Northern Ireland

Veteran broadcaster Jim Dougal dies

Jim Dougal, pictured in 1993
Image caption Jim Dougal was a familiar face on local television for many years

Veteran broadcaster Jim Dougal has died at the age of 65.

Mr Dougal held a number of high-profile positions including spells as BBC Northern Ireland political editor and RTE northern editor.

He left broadcasting in 1997 to take up a post with the European Commission in Belfast.

He was later appointed head of the European Commission in the UK, but resigned in 2004. In recent years he worked on programmes at UTV.

Former BBC Northern Ireland head of news and current affairs Keith Baker paid tribute to Mr Dougal's "quietly insistent" style of interviewing.

'Father-confessor'

"He had a very engaging way of doing interviews - it wasn't belligerent or hectoring, but he was insistent and he managed to get answers which other people might not have been able to achieve," he said.

"He was almost like a father-confessor to politicians in many respects - people would tell him things that they wouldn't tell anyone else.

"He was able to act as a conduit between politicians who wouldn't talk to each other."

Former BBC Ireland correspondent Denis Murray said: "He had a very particular style of interviewing, which was you didn't notice the knife being slipped in between your ribs while he was interviewing you.

"I learned a great deal from Jim, not just about journalism but about how to deal with people as well."

Former SDLP leader John Hume said Mr Dougal had made a huge contribution to public life, not only as a journalist but also in his European Commission role.

"His style was courteous. His approach was professional and he brought great authority and gravitas to all aspects of his work," he said.

"This cemented his reputation as an accomplished broadcaster and won him the respect of his peers in journalism, politics and beyond."

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: "Jim was a political journalist whose integrity and professionalism could never be questioned and, despite his illness in recent years, he continued to work and to contribute."

DUP leader Peter Robinson said: "In all of my dealings with Jim down through the years, I found him to be an absolute gentleman who was a credit to his profession."

'Integrity'

Former UUP leader Sir Reg Empey said: "I have known Jim in a professional and personal capacity for the last 30 years and during that time I found him to be hard working, dedicated but first and foremost always a gentleman with tremendous integrity."

Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin said: "Jim was a gifted journalist with great political insight, and one who conducted himself with complete professionalism throughout his long career."

In 2003, Mr Dougal was awarded an honorary doctorate by Queen's University Belfast.

After leaving the European Commission, he returned to journalism and formed a broadcast company, making programmes including a documentary on Ian Paisley.

In recent years he worked as a political commentator.

One of his last major television appearances was in April during the general election campaign when he chaired UTV's head-to-head debate between the four main party leaders in Northern Ireland.

Mr Dougal had battled cancer a number of times.

He was married with four children.

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