Tributes have been paid to "compassionate" former Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council Gerry Burns, a family man who did everything he could to make the county a better place for all.

"He was an inspiration," said Mr. Burns' son Gerry, who described his late father as a man of "integrity, honesty and compassion".

"He loved his family above everything else and he cared for his adoptive home of Fermanagh. He was just a very loving man," shared Gerry, adding: "He had compassion for others and his honesty, when you talked to him, he would say what is what, he wouldn’t beat about the bush, he was straight to the point."

After a short illness, Mr. Burns, 85, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, at the South West Acute Hospital on Tuesday, February 18.

Originally from Belfast, Mr. Burns began his career in the civil service there, before moving to Armagh where he worked as an economics lecturer at Armagh Technical College. From there he moved to Enniskillen where he took on the role of Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council in 1976.

"I think it was Dick Thornton who was the councillor who had the casting vote and voted for him to get the job, so he got the job in 1976, then he did everything he could to make Fermanagh a better place," commented Gerry.

In his role as Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council, Mr. Burns was instrumental in the development of many projects that enhanced the economy of the county.

"He was instrumental in the Wellington Road bypass and the Ardhowen, the theatre by the lakes, was his proudest achievement. He was able to save the derelict Buttermarket which is now a craft centre, Necarne, when it was the equestrian centre, he was instrumental in setting that up as well," said Gerry, who noted that his father also advocated for Erneside shopping centre to be brought to Enniskillen.

"He was always welcoming people here that could have an influence on the economy and life of the county. He was the Pro Chancellor of the University of Ulster so he was keen on promoting any link ups between the university and Enniskillen, for instance at the hospital and South West College," Gerry added.

Whilst in his position of Chief Executive of Fermanagh District Council, Mr. Burns was present at the Enniskillen Remembrance Day ceremony in 1987 when the bomb went off, bringing devastation to the Fermanagh community and beyond.

"Together with Gordon Wilson he was instrumental in setting up the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust which was designed to bring the two sides together in the spirit of reconciliation. That was very important to him, that there was that reconciliation then, that people did try to come together but the bomb was difficult for him, obviously because he was there when it went off and he was traumatised by it," said Gerry.

Following his retirement from his position as Chief Executive at Fermanagh District Council in 1996, Mr. Burns served as Northern Ireland Ombudsman.

Noting that family was his father's main interest, above everything else, Gerry added: "But he loved Fermanagh and he loved the lakes, he didn’t get out very often but he was keen on getting out on a boat and he liked walking. He liked watching any matches he could and he was keen on reading."

"He didn’t have a lot of time for a lot of interests because he kept going right until the end with various projects. He was on the general council for the BBC so he was in London once a month for that. He was on the Irish Times Board, the Editorial Board and Board of the Trust for 10 years. Latterly, he was on the board for the Heritage Lottery Fund for Northern Ireland and worked with the National Trust as well at one stage," shared Gerry.

Beloved husband of the late Moyra, loving father of Gerard (Cathy), Declan (Kath), Yvanna (Neil), Nuala (Paul) and John (Laura), Mr. Burns is greatly missed by his loving family, extended family, friends and neighbours.

Directed by Enda Love Funeral Directors, Mr. Burns funeral is to take place today (Thursday, February 20) at St. Michael's Church, Enniskillen followed by burial in Cross Cemetery.

"If I’m half the man that he was then I’d be very happy, I’m very proud that he was my dad, he was just an amazing guy and a fighter. He went on right until the end," Gerry told this newspaper.