AFTER a long battle against ill-health, former Belfast Lord Mayor Hugh Smyth has died.
Mr Smyth, who was in his 80s, died at his home “surrounded by his family”, his party said in a statement.
He was replaced as the leader of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) in 2002 by David Ervine.
The PUP have announced that all election activities tonight will be suspended “as a mark of respect to our party president”.
Current PUP leader Billy Hutchinson said this afternoon: “Hugh made a monumental contribution to the political process in Northern Ireland over the course of the last 40 years.
“Hugh was fundamental to bringing the loyalist community to the negotiating table and played a central role in strengthening Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.
“Hugh has been a tremendous role model for all of our people and showed great courage in carrying out his work throughout the years.
“He will be sadly missed by the people of the Shankill and further afield,” added Mr Hutchinson.
‘Shughie’, as he was known to councillors and friends, was the longest-serving member of Belfast City Council.
During almost 40 years in politics, he also was a member of Northern Ireland Assembly in 1974 and the Northern Ireland Convention.
Because of his failing health, Mr Smyth was not standing in this month’s local government elections to Belfast City Council.
Mr Smyth was awarded an OBE for his services to the community in 1996.
Former PUP leader Dawn Purvis paid tribute to Mr Smyth.
“He was a character. 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.