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Former Ireland rugby international David Tweed dies in motorbike crash

Tweed had his convictions for child sex abuse quashed by Belfast’s Court of Appeal in 2016.

Image: PA

Updated Oct 29th 2021, 1:51 PM

FORMER IRELAND RUGBY international David Tweed has died in a road crash in Co Antrim. He was 61.

David Tweed died at the scene on Whitepark Road close to Dunseverick yesterday.

The former Ulster rugby star and member of the Orange Order was riding a motorbike when he was involved in a collision at around 4.30pm.

David Tweed was capped four times for Ireland after he made his international debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations championship. He later served as a councillor in Ballymena for the Traditional Unionist Voice.

In 2016, David Tweed had his convictions for child sex abuse quashed by the Court of Appeal in Belfast.

He had been serving an eight-year sentence in relation to indecent assault and gross indecency charges.

He was released from custody after his conviction was quashed.

The father of four became Ireland’s oldest debutant when he was selected to play against France in the Five Nations in 1995.

That year, he won another three Irish caps including one against Japan at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

He also played for Ireland against Wales and Italy.

His staunch unionist views made the outspoken player a divisive and controversial presence for Irish fans.

It was claimed that he boasted about wearing his Ulster top under the green Ireland shirt so the Red Hand of Ulster would be closer to his heart and some supporters said he sang God Save The Queen to himself before each game at Lansdowne Road.

Mr Tweed was a former member of the Orange Order and entered politics with the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party after his lodge LOL 496 was prevented from marching through Dunloy during the mid-1990s.

He was a key figure during the bitter sectarian Harryville dispute where loyalists picketed a Catholic church in Ballymena for nine months.

Mr Tweed left the DUP in 2007 over the party’s decision to share power with Sinn Fein and later joined Jim Allister’s Traditional Unionist Voice.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley said he was “shocked and saddened” to hear of Mr Tweed’s death.

“The one time leading Ulster and Ireland rugby star, political activist, elected official and leading Orangeman David was a well-known Ulsterman,” he said.

“To his family I send my condolences and heartfelt prayers at what must be an unimaginably heartbreaking time for them. I pray God will comfort them and give them peace at their point of need.”

2.63388093 David Tweed represented Ireland Source: David Jones/PA

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey described Mr Tweed as a “larger-than-life character”.

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“I have known Davy and his family most of my life and cannot begin to imagine the sorrow his family have been plunged into,” he said.

“Just on Sunday past he sat in front of me in church. He was a larger-than-life character, not just only in his physical presence.

“A former elected councillor on Ballymena Borough Council, Davy was also to the fore in Dunloy Orange Lodge and Apprentice Boys.

“A formidable rugby player, having made more than 30 appearances for Ulster and capped four times for Ireland after making his international debut against France in the 1995 Five Nations championship. He was also part of Ireland’s squad at the Rugby World Cup in South Africa.

“We extend to his family our sympathy and assure them of our prayers at this time of great loss and sadness.”

In a statement, Allister said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Ireland rugby star and Ballymena councillor, Davy Tweed, in a motorcycle accident yesterday.

“Davy, a larger than life character, was widely known across North Antrim and further afield. His family is deeply rooted and respected in the Ballymoney/Dunloy community.

“This is a devastating blow to his family and wide circle of friends. I wish to express my deepest sympathy to his grieving family at this very difficult time.”

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