A journalistic veteran of the Troubles described by colleagues as a “brilliant emotive writer” has died aged 63.
Ian Starrett spent over 30 years covering events in Northern Ireland for the News Letter and now extinct Sunday News, and in particular spent large chunks of his career reporting on the Troubles.
After starting his journalistic life with the Chronicle and Northern Constitution, based in Co Londonderry, he moved to the Belfast papers where he provided a voice for the unionist population in Londonderry.
Retirement in 2007 didn’t slow him down though as he continued to contribute his column to the News Letter.
Towards the end of his career, his story about a letter implicating a priest in the 1972 Claudy massacre that left nine people dead sparked a new inquiry that produced evidence of a cover-up of the priest’s involvement.
Referring to country’s turbulent past, Ian once wrote: “The Troubles were to dominate many years of my working life, times when I often felt alone in recording the unionist tradition’s viewpoints and their particular plight, something which has often been largely unrecorded fully on my patch by the other mainstream media.”
He had been unwell with heart problems but his death was totally unexpected.
News Letter editor Darwin Templeton said: “We were all deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Ian’s passing.
“He was an accomplished journalist who wrote with a beautiful turn of phrase and who had a deep and obvious passion for the people among whom he lived and worked.
“To many of the staff he was more than a colleague, he was a valued friend.
“Our thoughts and prayers are today with his daughter Tracy and the rest of the family circle.”
Ian’s features editor Geoff Hill called him a great listener and a brilliant, emotive and thoughtful writer while his colleague and friend Bill Kennedy said he was a unique journalist with an infectious personality.