For many, his authority and insight were invaluable in explaining the Troubles and the Peace Process to a wider audience.
But I hold the dubious honour of testing his reporting skills to the very limit – by getting him to cover the departure of Bryan Mcfadden from Westlife.
When I worked on the BBC Network Newsdesk as a Home Duty Editor, I was looking for a correspondent to go to Dublin to cover the boy band’s press conference. Our Dublin correspondent was on leave.
The only person free was Denis. I thought long and hard but had no choice. Expecting a blast of righteous indignation, I asked whether he would…err…be prepared to….err..to go to a Westlife press conference?
He jumped at the chance – in fact he was very excited! I knew the TV and radio bulletins would cover the story but one of the editors was furious I’d sent Denis – of course, she ran his piece.
Denis later told me it was the greatest bit of fun he’d had in years and still tells people how Kerry Katona cried on his shoulder as she watched her husband leave one of the biggest boy bands in the world.
He said at the time on Radio 4’s PM programme: “Kerry was crying so I gave her me hanky. And it was clean!”
So good luck in your retirement, Denis. From now on, you’re flying without wings!
And I hope you claimed that hanky back on expenses!