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Tributes paid to broadcaster Paddy O'Flaherty after he dies aged 73

Veteran journalist Paddy O'Flaherty pictured an art exhibition in March. Picture by Martin Nelson

WITH a voice that caressed the airwaves, Paddy O'Flaherty was quite simply one of Northern Ireland's best known broadcasters.

One of "nature's gentlemen" who was the "embodiment of all that is best in public service broadcasting," warm tributes were paid last night to the renowned journalist who has passed away following a short illness aged 73.

Not only a well-known voice on the radio, Mr O'Flaherty was also an accomplished musician and keen angler.

The death was announced by the BBC on Tuesday morning on its Good Morning Ulster programme.

Presenter Noel Thompson said Mr O'Flaherty, who was originally from Newry but lived in north Belfast, had "brought a big enthusiasm to every story and had the ability to turn even the most tedious story into the most fascinating".

Mr O'Flaherty worked as a journalist for The Irish News during the 1960s and 70s, covering the early Troubles and civil rights movement for the newspaper. He also wrote the 'Pat Brady' country music column for the newspaper before moving to the BBC.

He presented and reported on a range of Radio Ulster programmes including Good Morning Ulster and Evening Extra, as well as reading television and radio news bulletins for the corporation.

A life-long supporter of country music, he built up a huge following for his radio programmes, first on Downtown Radio and then on BBC Radio Ulster with the long-running Country Club in which many stars appeared, including Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.

Mr O'Flaherty also presented Make Mine Country on BBC NI television.

Away from the broadcasting studio, Mr O'Flaherty was a keen angler and was the angling reporter on BBC Radio Ulster's Your Place and Mine during the 1990's as well as a keen conservationist.

Adam Smyth, editor of BBC Northern Ireland Radio Current Affairs and Digital News NI, described him as "one of the best radio broadcasters these islands have ever produced, a tremendous character and a man whose name was synonymous with BBC Radio Ulster".

Peter Johnston, director BBC NI, said: "We were all deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paddy, who for many years was a well-known face and voice across our airwaves and television screens".

Head of BBC News NI Kathleen Carragher said Mr O'Flaherty was "simply a fantastic radio broadcaster".

She said his BBC Radio Ulster reports covered "life in Northern Ireland, the highs and the lows, the people and the places and his skilled radio reports brought the listener to the heart of any story".

"He had a deep love and understanding of Northern Ireland and it informed all his work," she added.

First Minister Arlene Foster said she was "really sorry to hear about Paddy's death. Such a gentle person", while Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Mr O'Flatherty was "a wonderful broadcaster, fiddler and like myself, a fly fisherman".

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt wrote: "Paddy O'Flaherty. Great voice. Great journalist. Great man."

Séamus Dooley from the National Union of Journalists said Mr O'Flaherty was "the embodiment of all that is best in public service broadcasting".

"He had a vast range of interests and that was reflected in his career," he said.

"He covered the darkest days of the Troubles with great sensitivity and as a news reader conveyed bad news to his listeners with appropriate dignity.

"Throughout his journalism career he also reflected the wider facets of life in Northern Ireland."

Louis McConnell, who worked with Mr O'Flaherty in The Irish News and the NUJ, said he was a "unique and entertaining colleague".

Radio presenter Wendy Austin also wrote of her sadness of Twitter at the death of a "lovely colleague", describing him as "one of nature's gentlemen" with a "wonderful voice".

BBC presenter Mark Carruthers said Mr O'Flaherty was a "great colleague and friend over many years", while UTV broadcaster Paul Clark said he was "deeply saddened to hear about the death of Paddy".

"I was a rookie journalist in the Irish News when we first met. What a super voice," he added.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty said Mr O'Flaherty was a "great broadcaster and story-teller, with a voice that caressed the airwaves".

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