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Five years of TheJournal.ie: Here's some of our biggest stories, best bits and memories

Thank you for being with us.

Image: Anna O'Rourke

THIS MONTH, THEJOURNAL.IE celebrates five years in existence.

We’ve been marking the occasion by giving away some great prizes to our readers. But we also wanted to take a stroll down memory lane – back to October 2010 when we started out as a fledging newsroom.

As our readers, commenters, friends, fans and critics, you will remember some of these stories that have shaped the last five years – for you, for us and for Ireland.

Our favourite stories

Hugh O’Connell, Political Editor
“I really enjoyed working on my oral history project about the attempted heave against Fine Gael in 2010. This was a piece that allowed me to have the types of conversations with politicians you don’t really get a chance to do during the normal day to day hustle and bustle of political life.

Convincing people to talk about an old wound wasn’t easy but once they sat down, and even with the recording device on, they opened up about what it was like to be part of a famously misguided heave. Writing it was painstaking and the transcribing the interviews is something I don’t miss, but the pay-off in terms of the feedback I got from participants, commenters, and fellow journalists was nice.

Ronan Duffy

Denis O’Brien v RTÉ and the subsequent Denis O’Brien v Houses of the Oireachtas etc. It never got to the point of full-on constitutional crisis but it was approaching it for a while. The public interest in it was huge and the complexities of the redacted elements made working on it both challenging and incredibly satisfying.

Cianan Brennan

Interviewing Robert Fisk was a lot of fun because like him or loathe him he’s a fascinating person. But I think the story of the Naas house eviction gave me a lot of pleasure because it took a lot of spadework but readers really responded to it and its follow up.

Orla Ryan

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

“Siteserv. We got Catherine Murphy in for a High Table Interview just as the story was breaking. I enjoyed doing the piece in an explainer-style. Several people told me it helped them understand what was going on and why everyone was talking about it.

I also enjoyed writing a colour piece about trying – and failing – to get more information about the company’s shareholders.

Daragh Brophy 

Probably this in-depth piece about the history of Phantom FM (or Phantom 105.2 as it came to be known). The Dublin rock/indie/whatever-you’re-having-yourself station was rebranded to within an inch of its life early last year (it later came back as TXFM).

“There was fair bit of criticism of the station online and elsewhere in the media as the news broke, so I thought it would be interesting to delve behind the scenes and tell the story of what had happened at the station.

It really is an unusual tale… After starting as a ‘hobby’ pirate station in a suburban Dublin shed, it ended up as part of one of the country’s largest media empires. I worked there on and off, years ago (as a ‘pirate for a while, even) so I was pretty well qualified to tell the story. Even so, I tried to let others tell the tale.

Christina Finn

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“I enjoyed working on the Graham Dwyer murder trial over the course of two months. It was one of the most talked about trials ever to take place in Ireland and it was interesting to cover in the courts.”

Paul Hosford

“I really enjoyed the Sober Ireland series. This job is great because it allows me satisfy my own curiosity and as someone who doesn’t drink, it was nice to see if that was a uniform experience, which it clearly wasn’t.”

Michael Shiels McNamee

I think the piece I did on a conversion therapy conference in Galway. At the time all of the news seemed to be getting wrapped up in the referendum and I felt this made an original contribution. It was eye-opening writing the story as the psychiatrist who was down to give the speech was quite open in talking about his own conversion and I ended up feeling bad for him.

Cliodhna Russell 

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“I really enjoyed working on the homeless series that we did last year. I was taken back by the openness and honestly of people who were dealing with huge personal issues. One woman spoke to me about the effect it was having on her children. It was extremely emotional but I had huge respect for her ability to speak out to to raise awareness.

I also went to Galway for the series to speak with people using the homeless services provided by COPE Galway, again the honesty of the people I spoke to really struck a cord. When people open up to you about their darkest times and their hopes for the future, they are always the stories I enjoy most.

“Someone is trusting me with their story, which is often a difficult, complex and at times heartbreaking story, and getting that story out as best I can is the most important thing for me and what I enjoy most.”
Dan MacGuill

I’m proud of the two-part series I did on state surveillance in Ireland. It took months of trawling through records and filing FOI requests to put together, but I think it was an eye-opener for many readers, and was well-received by other journalists and experts, which was very satisfying.


Sinéad O’Carroll

“The good folk over at The42.ie graciously allow me to work on their desk so that I can discuss women’s sport – something very dear to me. I’ve used the opportunity to try to celebrate it but also to point out when there are problems. I even got to talk to Katie Taylor on the topic while running with her. That was pretty special.”

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“Among the first stories TheJournal.ie ‘broke’ was when Gav Reilly got his hands on a Troika report which outlined its plans for Ireland. When I arrived in the office, there was an insane atmosphere that hit the second I opened the door and someone handed me a ream of paper and said ‘get reading’. It was exhilarating and, I think, probably the first time some people became aware of our site.”

Nicky Ryan

Not this one.

Emer McLysaght 

“Over the years – both as a reporter for TheJournal.ie and in my current post as DailyEdge.ie Deputy Editor, I’ve been at the helm of several critically important and frontline agenda-setting liveblogs – Eurovision, The Rose of Tralee, and of course The Oscars.

The Oscars liveblog stands out for me as a yearly highlight because it goes on while most people in the country are asleep, but it’s really great to be able to cover all the action – from the red carpet, the sadly defunct mani-cam, the essential ‘Did Fassbender bring his mam? Did J-LO just go on her snot? IS THAT A BEARD ON BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH?’ questions, to the 74-hour ceremony itself –  both for the people who have stayed up to watch along with us, and for the people who want to wake up to everything they need to know.

“Our first Oscars liveblog was something of an experiment and was carried out on news editor Sinead O’Carroll’s couch with several laptops balancing on our knees and her mam and dad’s Sky Movies password.

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“We’ve become a little bit more sophisticated and now have an ‘Oscars shift’ every year, liveblogging the red carpet (which is the best bit, let’s be honest) and picking out the bits everyone needs to see when they wake up the next morning. So many people stay up and tweet along with us for #FrockWatch #BeardWatch and whatever other #Watch is going on.”

Quinton O’Reilly 

It’s probably because it’s still fresh in my mind as it went up again during the All-Ireland weekend, I did enjoy working on the story behind Gaelic Football and Hurling games on PS2. There were a few hiccups along the way when putting it together but I was happy with how it turned out.
It was great chatting to the people behind it, and it showed that getting such a project off the ground in the first place is incredibly tough, let alone developing a solid sports game in the first couple of tries.

The biggest ‘breaking’ news stories since 2010

Sinéad O’Carroll

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“The Boston Marathon bombs and the subsequent chase of the suspects later that week meant a run-of-the-mill late shift changed to all-nighters in the office with Susan Daly, Christine Bohan and Hugh O’Connell. The four of us were able to divide out jobs and I had constant communication with the hugely impressive communications department of the Boston police.

“During the night, some outlets in the US were reporting that 12 people had died, citing unofficial sources and social media. We were careful not to use any unverified information from Facebook or Twitter. We got some flak from readers who believed we were ‘behind’. In the end, luckily, those death toll figures were inaccurate. It was a lesson – not that we needed it – in using traditional sources as well as social media and citizen reporters on the ground.”

Hugh O’Connell

It wasn’t breaking news but being in Dublin Castle on the day of the marriage referendum was pretty special. Watching politicians from all parties gathered together and talking like cordial human beings – when they’re normally tearing strips off each other in the Dáil – was a nice sight amid all the cynicism about politics.


Daragh Brophy 

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“The day of the same-sex marriage referendum count was hugely interesting. The result was clear from early in the count, but the day kept throwing up surprise after surprise (seeing establishment politicians being spontaneously applauded by a non-partisan crowd, for instance; Vincent Browne’s show from The George; David Norris’s impromptu speech).

“I ended up following Panti Bliss across town for her ‘victory’ appearance at the count centre. She drew a crowd of admirers on the short walk from Panti Bar on Capel Street to Dublin Castle – only to be turned away from a side-gate by a poor put-upon security guard. Guard: ‘You’ll have to go around’ … Panti: ‘In these heels?’”

Quinton O’Reilly, Tech Journalist

Since I don’t deal with the same breaking news stories that the main newsteam does, mine tend to be major events and keynotes that are held. Sure, they’re carefully planned (both the leaks and actual events) and you’re almost guaranteed that the WiFi or coverage will fail at one point or another, but they are fun and it’s more interesting to see the smaller announcements and things that weren’t covered than just the big announcements.

Ronan Duffy 

“There are many but the ones that come to mind are probably the Charlie Hebdo attacks and the Berkeley balcony collapse.

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“It’s a reality of news that most ‘breaking news’ stories are tragedies but I feel our newsroom is at its best and most professional when dealing with such stories. Seeing everyone pulling in the same direction and being focused on getting things right in a changing situation is a massive part of what we do.”

Cliodhna Russell

“I was working the night that the Berkeley victims were named, it was such a sad story and that announcement was when those numbers became names, and now the faces we all recognise.

Whenever you’re in the office at breaking news time, I find your working at your best- concentrating on every detail. It’s only when you walk out of the office that the news sinks in and you feel it.

Dan MacGuill

“I was working late on two nights during the summer this year. At the end of June, the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras waited until 1am to announce a referendumon their bailout deal. It was the height of a period when the entire future of the Eurozone felt uncertain, and there was a really palpable sense of revolution and defiance that night.

“Just three weeks later, I was working late again, when the Greek parliament, led by Tsipras, pushed through the austerity bill they had been battling the whole time, in the early hours of the morning. It really illustrated how quickly things can change in the world, and how Greek politicians love to do things in the most dramatic way possible.”

Emer McLysaght

Source: DevilsT0wer/YouTube

“I was working on the news desk when there was an explosion in Oslo in July 2011. Twitter was not the rolling news machine it is now, but it was there that most of the up-to-date reports were coming from.

I think I was close to finishing my shift but said I’d start work on a piece and hand it over to one of my colleagues if there were any further developments that needed updating. It gradually became clear that there was something terrifying unfolding and it was heartbreaking to watch and report on what was going on in Oslo and on the island of Utoya. 

“We were still a very small newsroom, but everyone jumped in and started working out the best way to get clear and correct information to the readers. It was one of the first real hands on experiences we had about the power of social media in covering a breaking news story.”

Your story that got the most reaction

Orla Ryan

Hugging photo saves dogs from being put down: 536.5k views and over 5,500 FB shares. This is exactly what it says it is. People want hugging dogs, damn it.

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Ronan Duffy

“I wrote a story about a Dublin man who had an erection for seven weeks after a bicycle accident. People were asking me about it for months.

I wanted to have ‘seven-week-erection’ in the headline but a female colleague said it had to be ‘seven-week-long erection’ because only that made sense. The first option still makes sense in my head and I think any man would agree. 

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Quinton O’Reilly

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“Easily the blue and black dress story which, for better or worse, is my most popular story here to date. Because it blew up overnight, I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly popular since I wrote it up that morning but as it turned out, people were really invested in it.

“Things did get heated with some claiming I changed the main image when they started seeing different colours (for the record, I didn’t as that would just be silly), but it was a fun story to cover on a Friday morning.”

Dan MacGuill

People have mentioned the story I wrote about an Irish man stopped in New Zealand for strapping his kayak sideways on his car. Couldn’t have been a simpler story, until I spoke to the guy who was actually stopped, and wasn’t Irish. The story kind of exploded after that, got picked up in New Zealand, and the Irish ambassador got involved.

Emer McLysaght

A recent one that sticks out is a piece I wrote about milestones every Irish person goes through. It’s basically just a rough run down of my life but seemed to strike a chord.

Sinéad O’Carroll

“My work with the survivors of symphysiotomy as they work for justice – and to try to come to terms with what happened to them in the maternity wards of Ireland – has allowed me to meet some of the bravest, funniest and brilliant women. Although the story first broke in 2002 and there had been court cases, it was in November 2012 that it was returned strongly to the political agenda. It was also a scandal that hadn’t been reported on outside of Ireland – until this piece was picked up by Jezebel and other outlets in the US.”

What was the story that touched you the most?

Ronan Duffy 

“I attended the funeral of Niccolai Schuster after the Berkeley tragedy this year. The way his parents and younger brother described his personality so incredibly well had me dumbfounded. I’d never met Nic, but standing in the church listening to them talk about him made me feel like he could have been my best mate.

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“Before the funeral I was wary that I’d be intruding. Instead, it felt as if they wanted everyone to know how incredible their son was and I felt privileged to be able to listen to them.”
Dan MacGuill 

I covered the sentencing of Sanjeev Chada for murdering his two sons Eoghan and Ruairi. There’s no way to describe the court that day other than to say it broke my heart. I’ll never forget the expression on the face of Kathleen Chada, the boys’ mother, when she read out her victim-impact statement.

Paul Hosford

Zoe and Maya Murnane. Hands down.

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“I had been in contact with their mother Audrey about 3 weeks before Christmas and did a piece on them needing to raise €35,000 for life-changing surgery. Journal readers helped absolutely smash that target and they went to London. On Christmas Eve, however, they couldn’t get home. We put a call out and Ryanair came through for the family. I was working that Christmas Eve and it just made my day.”

Emer McLysaght 

“It’s fresh in all of our minds, but the marriage referendum really was a sight to behold. From #HomeToVote to being in Dublin Castle for the announcement of the results. I was also working the morning Leo Varadkar gave his Radio One interview in which he talked about sexuality and the response from the public was exceptionally touching.”

Orla Ryan

Helen Taylor’s family got in touch to see if I would write about her story in a bid to increase organ donation. She had CF and was waiting for a double lung transplant but her death – just a few days after the article was published – came as a huge shock. Her mum Frances and partner Mick wanted to do a second article to honour her memory. I wrote it in their own, powerful words. It gets me every time I think about it.

Sinéad O’Carroll

“Being a breaking news reporter can be odd in that your feelings are suspended during times when most people’s emotions are heightened. There are times though that even the most experienced journalists get caught up. Being in court over Christmastime last year for the case of a clinically dead, young pregnant woman being kept alive because of uncertainty from her medics over the law. Everybody in that empty courthouse was incredibly upset for the woman’s family.

“On a more positive note, after years of working with Magdalene Laundry survivors, I cried with them on hearing Enda Kenny’s apology read out in the Dáil.”

Source: PBO2012/YouTube

Christina Finn

“Articles I did covering the family court. I covered proceedings where children had been abused, wives had been beaten up and where children were removed from their parents care. It can often be different reading about these things, rather than sitting in a quiet room when someone’s life is actually being changed, probably forever.”

Catherine Healy

I was really moved by the women who spoke to me for this feature on abortion. One woman, not much older than myself, recalled getting the bus home from the airport alone after the procedure – it was only her second time out of Ireland. It really humanised, for me, the stories behind the figures so often cited when we talk about this issue.

Quinton O’Reilly

“Not a story per se but the homelessness series my colleagues did gave a rare insight into the topic. The pick of that was the postcards story which was incredibly heartbreaking.

“Overall, it’s first-person experiences that resonate most with me like the piece on being a gay teenager in Ireland and the recent piece onwomen sharing their experiences on abortion. You can imagine a scenario but you don’t truly know what it like until you hear real first-hand accounts of them.”

A standout memory from working in TheJournal.ie’s offices?

Paul Hosford

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“I once posted on Facebook about a picture of a camel that was loose in Finglas. But I typed ‘cat’ by mistake. I still get reminded about it.”

Hugh O’Connell

“There’s the time a Fianna Fáil politician rang me and hilariously confused Colonel Gadaffi with Yasser Arafat. You had to be there.”

Cianan Brennan

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

“TJ reading Fifty Shades of Grey was hilarious. Any time the Diabetes Table is flooded on a Friday leading to people acting like giddy chocolate piranha is great.”

Orla Ryan

“I enjoy regularly having to clarify that we’re TheJournal.ie, not the Farmers Journal. I also once got ‘So, you’re with the General.ie? What’s all that about?’ – at the end of a phone interview.”

Daragh Brophy

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“This one time, Eamon Dunphy and Johnny Giles came in for an interview. ‘Is it bring your granddad to work day?’ a recently-hired Australian reporter asked me.”

Christina Finn

“The time we brought the office Christmas party back to the office and destroyed the place with the help of Niall’s new popcorn machine he had won in a raffle. I felt sorry for the people who were in on the early shift the next day. (*not really, I was in bed).”

Michael Shiels McNamee

“I once saw a guy doing yoga poses on a bin across the road from the office with a can of beer in his hand once.”

Quinton O’Reilly

“Not exactly work related but the one time we took part in a 5k company relay in Phoenix Park, I ended up running it twice as one member wasn’t able to make it. What made it worse was I already had finished a beer shortly after I finished the first run, which only added to the challenge. Amazingly, I managed to both finish the run and not throw up during or after it. It’s not my proudest achievement by any means but it’s up there.”

Dan MacGuill

“The time I walked out of the toilet – already vulnerable, like anyone who’s ever just walked out of a toilet – to be confronted by our editor holding a cake and a massive card, surrounded by everyone else in the news room. I THINK you were all being really nice, but some days I still have my doubts : )”

Emer McLysaght

“There’s a single Post-It on my desk which has both Willie O’Dea and Louis Walsh’s mobile numbers on it. Sums it all up really.

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“The tradition of bailing back to the office after a few sherries has spawned some special tales. The time we mirror-switched all the items on Gavan Reilly’s desk. The time we used all the flip chart paper from the meeting room to play increasingly risqué games of Pictionary. The same flip chart paper was then accidentally displayed to visitors to the office the following day.”

Sinéad O’Carroll 

The dedication given to getting decent 9 at 9 pictures for Christmas Day.

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OUR BIRTHDAY GIVEAWAY: Win a two night stay at Parknasilla Resort and Spa in Kerry

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