Northern Ireland news

Review of the year - July to December

Revelations about Nama sent shockwaves across Stormont and a murder of a former IRA man almost led to the collapse of the power sharing structures, while a series of attacks in Paris left 130 people dead. Gail Bell looks back over the second six months of 2015

Bono and members of U2 place flowers on the pavement near the scene of the Bataclan Theatre terrorist attack

JULY

EXPLOSIVE revelations made by Mick Wallace in the Dáil around the multi-million pound sale of the Nama northern property portfolio sent shockwaves across Stormont – the reverberations of which are still being felt.

The Independent TD claimed that a leading Belfast law firm Tughans, had £7 million in an offshore account “reportedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician”.

Peter Robinson and his son Gareth were linked to the scandal, with the first minister “unequivocally” rejecting the allegations that he was to benefit from the deal.

A committee was set up at Stormont to probe the claims with the first minister among those to appear. He said it was “outrageous” to allege he was to benefit from a £1.24 billion property deal.

Meanwhile, in the same month there was a public outcry over a massive Eleventh Night bonfire in east Belfast that resulted in the boarding up of the windows and doors of more than 50 homes – at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

There was further outrage after a 16-year-old girl was injured after becoming trapped underneath a car that ploughed into a nationalist crowd during a Twelfth Orange Order march in north Belfast.

Dozens of police officer worked together to lift the vehicle after serious violence erupted on the Crumlin Road, with 25 police officers injured.

Another major news story centred on Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams not being charged in connection with the disappearance and murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Mr Adams was questioned over four days in May last year by detectives investigating the abduction of the west Belfast woman in 1972.

Her body was secretly buried and only found on a beach in Co Louth in 2003.

AUGUST

THE murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast engulfed Stormont and almost led to the collapse of the power sharing structures.

Two masked men shot the 53-year-old outside his home on August 12. The father-of-nine had been warned by police that his life was under threat following speculation he was responsible for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison. Davison was shot dead in the Markets area of south Belfast in May.

Sinn Féin denied speculation the Provisional IRA was involved in McGuigan’s murder – with First Minister Peter Robinson warning the party would be expelled from the executive if a link was proven.

The Ulster Unionist Party announced it intended to withdraw from government following the police assessment of IRA involvement.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams insisted however the Provisionals had “gone away”. Despite almost 20 arrests, no-one was charged with McGuigan’s murder,

Another high-profile murder dominated headlines after a mother-of-three was killed in west Belfast.

Jennifer Dornan (30) was stabbed with a carving knife before her Lagmore home was set on fire.

Police, who believed the house was deliberately set ablaze to destroy forensic evidence, recovered a 14-inch knife nearby.

Mourners at her funeral were asked not to send flowers but instead to send donations to a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for the three children, sons Martin (eight) and Jayden (five) and daughter Abbey (three), with almost £20,000 raised within days.

A 37-year-old man, originally from west Belfast, was arrested in the Republic in relation to the death.

SEPTEMBER

The political fall out from the murder of Short Strand man Kevin McGuigan showed no sign of abating as the DUP walked out of the power-sharing assembly hot on the heels of Mike Nesbitt and the UUP who had already pulled out of the executive.

Peter Robinson’s in/out ministerial policy was to backfire badly as the month progressed and public anger over DUP ministers’ failure to fulfil their brief grew.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Sinn Féin either as the party’s northern chairman Bobby Storey was arrested in connection with the McGuigan murder amid senior police officers assessment that members of the Provisional IRA were involved, he was later released without charge.

The DUP leader’s run of bad luck continued as later in the month he was forced once again to deny claims he was to profit from the controversial Nama loan book sale.

Attempts by unionist members of the Stormont finance committee to prevent blogger Jamie Bryson giving evidence failed and the Co Down loyalist’s testimony attracted a huge online audience.

The tragic murder of young mum Jennifer Dornan was again in the headlines as the senior officer in charge of the investigation, Kevin Geddes, revealed there were plans to extradite the key suspect, currently in prison in the Republic having been arrested on foot of a warrant as it was revealed he had gone Awol from prison in the south at the time of the brutal killing that shocked the tight knit community.

OCTOBER

The Irish News exclusively revealed that DUP ministers were being paid for the hours between their revolving in/out work policy after the party claimed temporary ministers would not be drawing down their salaries. The party later said the money, that worked out at around £150 a day, would be paid back.

The murder of father-of-three garda Tony Golden, shot dead as he accompanied Siobhán Phillips to her home in the Mullach Álainn estate near Omeath in October raised serious questions about cross-border policing.

Killer Adrian Cravan Mackin, who turned the gun on himself was on bail for membership of a dissident republican group and had previous convictions for violent offences in the north. Ms Phillips was seriously injured in the attack.

The activities of the IRA double agent known as Stakenife, thought to be west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci, were once again brought to the fore as director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory revealed he’d asked the chief constable George Hamilton to reopen the investigation into at least 24 murders.

The PSNI have since said officers from outside of Northern Ireland will investigate the agent’s activities.

The month ended with another Irish News revelation, this time centred around the health service top tier of managers and pension pots that have cost the tax payer a whopping £50 million.

Concerns about the managers six figure ‘golden handshake’ settlements came amid the worst waiting list crisis to face the sector.

NOVEMBER

A series of attacks in Paris left 130 people dead. Three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants, and the Bataclan music venue.

Closer to home the Michelin tyre factory in Ballymena announced plans to close by 2018 with the loss of 860 jobs. Trade unions castigated Stormont ministers for inaction.

There were calls for a crackdown on young people carrying knives after eight stabbings left one man dead and an MLA’s nephew fighting for life.

A prominent republican, questioned by police about the killing of two British soldiers was moving towards supporting the peace process before his sudden death, his family said. Declan McGlinchey, a son of INLA gunman Dominic McGlinchey, died after a suspected heart attack.

A GAA coach said he was forced to commit VAT fraud because his family was under death threat from loyalist paramilitaries. Gerry Moane, once tipped to become Fermanagh manager, spoke of his “living nightmare”.

Organisers of a prestigious art exhibition dismissed calls for an award-winning painting to be removed following claims it showed Orangemen in Ku Klux Klan clothing. ‘Christian Flautists Outside St Patrick’s’ was the last major work by Joe McWilliams before his death.

A Tyrone businessman filmed the unscrupulous tactics used by banks to recover debts after his business was placed into liquidation. John Conway, the founder of Meteor Electrical in Cookstown, who was left with millions of pounds of debts following the 2009 downturn, shared CCTV footage of two Bank of Ireland officials in his office.

An accident on a building site in Perth, Australia killed two young Irishmen Joe McDermott (24) and Gerry Bradley (27).

Colum Eastwood became the new leader of the SDLP toppling veteran Alasdair McDonnell from the post.

DECEMBER

Dissident republican group Óglaigh na hÉireann admitted the attempted murder of a west Belfast man. Martin Gavin, a member of the Travelling community, was shot in the back of the head as he sat in a car.

A haul of weapons discovered in Co Monaghan, meanwhile, was part of a Provisional IRA arms dump seized by dissidents before they could be decommissioned. The firearms – including AK47 assault rifles – were seized along with mortars, detonators, detonating cord and other bomb parts.

Storm Desmond battered Ireland north and south and claimed the life of showband singer Ivan Vaughan after he was swept away by flood water. His body was found amid flooding on a cross-border road at Corraghdown, Glaslough in Co Monaghan.

Christopher Meli (20) was killed after up to 30 people assaulted him and his friend in Twinbrook, on the outskirts of west Belfast.

His parents said they believed his attackers robbed him while he lay dying on the ground. They later appealed for no retaliation after thugs attacked a disabled teenager claiming it was in revenge for their son’s death.

The first group of Syrian refugees, including a newborn baby, arrived in the north as part of a resettlement scheme. Earlier in the month an ‘anti-refugee protest’ was attended by about 25 people. They were significantly outnumbered by counter demonstrators.

There was also change at the top of the DUP after Peter Robinson announced he was retiring from front-line politics. Arlene Foster, left, was appointed to the post becoming the first female leader of the DUP.

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