Tributes have been paid to the founder of Wrightbus, Sir William Wright, who has died at the age of 94.
Sir William founded the firm in Co Antrim with his father Robert following the Second World War.
It was the first company in the UK to produce an electric bus.
Wrightbus built London’s Routemaster double-decker – dubbed the “Boris Bus” – which was ordered by the Prime Minister when he was mayor and chair of Transport for London, the capital’s public transport operator.
However, it fell into financial difficulties in recent years and was bought by English industrialist Jo Bamford in 2019.
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said with the passing of Sir William that Ballymena “has lost a giant”.
He described him as “an entrepreneur without match”, adding: “We will not see his like again.”
In a statement Mr Paisley said: “I wish to extend to Lady Wright and to all the family my and my family’s and our party’s sincerest condolences for their loss.
“Sir William was a giant character. He was one of the last true captains of industry and commerce and a man who has left his mark, not just locally but globally.
“Everywhere there is engineering or manufacturing or sales of buses his genius will be remembered.”
Mr Paisley described Sir William as a political and business leader who “cared passionately about the employment and skills training of local people”.
“He loved Northern Ireland and he was dedicated in everything that he did,” he said.
“When in his presence you knew you were with someone remarkable. He had that X factor that so few possess. But those who have it make a difference to all around. Northern Ireland was so fortunate to have him as a son.
“To his immediate and extended family. They can take courage in his faith, which was strong. His witness purposeful. At their time of great loss, they know many people across the entire country will be praying for them.”
TUV leader Jim Allister described the passing of Sir William as a “sad and seminal moment for the town and community of Ballymena and district”.
“A Freeman of the Borough, few have left such an indelible legacy in terms of lasting jobs and contribution to economic, engineering and manufacturing success in the area,” he said.
“Wrightbus, which he built up so assiduously, remains both a key and large employer in the district and leader in terms of trail-blazing technology, presently evident in the hydrogen and electric bus market.
“Much of this success can be traced to the foresight and leadership of Sir William, an entrepreneur of exceptional talent.
“I wish to convey to his widow and family sincere Christian sympathy.”