Belfast Telegraph

Most read stories of 2018: Bread, Brexit, backstops and the cream horns of the Derry Girls

A look back at just some of the year's biggest stories

By Jonathan Bell

It has been another big year for news in Northern Ireland and right across the world.

Brexit has dominated the news agenda and while it has been a year of tragedy and turmoil here there has been some lighter moments in the past 12 months.

Here we take a look at some of the biggest stories of the year on the belfasttelegraph.co.uk.

January

Barry McElduff was forced to resign as West Tyrone MP after tweeting a video with a loaf of bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre. The senior Sinn Fein man said he intended no offence and it was meant as a harmless joke.

Heavy snowfall caused travel chaos with travel disruption and schools forced to close.

On the entertainment front Derry Girls hit our screens and fast became one of Channel 4's most successful comedies every. January was also the month Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riodan passed away at the age of 46.

February

It was the end of an era as Gerry Adams stood down as Sinn Fein president after more than 34 years leading the party. Mary Lou McDonald was the sole nominee for the position with Michelle O'Neill taking the vice presidency.

Their counterpart Gerry Kelly was filmed taking a set of bolt cutters to a clamp on his car. The MLA later explained he was in a rush to get to a meeting and had borrowed the cutters from his gym. He apologised and paid the fine and damage costs.

The 'beast from the east' was the latest weather system to cause havoc - again travel and schools were affected.

Tragedy struck in Ballymena with the death of little five-year-old Kayden Fleck who fell into the River Braid.

The prominence of paedophile hunters came to the fore with police condemning their tactics of approaching and filming people they suspected of wrongdoing. In some cases the wrong person was identified and officials saying their actions threw into doubt any possibility of successful prosecutions. A BBC journalist was involved in confrontation with a group who he had been investigating. There was no suggestion investigative reporter Kevin Magee had been involved in wrongdoing, but rather was focused on how groups worked and who they were.

March

The biggest story of March was Ant and Dec's puzzling comments on Northern Ireland. Viewers were left scratching their heads after the famous duo referred to Northern Ireland as not being a part of Britain but wanting to include it in their game.

The rugby rape trial concluded clearing Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding of all charges.  Both left the club and now play for French clubs.

And there was excitement as the soon-to-be married Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stopped off in Belfast as part of a tour of the UK ahead of their big day.

In sport Ireland secured a Grand Slam Six Nations championship.

And March also saw the publication of our schools GCSE tables.

April

At an Easter Rising commemoration, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill called for a border poll. Thousands took part in our poll asking if it was time to take a poll with the majority saying there should be one.

Tragedy struck in Co Antrim when two people died after a plane crash. Pilot Bob Farmbrough (77) and Bryan Greenwood were travelling in the Cessna 152 when it came down near the rural Ballyhill Lane outside Crumlin.

And DUP leader Arlene Foster revealed in a documentary she would up and leave Northern Ireland if a border poll came out in favour of unification.

May

Ed Sheeran played a secret gig in Belfast - after he played a sold out Boucher Road concert. The Galway Girl hit-maker arrived unannounced in Maddens Bar - the home of traditional folk music in the city - with some of his backing musicians after finishing on stage.

The BBC was accused of bias after broadcasting an unchallenged attack on Christians in a segment on the royal wedding.

And the Belfast Health Trust was forced to perform the biggest ever patient recall in the history of the UK over the work of consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt. And inquiry has been established to examine the matter.

The Republic's landslide referendum on the introduction of abortion prompted calls for politicians to act to bring in a change of law in Northern Ireland.

And Meghan and Harry got married.

June

June rolled in and the World Cup kicked off. Locally actors Michael Fassbender and Jamie Dornan enjoyed the delights on the north coast in one of our most popular stories.

A report on a Northern Ireland care home detailed some of the horrific experiences of residents.

There was sadness after a child coked to death on a piece of food at the reopening of a Northern Ireland church after it had been hit by two arson attacks.

Drew Harris was appointed Garda Commissioner.

And the progress of Fermanagh in the GAA Ulster Championships made some feel uncomfortable in the work place, according to a local MLA.

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BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 12: An Orange man enjoys a burger before the start of the annual 12th of July Orange march and demonstration takes place on July 12, 2018 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The marches across the province celebrate King William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
 

July

July saw the tragic death of William Dunlop. Son of Robert and nephew of the legendary Joey, the racer came off his bike at the Skerries 100 in Co Dublin.

Former First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson sparked a backlash for suggesting preparations should be made for a united Ireland.

And it was another glorious Twelfth.

August

The Primark fire dominated the headlines in August as images of the iconic building ablaze were beamed around the world. The city has been left decimated in the aftermath with repairs and restrictions to movement in and around what is the hub of the city likely to continue well into the New Year.

The Pope visited Dublin with over 100,000 people turning out for Mass in Phoenix Park.

There was anger as hurlers celebrated their All-Ireland win with an IRA song.

And Belfast's newest hotel also had the most expensive pint in all Ireland.

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Whiterocks beach during Storm Ali. Credit: Jamie Russell
 

September

Another major weather system hit - Storm Ali - which claimed the lives of two including an engineer from Newtownabbey.

Ian Paisley began the first day of his 30-sitting day suspension from the Commons after he was found to have breached rules on declaring interests and paid advocacy.

A top Northern Ireland chef quit her role at an acclaimed Co Antrim restaurant.

And that man Jonathan Rea secured his fourth consecutive World Super Bike title.

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People dressed as Ku Klux Klan members outside the Islamic centre in Ards
 

October

While there were many Brexit twists and turns throughout the year, it was October which saw the ramping up of the rhetoric. The long-awaited withdrawal agreement was published and with it the straining of relations between the DUP and Prime Minister Theresa May - with the party threatening to pull down the government.

There were disgraceful scenes in Newtownards - which were beamed around the world - as a group dressed up as the  Ku Klux Klan and posed for pictures outside an Islamic centre.

There was "devastation" as Belfast model Mairead O'Neill died at just 21.

And motorbike racer Guy Martin's revelation he decided to step away from the sport while lying badly injured in a Belfast hospital bed proved a popular read among our audience.

November

November saw a rare win for the Irish against New Zealand - and with the help of Ulster powerhouse Jacob Stockdale.

In the news a man who fell from the pedal-powered bike bar in Belfast passed away.

And, ahead of the DUP conference, former leader Peter Robinson intervened to suggest the Irish language should be no barrier to the restoration of power sharing. He also warned against his party being led by the "most vociferous voices," although later denied he was being critical of Arlene Foster's leadership blaming sections of the media for "wanting to get Arlene".

The exiled terror chief Johnny Adair made a secret pilgrimage to his mother's wake to say a final goodbye.

And to mark the centenary of Armistice Day which brought to an end the First World War, haunting images of soldiers who died in the conflict appeared on beaches throughout the UK.

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Stories swept away in time: Danny Boyle "pages of the sea" remembering the life of John McCance takes place at Murlough Beach in Co Down on November 11th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph)
 

December

Brexit shifted up a gear in the month of December. The landscape was ever changing. Theresa May lost major votes in parliament, was forced into pulling her meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement because of a lack of numbers in the Commons and to top it off she survived a leadership challenge from rebel Tories.

There was widespread derision at the deal obtained by Theresa May, summed up by the Labour MP Kate Hoey who suggested the backstop - which would see Northern Ireland remain in a customs union with the EU until an alternative arrangement was found - was a backdoor to a united Ireland.

A family were plunged into mourning as father Jim Donegan was gunned down as he waited for his son outside a Belfast school.

A Co Down family were grief-stricken as their little boy Kai Corkum was hit and killed by a car.

And the year ended on a sour note for Belfast boxer Carl Frampton whose title hopes were dashed - and possibly the curtain brought down on his illustrious career - when he suffered defeat to Josh Warrington in a fight dubbed the "best of the year" and one that will live long in the annals of the sport's history.

That was just some of the stories that made 2018 - who knows what 2019 has in store.

A Happy New Year to all our readers.

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