Northern Ireland news

News review of the year: January to June 2015

Gail Bell
28 December, 2015 01:00

It was a year which saw Islamic State, gay marriage and Nama dominate the headlines, while one sporting great bade farewell and a musical legend made an emotional return. Gail Bell looks back over the first six months of 2015

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JANUARY

The shocking gun attack on the Paris offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the first week of January set the tone for a year dominated by concerns about international terrorism and the threat of Islamic State.

Two gunmen shot dead 10 people after bursting into an editorial meeting, as well as two policemen responding to the massacre.

A policewoman was also killed in Paris the following day, and two hostage situations resulted in the deaths of four people in a Kosher supermarket before the three suspects in both incidents were killed.

Paris would be the scene of even greater loss of life in November when a series of coordinated attacks killed 130 people, including 89 concert-goers at the Bataclan theatre.

In Ireland, health minister Leo Varadkar revealed on radio that he is gay, as campaigning began in earnest ahead of the Republic's same-sex marriage referendum.

Craigavon Borough Council, meanwhile, was accused of wasting £10,000 of ratepayers' money on a report about flying the Union flag - just weeks before the north's 26 local authorities went out of existence as part of reforms to create 11 new 'super councils'.

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FEBRUARY

The world's number one golfer, Rory McIlroy, attended Dublin's High Court for a hearing related to a dispute with a former management company over a contract signed in 2011.

The high-profile case was settled in a deal believed to have cost McIlroy more than £13 million.

Another Northern Ireland sporting legend, AP McCoy, was also in the headlines after announcing he was retiring from horse racing after more than 4,300 career wins.

In Co Fermanagh a teenagers' wedding turned to tragedy when a man was shot dead outside St Mary's Church in Newtownbutler.

The 16-year-old groom and 17-year-old bride and their families had travelled from Counties Dublin and Longford for the ceremony because under-18s are not permitted to wed in the Republic.

The ceremony went ahead despite the fatality, prompting Father Michael King to declare he would not officiate at a Traveller wedding in future.

Customs officers meanwhile disrupted a £10m counterfeit cigarette production operation - the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

The makeshift factory on the outskirts of Dungannon was raided following a lengthy cross-border operation.

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MARCH

Stormont was plunged into fresh crisis over welfare reform after Sinn Fein withdrew support for legislation and accused the DUP of reneging on a pre-Christmas deal to save the institutions.

It was claimed there was a gap of nearly £300m between what the party was seeking for a welfare safety net and what was being provided in the Stormont House Agreement. The dispute was not resolved until the final weeks of the year.

Shocking figures revealed fuel laundering was polluting half of the north's rivers, increasing pressure on government to tackle the problem.

Ambulance staff took the exceptional step of voting for an all-out 24-hour strike, and 90,000 workers in the public sector joined protests at budget cuts and job losses.

Abroad, 150 people were killed when a Germanwings plane flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in the Alps in southern France. It later emerged co-pilot Andreas Lubitz crashed the plane deliberately.

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APRIL

There was shock across Britain and Ireland at the murder of Irish student Karen Buckley in Glasgow.

The 24-year-old's body was found on a farm four days after she disappeared on a night out and a 21-year-old man was later jailed for a minimum of 23 years for the Cork woman's brutal killing.

Controversy continued to surround a proposed new stadium at Casement Park after Ulster GAA said it would be re-submitting plans for re-development of the west Belfast ground.

The Polish Consul for Northern Ireland urged political leaders to do more to stop racist attacks amid a spate of hate crimes across Belfast.

In an interview with the Irish News, Chief Constable George Hamilton voiced frustration at loyalist paramilitary 'thugs' and 'gangsters' and said he was proud the PSNI had locked up many dissident republican leaders.

Irish aid agencies meanwhile responded to a humanitarian crisis in Nepal where a massive earthquake left more than 10,000 people dead.

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MAY

Prominent republican Gerard 'Jock' Davison was gunned down just yards from his home in the Markets area of south Belfast as he walked to work.

The murder of the 47-year-old would be followed in August by that of fellow former IRA man Kevin McGuigan senior. A political crisis is sparked after police say members of the Provisional IRA are involved.

Nationalist parties received their lowest share of the vote at a Westminster election since before the ceasefires.

In the poll which saw David Cameron's Conservative party confound predictions to secure a convincing win, Sinn Fein and the SDLP took the votes of just 38 per cent of the north's electorate.

Voters in the Republic said a clear 'yes' to gay marriage in a referendum which saw 62 per cent agree that the constitution be amended to say "marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex".

Prince Charles and his wife Camilla spent four days in Ireland, with the Prince of Wales making an emotional visit to Mullaghmore in Co Sligo where his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA.

He also shook hands with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and visited the Catholic St Patrick's Church in Belfast which has been at the centre of a parades dispute.

A strike by midwives was interrupted by an emergency delivery when a dozen staff left the picket line to return to the maternity suite at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital. The four-hour walkout in a dispute over pay was the first in the 134-year history of the Royal College of Midwives.

Meanwhile, RTE soccer broadcaster Bill O'Herlihy passed away aged 76, and the sport's governing body FIFA was thrown into turmoil by the arrest of nine officials on US corruption charges at a hotel in Switzerland.

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JUNE

The distraught family of Eamonn Magee told of their devastation after the 22-year-old was stabbed to death at a house in west Belfast. The promising young boxer died in the arms of his girlfiend, Courtney Ward, in her garden in Twinbrook.

Another family was also left heartbroken after Coalisland schoolboy Ronan Hughes (17) took his own life after being tricked into posting images online.

Across the Atlantic, six young Irish students died after a balcony collapsed in an apartment at Berkeley, California. The students were among a group attending a 21st birthday party when the fourth floor balcony gave way.

And in another international tragedy, nurse Lorna Carty from Co Meath and husband and wife Laurence and Martina Hayes from Athlone were among 37 people gunned down in an Islamic State beach massacre at the resort of Sousse in Tunisia.

On a lighter note, 'Frostbit' boy Ruairi McSorley celebrated the end of his A-levels by arriving at Lumen Christi College in Derry on a white horse, and the Irish Open at Royal County Down was hailed a huge success, attracting over 100,000 spectators and boosting to Northern Ireland tourism.

:: TOMORROW: A look back at what was making the news from July to December 2015.

28 December, 2015 01:00 Northern Ireland news

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