| 12.7°C Dublin

Leading photographer John Harrison dies

One of the leading Press and PR photographers in the North, John Harrison, has died suddenly at his home.

Just hours earlier he returned from the United States where he had covered a major economic conference in Washington. The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was on the same flight.

He became ill at his home in Lisburn, Co Antrim last night after attending a PR awards ceremony in Belfast, where he presented one of the prizes.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had hosted the Washington conference, which was also attended by the North's First Minister Peter Robinson.

Harrison, 50, a father of three, who ran his own Press and PR photographic agency, was on first name terms with virtually every politician and member of public life in the North.

The Rev Ian Paisley, whom he called The Doc, and the actor Liam Neeson, also from his hometown of Ballymena, Co Antrim, were among his friends.

He started his career at the Ballymena Guardian, whose former editor Maurice O'Neill, another close friend, died just a few weeks ago.

Harrison went on to become a multi-award winning photographer who staged a number of major exhibitions including one featuring a series of photographs of well known personalities whom he pictured with their mothers. Mr McGuinness and his mother Peggy were among his subjects.

He was awarded the MBE in 2008 for his services to photography.

He is survived by his wife Mandy and three children, Peter, Thomas, and a daughter Catherine.

Politicians on all sides at Stormont said they were shocked and saddened by the death.

Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey, the former Ulster Unionist Party leader, said: "He was an amazing photographer and was well known in political, cultural and sporting circles.

"He put people at their ease and was equally at home with royalty and children.

"He had a talent which he used to help educate as well.

"He travelled the world with his work and was a marvellous ambassador for Northern Ireland.

"His enthusiasm, his zest for life and his genuine likeability will be very sorely missed."

PA Media