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Memorable Northern Ireland moments from the noughties 80-71

Today we continue to count down the 100 most significant moments in the decade, chosen by a panel of experts.You can comment on the listings through our website and submit your most memorable moments.

80: WENDY’S SILVER LINING If someone had produced a film that mirrored the story of Wendy Houvenaghel's route to an Olympic silver medal in Beijing in 2008, people would have said it was too far fetched. The Co Derry woman took up cycling in her 20s as a means of keeping fit and ended up winning silver in the individual pursuit at the age of 33. Houvenaghel had hopes of gold at London 2012 but the individual pursuit was last week dropped from the Olympic cycling programme.

79:SNOW PATROL HIT THE BIG TIME Signing to major label Polydor and releasing The Final Straw in 2003 saw Snow Patrol enter the stratospheres of guitar pop. Formed in Dundee in 1994, Bangor man Gary Lightbody’s ear for infectious guitar hooks and words of yearning and hope saw the four piece wrestling Coldplay for their crown. The band also released Eyes Open in 2006, selling 4.6 million copies, earning Brit Award nominations and international acclaim.

78: ENGLAND’S CHOKER AT CROKER The clash of Ireland and England at Croke Park in February 2007 was possibly the most politically symbolic showdown of all-time. Any meeting of the Irish and English carries political significance, but this match went way beyond anything that had gone before due to the fact that, because Lansdowne Road was closed for redevelopment, it was played at Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Ireland beat England 43-13.

77: NATASHA RICHARDSON TRAGEDY On March 18 2009, actress Natasha Richardson, the wife of Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson, tragically died from injuries received in a skiing accident while on holiday in Canada. An acclaimed actress, Richardson married Neeson in 1994 and they had two children. Following her tragic death Neeson's publicist said: “Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha.”

76: CLINTON FAREWELL VISIT In late 2000, US President Bill Clinton came to Northern Ireland on his farewell visit. Not only was it the third time that he'd visited the country, but Clinton was also the first US President to set foot here. He played a pivotal role in Northern Ireland's peace process. Clinton and wife Hillary first came to Belfast in 1995 when they switched on the Christmas tree lights at City Hall. Clinton proved to be a catalyst in the change of attitudes towards a lasting peace.

75: RED FACES AT CASTLEREAGH On the night of March 17 2002, St Patrick's Day, at around 10pm, Castlereagh police station became the scene of a high-profile break in. An on-duty Special Branch officer was overpowered and a room with files containing the names and addresses of top Special Branch officers and senior loyalists and republicans was left empty. The raid was largely believed to be the work of the IRA, and was seen to be a major embarrassment for the relatively new force.

74: STAKEKNIFE’S DOUBLE LIFE There had long been rumours of a highly-placed double agent at the heart of the Provisional IRA and in May 2003 several newspapers named Freddie Scappaticci as Stakeknife, the codename given to the spy. Scappaticci later launched an unsuccessful legal action to force the Government to deny that he was working for military intelligence. It was claimed that innocent people had been killed to protect his identity and double-life.

73: NADINE CROWNED POP PRINCESS Londonderry girl Nadine Coyle has become one of Northern Ireland’s most successful ever pop stars as part of the Girls Aloud group. She originally came to public attention in 2001 when she won a place on girl group, Six, in the Irish version of the Popstars talent show, but was later found to have fibbed about her age and had to leave the band. The following year Girls Aloud emerged from the UK show, Popstars: The Rivals, and have gone on to become one of the world’s top girl groups with a record breaking string of Top 10 hits and sell out tours. Nadine and her family now spend a lot of their time in Los Angeles where she has opened a number of Irish-themed businesses. Although still contracted to Girls Aloud for more albums, she is also working on solo material which will be released this coming year.

72: DEATH OF BERTIE FISHER Local motorsport was plunged into grief on January 21, 2001 when a helicopter piloted by rally ace Bertie Fisher crashed near his home in Fermanagh. He died of his injuries the following day. Son Mark (27) and daughter Emma (25) were also killed, but his wife, Gladys and another son, Roy, survived. Fisher won four Irish Tarmac Championships, three Circuit of Ireland crowns and the Ulster rally four times.

71: SPORTS STADIUM SAGA The former Maze Prison site became the subject of one of the first big policy tussles of the power-sharing Stormont Executive established in 2007. Multi-million pound redevelopment plans were drawn up, with a sports stadium as the centrepiece, catering for football, GAA and rugby. The plans were ditched after months of wrangling. The first DUP Sports Minister Edwin Poots had been keen on the project. However, others in his party were strongly opposed.

Belfast Telegraph


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