Writer and broadcaster Sam McAughtry has died at the age of 91 after a long illness.
His works included Play It Again Sam, Blind Spot, Sam McAughtry’s Belfast, McAughtry’s War and Belfast Stories.
His memoir, On The Outside Looking In, was published in 2003.
A statement from his publisher, Blackstaff Press, said: “It is with great sorrow that we have learned today of the death of the writer and broadcaster Sam McAughtry. “He was a much-loved Blackstaff author and we are proud to have published his books, from The Sinking Of The Kenbane Head in 1977, through to his last book, On The Outside Looking In, in 2003.”
It added: “His great talent as a writer was his ability to write in a voice that immediately connected with people, because it was direct and sincere and full of emotion, whether it was telling Belfast stories, talking about his life in Tiger’s Bay or writing about the death of his brother.
“He was a great friend to Blackstaff, a great ambassador for Belfast, and a brilliant storyteller. We will miss his wit, honesty and integrity.”
The north Belfast native worked for peace and understanding across Ireland and served as a member of the Irish Seanad.
In his first address to the upper house in 1996, he said: “I am a hybrid unionist in that I am happy to live in the United Kingdom but I am happier still to be Irish and to proclaim my Irishness.”
He helped establish the Peace Train demonstration between Belfast and Dublin and was a trade unionist and member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.
He was born in Belfast in 1923. He joined the RAF and worked as a labourer and civil servant but found his true calling as a writer and broadcaster.
Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O’Muilleoir tweeted: “Saddened to hear of the passing of Belfast scribe and raconteur Sam McAughtry, a son of Tiger’s Bay and of Belfast who loved the land of his birth.”
Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said he was a life member.
He added: “He was a passionate trade unionist and was deeply committed to fighting sectarianism.
“Through the pages of The Irish Times Sam McAughtry opened a window into the lives of working class men and women in Northern Ireland.
“Encouraged by Douglas Gageby (former Times editor) he became a keen observer of life in the Republic and brought to the pages of the newspaper his unique humour and journalistic flair. He was also a familiar voice, notably on Sunday Miscellany.”
He said he was a defender of the rights of authors, notably in relation to copyright .
“He is remembered as a loyal and generous colleague, a journalist and trade unionist of rare conviction who not only added to the gaiety of life on this island but also helped promote tolerance and understanding.”
Mary Maher, a journalist of 35 years at the Times, said he worked for the publication when the conflict was intense in Northern Ireland; helping explain the lives, jobs and housing of ordinary people.
She said: “It was during that period when everything was boiling in the North and he gave us a much broader picture of what ordinary people in the North were like that we would not get.
“You were dealing with violence on both sides and not knowing much about the people, he talked about what people were like, what their jobs and housing were like.
“He had a working-class ethos and was a very humane person.”