Taoiseach Micheál Martin has led tributes to owner and chairman of The Irish News, Jim Fitzpatrick, who died this morning after a short illness.
Mr Fitzpatrick, who was 93, played an active role in the newspaper – which is Northern Ireland’s largest selling morning paper – for more than half a century.
Mr Martin said Mr Fitzpatrick was “a profoundly important advocate for an end to violence in the North”, with his role in the earliest days of the peace process “not widely known,” but “crucial.”
“I had the great privilege of knowing and interacting with Jim over many years. He was, in every respect, a true gentleman,” he said.
“In his decades-long stewardship of The Irish News, he was a profoundly important advocate for an end to violence in the North. His role in the earliest days of the embryonic peace process is not widely known, but it was crucial.
“In his support for and leadership of the Chamber of Commerce in Belfast, he brought together people from all backgrounds in common constructive cause and was an example of true civic leadership.
“In his quiet and ceaseless philanthropy over a lifetime, his generosity has left its stamp all across Belfast and further afield.
“Jim had a deep and true faith, which he carried with kindness and humility, and which sustained him following the sad death of his beloved wife Alice in 2013.
“Jim’s eight children and wider family circle will feel his loss acutely, but I hope that they can also take comfort and some pride in the knowledge that their father made a genuinely positive contribution to Belfast and to Ireland over the course of his life.
“To Anne, Brid, Bernard, Eileen, Dominic, Clare, Jim Jnr and Andrew, to the wider family circle, to his colleagues in The Irish News, and to his many friends I offer my heartfelt condolences. Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also paid tribute, calling Mr Fitzpatrick “one of the giants of news in Ireland.”
Current editor of The Irish News, Noel Doran, said Mr Fitzpatrick was a “giant of the newspaper industry as well as a key figure in the search for peace and reconciliation in Ireland who also had significant roles in law, business and the arts”.