| -2.2°C Dublin

wacky stuff From Jedward's close shave to dancing gardaí and a miraculous dog rescue, here are the best good-news stories of 2021

During a challenging year, there was still plenty to warm our hearts. Amy O’Connor looks back at 50 uplifting, inspiring and funny stories that made the headlines this year

Close

Some of the faces that hit the headlines for the right reasons in 2021

Some of the faces that hit the headlines for the right reasons in 2021

Addison Whelan with Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Addison Whelan with Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Joanne McNally

Joanne McNally

Padraig Howley

Padraig Howley

Tolu Ibikunle and her friends Susan, Tejiri and Okefe

Tolu Ibikunle and her friends Susan, Tejiri and Okefe

Irish rugby star Keith Earls

Irish rugby star Keith Earls

The Myrtle Beach barrel. Picture: Keith McGreal / Instagram

The Myrtle Beach barrel. Picture: Keith McGreal / Instagram

Matt LeBlanc

Matt LeBlanc

Aoife Ní Niocaill's football. Picture: Aline Denton/Facebook

Aoife Ní Niocaill's football. Picture: Aline Denton/Facebook

Missing dog Neesha with Jean-Francois Bonnet. Picture: Jean-Francois Bonnet

Missing dog Neesha with Jean-Francois Bonnet. Picture: Jean-Francois Bonnet

Uruemu Adejinmi

Uruemu Adejinmi

Jedward. Picture: Andres Poveda

Jedward. Picture: Andres Poveda

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers

Ryan Tubridy

Ryan Tubridy

Donie O Sullivan. Picture: Mark Condren

Donie O Sullivan. Picture: Mark Condren

Action from the set of Disenchanted. Picture:Mark Condren

Action from the set of Disenchanted. Picture:Mark Condren

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA

Emma Slevin. Picture: Thomas Schreyer/Sportsfile

Emma Slevin. Picture: Thomas Schreyer/Sportsfile

Ruairi McSorley. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Ruairi McSorley. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Barry Keoghan

Barry Keoghan

Fifth cousins of US President Joe Biden, Cllr Andrea McKevitt and her sister Ciara, celebrate on inauguration day

Fifth cousins of US President Joe Biden, Cllr Andrea McKevitt and her sister Ciara, celebrate on inauguration day

Leona Maguire. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Leona Maguire. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Lidl's campaign to tackle period poverty

Lidl's campaign to tackle period poverty

Niamh O'Sullivan and Geraldine Rea with their twins. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Niamh O'Sullivan and Geraldine Rea with their twins. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Pamela Uba

Pamela Uba

Michael D Higgins

Michael D Higgins

Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe

Daniel O'Donnell. Picture: Mark Condren

Daniel O'Donnell. Picture: Mark Condren

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh

Joanne McNally. Picture: Evan Doherty

Joanne McNally. Picture: Evan Doherty

Ireland v New Zealand. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland v New Zealand. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Pamela Uba

Pamela Uba

Barry Keoghan

Barry Keoghan

The Late Late Toy Show

The Late Late Toy Show

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Picture: David Conachy

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Picture: David Conachy

Belfast

Belfast

/

Some of the faces that hit the headlines for the right reasons in 2021

Uruemi Adejinmi became the first African-Irish woman to be appointed as a mayor in Ireland. The Fianna Fáil councillor was elected mayor of Longford Municipal District in June. Adejinmi called her election an “historic day for Longford” and said she was “honoured” to represent her community. Adejinmi joined the party in 2016 and was first co-opted onto the council following the election of Fianna Fáil’s Joe Flaherty to the Dáil. She came to Longford from Nigeria in 2003.

1. Uruemu Adejinmi

Close

Uruemu Adejinmi

Uruemu Adejinmi

Uruemu Adejinmi

2. Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast


Close

Belfast

Belfast

Belfast

This autumn, Kenneth Branagh debuted Belfast, a love letter to the city he left as a child. The film chronicles the life of a working-class family during the Troubles. It picked up the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, often seen as a bellwether for the Oscars. Indeed, the film’s predominantly Irish cast have also garnered serious Oscars buzz, with Caitríona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds and Jamie Dornan all seen as contenders to pick up nominations. Will they enjoy the luck of the Irish? Only time will tell.

3. Donie O’Sullivan

Close

Donie O Sullivan. Picture: Mark Condren

Donie O Sullivan. Picture: Mark Condren

Donie O Sullivan. Picture: Mark Condren

At the beginning of the year, the world looked on in horror as Trump supporters staged an insurrection and stormed the Capitol. As Irish viewers watched it all unfold live on CNN, many were introduced to Donie O’Sullivan, a native of Cahersiveen, Co Kerry, and a correspondent with the Cable News Network. O’Sullivan’s tenacious on-the-ground reporting won him a new legion of admirers, and he became a national treasure in no time. G’wan Donie.

4. Joanne McNally


Close

Joanne McNally. Picture: Evan Doherty

Joanne McNally. Picture: Evan Doherty

Joanne McNally. Picture: Evan Doherty

It hasn’t been an easy few years for stand-up comedians. With clubs and theatres shuttered for large chunks of the pandemic, many have struggled. Not Joanne McNally, though. In fact, the comic is emerging from the pandemic with her star brighter than ever. Thanks to the success of her podcast, My Therapist Ghosted Me, as well as appearances on the likes of The Jonathan Ross Show and Richard Osman’s House of Games, McNally is primed and ready for a breakout 2022. Indeed, she is currently slated to play 30 dates in Dublin’s Vicar Street next year, an unprecedented feat for a female stand-up comic. As well as that, she has just signed a deal with Penguin to release a book of essays. It’s McNally’s world and we’re just living in it.

5. Cartoon Saloon

Close

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers

There wasn’t much Irish interest at this year’s Oscars, but Kilkenny-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon did manage to rack up yet another Oscar nomination for its gorgeous feature Wolfwalkers. Incredibly, it was the studio’s fourth nomination for Best Animated Feature, cementing its reputation as one of the country’s leading film producers. Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart and Paul Young appeared live on the Oscars telecast from their native Kilkenny. Alas, they did not win. The top prize went to Pixar’s Soul. Not to worry, though. Cartoon Saloon will be back.

6. Wally the walrus

A year on from the sad disappearance of Fungi the dolphin, Ireland was introduced to a new sea pal this year — Wally the walrus. The Arctic walrus was first spotted off the coast of Co Kerry earlier this year. According to the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, it was just the third time a walrus had been spotted around these parts. After his sojourn to the Kingdom, he embarked on a European tour of sorts, popping up in Wales, France and even Bilbao. However, he couldn’t stay away from these shores for long and returned to Waterford and Cork in August. It begs the question: will Wally come back next year? We’ll have to wait and see.

7. Rachael Blackmore made history

Close

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA

Rachael Blackmore. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/PA

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

This spring, Rachael Blackmore made history when she became the first woman to win the Aintree Grand National. The jockey rode Minella Times to an extraordinary victory, finishing six-and-a-half lengths ahead of the nearest rider. Previously, the closest a female jockey had come to winning the race was when Katie Walsh finished third in 2012. The race took place behind closed doors, meaning Blackmore was deprived of the usual celebrations. Nonetheless, the significance of her achievement was not lost on her. “I don’t feel male or female right now,” she told ITV, following the race. “I don’t even feel human.”

8. Fenergo valued at €1bn

Irish fintech company Fenergo became just the third Irish company to achieve unicorn status after it received a valuation of more than $1bn. It’s a feat matched only by two other Irish start-ups, Intercom and Workhuman. Founded by Marc Murphy, the company develops software for financial institutions and counts many of the world’s leading banks among its clients. It employs 700-plus people in more than 25 countries and only looks set to grow. A homegrown success story for us all to be proud of.


9. Female solidarity in the Dáil

Close

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Picture: David Conachy

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Picture: David Conachy

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. Picture: David Conachy


Holly Cairns and Helen McEntee became the first TDs to set up a paired voting pact to coincide with McEntee’s maternity leave.
Pairing is when two TDs from opposing parties agree not to vote when the other is absent. When McEntee disclosed that she was pregnant, Cairns offered to pair with the minister for the duration of her maternity leave. It was the first such voting pact of its kind and ensured that McEntee would not have to worry about voting during her maternity leave. “As there are no provisions for TDs to take maternity leave, if a Dáil vote was to come down to a single vote, there would be an unfair burden on the parent to return to the Dáil,” explained Cairns. It was not only a heartwarming act of female solidarity and cross-party cooperation, but an important step toward ensuring that young women can participate in politics.

10. Irish population tops five million for the first time since 1851

This year, it was reported that the Irish population had topped five million for the first time since 1851. The Central Statistics Office confirmed that Ireland’s population now stood at 5.01 million. Not only is this the highest population in 170 years, but it represents an increase of 2.19 million in the population since 1961. The most recent increase is attributed, in part, to more Irish nationals returning to live in Ireland during the pandemic.

11. Toy Show Appeal


Close

The Late Late Toy Show

The Late Late Toy Show

The Late Late Toy Show

Not only was this year’s Late Late Toy Show a balm for the soul, but it also helped raise much-needed funds for a number of charities. Heeding Ryan Tubridy’s call to treat people with kindness, viewers donated more than €5.5m to the Toy Show Appeal, while Revolut co-founder Vlad Yatsenko made an additional donation of €1.1m. All funds raised will go to a wide range of children’s charities across Ireland. Nice one.

12. Meath win All-Ireland

In what was a fairytale underdog victory for the ages, Meath won their first ever Senior All-Ireland Ladies Football Championship. Having overcome heavyweight opponents in the form of Armagh and Cork, the Royal County put an end to Dublin’s dominance in the final with a 1-11 to 0-12 win — a goal from 19-year-old Emma Duggan proving the key difference in the end. Meath’s win was all the more impressive when you consider that they only graduated from the intermediate ranks last year. Following their stunning win, manager Eamonn Murray stated that the team were “all heroes and will be heroes for life”.

13. Daniel O’Donnell’s random act of kindness

Close

Daniel O'Donnell. Picture: Mark Condren

Daniel O'Donnell. Picture: Mark Condren

Daniel O'Donnell. Picture: Mark Condren

Daniel O’Donnell is renowned for his random acts of kindness. Earlier this year, the singer learned of the passing of Margaret McCarthy from Inishshannon, Co Cork. After leaving his condolences on rip.ie, O’Donnell tuned into a livestream of the service and decided to ring the undertaker to see if he could sing at the funeral. O’Donnell then sang Beyond the Rainbow’s End, one of Margaret’s favourite songs, over the phone, while the family stood at the graveside. “It was just amazing how it happened,” Margaret’s daughter, Ann, told C103.

14. Jedward’s fundraiser

Close

Jedward. Picture: Andres Poveda

Jedward. Picture: Andres Poveda

Jedward. Picture: Andres Poveda

With fundraising for Daffodil Day hampered once again by the pandemic, Jedward decided to appear on The Late Late Show and shave their signature quiffs live on air. The twins, who lost their mother to cancer in 2019, said they wanted to “support the fighting heroes going through cancer” — and that’s exactly what they did. After performing a moving rendition of True Colours, the twins shaved each other’s heads and encouraged viewers to donate. The televised appeal helped raise more than €2.6m for the Irish Cancer Society.

15. Campaign to save The Cobblestone

When it was reported that planning permission was being sought to build a hotel on the site of The Cobblestone in Smithfield, there was widespread fear that it could lead to the closure of the iconic pub. A campaign was launched to save the pub, with nearly 35,000 people signing an online petition and hundreds lodging objections with the council. Earlier this month, Dublin City Council refused permission. In a year that has seen Dublin beset by closures, it was a rare good news story for the capital. The Mulligan family, who have operated the pub for 34 years, said they were “immeasurably grateful” and thanked the public for their support.

16. Emma Slevin

Close

Emma Slevin. Picture: Thomas Schreyer/Sportsfile

Emma Slevin. Picture: Thomas Schreyer/Sportsfile

Emma Slevin. Picture: Thomas Schreyer/Sportsfile

Galway teenager Emma Slevin had an unforgettable year. In April, the gymnast competed in the European Gymnastics Championships and became the first Irish woman to qualify for the women’s all-around final. Six months later, she made history yet again when she travelled to the World Gymnastics Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan, and became the first Irish female gymnast to qualify for a senior all-around final. There, she finished a very creditable 19th in a field that included multiple Olympic and World medallists, and established herself as a trailblazer in Irish gymnastics.

17. Glenisk comeback

There was devastation in September when the Glenisk yoghurt plant was destroyed in a fire. However, the country rallied around Glenisk. Local businesses in Tullamore, Co Offaly, let staff work from their premises. Businessman Seamus O’Kane offered up the vacant Tullamore Dew building as an office for the short-to-medium term. And in a testament to how beloved the company is, customers donated to Self Help Africa, an organisation with a long association with Glenisk. The company is now back producing milk and fresh cream. Yoghurt has yet to return to the shelves, but will in time. On their Twitter bio, they describe themselves as the “comeback kids of 2022”. We can’t wait.

18. Basic income for creatives

In positive news for the arts, the Government announced plans to pilot a Universal Basic Income plan for artists. Under proposals, around 2,000 artists will be able to draw a weekly income of €325 per week to help support their living expenses. The pilot scheme is expected to be launched in the spring. The move has been hailed as a game changer for artists and will help sustain many working in the creative arts, something that is more important than ever given the unpredictable times we live in.

19. Irish Twitter embraces Uncle Joey

Close

Matt LeBlanc

Matt LeBlanc

Matt LeBlanc

It was one of the most highly anticipated pop culture events of the year. Friends: The Reunion saw the cast of the beloved sitcom reunite for a one-off special, and attracted millions of viewers from across the world. Indeed, Irish viewers tuned into the special in their droves, and even claimed one of the ‘friends’ as their own. Matt LeBlanc, dressed in a buttoned-up shirt and sitting back with his arms folded, was christened Uncle Joey and inspired countless gas memes in which he was portrayed as your stereotypical sausage-eating, stout-swilling, good-natured Irish uncle. It was Irish Twitter at its finest.

20. Disney comes to Co Wicklow

Close

Action from the set of Disenchanted. Picture:Mark Condren

Action from the set of Disenchanted. Picture:Mark Condren

Action from the set of Disenchanted. Picture:Mark Condren

Earlier this summer, the town of Enniskerry in Co Wicklow was transformed into something of a Disney wonderland for the filming of Disenchanted, the long-awaited sequel to Enchanted. Shopfronts were transformed as filmmakers tried to bring the fictional kingdom of Andalasia to life. Families flocked from far and wide to see the village up close and to try to get a glimpse of the film’s stars, Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. Filming in the village was estimated to be worth €20m to the local economy. In an otherwise tumultuous year, it was a welcome sprinkle of magic.

21. David Balfe’s For Those I Love

One of the year’s most breathtaking musical projects was David Balfe’s For Those I Love, whose eponymous album was met with significant critical acclaim both at home and abroad. A raw and deeply personal rumination on grief and class, informed, in part, by the death of his friend, Paul Curran, the album struck a chord and charted at number two in the Irish album charts. His song, Top Scheme, was nominated for a prestigious Ivor Novello Award, while his concert at the 3Olympia is a leading contender for gig of the year. The pride of Donaghmede.

22. Republic of Ireland team silence critics

Close

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

After something of a rocky start to Stephen Kenny’s tenure as manager, the Republic of Ireland ended their World Cup qualifying campaign on a high, notching up victories against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg as well as a hard-fought draw against Portugal. In doing so, the team silenced critics and gave soccer fans something to smile about after a period in the doldrums. Most promisingly, a new generation of heroes has emerged in the form of players like goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, defender Andrew Omobamidele, winger Chiedozie Ogbene and midfielder Jason Knight, meaning that next year’s Nations League ought to be very exciting indeed.

23. Paralympics medal haul

Team Ireland enjoyed a similarly magnificent run at the Paralympic Games, finishing with seven medals. In the pool, Ellen Keane won gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB8, while Nicole Turner won silver in the women’s 50m butterfly S6. Sprinter Jason Smyth secured his legacy as one of Ireland’s greatest ever athletes, winning his fourth consecutive gold medal in the 100m T13. Cyclist Gary O’Reilly won a bronze medal in the men’s road time trial. The standout performance of the Games, however, came from Katie-George Dunlevy and Eve McCrystal. The cycling duo won not one, not two, but three medals. Brilliant.

24. Tommy Bowe goes viral

Close

Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe

The award for the best TV gaffe goes to… Earlier this year, Ireland AM host Clare McKenna was introducing a segment. “Author Séamas O’Reilly was just five years old when he and his 10 siblings...” she started, at which point co-host Tommy Bowe interrupted her with an incredulous “10 siblings?” McKenna then finished her sentence and noted that they had “sadly lost their mum”. Bowe was left looking red-faced and the clip went viral, garnering comparisons to Alan Partridge. Delightfully, the faux pas was taken in good stride by O’Reilly, with the author commenting that there were “zero hard feelings”, with his entire family thinking it was “absolutely hilarious”.

25. Irish child wins Credit Union draw and buys cows

What would you do if you won €1,000? For 10-year-old William Woods, the answer was simple: buy some cows. The Cavan youngster won money in the Ballyconnell Credit Union prize draw last Christmas and decided to spend his winnings on six calves. “I love cows, so I thought, why not buy some?” he told RTÉ. Woods, who wants to be a farmer when he grows up, said that minding the cows had proved a pleasant distraction during lockdown, and revealed that he planned to buy some more next year. Attaboy, William.

26. Ronaldo’s Irish win

Close

Addison Whelan with Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Addison Whelan with Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Addison Whelan with Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Following the Republic of Ireland’s match against Portugal in November, one young fan decided to chance her arm and see if she could meet Cristiano Ronaldo. Eleven-year-old Addison Whelan jumped over the barrier and sprinted across the pitch in a bid to meet her footballing hero. While security tried to intervene, Ronaldo waved them away and rewarded Whelan by giving her his match jersey as well a big hug. The heartwarming scene made international headlines, and the young soccer fan described it as a dream come true. Afterwards, the FAI confirmed that Whelan would not be fined for running onto the pitch. Back of the net.

27. Leona Maguire

Close

Leona Maguire. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Leona Maguire. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Leona Maguire. Picture: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Leona Maguire was selected to represent Team Europe at the Solheim Cup, a golf tournament that pits the best American female golfers against their European counterparts. Maguire was the first Irish woman to take part in the competition, and boy did she make an impression. The Cavan native put in a spectacular performance, setting an all-time rookie scoring record and helping propel Team Europe to an unlikely victory on American soil. Outside of her Solheim Cup run, Maguire enjoyed success on the LPGA Tour, finishing 2021 as the LPGA Rookie of the Year runner-up. The future is bright.

28. Irish donate one million vaccines

With vaccine inequality rife, Unicef launched its Get A Vaccine, Give A Vaccine campaign. Fronted by Liam Neeson, the campaign encouraged Irish people to donate the cost of a vaccine. The Irish public heeded the call and donated more than €2.5m to fund more than one million vaccines for the world’s poorest people. Unicef said they were “blown away” by the response to the campaign, and described the gesture as “a tangible expression of solidarity with people who have no access to vaccines”.

29. Amy Hunter

It was a sweet 16th to remember for Irish cricketer Amy Hunter, who made history by becoming the youngest player, male or female, to score a century in one-day international cricket. The Belfast schoolgirl was playing a test match for Ireland against Zimbabwe when she struck a sensational 121. In doing so, she broke an international record that had stood since 1999. What were you doing when you were 16?

30. Myrtle Beach barrel

Close

The Myrtle Beach barrel. Picture: Keith McGreal / Instagram

The Myrtle Beach barrel. Picture: Keith McGreal / Instagram

The Myrtle Beach barrel. Picture: Keith McGreal / Instagram

In November, Keith McGreal was walking along Mulranny Beach in Co Mayo when he stumbled across a blue barrel. Upon closer inspection, he discovered a sticker on the side of the barrel that revealed its origins: "City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.” The bin had travelled some 3,500 miles and washed up in Co Mayo. McGreal wrote to the city of Myrtle Beach government to alert them to his discovery. City officials thanked McGreal for his email and wrote, “That’s an amazing voyage for a trash barrel, although we’d prefer that it stayed put on our beach, rather than gallivanting all over the world via the Gulf Stream.” The story went viral and was picked up by the likes of The New York Times, USA Today and NPR. As for the barrel itself? It’s settling into its new home on Mulranny Beach and still being used as a bin.

31. Instagram sensation Padraig Howley

Close

Padraig Howley

Padraig Howley

Padraig Howley

In February, Padraig Howley, a 67-year-old father from Co Clare, decided it was time to get fit and healthy. After meeting the Happy Pear twins and consulting with his doctors, he swapped his meat-heavy diet for a vegan lifestyle and set up an Instagram account, @sing_andstep_withpadraig, documenting his journey and sharing recipes. He soon became an unlikely internet sensation, amassing more than 78,500 loyal followers, picking up sponsorship deals and teaching people that it’s never too late to make a change. Good man, Padraig.

32. Galway teen’s Cycle For My Nanny

Earlier this year, Galway teenager Philip Killeen lost his grandmother. With his grandfather, Seán Killeen, living in London, he could not be there for him, so he decided to embark on a charity cycle within lockdown limits to raise money for Cancer Care West. He set a symbolic distance of 775km, the distance from his home in Galway to his grandparents’ home in the UK. In doing so, he gave his grandfather “hope” and raised more than €5,100. At a time when many of us couldn’t be with our loved ones, Philip’s story reminded us that love knows no bounds.

33. Pamela Uba wins Miss Ireland


Close

Pamela Uba

Pamela Uba

Pamela Uba

This year, Pamela Uba became the first ever black winner of Miss Ireland. A former asylum seeker, Uba moved from South Africa to Ireland when she was seven. She and her family spent 10 years living in Direct Provision before being given the right to remain. She became an Irish citizen earlier this year and has worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic as a medical laboratory scientist in University Hospital Galway. Uba said her win was a “significant moment” for Ireland’s minority communities and that her crown was for “people in Ireland that feel they never belonged”. She went on to compete in the Miss World competition in Puerto Rico.

34. Joe Biden inauguration

Close

Fifth cousins of US President Joe Biden, Cllr Andrea McKevitt and her sister Ciara, celebrate on inauguration day

Fifth cousins of US President Joe Biden, Cllr Andrea McKevitt and her sister Ciara, celebrate on inauguration day

Fifth cousins of US President Joe Biden, Cllr Andrea McKevitt and her sister Ciara, celebrate on inauguration day

In January, Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States. In true Biden fashion, he enlisted a number of Irish people to play a key role on the day. For instance, Louth violinist Patricia Treacy was invited to perform at his inaugural Mass. Meanwhile, Dublin designer Laura Weber was instrumental in creating Dr Jill Biden’s inauguration look, embroidering her dress, coat and mask. Back in Ireland, Biden’s cousins in Co Mayo watched on proudly as he took the presidential oath. One thing is for sure, Biden is set for a warm welcome whenever he gets around to visiting Ireland.

35. From Belarus to Roscrea

In July, the exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya visited Roscrea and was reunited with the family who hosted her as a Chernobyl child in the 2000s. Tsikhanouskaya spent multiple summers with the Deane family in Raheens, Co Tipperary, and even worked in a local factory as a teenager. Tsikhanouskaya made headlines after her husband, Sergei, was arrested by the Lukashenko regime. She replaced him as the opposition candidate in the Belarusian presidential election. Many observers believe she won the election, but Lukashenko claimed victory. She now lives in exile in Lithuania with her two children. Upon her return to Roscrea, she embraced her former host family and told reporters that they were “always in [her] heart”. As for her standout memory from her time in Ireland? The potato salad.

36. Dancing gardaí

Members of An Garda Síochána went viral when they took part in the Jerusalema Challenge, a feel-good dance challenge that saw members of the force show off their moves to Jerusalema by Master KG in picturesque locations across the country. It came after Swiss Federal Police challenged their Irish counterparts to take part. An Garda Síochána accepted, and a video shared on the official Garda Info Twitter account was shared tens of thousands of times on social media. Their aim, they said, was to “give the public we serve a lift in these challenging times”. Job done.

37. Miraculous dog rescue

Close

Missing dog Neesha with Jean-Francois Bonnet. Picture: Jean-Francois Bonnet

Missing dog Neesha with Jean-Francois Bonnet. Picture: Jean-Francois Bonnet

Missing dog Neesha with Jean-Francois Bonnet. Picture: Jean-Francois Bonnet

In February, a golden retriever named Neesha was found in the Wicklow Mountains after going missing a fortnight earlier. The dog was discovered curled up against a rock near the top of Lugnaquilla by couple Ciara Nolan and Jean-Francois Bonnet. She was so cold that she couldn’t move, so the couple wrapped her in clothes and carried her down the mountain for more than 10km. After arriving back on flat land, they warmed the pup up and were quickly able to reunite her with her owners. Nolan and Bonnet documented the miraculous rescue on TikTok, where it was viewed more than 4.3 million times.

38. President’s book donation

Close

Michael D Higgins

Michael D Higgins

Michael D Higgins

In February, President Michael D Higgins made a donation of books from his personal library to Ireland’s public library service. The donation was timed to coincide with the Ireland Reads campaign and was the second such donation made by the President. Last year, he donated 700 books to Cabra Library. Speaking about the importance of libraries, the President remarked that “libraries are the oxygen of life” and said that “books have played, and continue to play, probably an inordinate role in my own life. Books are a great friend.”

39. Ireland beat the All Blacks


Close

Ireland v New Zealand. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland v New Zealand. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland v New Zealand. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

In November, Ireland squared off against the All Blacks in the Aviva Stadium. To the delight of rugby fans across Ireland, Andy Farrell’s side put in a dominant performance and emerged victorious from the encounter, winning 29-20. It was just the third time that Ireland had beaten the All Blacks, who came into the match as the world’s top-ranked side. After the match, the Irish squad received a congratulatory call from none other than US President Joe Biden. “We’re so damn proud of you, really and truly,” he told them. And so say all of us.

40. Frostbit Boy

Close

Ruairi McSorley. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Ruairi McSorley. Picture: Domnick Walsh

Ruairi McSorley. Picture: Domnick Walsh

In August, a young man was rescued off the Co Kerry coast after he got into difficulty swimming. The swimmer was found far at sea, alone, and surrounded by dolphins. He was later identified as Ruairi McSorley, who previously went viral after giving an interview to UTV and became known as Frostbit Boy. And it seems McSorley hasn’t lost his way with words. Speaking to this newspaper after his rescue, he said, “I saw these black tails in the water, and I wasn’t sure were they dolphins or sharks. I just thought to myself, maybe it wouldn’t have been the worst idea to have googled this before I jumped in, but they were just dolphins.”

41. Mary Fowler

In September, Australian soccer prodigy Mary Fowler travelled to Dublin to play a friendly against the Republic of Ireland. Fowler netted two goals for Australia, but the Matildas still suffered a surprise 3-2 defeat at the hands of the hosts. But while there may have been disappointment for Fowler, there were touching scenes after the match when she wandered over to the stands to embrace her grandfather, Kevin Fowler, a Ballymun native. Fowler, who has an Irish father and could have played for the Republic of Ireland, presented her match jersey to her proud grandfather. Some things are more important than sport.

42. TikTok accent challenge

Close

Tolu Ibikunle and her friends Susan, Tejiri and Okefe

Tolu Ibikunle and her friends Susan, Tejiri and Okefe

Tolu Ibikunle and her friends Susan, Tejiri and Okefe

Four Dubliners of Nigerian heritage went viral on TikTok after taking part in an accent challenge on the platform. The challenge usually involves people trying to attempt other accents, but Tolu Ibikunle and her three friends decided to play around with the challenge by initially pretending to have Nigerian accents before surprising viewers with their Irish accents, dropping phrases like “G’wan ya mad thing!” and “Would you shut up you bleeding thick?” in their thick Dublin brogues. The hilarious video proved so popular that the four friends were invited onto The Late Late Show.

43. FAI equal pay

In August, the FAI introduced equal pay for the senior international men’s and women’s teams. The association confirmed that players representing the senior international men’s team and women’s team would receive the same match fees on international duty. The men’s team agreed to reduce their international fees to facilitate the historic move. Ireland captain Katie McCabe called it a “great day for Irish football” and credited the men’s squad “for being brave enough to support us in such a progressive way on this issue”.

44. Emily Ratajkowski sponsors Bantry Basketball Club

Bantry Basketball Club found an unlikely sponsor in the form of supermodel and author Emily Ratajkowski. The basketball club were finding difficulty securing sponsorship due to the pandemic when coach Pat Curran decided to reach out to the model to see if she would be interested. Ratajkowski has long-standing links to the area: her parents own a home in the town and her father previously played for Bantry Basketball Club. The model didn’t hesitate to help out and agreed to sponsor the club’s U15 team. The team’s jerseys now sport the logo of Ratajkowski’s swimwear line, Inamorata. Deadly.

45. Lidl fights period poverty

Close

Lidl's campaign to tackle period poverty

Lidl's campaign to tackle period poverty

Lidl's campaign to tackle period poverty

This year, Lidl Ireland became the first major retailer in the world to offer free period products in stores nationwide to those affected by period poverty. Period poverty is defined as a lack of access to sanitary products. A Plan International study found that 50pc of young women aged 12-19 in Ireland found it difficult to afford period products. To help counter this, Lidl introduced an initiative whereby customers could claim a dedicated coupon for a free box of sanitary pads or tampons per month through the Lidl Plus app. Within weeks of the announcement, the supermarket reported that more than 20,000 people had signed up to claim free period products.

46. Barry Keoghan becomes a Marvel superhero


Close

Barry Keoghan

Barry Keoghan

Barry Keoghan

What do Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson and Barry Keoghan have in common? They’re all Marvel superheroes. This year, Keoghan became the first Irish actor to play a Marvel superhero following his turn as Druig in blockbuster Eternals. Keoghan starred in the superhero ensemble alongside Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani, Kit Harington and Richard Madden, among others. Such a role was written in the stars for Keoghan. In 2013, the Dubliner tweeted comic book legend Stan Lee, writing, “Stan Lee, please make me a superhero.” Proof, if it was needed, that dreams do come true.

47. #DadsMatterToo

There was much discussion this year on how restrictions around visiting hospitals affected expectant parents, particularly new fathers who were often left waiting outside maternity hospitals and denied the chance to support their partners. From Lads To Dads, a community organisation, decided to launch the #DadsMatterToo, a campaign to remind fathers that they mattered. The group distributed dozens of care bags to expectant dads waiting outside the Rotunda and Coombe. Their message? “We see you. You matter too.” Lovely.

48. Waterford girl reunited with football

Close

Aoife Ní Niocaill's football. Picture: Aline Denton/Facebook

Aoife Ní Niocaill's football. Picture: Aline Denton/Facebook

Aoife Ní Niocaill's football. Picture: Aline Denton/Facebook

In January, Aoife Ní Niocaill was on Woodstown Beach in Co Waterford when she kicked her football out into the sea. Unable to retrieve it, she figured that was the last she had seen of it. That is, until Aline Denton, an environmental conservationist, came across it on Llanrhystud Beach in west Wales a week later. After spotting Aoife’s name on the ball, Denton decided to try and reunite her with the ball. She posted a photo of it on Facebook, where Aoife’s father spotted it, confirming that the ball belonged to his daughter. The power of the internet, eh?

49. Olympic glory

After a year-long delay, many of Ireland’s Olympians arrived in Tokyo with a point to prove. Team Ireland came home with four medals — two in boxing and two in rowing. Kellie Harrington won gold in the women’s lightweight, while Aidan Walsh won bronze in the men’s welterweight. On the water, Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy took the top prize in the lightweight double sculls, while rowing quartet Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty came third in the women’s fours. There were other notable performances too. Sligo’s Mona McSharry made the final of the women’s 100m breaststroke, while Ireland’s track athletes reached the 4x400m mixed relay final. Legends all.

50. ‘Huge step’ for same-sex parents

Close

Niamh O'Sullivan and Geraldine Rea with their twins. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Niamh O'Sullivan and Geraldine Rea with their twins. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Niamh O'Sullivan and Geraldine Rea with their twins. Picture: Gerard McCarthy

Two women from Co Cork became the first same-sex couple in Ireland to be legally recognised as their children’s parents from birth. Geraldine Rea and Niamh O’Sullivan were both listed as the parents of their twin girls on their birth certificates and were not required to go through a court process. It followed the passing of legislation that automatically recognises the birth mother and her partner, spouse or cohabitant as parents of a child, where that child was donor-conceived through donor-assisted human reproduction. The move was welcomed by LGBT Ireland, who said it was a “huge step forward” for same-sex parents.







Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Top Videos





Privacy