Northern Ireland news

Comedian Jeremy Hardy who launched campaign into Robert Hamill murder has died aged 57

Comedian Jeremy Hardy has died from cancer

AN ENGLISH comedian who launched a campaign into the murder of Catholic man Robert Hamill has died after suffering from cancer.

Stand-up Jeremy Hardy (57) was known for his appearances on Mock The Week and Radio 4 shows The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

His publicist Amanda Emery said that Mr Hardy "retained to the end the principles that guided his life; trying to make the world more humane, and to be wonderfully funny".

She said the comedian died yesterday with his wife and daughter at his side.

Mr Hardy was a leading campaigner into the murder of Mr Hamill in Portadown, Co Armagh, in April 1997.

The 25-year-old died after he and his friends were attacked by a group of loyalists in the town. The case has been dogged by allegations that police colluded with Mr Hamill's killers.

Mr Hardy ran a campaign into the murder for several years until a public inquiry was launched. He wrote that he had been deeply affected by the loyalist murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson, who acted for the Hamill family, in Lurgan in 1999.

In his book My Family and Other Strangers, Mr Hardy wrote that the Hamill campaign was a "cottage industry".

"My main input was the newspaper column and organising benefits. I spent almost all my time on the campaign until we got the inquiry, and then I just couldn't do it any more," he said.

Mr Hardy was also one of several showbusiness figures who campaigned to clear the name of Danny McNamee.

Mr McNamee was found guilty of the IRA's 1982 Hyde Park bombing but his conviction was overturned in 1998.

As part of his other campaigning work, Mr Hardy spoke out about the rights of Palestinians and travelled to the West Bank in 2002 to film the documentary Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli Army.

Paul O'Connor from human rights lobby group the Pat Finucane Centre said he was saddened by Mr Hardy's death and extended his sympathies to the comedian's family and friends.

"It was quite shocking news," he said. "He had played a fundraiser for us in Derry in 1999. That was the last event that Rosemary Nelson spoke at before she was killed. I remember how shocked Jeremy was by her death.

"He was a very, very funny man and a great campaigner.

"He supported the Palestinians. He was English and supported the Irish. He was a man and supported women's rights."

Impressionist Rory Bremner wrote on Twitter: "Sad beyond measure that Jeremy Hardy died this morning. Unfussy, unshowy, principled, self-deprecating, hugely loved and admired by his fellow comedians, and funnier than the lot of us put together. A unique comedian and a lovely man."

BBC Radio 4 tweeted: "We are desperately sad to announce that Jeremy Hardy, mainstay of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and The News Quiz, and one of the funniest people around, has died of cancer aged 57. Our thoughts are with all who knew and loved him."

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