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Journalist who went on to train famous names dies aged 97

Joan FitzpatrickA journalist who went on to train famous names in journalism has died aged 97.

Tributes have been paid to Joan Fitzpatrick, who worked on the Belfast News Letter before launching the practical journalism course at the Belfast College of Business Studies in 1969.

Joan, pictured, went on to run the course for 20 years and trained famous names including Eamonn Holmes and UTV presenter Paul Clarke.

She retired at the age of 64.

Ballymoney-born Joan joined the News Letter, where she was giving the role of covering “ladies’ matters”, after studying arts at Trinity College, Dublin.

Her son Roger told the News Letter: “It was completely against my mother so she cut a deal that she would fill half a page on a Friday with women’s stuff if she was given serious journalism to do for the rest of the week.”

Joan eventually left the job to have three children – Colin, Roger and Moira – with her husband Rory, a former UTV producer, who died at the age of 95 in 2019.

She took up her journalism training role a decade after leaving the newspaper.

Former student Malachi O’Doherty said: “She brought a sense of the atmosphere of the newsroom into the classroom.

“She had the familiar wry cynical manner of the old hack.

“She could be entertaining with her stories of working on the News Letter with some of the great characters of the time but she could let you know with a look if she thought you had said something stupid.

“A lot of our class work was turning press releases into real stories and she was good at forcing us to search for angles on a story that the press release played down.

“She used her contacts to try and get us all jobs afterwards. She took a big interest in our careers.”

Joan’s funeral was held on 14 February at Roselawn Crematorium, near Belfast.