Northern Ireland news

Top 19 most read news stories of 2019

Digital staff

1. Huge celebrations in Co Tyrone as Harte and Canavan families united in marriage

A good news story from early December topped the list, as two of the county's best known GAA families were united in marriage.

Hundreds of guests gathered at St Malachy's Church, Ballymacilroy as GAA legend Peter Canavan walked his daughter Áine down the aisle to wed Peter Harte, nephew of Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte.

2. British soldiers used shot Catholic man's skull as ashtray

A harrowing story of a man whose skull was used as an ashtray by members of the Parachute Regiment after he was shot dead was of huge interest to Irish News readers. 

Henry Thornton (28), from south Armagh, was killed as he travelled along Belfast's Springfield Road in August 1971.

A former paratrooper made the claim at an inquest into the killing of 10 people over three days in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in 1971 by the Parachute Regiment.

3. Student from Derry dies suddenly in Belfast's Holylands

Queen's and Ulster University in September pledged to "enhance the accessibility of mental health services" for students following the second sudden death of a student in the city in a week.

The woman, who was from Derry, was found at an address on Cromwell Road, just off Botanic Avenue.

Her death came days after the body of 19-year-old Niall Laverty was discovered at his student accommodation in nearby Palestine Street.

4. New IRA admits murder of Lyra McKee and offers 'sincere apologies'

The murder of Lyra McKee (29) sent a chill through the island of Ireland. 

Ms McKee, a talented story teller, was shot in the head during rioting in the Creggan. 

When the paramilitary group blamed for shooting dead Lyra McKee in Derry apologised for the murder, it was met with disgust.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: "Their so-called instruction to their 'volunteers' to 'take the utmost care' when engaging in violence is utterly sickening and devoid of any humanity." 

5. Shots fired ahead of funeral of IRA Gibraltar escapee

In May, masked men fired a volley of shots in memory of a man believed to have been the fourth member of an IRA unit sent to Gibraltar in 1988 on a bombing mission.

Veteran republican Peter 'Pepe' Rooney (63) was buried lafter a lengthy battle with cancer. 

Sources said the masked display, thought to have taken place the night before the funeral, was organised by a group of independent 'veteran' former IRA members.

6. Family left heartbroken following sudden death of popular west Belfast teen (19)

Northern Ireland has the highest suicide rate in the UK and the death of a popular west Belfast teenager saddened many.

Declan Cavanagh, who was 19, was found at his home in the Summerhill Grange area of Twinbrook.

 His uncle appealed to anyone feeling in need of support to "start talking".

7. Co Tyrone Euromillions winner says jackpot has 'destroyed' her life

Money can't buy you happiness and that is exactly what a Co Tyrone Euromillions winner found out the hard way.

Margaret Loughrey said she regrets winning the lottery and it has "destroyed" her life.

The Strabane woman scooped £27 million when her numbers came up in 2013, but claims she now only has £5m left after being the victim of numerous thefts.

The 54-year-old said the lottery win has brought her "nothing, but grief".

8. 'My daughter is fighting for her life - drugs have torn our family apart'

Another family being torn apart by drugs. The mother of an 18-year-old drug addict spoke to The Irish News from her daughter's hospital bed calling for more help for addicts and their families.

Courtney Ashe was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in April after being found at a house in the New Lodge area of Belfast.

It is understood she had just got engaged and a party was being held to celebrate.

9. DUP defends Arlene Foster's 'astonishing' meetings with senior loyalists
The biggest political story of the year was, of course, the continuing fallout from Brexit. 

In October, the DUP defended its leader's decision to meet loyalist paramilitaries to discuss the implications of a mooted Brexit deal that could see a so-called border in the Irish Sea.

Arlene Foster and other senior party figures were reported to have held talks with high-ranking figures from the UVF and UDA - including south Belfast's Jackie McDonald.

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gildernew described reports of the meetings as "astonishing" and claimed the DUP was "living in a parallel universe".

“It is truly astonishing that the DUP are meeting with representatives of loyalist paramilitaries to discuss Brexit rather than listening to the majority who voted to reject Brexit, who want to protect the Good Friday Agreement and who are fearful of a crash-out Brexit," she said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and party MEP Diane Dodds at Stormont in Belfast ahead of power-sharing talks in February. Picture by David Young/PA Wire

10. IRA's 'Johnston's Motor Car' made famous by The Dubliners found in Donegal after almost 100 years

Almost 100 years later, the remnants of a legendary car used by the IRA in the War of Independence and immortalised in the song Johnston’s Motor Car were uncovered under a turf stack in Co Donegal.

Retired Ballybofey businessman Cathal McHugh believes he has found the last remaining parts of the old Ford which was commandeered by the IRA and used in an operation almost 100 years ago.

The car belonged to Starnorlar-based doctor Henry Maturin Johnston who was tricked into giving it to an IRA unit to transfer arms from Falcarragh to Dungloe in April 1921.

11. Trader in court for selling 'southern Tayto' to shops and pubs in Northern Ireland

A story about a Co Down trader who breached Northern Ireland crisps giant Tayto's trademark by selling the same name brand from the Republic was a good excuse for us all to start arguing over which taste better - Tayto from the north or south. 

Ballynahinch man Mark Ferris accepted the infringement at the High Court in Belfast.

He was selling Tayto crisps manufactured in the Republic to shops and pubs north of the border, a judge was told.

The case highlighted the strict commercial distinctions between the two famous brands with histories stretching back over more than 60 years but also the debate about which crisp tastes the best! 

12. 'If you're tempted to try drugs, remember the next one to die could be you'

Another young life lost to drugs. 

The family of a Co Down teenager who died after reportedly taking a lethal 'party' drug in November issued a powerful message appealing for people to "be strong enough to say no".

Heartbroken relatives of Jonny Ramsey from Saintfield have described how they "lost someone precious who took that chance" and used drugs.

13. Catholic man 'left for dead' in Kilkeel sectarian attack says wife

An attack in Co Down shocked the community after a Catholic man was left with head injuries.

Father-of-two Paschal Morgan suffered bruising to the front of his brain, shattered eye sockets and cheekbones.

14. Family's grief as heroin robs baby girl of father

A young father was found collapsed in the toilets of a Starbucks cafe in Cornmarket. 

Staff tried to revive him but Aaron Connor from Lenadoon in west Belfast had died from a suspected heroin overdose.

His daughter was seven months at the time.

His parents Christopher and Paula wanted to tell his story in the hope that it can “serve as a warning” to others.

“We don’t want another family to go through this."

15. Loughshore Hotel distances itself from wedding party who sang 'f*** the Pope and the IRA' at reception

Loughshore Hotel in Carrickfergus said it "does not condone the actions" of members of a wedding party who sang "f*** the Pope and the IRA" during a reception.

In a video posted on social media, the bride and groom can be seen entering the Loughview Suite and leading their guests in a rendition of the Tina Turner classic Simply the Best.

The hit song was adopted as a loyalist slogan and anthem by Johnny Adair's notorious UDA 'C' Company unit.

The newlyweds are seen raising their hands in the air and singing adapted lyrics of the song, including "f*** the Pope and the IRA".

16. Belfast woman's Facebook attack-claim video viewed 350,000 times

A shocking online video posted by a Belfast woman who claimed she was attacked has been viewed more than a quarter of a million times.

The Facebook video, which lasts close to 40 minutes, showa a woman with facial injuries, giving an account of how they were allegedly sustained.

17. Convicted sex-offender caught wandering corridors of Co Tyrone school, dressed as a woman

The behaviour led to a breach of a previously imposed Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) which banned the defendant coming within 20 metres of schools or places where persons aged under 18 frequent.

Police were called to St Ciaran’s College, Ballygawley after staff spotted Geoffrey Rainey Kelly (35) wearing women’s clothes and a blond wig, walking along school corridors, having gained entry by a side door.

18. Girls Aloud star Nadine splits with boyfriend after 11 years

Friends of Derry singer Nadine Coyle have put her reported split with boyfriend of 11 years Jason Bell down to the fact they were living increasingly separate lives.

The former Girls Aloud singer relocated back to Ireland with the couple’s daughter, Anaíya, two years ago.

Nadine Coyle took part in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! 2019

19. Roots to fallout which saw Sean Quinn leave role at Quinn Industrial Holdings

In September a Co Fermanagh businessman was abducted, tortured and dumped at the side of a road in Co Cavan.

It later emerged the man was Kevin Lunney who worked for QIH and was involved in a commercial dispute with the former owner of the company Sean Quinn. 

One interpretation of the dispute between Sean Quinn and some of those involved in the buyout of the former Quinn Group centred on his belief that his former lieutenants did not stick to an agreed plan - a belief the men say is not true.

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