifelong fan of cricket and hockey, many of his former colleagues praised his skill as a journalist and kindness as a mentor.

Last night, the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen posted a tribute on Twitter.

"Very sad news. Austin was friendly, kind and professional to me when I was a trainee and he was a senior reporter at BBC Belfast in 1984. RIP."

Deric Henderson, former Ireland editor of the Press Association said: "He was a fine, fine journalist, a terrific communicator, trusted and respected by all of us within, as well as outside, an extremely stressful and challenging business."

UTV News presenter Paul Clark said: "Deeply saddened by the death of Austin Hunter - a superb journalist and a humble human being. I never heard anyone say a bad word about him."

News Letter editor Alistair Bushe said he was "shocked and devastated" by the news and described Mr Hunter as a "hugely respected and well liked figure".

Grand Master Edward Stevenson from the Orange Order praised Mr Hunter's "vast expertise and professionalism".

"As well as being an absolute gentleman and an individual of the utmost integrity, Austin was a colossus in the field of journalism and public relations," he said.

First Minister Arlene Foster called him "a man of deep integrity and objectivity who was respected by all who knew him or came in contact with him."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he remembered Mr Hunter as: "A very good journalist and nice man. My sympathy to his wife and family."

The UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: "I admired him both as a professional broadcaster and as a fine human being who was always keener on talking about others rather than himself".

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