Former BBC journalist Austin Hunter dies

Very saddened to learn of the death of former BBC colleague and friend, Austin Hunter, in an accident in Bahrain. A true professional, Austin remained calm in the most stressful situations and covered stories from the troubles in Northern Ireland with the utmost sensitivity and respect for all involved. It was always a joy to spend time in Austin’s company whether in a work situation or socially.  Northern Ireland has lost a great journalist and a great human being. He’ll be sadly missed.

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The former BBC journalist and News Letter editor Austin Hunter has been killed in a traffic accident in Bahrain.

The First Minister Arlene Foster has said she is shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Mr Hunter’s death.

Mr Hunter was well-known to the public as a television and radio reporter with the BBC in Northern Ireland.

He later was appointed as director of media and public relations with the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Mr Hunter had also served in a senior role in the BBC Northern Ireland press office.

In a statement, the Hunter family said they were “absolutely devastated at the loss of a loving husband, father and grandfather”.

Mrs Foster said Mr Hunter was “held in the highest regard by all who knew him”.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described him as a “very good journalist and nice man”.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, who worked as a journalist with BBC and UTV, said Mr Hunter was a “great journalist” and “superb human being”.

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Mr Nesbitt said Mr Hunter had been “very encouraging” when he began his career at the BBC.

Peter Johnston, Director, BBC Northern Ireland, said Mr Hunter was “a true professional”.

“He demonstrated his great skill as a journalist on the frontline of reporting of some of the toughest times in Northern Ireland and throughout his BBC career he also gave generously of his time and knowledge to encourage others,” he said.”He will be sadly missed by so many colleagues.”

Former colleagues of Mr Hunter at BBC Northern Ireland and across the media have also paid tribute.

Kathleen Carragher, Head of BBC News NI, and former colleague said she was “deeply saddened and shocked” by Mr Hunter’s death.

“He was passionate about Northern Ireland, the people and the politics and it informed all his work,” she said.

“He worked for many years for BBC NI, through some of the worst days of the Troubles and established his reputation as a fine broadcaster. He helped many young journalists in Northern Ireland develop their careers and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”

Andrew Colman, former Head of News and Current Affairs at BBC NI, said Mr Hunter had reported on “many of the most difficult and challenging circumstances” of the Troubles “with great compassion and integrity and won the respect of all”.

“He was a very fine journalist,” he added.

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Austin Hunter (far right) at a press conference in the company of former RUC chief constable Sir John (known as Jack) Hermon

News Letter editor Alistair Bushe said Mr Hunter’s leadership skills had helped “lead it out of a difficult period” and he had maintained an affinity for the newspaper.

“He was a hugely respected and well liked figure across the media industry in Northern Ireland,” he added.

Head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s corporate communications department, Liz Young, said Mr Hunter had “brought a wealth of skill, professionalism and experience to the organisation”.

In recent years, Mr Hunter had travelled around the world sharing his expertise with other countries.

He was in Bahrain working for the not-for-profit organisation Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-Co) when he died.

NI-Co chief executive, Graeme McCammon, said Mr Hunter was a “highly-valued member of the team”.

“We will remember him for his outstanding talent, principles, compassion and his commitment to change,” he said.

“Austin was recognised and respected worldwide as an expert in his field and his knowledge and opinions were greatly valued by all who knew and worked with him.”

Mr McCammon said Mr Hunter had been in Bahrain advising on the implementation of youth justice reforms.

Source: BBC News