Hanna, Samuel Trevor (1936–2010), journalist, was born on 4 November 1936 on Lisburn Road, Belfast, the younger son of Samuel and Elizabeth (née McCutcheon) Hanna. Trevor attended Ulsterville and Fane Street public elementary schools and Methodist College. After leaving school in 1954, he went into journalism as a junior reporter on the Belfast News Letter, and learned his trade reporting the local news of a province then still inward-looking and governed in traditional style by the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). He moved to the Belfast Telegraph in 1956, and reported on local government and show business topics, earning £1 a week. He also co-wrote 'Youthbeat', a column for teenagers. Hanna (who liked to be known in journalism as 'S. Trevor Hanna') soon developed an expertise on Ulster's industries, especially the Belfast shipbuilding industry as it approached the end of its glory days with the 1960 launch of the last great liner, Canberra. He also became the Telegraph's parliamentary correspondent. In 1964 he briefly took up a position with the Daily Mail, mainly covering Liverpool and north Wales, and produced some news stories of national interest.
In 1964 he went back to Belfast as news editor of the Belfast News Letter, then the following year moved to the newly opened Daily Mirror news office in Belfast. As an experienced local journalist, he was well placed to cover the NI troubles from their early beginnings. He had good contacts and investigative skills, and after he went freelance and founded his own news agency, Ulsternews International, in 1968, his scoops and his analyses meant that his name became familiar in a variety of Irish papers, and he was retained as a correspondent by several United Kingdom newspapers and magazines. His local knowledge made him a useful first contact for scores of foreign journalists arriving in Belfast to seek inside information on Ulster's politics and atrocities.
One of the most interesting exclusive reports over his byline was an account of the conditions inside the Maze prison during the hunger strikes of 1981. The only journalist given access to the Maze, he was able to investigate and publish on the lifestyles of paramilitaries, and to some extent penetrate the secretive worlds of intelligence and undercover operations. He sought out news stories even in dangerous and confrontational situations, often on the scene in the immediate aftermath of terrorist incidents. It appears that he was arrested at least once, in 1970, for breaking a curfew in Belfast. His assessments of Ulster politics were widely published, and he also appeared on television and radio programmes, not just in Northern Ireland but more widely, even in the United States on occasion.
His US experiences included a celebrated interview with Senator Edward Kennedy after the assassination of Robert Kennedy. In 1985, at the signing of the Anglo–Irish agreement in Hillsborough Castle, Hanna's questioning elicited a sharp response from Margaret Thatcher. Hanna apparently got wind of an INLA plot to kill the Conservative MP Airey Neave, two days before the assassination in 1979, and notified the British authorities. He was said to be the only journalist in British media history to receive an apology from Scotland Yard and the commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, presumably for their failure to act adequately on the information he provided.
Hanna was probably equally influential, though not equally well known, in some of his other roles, for instance as media advisor to the UUP. Appointed press officer in September 1969, he organised the party's first press office and wrote some important speeches for Terence O'Neill (qv), James Chichester-Clark (qv) and other unionist politicians. His knowledge of Irish life was such that he was commissioned as a consultant by the American author, Leon Uris, when writing Trinity (1976), a best-selling historical novel set in Ireland. As a committed member of the Masonic order, Hanna also provided media and public relations advice to the Grand Lodge of Ireland. He was a past master of the Press Lodge no. 432, a past excellent king of the Prince of Wales's Own Royal Arch Chapter 154, and honorary past grand deacon of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Hanna also had a lengthy career in the Territorial Army; he was made a captain in the TA in 1962, and served with a general service commission as public relations officer of the 107th (Ulster) Independent Infantry Brigade Group.
As a veteran commentator who had known the 'olden days in Northern Ireland' when dog shows made the news, but who had more than come to terms with shocking new conditions, Hanna was regarded with affection and respect by his fellow journalists. He was a life member of the National Union of Journalists and of the Newspaper Press Fund. He was a president of the Methodist College Belfast Old Boys' Association. His contacts and friendships with people throughout the province, his ability to find human-interest stories, and his general bonhomie and conversational skills gave him prominence in local life and among colleagues throughout a long career.
Hanna married Ann Hamilton, from Finaghy; she and their two sons and one daughter survived him at his death on 14 February 2010.