Northern Ireland

Former Progressive Unionist Party leader Hugh Smyth dies

Hugh Smyth as Lord Mayor Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Mr Smyth served as Lord Mayor of Belfast in 1994

Former Progressive Unionist Party leader Hugh Smyth has died aged 73.

Mr Smyth served on Belfast City Council for 41 years and was a former lord mayor of the city. He also served in the 1974 Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Convention.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said he was "a giant of working class loyalism who was loved by the people of the Shankill".

Mr Smyth was first elected as a councillor in May 1972.

He was one of the best known characters at Belfast City Hall until he stood down last December.

He gave up the PUP leadership in 2002, when he was succeeded by David Ervine.

'Quite a character'

Mr Smyth was awarded an OBE for his services to the community in 1996.

Mr Hutchinson said: "Hugh was fundamental to bringing the loyalist community to the negotiating table and played a central role in strengthening Northern Ireland's position with the United Kingdom.

"Hugh has been a tremendous role model for all of our people and showed great courage in carrying out his work throughout the years."

Former PUP leader Dawn Purvis also paid tribute to Mr Smyth.

"Shughie as he was affectionately known, or Shuggie as he was known by David Ervine, had been in politics for over 35 years and was quite a character," she said.

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Hugh Smyth served on Belfast City Council for 41 years

"There wasn't anybody in politics who didn't know him and the contribution that he made, and I know he'll be sadly missed."

DUP leader Peter Robinson said Mr Smyth had worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents.

"All those who worked with Hugh will know that his death represents the loss of a strong-willed and independently minded representative who served the people of Belfast and particularly the Shankill for many years," he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Jim McVeigh said: "While we may not have always agreed politically, we got on well and Hugh was a man who wouldn't pass you without saying hello."

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Chris McGimpsey said: "Hugh will be remembered fondly for his hard work and dedication, plus his ready wit and humour, which made him excellent company."

Alliance Party MP Naomi Long said she was saddened by the death of Mr Smyth.

"Prior to his resignation due to ill health, Hugh was one of the longest-serving Belfast city councillors, which reflected his popularity among the people he represented," she said.

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: "He was a real Belfast character and often brought smiles, both inside the chamber and outside, with his razor-sharp wit and great humour."