Ulster Unionist Party Chairman, Lord Empey and the former Lord Mayor and High Sheriff of Belfast, Alderman Jim Rodgers, have paid tribute to Sir Billy Hastings who sadly passed away today.
Lord Empey said:
“Sir Billy`s paths and mine crossed on many occasions as he was the leading light in Northern Ireland`s tourism and hospitality industry when it wasn`t such a popular path to follow. The Sir Billy Hastings that I knew was a man of huge resilience and determination. Despite repeated terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland during the worst days of the Troubles he was determined to keep going.
“No matter how many times it happened and when others would have given up, he kept going and took over the Europa Hotel in 1993, which was then widely known as the most bombed hotel in Europe. He was a man of immense character.
“When better days came to this country Sir Billy continued to be to the fore in promoting Northern Ireland and its people. He will be missed by many but especially his family. My thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Alderman Jim Rodgers said:
“I have known Billy a virtual lifetime. He was a man I looked up to and I held him in the highest regard. You could have called Billy at any time of the day or night to seek help or advice and he never turned you away.
“He was a workaholic and visited all his hotels three or four times a week. I know that the staff had great respect for him because Billy wouldn`t ask anyone to do anything that he wouldn`t have done himself.
“His loss is immense to the hospitality industry. It is especially sad that he did not live to see the opening of the new Grand Central Hotel in Belfast. He was very excited about it when I spoke to him at its launch and he couldn`t wait until it opened its doors.
“He was a regular attender at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, he was a former President of Dundela Football Club and an active member of East Belfast Rotary Club.
“In the 70s Billy served on the old Belfast Corporation as an Ulster Unionist Party representative where he worked hard for the people of the Pottinger area of East Belfast.
“He was a keen golfer with a handicap to match and he always enjoyed playing courses in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and farther afield.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his Wife Joy, son Howard, his three daughters, his Grandchildren and the wider family circle.”