Tributes have been paid to Ulster Unionist Councillor George Savage who passed away after illness on Wednesday morning aged 72.
A farmer from Donaghcloney, Cllr Savage had also served as an Upper Bann MLA and twice held the post of Mayor of Craigavon during decades at the borough council.
Craigavon Mayor Colin McCusker had known George all his life as he had worked closely with his late father Harold McCusker.
He said: “George has been part of my life as long as I can remember. He was always a great encouragement to me.”
The mayor said he was ‘shocked and saddened’ by his death and passed on his deepest sympathies to Mr Savage’s wife Joy and their three sons, George, Kyle and Nigel.
At the mayoral installation dinner, in the days leading up to his death, Deputy Mayor Catherine Seeley paid tribute to Mr Savage. She said: “Though I have only been on council from February I have been fortunate enough to have had countless conversations with George outside the council chamber. From my very first meeting George made me feel very welcome, never passing me, and always greeting me with a smile. A gentleman of the highest order who was always full of stories, Inside the chamber he was no different, conducting himself with dignity and decorum and in my experience never rising to the nonsense that can sometimes occur.”
Ulster Unionist MLA Sam Gardiner said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of George`s death. George was a great friend and a great worker for the people in the constituency. His word was his bond. I will miss him greatly, both as a friend and a colleague.
“I saw at first hand the level of commitment which George had to his constituents. He was dedicated to serving the community, both as a soldier in the UDR and a politician. My thoughts and prayers are with Joy and his sons.”
Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson MLA paid tribute to George who was President of the Upper Bann UUP Association. “George was a friend, neighbouring farmer, and colleague and as a community in Donaghcloney and Waringstown we will miss him deeply.
“He was a good and decent public servant who upheld the core values of the Ulster Unionist party and worked hard for all of his constituents both at Stormont and in his capacity as a Craigavon Councillor.
“In his time as an MLA George was a friend to the farmer, serving on the agriculture committee and as its Deputy Chairperson. I extend my sympathies to his wife Joy, boys Kyle, George and Nigel and the entire family circle at this sad time.
Upper Bann MP David Simpson said: “Having met with George and his family in recent days, I was saddened to hear of his death following his battle with illness.
“George gave an unstinting service to the people of Upper Bann and the mark he has left will be felt by generations to come. I counted George as a friend and we had many political discussions in the way forward for Northern Ireland. Today, that seat in his home is empty, but I can assure the family and friends of my sincere thoughts and prayers at this time.”
SDLP Cllr Declan McAlinden said: “George was a real gentleman and never passed me without asking about my own family. Thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this sad time.”
Robert Colvin, Chief Executive Acting, Craigavon Borough Council said: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that one of our esteemed Members, Councillor George Savage passed away this morning.
George, as he was affectionately known by everyone, was a long standing Member of Council joining in 1981 until 1989. He was then re-elected in 1997 until the present serving as Mayor in 1985-87, again in 2005-2006 and as Deputy Mayor in 2011/12. He also represented the Upper Bann in the NI Assembly until 2011.”
Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt has paid tribute to George Savage. Mr Nesbitt said: “George Savage was an Ulster Unionist stalwart who loyally and faithfully represented the Party in the Upper Bann area for decades.
“He served two terms as a Stormont MLA and was a long-standing member of Craigavon council. He was a tireless worker for his constituents and held in very high esteem by political friend and foe alike.
“George was one of the original 28 Ulster Unionist MLAs elected in 1998 with the courage to step into Parliament Buildings and try to give meaning to the Belfast Agreement. It is a sad and sobering thought that he is the sixth member of that brave team to pass away. My thoughts are with his family and his many friends. He will be greatly missed.”