Belfast Telegraph

Friday 27 November 2015

Memorable Northern Ireland moments from the noughties 50-41

Published 26/12/2009

Unlike foot-and-mouth bluetongue disease does not spread from animal to animal but is instead transmitted by midges
Unlike foot-and-mouth bluetongue disease does not spread from animal to animal but is instead transmitted by midges
Denis Donaldson
Lorraine McGovern and Arthur McElhill with their five children
SDLP press conference with John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Austin Currie and Paddy Devlin. 11/09/75

We continue to count down the 100 most significant moments in the decade. You can submit your choices for most memorable moments in our comments section below.


In 2001 foot and mouth disease devastated farming in Northern Ireland. The disease spread to the province from England after infected sheep were imported to south Armagh and across the border into the Republic of Ireland. In total 43,000 sheep, more than 5,000 cattle and 3,600 pigs were culled as part of the precautions to wipe out the disease. More than £7m was paid in compensation to farmers in the province whose animals were destroyed.


Jean McConville (37) a mother of 10, was abducted from her home in the Divis Flats complex in December 1972. In 2003 a man walking on a beach in Co Louth discovered the remains of her body. She had been shot in the head and buried on the beach by the IRA, who accused her of being an informer because she went to the aid of a shot soldier. She was the most famous of what became known as “The Disappeared”, people shot dead by the IRA and buried in remote locations.


In October 2006 representatives of the British and Irish governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland gathered at St Andrews in Fife, Scotland for crucial talks which would pave the way for the restoration of devolved government to the province. From agreements at these talks, on May 8, 2007 the new Northern Ireland Assembly met and elected the Rev Ian Paisley of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein as First and Deputy First Minister respectively.


Former senior Sinn Fein member Denis Donaldson was found shot dead in an isolated run down house in Donegal on April 4, 2006. He had been expelled from the party after admitting that he had been in the pay of British intelligence for around 20 years. His admission was a huge embarrassment to Sinn Fein because he was regarded as close to Gerry Adams, and other members of the party's elite. Earlier this year the Real IRA claimed its members carried out the murder.


In June this year relatives of some of those killed in the Omagh bombing won a landmark civil action against those they blamed for the atrocity. Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and three other men, Liam Campbell, Seamus Daly and Colm Murphy were found to be responsible for the attack. The Real IRA was also judged culpable. The relatives sued the men and the Real IRA for £14m. The judge awarded £1.6m to the 12 relatives involved in the prosecution.


The murder of Strabane woman Attracta Harron shocked Northern Ireland. The 65-year-old retired librarian vanished on her way home from Mass in December 2003. Her body was found four months later in a makeshift grave near the home of convicted rapist Trevor Hamilton in Sion Mills. Hamilton had been sent to a young offenders centre after being found guilty of raping a woman in 2000 and had been released for only four months when he killed Mrs Harron.


It was a tragedy which might have been avoided. In November 2007 Arthur McElhill set fire to his family home killing himself, his partner, Lorraine McGovern and their five children. Earlier this month a coroner ruled that McElhill, who had two previous sex convictions, set fire to the property at Lammy Crescent in Omagh because he feared that his partner was about to leave him. He was also concerned that he might face prosecution for having sex with a 16-year-old babysitter.


The raid on Sinn Fein's offices at Stormont in October 2002 was part of one of the most bizarre political episodes in the history of Northern Ireland. Three men, including the party's head of administration at Stormont, Denis Donaldson, were arrested as part of the raid and a large quantity of documents seized. Police insisted the raid was designed to thwart a republican spy ring at the heart of government. The Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, later apologised for the way the raid was carried out, saying it could have been performed more sensitively. Shortly after the searches, amid threats by unionists to resign, the power-sharing administration was suspended, a suspension that lasted five years. Charges against the three men arrested were later dropped 'in the public interest' and one of them, Mr Donaldson, was outed as a spy — for British intelligence. He was later shot dead at a hideaway.


Gerry Fitt was one of the pivotal leaders of nationalism in Northern Ireland. The north Belfast man was one of the founding members of the SDLP in 1970. Indeed, he formed the province's first power-sharing administration along with Brian Faulker in 1974, but it only lasted a short time being brought down by the loyalist-backed Ulster Worker's Council strike which paralysed the province and threatened anarchy on the streets. Mr Fitt died aged 79 in 2005.


The new look Ulster Museum on Belfast's Stranmillis Road proved an instant hit with the public with 100,000 visitors pouring through the doors in the first four weeks after it reopened. The museum was closed for three years while it underwent a £17m refurbishment, creating new exhibition space and viewing galleries as well as a much enhanced entrance area. The ‘Window on our World’ gallery brings together some of the museum's most iconic pieces. Video

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