2016 In Norn Iron – Our Epic Wins And Facepalm Fails

We may be small in size, but we make up for it in craic. There’s never a dull day in Northern Ireland (despite the weather) and each year brings a fresh batch of events, talent, facepalm fails and scandal in the political, entertainment and cultural spheres.

belfast-434345_960_720We are the wee country that brought you Liam Neeson, Frostbit Boy and hilarious memes about our political divides. We pride ourselves on our stunning scenery and our ability to bring banter to even the most dire of situations.

2016 was as eventful as ever and it’s only right that we acknowledge a few of the highs and lows as we wave goodbye to another year in NI history.

James Nesbitt Getting Tipsy At The Boxing

It was Carl Frampton’s big night – going head-to-head with Scott Quigg for the IBF and WBA super-bantamweight world titles at the Manchester Arena…and then there was James Nesbitt.

The Coleraine-born actor was seated on the second row and managed to steal the show with his blatant tipsiness – and social media rejoiced.

Joined by former jockey AP McCoy, Nesbitt unashamedly enjoyed more than a few drinks throughout the night, and TV cameras were quick to capture some slurred words from the star. James, we love you.

Northern Ireland Fans Became Legends At The Euros 

History was made in June as Northern Ireland made their first appearance at Euro 2016 after finishing in the last 16 of the European Championship.

northern-ireland-539849_960_720Despite the team being defeated by Wales 1-0, the world will remember NI and Republic of Ireland fans for their sportsmanship, good humour and, the anthem of the year, “Will Grigg’s On Fire”.

Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland fans won hearts across Europe by singing a lullaby to a baby in Bordeaux, singing alongside Swedish supporters, helping a couple change a tyre in Paris and generally being full of the craic.

Receiving a gold star from France for their “exemplary behaviour”, representatives on behalf of all the NI and ROI fans were presented with the Medal of the City of Paris during Euro 2016. Go on lads!

HBO Announced The End Of Game Of Thrones

Game of Thrones fans were dealt a blow in August with HBO’s announcement that season seven and eight would be the show’s last.

ep60-ss10-1280The epic fantasy series, which is primarily filmed here in Northern Ireland, broke the record in 2016 for the highest number of Emmy Awards won by a fictional series, totaling a whopping 38 wins.

While US broadcaster HBO confirmed the series would end in 2018, NI Screen are confident that it will leave a valuable legacy in its wake. Since the show first aired in 2011, thousands of opportunities have opened up for local bearded extras and the NI film and TV industry has seen massive growth as a result of the show’s popularity.

Plus, millions of pounds have poured into the Northern Ireland economy and we’ve had the pleasure of spotting cast members casually loitering around Belfast. Game of Thrones, we salute you!

For more GoT news and reviews check out #ThroneWatch here.

A Change To The Abortion Law Was Defeated

Northern Ireland politicians have staunchly rejected amendments to abortion laws despite pro-choice campaigners lobbying for change, and in February an attempt to legalise abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality was defeated after one of the most sensitive debates of the year.

justice-471885_960_720Currently, abortion is only allowed in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or if there is danger of permanent, serious damage to her health.

The attempt to legalise abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality, where doctors believe an unborn child will die in the womb or shortly after birth, was defeated in February 2016. This almost certainly will not be the end of the issue and the debate is due to continue into 2017.

Bap Kennedy Died

In November, Belfast singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy died aged 54 after battling cancer. Van Morrison and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits were among those to pay tribute to the local musician.

Ashers Bakery Lose Appeal Over The Gay Cake Row

The Great Gay Cake Row of 2014 hit the headlines again in 2016 with the Christian owners of Northern Ireland bakery Ashers losing their appeal against a ruling that their refusal to make a “gay cake” for a customer was discriminatory.

rainbow-828920_960_720Appealing against the decision, Ashers argued that making a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” was against their religious beliefs.

Equal rights campaigners considered the court’s decision a success for the LGBT community and appeal court judges said that under law, the bakers were not allowed to provide a service only to people who agreed with their religious beliefs.

Jim McDonald Became An Internet Sensation

Coronation Street’s Jim McDonald is not just the soap’s token Northern Irish character, he is the stuff that memes are made of.

In 2016 we saw social media explode with hilariously crude Jim memes, usually featuring him having a go at his on-screen ex-wife Liz and exploiting variations of the phrase “so it is, so I will, so I should”.

Belfast actor Charles Lawson was a regular on Corrie for over a decade and has made several pop-up appearances in the past few years. Belfast accents have always been great meme fodder and I for one hope we see more of Jim in 2017, so I do, so we will, so we should.


Pic: Belfast Mafia, www.facebook.com/mafiabelfast

Carl Frampton Was Named ESPN’s Top Boxer Of 2016

Belfast’s much-loved boxing champion Carl Frampton continued to climb the ladder of success as he won ESPN’s Top Boxer award-the icing on the cake after defeating the previously unbeaten Leo Santa Cruz to win the WBA featherweight title.

3838-crop-u13592Frampton, 29, is the first Northern Ireland fighter to win world titles at two weights. ESPN Senior Writer Dan Rafael said: “No other fighter in 2016 scored such an impressive combination of victories in high-profile bouts against elite opponents – in multiple divisions on the road – with one of them a contender for fight of the year”.

The local legend will take on Santa Cruz in a rematch on 28 January in Las Vegas.

Brexit Happened Despite Northern Ireland Voting To Remain

June saw the UK opting to leave the EU despite Northern Ireland and Scotland voting to remain, and with it came a LOT of questions.

5adWhat happens now? Are we still allowed to use our European Health Insurance Cards? Can we still get cheap fags from Spain? What about the Eurovision??!
Many NI voters viewed Brexit as one of the biggest political fails of 2016, not least since their votes seemingly counted for nothing.

As soon as the results were in, Sinn Féin were calling for a referendum on Irish unity and the Post Office were inundated with NI citizens applying for Irish passports.

It remains (pardon the pun) to be seen what the effects of Brexit will be on the UK, but so far it seems no one is in a particular hurry to figure out the details.

Nadine Megaw Went Viral

West Belfast girl Nadine Megaw hit the headlines with her cover of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” followed by appearances on The X Factor and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The talented local singer now has a host of viral videos on YouTube and is set for big things in 2017.

Thousands Protested Against Fracking At Woodburn Forest

People rallied against fracking company Infrastrata when they proceeded with an exploratory drill at Woodburn Forest, County Antrim, threatening the drinking water of thousands in the surrounding catchment area.

12803165_1512805939029061_782544062637231485_nThe “Stop The Drill Campaign” raised awareness across social media and numerous protests and events took place to save Woodburn and Belfast’s water. Thankfully, the drill was halted when Infrastrata literally met a dead end and abandoned the operation.

For more info on the campaign check out www.stopthedrillcampaign.com

A New Public Space Opened To Honour C.S Lewis 

The Life of one of Belfast’s most famous writers, C.S Lewis, was celebrated with a new public space in the city in November. The tribute to the author features a statue of his most famous character; Aslan the lion from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Adele Visited Sick NI Child

International singing sensation Adele took a break from opening her tour at the SSE Arena in Belfast to visit a seriously ill young fan in March last year.

Little Rebecca Gibney, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was thrilled to meet her favourite star and it was all thanks to her Mum, Tracy.

Tracy set up a social media campaign to try and get Adele to visit and the singer came through. Aww.

The DUP Sang ‘Arlene’s On Fire’…

…And Then The RHI Scandal Happened

A BBC Spotlight investigation in December brought attention to Arlene Foster’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) Scheme…and the fact that she had written to banks encouraging support for the failed scheme and left taxpayers with a whopping £405 million bill. Awkward.

fire-8837_960_720The first minister faced a renewed call to resign after former DUP minister Jonathan Bell made several shocking claims about Foster’s part in the whole debacle.

Of course, Arlene denied the allegations and was urged to quit while the scheme was investigated, yet somehow survived the no-confidence vote. The scandal has been put on the back-burner until after Christmas…watch this space.

Over 100 Northern Ireland Folk Made The New Year Honours List

Northern Ireland celebrated all that makes it great with over 100 NI people making the New Year Honours List in 2016.

belfast-953304_960_720Among them were Professor John McCanny of Queen’s University, Belfast, who received a knighthood, ex-NI Prison Service director Sue McAllister and leading civil servant Leo O’Reilly, who received Companions of the Order of the Bath, and Derek McClure, who got a CBE for services to mental healthcare and people with learning disabilities.

Gerard McGinn, chairman of the Strategic Investment Board, also received a CBE for services to the NI economy, while Northern Ireland football boss Michael O’Neill and swimmer Bethany Firth won MBE’s.

Check out the full honours list here.

A NI Photographer Captured This Incredible Image

Turning our God-awful weather into nothing short of fine art, Northern Ireland photographer Charles McQuillian managed to capture Storm Barbara in all her glory this Christmas.

The outstanding image, taken in Castlerock, County Londonderry, made front page news in late December as gale force winds hit Northern Ireland in the first storm of the season.

What were your 2016 highlights? Leave your comments below!

About the Author

Abby Williams
Belfast based author/writer specialising in entertainment, mental health and human interest.