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Editor who was ‘colossus’ of journalism dies suddenly aged 61

Jim Flanagan 1An editor described as a “colossus” of journalism has died suddenly aged 61.

Tributes have been paid to Jim Flanagan, who ran Belfast’s Sunday Life and the Ballymena Guardian.

Jim, pictured, also spent time as deputy editor of the Belfast Telegraph and managing editor of the Community Telegraph during a journalism career that spanned more than 40 years.

He edited Sunday Life between 2005 and 2009, then ran the Guardian until his retirement in 2017.

Current Guardian editor Dessie Blackadder told the Irish News: “He was highly regarded by all who worked with him and his passing has certainly been met with sincere sadness amongst his former colleagues.

“Everyone at the Guardian would extend condolences to the entire family circle.”

Former Press Association Ireland editor Deric Henderson added: “Jim was incredibly well respected and well-liked by everyone who knew him in his long career in journalism.

“His work was often hard-hitting – he was in Enniskillen on the day of the bombing in 1987, and I know that had a massive impact on him.

“But as well as being a dedicated professional, he remained an absolute gentleman.  The last time I spoke with him we talked of his love of golf, and I was looking forward to getting a game with him in Portrush.

“Sadly that won’t be possible now but I’ll remember him as a fantastic, old-school journalist who loved his family and his work.”

Jim began his career at the East Antrim Times before spending 30 years with the Bel Tel and its associated titles.

Sunday Life sports editor Jim Gracey wrote in an obituary for his colleague that he was a “colossus in stature, in life and in his vocation of print journalism, in which he excelled”.

Jim added: “He was a font of knowledge, advice and encouragement to young journalists fortunate to come under his charge and very often quietly helped out more seasoned colleagues faced with hardship or other personal difficulties outside of the office.

“In four decades working with him and under him, we never exchanged a cross word. Quite the opposite, for Jim was equally legendary at letting his hair down across the road in the pub when an edition had been put to bed.”

Jim is survived by wife Colette, whom he met while working in Antrim, children James and Suzanne, and grandchildren Lana and Freddy.