The dawn of the new Millennium brought renewed hope to Northern Ireland. Today we start to count down the 100 most significant moments in the decade. The list has been compiled by our reporters and outside experts and it explores the events which impacted on our lives.
In July 2008, a species of bird which had been extinct in Northern Ireland for at least two centuries was reintroduced. Some 27 red kites were set free in County Down in a project involving the RSPB, the Golden Eagle Trust and the Welsh Kite Trust. They are the largest birds of prey to nest in Northern Ireland, but experts stress that they are not a threat to livestock or other birds. In all some 80 red kites have been reintroduced into the province.
Dungiven lad Eoghan Quigg took the UK by storm by coming third in the X Factor in December, 2008. With his baby face, down-to-earth attitude and sweet voice he won a legion of fans across Northern Ireland and further afield. Eoghan released his debut album in April, but it failed to make an impression and only stayed in the top 100 for three weeks. He has since returned to school where he is studying for his A Levels.
John ‘Grugg’ Gregg was shot dead as his taxi stopped at traffic lights near Belfast docks on February 1, 2003. The UDA brigadier, who was renowned for almost killing Gerry Adams in the 1980s, was returning from Scotland after watching his beloved Rangers. Loyalist sources immediately blamed the killing on associates of Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair. His murder was a turning point in the bloody feud between loyalist factions.
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde hit the headlines in February 2007 for the wrong reasons, admitting he had fathered a love child. The married PSNI boss was exposed by a Sunday tabloid as the father of a 16-month-old boy. The mother was a detective in the Metropolitan Police with whom Sir Hugh had had a long-running affair. Six months later, it was revealed that the chief constable had split from his wife Kathleen.
The Grand Opera House extension. A lack of space to circulate had long been a problem at the venue, with audience members often forced to enjoy their interval drinks on cramped stairways and corridors. Finally opened in October 2006, the £10.5m project immediately drew acclaim and criticism in equal measure. Aesthetics aside, the increased space and improved bar and catering facilities were welcomed by theatre-goers.
On the green grassy slopes of the Boyne, on a scorching day in May 2007, peace process premier Bertie Ahern bowed out of office after a hug with unionist First Minister Ian Paisley. As Ahern himself remarked, who would have thought his time as Taoiseach would end “in an embrace with ‘Dr No’ on the site of the most famous battle in Irish history”. The DUP leader also presented Mr Ahern with a rare 18th century edition of the King James Authorised Bible.
A red costume led to red faces at Belfast City Council in 2007 when a PR stunt for a gourmet festival went badly awry. Council worker Lorraine Mallon dressed up as a tomato for the event, but suffered back injuries when Mayor Jim Rodgers was leapfrogging her for a promotional photo shoot. Mr Rodgers, who caught the unfortunate employee with his knee, said: “Unfortunately there had been a shower of rain, the grass was damp and it was an accident.”
Belfast woman Iris Jeffrey became the single biggest lottery winner in the UK when she scooped £20.1m in July 2004, although she didn't claim the prize until the following month. Later that month her daughter Karen gave birth to her first grandson, Taylor. The 58-year-old said the delay in claiming her prize was due to forgetting about the ticket. It was only when she heard an appeal from Camelot that she checked her numbers. She celebrated her record-breaking win with a glass of milk before going to bed. Mrs Jeffrey, a mother of two grown-up daughters was later revealed to be battling gullet cancer. In October 2004, she said she believed she had been given a second chance at life after learning that her cancer was in remission. She had undergone an operation to remove tumours.
In May 2007, the NIO announced that an eight metre high fence would be built in the playground of Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in north Belfast. The timing of the announcement was just weeks after the formation of the new devolved government here. Adding to the irony, the dividing structure was built in the grounds of what many see as a symbol for the future direction of education and the attempt to build a shared and integrated society in the province.
Christine makes it big. What a year 2009 has been for Christine Bleakley. Hardly out of the limelight now she has confirmed her relationship with Chelsea striker Frank Lampard. The local girl started her career as a runner for the BBC here before presenting. She won the hearts of the nation after she appeared on Strictly Come Dancing last year. Christine then became co-host of The One Show with Adrian Chiles in 2007 and the pair were plagued by rumours they were romantically linked.
Hare coursing in Northern Ireland is banned under temporary legislation which prohibits the taking, killing or selling of native Irish hares. The legislation, introduced on a temporary basis on January 1, 2004 and renewed several times since, was challenged in court by those in favour of hare coursing, which has a large following in both parts of Ireland, but their action was defeated. There is serious concern over the diminishing numbers of the native Irish hare.
The rise and fall of Paul Rankin. Paul’s rise to fame came on the back of his hugely successful Roscoff Brasserie. The Rankin brand soon went UK-wide, with Paul and his business partner wife Jeanne opening another restaurant Rain City, as well as a chain of Rankin Cafes. However, the rapid expansion left Rankin spread too thin and amid mounting debts he was forced to sell off Roscoff and in March 2009 faced near bankruptcy after his business empire hit financial difficulties.
Number 33 Lecky Road (Free Derry Corner) has been a divisive symbol in Northern Ireland’s past. The corner in Derry’s nationalist Bogside saw the birth of the Civil Rights Movement in 1969, was a place of mourning after Bloody Sunday in 1972, and has been rammed by Army armoured Saracens. Since the immortal You Are Now Entering Free Derry appeared on the gable of this run down old house on January 5, 1969, the wall has stood witness to our changing political landscapes.
Following in the footsteps of Pavarotti, Michael Flatley and Elton John, the Eagles played an open air concert at Stormont in the summer of 2001. The group performed for the first time in Belfast and their Lifetime of Hits in One Night show attracted tens of thousands of fans who descended on Stormont for the landmark gig. The tradition of using the grounds for concerts was started by former Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam in 1998.
Fifteen years as an MP came crashing down for former First Minister David Trimble when he lost his Upper Bann seat to the DUP’s David Simpson on May 7, 2005. It was a day of disaster for Trimble personally and for his Ulster Unionist Party, whose five seats were reduced to one, the sole survivor Lady Sylvia Hermon in North Down. The party had paid the price for the deep split in its ranks and long-running row over its ‘no guns, no government’ policy.
In the final months of 2001, chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan became embroiled in a bitter dispute with Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan that would cloud his final period in charge of the force. Mrs O'Loan had issued a highly critical report on the RUC's handling of the inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bomb atrocity. It included the verdict that the chances of convicting the bombers had been significantly reduced as a result of policing flaws.
The chief architects of the Good Friday Agreement, the UUP and SDLP, would not over time remain as its custodians. The job of securing political stability would shift instead to the parties once regarded as the more extreme, Sinn Fein and the DUP. The SDLP slipped behind Sinn Fein for the first time in the 2001 General Election. The DUP became the largest party from here at Westminster as support for the Ulster Unionist Party crumbled in the General Election four years later.
Even though not completely unexpected, the sudden death of the irrepressible Mo Mowlam on August 19, 2005 still came as a deep and sad shock. The feisty 55-year-old brought her own touch to the post of Secretary of State, but while her touchy-feely style broke barriers in some over-stiff areas of politics, it put others on their guard. Dr Mowlam’s populist style caught on in a province suspicious of pretension but, particularly as her illness progressed, the dark mutterings over her informality and seeming inability to pay attention to detail increased. Then First Minister David Trimble and his Ulster Unionist Party grew increasingly wary of Dr Mowlam after she declared the IRA had “breached but not broken” its ceasefire and despite the release of paramilitary prisoners, the supposedly parallel process of decommissioning ran into the ground. She was removed and replaced by Peter (now Lord) Mandelson.
In April 2008, Strangford Lough became home to a new generation of ‘green’ energy supply when a tidal energy converter began operating there. The turbine is already exceeding expectations by supplying enough energy to power around 1,500 homes. The tidal surges in the lough are more aggressive than models had predicted, hence the turbine’s enhanced productivity. Known as SeaGen, it operates automatically and does not pose a risk to seals or other marine life.
Paddy Barnes won Ireland's first medal of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when he took bronze in the light flyweight division. It was Northern Ireland's first Olympic boxing medal since Wayne McCullough won bantamweight silver at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Barnes, then 21, turned down several offers to turn professional after his Beijing Olympic odyssey, which ended with a semi-final points defeat against home favourite Shiming Zou.