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Tributes paid to 'visionary' Queen's University professor

Queen's University Vice Chancellor Paddy Johnston, who died suddenly at the weekend. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE sudden death of Queen's vice chancellor Patrick Johnston has been described as a loss that will be felt, not only at home but, "right around the world where he was hugely respected".

Tributes have been paid to Queen's University vice chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston following his sudden death at the weekend.

The 59-year-old was the driving force behind the creation of Northern Ireland Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.

His death was announced in a short statement by chief operating officer at Queen's James O'Kane, who said there was a "deep sense of shock and loss" at the "untimely and sudden death".

In 2012 Professor Johnston received a Diamond Jubilee Anniversary Prize from Queen Elizabeth for his role in medical research care that led to a reduction in cancer mortality rates in Northern Ireland.

In his last newspaper interview with the Irish News, less than two weeks ago, Professor Johnston spoke of concerns over rising tuition fees and the impact Brexit would have on Queen's international students.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell, who was a friend of Mr Johnston, paid tribute saying his death "is a terrible loss to Queen's University, cancer research and Northern Ireland.

"Professor Johnston was a powerful figure, working to find a cure for cancer. One of his greatest achievements is undoubtedly leading the establishment of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology in Belfast", he said.

Close friend, business consultant Frank Costello said he was a "visionary and leader with so much more ahead of him".

DUP leader Arlene Foster said he was "inspirational in the field of cancer research and was a dynamic Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University.

"His loss will be felt not just at home here in Northern Ireland but right around the world where he was hugely respected".

Sinn Féin's Máirtin Ó Muilleoir said his loss "will be keenly felt also by all those who admired his determination to find a cure for cancer".

Former Department of Education and Learning minister Stephen Farry said he was a "major loss" who was "putting QUB on the global stage".

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