A FORMER Ulster Unionist peer with a “great love” for County Fermanagh has died at the age of 74.
Warm tributes have been paid to Lord Laird of Artigarvan, whose widow, Carol, was originally from Derrygonnelly.
Born John Laird, he is remembered as a flamboyant character who was a prominent supporter of the Ulster-Scots language.
He was created a life peer on July 16, 1999.
Speaking yesterday (Wednesday), former UUP MP for Fermanagh South Tyrone, Tom Elliott, said: “I knew John Laird through involvement with The Ulster Unionist Party, but also with his connection to Fermanagh, his wife Carol being from the County. In past years, John was a regular visitor to Fermanagh, including leisure visits, to Unionist events and the occasional time to Ferney Park to watch Ballinamallard United. John took very strong views on matters and wasn’t afraid to portray his viewpoint in a robust debating platform, never one to shy away from his strongly held views.
“He had a great love for Fermanagh and visited when he could.”
Mr. Elliott added: “My sincere condolences go to his wife Carol, children Alison and David. There will certainly be a huge gap in their lives without John.”
DUP leader, Arlene Foster, had also known Lord Laird for many years.
She said: “He had a character which was larger than life. The news of his death will be felt across Unionism and the Ulster-Scots community, of which he was a strong advocate.
“It is very poignant that he should pass away at this time of year and I am very sorry to hear of his passing.
“He never shied away from speaking his mind whether inside or outside the House of Lords and was never afraid to speak up for Unionism.”
The Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA added: “I extend my sympathy to his entire family circle.”