Belfast Telegraph

20 Northern Ireland people we said goodbye to in 2019

Dr Ian Adamson
Dr Ian Adamson
John Stalker
Lyra McKee
Michael Lavery QC
Seamus Close
Derek Patterson
Ivan Cooper
Willie Frazer
Sir Anthony Hart
Brian Conlon
Tommy Breslin
John Mulholland
Julie Maxwell
Ciaran McKeown
Fr Seamus Hegarty
Ciaran Carson
Rev Brian Kennaway
Fr Des Wilson
Brian Mawhinney
Arty McGlynn
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Mark Bain takes a look back at some of the leading lights from society in NI who we sadly lost in the past 12 months... from the worlds of business, entertainment and politics to literature, the legal profession, the church and the civil rights movement

Dr Ian Adamson

Died January 9

A colourful and charismatic unionist politician and former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Dr Ian Adamson died at the age of 74.

One of the most notable tributes came from a close friend and political rival, Sinn Fein's Mairtin O Muilleoir, who said he was an "exceptional ambassador for a shared society and a united community".

Born in Conlig, Co Down and living in Bangor, Mr Adamson described himself as "a British Unionist, an Irish Royalist and an Ulster Loyalist".

Doctor, politician, historian, multi-linguist, renowned wit, a key mover in the restoration of the Ulster Tower at Thiepval and a friend of Van Morrison, Mr Adamson had a remarkable impact in Northern Ireland.

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He sat on Belfast City Council from 1989 to 2011, and also served as an MLA for East Belfast for five years from 1998.

He was awarded an OBE in 1998 for his services to local government.

John Stalker

Died February 15

John Stalker

John Stalker, who died aged 79, became one of the best-known policeman in Britain in the 1980s when, as deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester, he was controversially removed as head of an investigation into the alleged secret "shoot-to-kill" policy operated by the RUC against IRA terrorist suspects.

During his time as a police officer Mr Stalker travelled around the world studying terrorism and crime in Europe, the USA and South America and on his return he worked for two years in Northern Ireland, called in by RUC chief Sir John Hermon to investigate alleged extra-judicial killings of suspected paramilitaries - the Stalker Inquiry - that had taken place in north Armagh in Northern Ireland in 1982.

In his early policing career Stalker investigated the Moors murderer, Ian Brady, who tortured and killed five children with his partner, Myra Hindley, between 1963 and 1965.

After his retirement in 1987 he embarked on a new career as a journalist and pursued his passion for writing, publishing an autobiography in 1988.

Lyra McKee

Died April 18

Lyra McKee

The New IRA admitted carrying out the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (29) who was shot while observing rioting in Londonderry's Creggan estate.

A massive public outcry followed her death, with former Prime Minister Theresa May, Irish President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar among those to attend her funeral at St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. A protest by friends of Ms McKee took place outside the Londonderry office of dissident republican group Saoradh.

A number of women smeared red paint in handprints outside the office. Belfast-born Lyra had moved to Derry to be with her partner, Sara Canning, shortly before her death.

Her book, Angels with Blue Faces, which deals with the 1981 IRA murder of Belfast MP Robert Bradford, was published several months after her death. A collection of her writings will be published by Faber in 2020.

Michael Lavery QC

Died April 25

Michael Lavery QC

Born in 1934, Charles Michael Lavery studied law at Queen's University Belfast and Trinity College Dublin and went on to become one of the foremost legal brains in Northern Ireland.

He was called to the Bar in 1956 and became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1971.

He was an advocate in many high-profile cases during his career of more than six decades.

He represented some of the families of the Bloody Sunday victims at the Saville Inquiry, and on one memorable occasion he clashed sharply with the former British Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

Following his death, at the age of 84, tributes were paid to his outstanding ability in legal matters, his friendly personality and the lengths he went to, giving assistance to younger lawyers starting out their careers.

Seamus Close

Died May 7

Seamus Close

One of the great personalities of Northern Ireland politics, former deputy leader of the Alliance Party, Seamus Close, died after a short illness.

The 71-year-old had been suffering from liver cancer.

Mr Close served as a Lagan Valley MLA from 1998 until 2007. He held several positions in Alliance, including chair between 1981 and 1982 and deputy leader from 1991 until 2001.

He served as Mayor of Lisburn in 1993 and was a key member of Alliance delegations in talks processes.

Current Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said politics had lost an "advocate for ordinary people".

Derek Patterson

Died May 28

Derek Patterson

One of Northern Ireland's best known chefs and entrepreneurs Derek Patterson was found dead near his home in Hillsborough, Co Down.

Mr Patterson (53) was best known as the chef and part-owner of the Plough Group of restaurants, which includes the Vintage Rooms in Hillsborough, the Pheasant in Annahilt and the Tannery in Moira.

Mr Patterson ran the family firm, which had been founded by his parents, alongside his brothers William and Richard.

A leading figure in the local hospitality industry, he also established the village's Oyster Festival in 1992 and was credited with putting Hillsborough on the culinary map of Ireland.

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "Derek was not only known and loved by the members of the public who visited his bars and restaurants but he was a favourite of a number of Northern Ireland's Secretaries of State when they lived in Hillsborough Castle."

Ivan Cooper

Died June 26

Ivan Cooper

One of the founders of Northern Ireland's civil rights movement, Mr Cooper (75), died in June after a long period of ill health.

The former Stormont MP, who helped found the SDLP, led the civil rights march in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday.

He was also at the forefront of another landmark civil rights march in Derry in October 1968.

Many point to the scenes of violence when police moved to break up the demonstration on the city's Duke Street as the effective beginning of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Irish president Michael D Higgins presented Mr Cooper with a special award at an event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Duke Street march last year.

Mr Cooper was one of few Protestants involved with the civil rights movement and revealed his involvement saw people in his church refuse to sit beside him on the pews.

Willie Frazer

Died June 28

Willie Frazer

Described as a fearless campaigner for victims, Willie Frazer died in hospital aged 58 after a long battle with cancer.

A forthright advocate for victims of republican violence, Mr Frazer lost five close relatives during the Troubles, including his father Bertie, a part-time UDR member who was murdered by the IRA in 1975.

Mr Frazer was the leader of Markethill-based victims' group the Family Research and Policy Unit (FRPU).

Previously, in 1998, he founded Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (Fair) to provide support for victims of republican violence.

He stood down when the group's funding was halted in 2012.

A polarising character, Mr Frazer had many supporters in the loyalist community but was seen as divisive by many republicans and nationalists and once said he had received enough death threats in his life to paper the walls of his house.

Sir Anthony Hart

Died July 9

Sir Anthony Hart

Sir Anthony Hart, the retired judge who chaired the biggest child abuse inquiry ever held in the UK, died age 73, in London after suffering a severe heart attack.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry (HIAI) was set up in May 2012 to investigate allegations of abuse in 22 institutions between 1922 to 1995.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, he recommended compensation, a memorial and a public apology to abuse survivors.

He said a tax-free lump sum payment should be made to all survivors, including in homes and institutions that were not covered by the inquiry.

The payments will range from £7,500 to £100,000 but victims are still awaiting compensation.

Brian Conlon

Died July 28

Brian Conlon

First Derivatives founder and chief executive, businessman Brian Conlon, who was 53, built the company into a world-beating technology plc valued at over £1bn and employing 2,000 workers from a base in his home town of Newry, Co Down.

While it started out in 1996 providing consulting and software to investment banks, the company had expanded to offer services to other sectors such as utilities and Formula 1.

In 2010, Mr Conlon's achievements earned him the title of EY Entrepreneur of the Year in Ireland, later representing the island in a global final in Monte Carlo.

Paul Convery, president of Newry Chamber of Commerce, described him as "an inspirational business leader who put the city of Newry on the global map".

Mr Conlon had been diagnosed with cancer in May 2019, but he continued to work as the company's chief executive during his treatment.

Tommy Breslin

Died August 7

Tommy Breslin

Local footballing legend Tommy Breslin passed away while on holiday in Spain when he suffered a heart attack after returning from a walk.

The 58-year-old former Cliftonville FC manager, who also played for the Reds, led Ireland's oldest club during one of the most successful periods in its history.

After taking charge in 2011, he ended the club's 15-year wait for a league title in 2013, a title they successfully defended the following season.

Remembered across the Northern Ireland sporting world as one of the 'gentlemen' of football, three League Cups, two County Antrim Shields and a Charity Shield also came to Solitude during Breslin's reign, which ended when he stood down in September 2015.

John Mulholland

Died August 17

John Mulholland

John Mulholland (55) became a household name in the Northern Ireland motor trade after fronting a series of television adverts for his Co Antrim-based business.

The father-of-four, originally from the Antrim Road in Belfast, created the multi-million pound car dealership from a £500 wedding gift.

The north Belfast man moved to Randalstown during the Troubles and founded John Mulholland Motors in the Co Antrim town with his wife Alicia, selling cars from the side of their house, over three decades ago.

Described as a 'giant' of the Northern Ireland motor industry, his love of all things cars saw him plough huge amounts into sponsorship of local motorsport events.

He spoke openly about his cancer diagnosis, 14 months before his death, and devoted a lot of his final months raising funds for Friends of the Cancer Centre along with his family.

Julie Maxwell

Died August 25

Julie Maxwell

Star of BBC NI comedy Soft Border Patrol, actress Julie Maxwell had been enjoying a night out when she collapsed and died suddenly.

She had been with friends at Belfast's Sunflower Bar on Union Street, but fell unconscious during the evening.

The 36-year-old north Belfast native was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later.

She had also been a regular and popular performer at Belfast's Lyric Theatre.

She counted the Kenneth Branagh Renaissance Award and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Individual Artist Award among her achievements.

Friends and colleagues described her as a "beautiful, kind and talented soul".

Ciaran McKeown

Died September 2

Ciaran McKeown

One of the founders of Northern Ireland's Peace People, Ciaran McKeown died peacefully at home, aged 76, after a short illness.

Hailed as "one of a kind", the writer and journalist, born in Londonderry in 1943 though raised in Belfast, set up the organisation alongside Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams after Ms Corrigan's sister Anne Maguire lost three children in August 1976 when a fatally wounded IRA man crashed his out-of-control car into the Maguires on Finaghy Road North in Belfast.

After meeting Ms Corrigan and Mrs Williams during a television appearance, the trio combined and founded the Peace People, with Mr McKeown coming up with the group's name, declaration and rally programme.

Thousands of people took part in pro-peace marches organised by the group throughout Northern Ireland.

Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1976 but although he was very much to the fore in the movement, Mr McKeown went unrecognised for his contribution.

Fr Seamus Hegarty

Died September 20

Fr Seamus Hegarty

The former Bishop of Derry, Seamus Hegarty, died aged 79 at Letterkenny University Hospital in Co Donegal in September this year.

Ordained to the priesthood in St Patrick's College, Maynooth in 1966, he spent a period as a curate in Stranorlar, Co Donegal, before being made Bishop of Raphoe in 1982 and later consecrated as Bishop of Derry in 1994.

In 2005, Dr Hegarty, who was born in Kilcar, Co Donegal in 1940, issued an apology to parishioners for failing to inform them that some of their church contributions were going towards the Stewardship Trust Fund for victims of clerical sex abuse. Dr Hegarty announced he was retiring as Bishop of Derry for health reasons in 2011, saying he was being treated for an "irreversible and progressive" condition. He suffered from dementia in his final years.

Ciaran Carson

Died October 6

Ciaran Carson

In October, farewells were said to one of Northern Ireland's most celebrated poets, Ciaran Carson, who died aged 70.

From the Lower Falls Road, he published 15 volumes of poetry and wrote a number of books, and counted the TS Eliot Prize and Forward Prize among his achievements in the literary world.

Mr Carson, born in 1948, grew up speaking Irish as his first language.

In 2003, he served as the first director of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University, where he once studied.

He had also worked for the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as a specialist in traditional music and culture.

Among his most famous works was the award-winning Belfast Confetti, published in 1989.

Rev Brian Kennaway

Died October 14

Rev Brian Kennaway

Rev Brian Kennaway was once a prominent member of the Orange Order and was a member of the Parades Commission.

The former Minister of Crumlin Presbyterian Church died peacefully in hospital.

Despite his close association with Orangeism, Rev Kennaway was known as its most authoritative internal critic, calling out the institution over its stance on violence and association with paramilitaries during the parades crisis and criticised the order for its lack of engagement with the Parades Commission.

In a 2015 self-written Irish Times article, he said it had tried "every trick in the book to undermine and attack the commission personally".

Rev Kennaway left the Orange Order some years before his passing and had retired from his congregation in Crumlin in 2009.

Fr Des Wilson

Died November 5

Fr Des Wilson

Peacemaking west Belfast priest Fr Des Wilson died at the age of 94.

Originally from the Ormeau Road, he was one of the most senior priests in Down and Connor and had lived and served in his community for over 50 years.

He was renowned as a tireless campaigner for social justice and human rights and will be remembered for setting up the Springhill Community House in Ballymurphy.

He had been living and working in Belfast since 1966 and wrote a column for the Andersonstown News for more than 30 years.

In the 1970s he acted as a mediator between rival republican factions and also started a dialogue with loyalist paramilitaries during the Troubles, facilitating meetings between republicans and loyalists in efforts to bring peace to his community.

Brian Mawhinney

Died November 9

Brian Mawhinney

The Belfast-born former chairman of the Conservative Party joined the House of Lords in 2005.

Growing up in a conservative Christian family on the Belmont Road, he became the first Ulsterman to join the Cabinet in 59 years when he became a government minister in 1994.

First elected to the Commons in 1979 as MP for Peterborough, he became North West Cambridgeshire MP on the creation of that constituency in 1997. He was knighted in the same year.

He had a Commons career that lasted more than 25 years, and served as transport secretary under John Major.

He also served as a minister in the Northern Ireland Office for four years until 1990.

In 2003 he was appointed as chairman of the Football League, a role he carried out for seven years.

Arty McGlynn

Died December 18

Arty McGlynn

Pioneering Omagh guitarist Arty McGlynn was hailed as one of Ireland's most gifted musicians ever. He died in hospital aged 75.

During a long career he became well-known for his original guitar work and collaborating with artists like Van Morrison, Enya, Planxty, Four Men and a Dog and his wife, the fiddle player Nollaig Casey.

McGlynn played guitar on Morrison's critically acclaimed and commercially successful 1989 album 'Avalon Sunset'. He also played on 1983's 'Inarticulate Speech of the Heart' and 1995's 'Days Like This'.

McGlynn was born into a musical family in Omagh in 1944 and quickly became involved in performing.

He was awarded a lifetime achievement awarded for his contribution to music by Irish language channel TG4 in 2016.

He is survived by Nollaig, two daughters and three sons.

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