Northern Ireland news

Tributes paid to respected production journalist and NUJ stalwart

Mr O'Rourke died on Thursday
Suzanne McGonagle

A WONDERFUL storyteller, respected production journalist and stalwart of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), tributes have been paid to Peter O'Rourke.

Friends and colleagues of Mr O'Rourke, also known as Peadar, have remembered him as "renowned journalist and an unwavering NUJ member" following his death on Thursday.

He worked at The Irish News as a sub-editor from the late 1970s, where he also compiled a popular column on Irish traditional music.

An active member of the NUJ from 1958, he held posts of chair, vice-chair and treasurer of the Belfast Branch. He served two terms on the Irish Executive Council and was granted 'life membership' of the NUJ in 2011.

Irish News editor Noel Doran said "Peadar was a valued and long-standing colleague who was regarded with great affection by everyone at the paper".

"He was a respected production journalist who also built up a huge following for his Duchas column on the traditional music scene over many years," he said.

"Our sincere sympathies go out to his family."

Séamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, said he was dedicated to the NUJ and was a "familiar figure" at conferences in UK and Ireland.

"His contributions to debates were usually brief and inevitably laced with humour," he said.

"He was a wonderful storyteller and loved social gatherings.

"He could always be persuaded to join in a song song - indeed more often he would initiate the singing session after sometimes heated business sessions. He had an ability to bring people together.

"Peter had a great knowledge of traditional music and was generous in sharing that knowledge. He was an important figure in promoting awareness of traditional and folk music and was chuffed to hear that I had discovered him on YouTube.

"His great friendship with veteran Northern Ireland John McNulty, was an example of how journalists from different traditions worked together to protect and defend journalism during the Troubles through the union.

"Peter was very proud of the NUJ and of his association with the Irish News. Condolences to his family, friends and NUJ comrades."

NUJ Irish organiser Ian McGuinness added that Mr O'Rourke was a "stalwart of the union and Belfast Branch in particular".

"Even after his retirement from journalism, Peter remained determined to serve the new generations of journalists who came after him, through his continuing NUJ activism in Belfast Branch and on the Irish Executive Council," he said.

"Peter’s unwavering support for his NUJ colleagues, is type of membership that is the very bedrock of the trade union movement.

"As well as a renowned journalist and an unwavering NUJ member, Peter was also a kind, gentle and thoughtful man, who will be sorely missed by the union and Belfast Branch in particular."

Northern Ireland news