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In memoriam: Remembering all those we lost in 2019

It was the year we bid our final farewells to…

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IT WAS A year in which we lost many people who brought joy and happiness to our screens and airwaves for decades.  

There were universally loved figures laid to rest – RTÉ’s Gay Byrne, comedy legend Brendan Grace and Ireland’s leading HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan. 

Internationally, it was also a year we said goodbye to Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, and Hollywood legend Doris Day. 

We remember them all and more here.


On 2 January comedy actor Bob Einstein, who portrayed Marty Funkhouser in Curb Your Enthusiasm, passed away at the age of 76.

Einstein was best known for his role as the surly but hilarious Funkhouser but the two-time Emmy winner also created the ‘Super Dave Osborne’ stuntman character who made numerous TV appearances and had his own show in the 1980s and 90s.

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On 11 January, BBC television and radio presenter Dianne Oxberry died at the age of 51 following a short illness.

The mother-of-two made her name on BBC Radio 1 and became the North West’s weather presenter in 1994, as well as fronting the Inside Out North West current affairs programme.

RTÉ 2FM presenter Alan McQuillan died on 16 January following a sudden illness. 

He had worked across RTÉ Radio and had presented the Early Breakfast from 2014.

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On 19 January star of It Aint Half Hot Mum Windsor Davies passed away aged 88. 

The actor was best known for his role as Battery Sergeant Major ‘Shut Up’ Williams in the BBC comedy series. 

Prolific French Composer Michel Legrand, who won three Oscars and five Grammys during a career spanning more than half a century, died on 26 January aged 86. 

During his long career, he worked with some of the music world’s biggest stars such as Miles Davies, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minnelli and Edith Piaf.

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On 30 January Grammy award-winning singer James Ingram died in Los Angeles at the age of 66. 

Ingram, known for songs Just Once and One Hundred Ways, began his music career with band Revelation Funk and later played keyboard for soul pioneer Ray Charles. In 1981, he won the Grammy for Best Male RnB Vocal Performance.

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British comedian Jeremey Hardy passed away on 1 February at the age of 57 following a battle with cancer. 

Hardy was a panellist on BBC TV and radio programmes such as Mock the Week, QI, The News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue. He also wrote columns for The Guardian.

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Actor Clive Swift, best known for his role as Richard Bucket in BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, died aged 82 on 1 February. 

Keeping Up Appearances saw Swift in the role of ever-patient husband Richard opposite Patricia Routledge’s Hyacinth Bucket, a middle-class social climber with ideas above her station. 

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On 8 February British actor Albert Finney passed away at the age of 82 after a short illness. 

Finney received four best actor Oscar nominations and won three Golden Globes. His Academy Award nominations were for Tom Jones (1963), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Dresser (1983) and Under the Volcano (1984). 

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On 11 February French cartoonist and author Tomi Ungerer passed away in Cork at the age of 87. 

Originally from Alsace in eastern France, Ungerer lived in the United States and Canada before finally settling in Ireland. His output ranged from celebrated children’s books like The Three Robbers and The Moon Man to erotic drawings as well as satirical paintings and political posters.

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Iconic fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld passed away at the age of 85 on 19 February after ruling the industry for decades. 

The German designer was the creative director at Chanel since 1983 and is famed for his work with some of the world’s best-known brands. 

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The Monkees bass and keyboard player Peter Tork passed away aged 77 on 21 February following a 10 year battle with cancer. 

Tork was the eldest member of the pop music act, which was the focus of a TV sitcom that debuted on NBC in 1966 winning an Emmy for outstanding comedy.

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On 1 March Oscar and Grammy-award winning composer Andre Previn died aged 89. 

The prolific German-American musician had won four Oscars, 10 Grammys and a Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement honour during his long career. 

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US actor Luke Perry passed away 52 after suffering a stroke on 4 March. 

Perry rose to fame in the 1990s for his role playing Dylan McKay on the hit television series Beverly Hills, 90210 and most recently starred in the Netflix series Riverdale.

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On 4 March frontman of British rave band The Prodigy, Keith Flint, was found dead aged 49. Flint was originally a dancer with the rave/dance group, but went on to perform vocals on their two biggest hits in the 1990s: Firestarter and Breathe. 

His band, founded by keyboardist Howlett during the English underground rave scene at the start of that decade, went on to become a multi-million selling outfit, headlining arena shows and festivals.

They were an extremely popular live draw in Ireland throughout their late 90s-early 2000s heyday, and most recently headlined the closing night of last year’s Electric Picnic festival in Co Laois.

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On 14 March Irish actor Pat Laffan died at the age of 79. He is best known for playing Pat Mustard in sitcom Father Ted and Georgie Burgess in The Snapper.

He was also a well-known theatre actor and director, appearing in many different productions throughout his long career. 

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Laura Brennan, one of Ireland’s leading HPV vaccine campaigners, passed away on 20 March

Brennan was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 24. Since then, she became involved in the campaign to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine to try to save lives.

Brennan spoke at and was honoured at many events over the past year, receiving the inaugural Patient Advocate Medal from the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland, and most recently being named Clare Person of the Year.

She was conferred with an honorary doctorate by UCD in acknowledgement of her advocacy work.


On 27 March Beat and General Public vocalist Roger Charlery died aged 56. Ranking Roger, Charlery’s stage name, was best known for pioneering the two-tone music genre.

Fusing ska, reggae, punk, pop and new wave, the Beat were formed in Birmingham in 1978. The group had several top 10 hits in the UK, most famously Mirror in the Bathroom. 

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Scott Walker, the pop signer turned experimental artist, passed away aged 76 on 25 March. 

Walker initially found fame as a teen idol as a member of the Walkers Brothers, recording hit songs like The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore and Make it Easy on Yourself. 

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On 29 March pioneering feminist filmmaker Agnes Varda passed away aged 90. 

Varda effectively kicked off the French New Wave in 1954 with her debut film La Pointe Courte. She worked right up to the end of her life. 

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On 1 April well-known RTÉ Sport reporter Pat McAuliffe died suddenly at the age of 61.

McAuliffe was a regular presence in the press boxes at Turner’s Cross, Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Musgrave Park. In addition to his work for RTÉ, he wrote for local newspaper The Echo during a long career in sports journalism.

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On 8 April Trócaire worker of 37 years, Sally O’Neill died in a road accident in Guatemala.

O’Neill worked primarily on Trócaire projects in Latin America, but she was also involved in providing famine relief in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s. She established Trócaire’s programme in Somalia in the early-1990s in response to a famine there. 

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UK children’s TV star Mya-Lecia Naylor passed away aged 16 on 18 April. 

Mya-Lecia appeared in the 2012 film Cloud Atlas, as well as the CBBC shows Millie Inbetween and Almost Never. A coroner ruled in September her was caused by misadventure. 

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On 19 April 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead during a riot in Derry. 

The New IRA confirmed responsibility for the killing, and offered its “full and sincere apologies to the partner, family and friends of Lyra McKee for her death”.

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On 25 April former senator and businessman Feargal Quinn died aged 82

Quinn was best known as the founder of supermarket chain Superquinn, later becoming a TV personality in RTÉ’s Fergal Quinn’s retail therapy.

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On 3 May actor Peter Mayhew, who won over fans worldwide as the Chewbacca in the blockbuster Star Wars movies, died at the age of 74

The towering British-born actor measured 7’3″ in height and was working as a hospital attendant in London when he was discovered by film producer Charles Schneer, who would later cast him as the co-pilot and best friend of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in the original Star Wars film released in 1977.

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All-Ireland winning manager and journalist Eugene McGee passed away on 5 May. 

The Longford native guided Offaly during their historic 1982 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final win over Kerry. 

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On May 9 comedian Freddie Starr died aged 76 at his home in Spain.

The 76-year-old was the lead singer of Merseybeat pop group the Midniters, and became famous for his impersonations on Royal Variety Performances in the 1970s, going on to become a household name in the UK in the following decades and fronting several TV shows. 

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On 12 May actress Peggy Lipton, who gained fame in the late 1960s with her star turn on the cop show Mod Squad and returned to TV two decades later on Twin Peaks, died at the age of 72 after a battle with cancer.

Lipton earned four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe award for the role of Julie Barnes a reformed juvenile delinquent turned undercover cop on the Mod Squad. 

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Legendary American actress and singer Doris Day passed away on 13 May at the age of 97. 

The actress became one of the biggest Hollywood stars of her time, appearing in movies like Calamity Jane, Pillow Talk, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. 

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Ieoh Ming Pei, Chinese-American architect of iconic modern structures such as the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, was 102 years old when he passed away on 16 May. 

I M Pei was the mastermind behind a number of landmark buildings including the Bank of China tower in Hong Kong and the US National Gallery of Art in Washington.

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On 21 May Austrian formula one driver Niki Lauda died at the age of 70, eight months after he underwent a lung transplant.

Lauda won the Formula One drivers’ world championship three times, in 1975 and 1977 for Ferrari and in 1984 with McLaren. He had also been non-executive chairman at Mercedes F1 since 2012 and he was instrumental in bringing in Lewis Hamilton to spark a run of success. 

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British author and illustrator Judith Kerr, who wrote the children’s classic The Tiger Who Came To Tea, died aged 95 on 23 May. 

Kerr was also known for creating the Mog series of picture books. She was made an OBE in 2012. 

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On 7 June American jazz musician Dr John died after suffering a heart attack, aged 77. 

The legendary blues pianist, whose real name was Malcolm John McRebennack, played everything from blues and pop to jazz, boogie woogie and rock-and-roll.

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Philomena Lynott, the mother of late Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, died aged 88 on 12 June. 

Born in October 1930, her memoir My Boy about Phil became a bestseller and she later continued to commemorate her son at events, unveiling a statue of him on Dublin’s Harry Street in 2005. 


Italian Director Franco Zeffirelli, famed for operas, films and television, died on 15 June at the age of 96. 

Internationally, he is best known for having directed the 1968 film version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for which he was nominated for an Academy Award.

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French DJ and producer Phillippe Cerboneshi (Zdar), one half of the French dance duo Cassius, died following an accidental fall in Paris. He was 50. 

The group rose to prominence on the Paris electronic music scene alongside groups including Daft Punk, and produced songs remixes for a diverse range of groups such as Air, Phoenix, the Beastie Boys and Franz Ferdinand.

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Bestselling romance novelist Judith Krantz died on 24 June at the age of 91. 

Her first novel — Scruples in 1978 — became a best-seller, as did the nine that followed. Krantz’s books have been translated into 52 languages and sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. Her memoir, Sex and Shopping: The Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl, was published in 2001 and it reflected on her penchant for telling sex-drenched tales about the pretty and the privileged.

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Fianna Fáil councillor Manus Kelly died in a crash while taking part in the Donegal International Rally on 24 June

The father-of-five was a highly experienced rally driver and won the event on three previous occasions. The 41-year-old was elected as a Fianna Fáil councillor on Donegal County Council in May’s local elections.

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On 26 June Beth Chapman, who co-starred with her husband on the Dog the Bounty Hunter reality TV show, died after an almost two year battle with cancer. She was 51.

Chapman was diagnosed with throat cancer in September 2017 after getting a nagging cough checked out. A tumour was removed and she was declared cancer-free. But in November 2018, she was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

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Tom Jordan, who is best known for playing Charlie Kelly in Fair City, died on 29 June. 

Jordan, who was in his 80s, had been on the long-running RTÉ soap since it began in 1989.

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Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of Auschwitz and the death camp’s infamous doctor Josef Mengele, passed away in Poland during a trip to the Holocaust site on 5 July. 

Eva and her twin sister, Miriam, managed to survive the regular mystery injections from Mengele, who was dubbed the Angel of Death.

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On 5 July racing journalist John McCririck, who featured prominently on racing footage with ITV and Channel 4, died aged 79.  

In January 2005, he was a contestant in the third series of Celebrity Big Brother. McCririck was also an award-winning journalist for his work as a betting tipster for the Sporting Life.

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On 6 July Brazilian musician and songwriter João Gilberto, a pioneer of bossa nova, died aged 88. 

He was almost as well known for his perfectionism and eccentricities as for his beloved interpretations of Desafinado, Corcovado or Chega de Saudade, often sung as duets with his first wife, Astrud Gilberto.

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Founder of clothing chain Penneys Arthur Ryan died aged 83 on 8 July. 

Ryan, who had served as CEO of the discount fashion brand between 1969 and 2009, passed away after a short illness. 

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arthur-ryan-funeral Penneys staff formed a guard of honour for the funeral cortege of Ryan as it made its way past the location of the first ever Penneys store, on Mary Street, Dublin. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

On 9 July Dublin councillor and former Dublin GAA chairman John Bailey died aged 74. 

Bailey was one of the longest-serving councillors in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, topping the poll in Dún Laoghaire in 2004. He served on three councils following his re-election in the May local elections this year, but failed to be elected to either the Dáil or Seanad. 

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On 10 July Rip Torn, the award-winning television, film and theatre actor, died aged 88.

His career on stage and screen spanned seven decades, ranging from an early career of dark, threatening roles to iconic comedic performances later in life. He is best remembered for his Emmy-winning role as the ethically-challenged television producer in The Larry Sanders Show.

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Noel Whelan – the barrister, political writer and former advisor – died aged 50 on 11 July. 

Whelan was a columnist for the Irish Times and played an important role advocating for a Yes vote in 2015′s marriage equality campaign.

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Comedian Brendan Grace, who started his career as a musician in the 1960s before going on to widespread standup and TV success in Ireland, passed away aged 68 on 11 July.

The veteran comedian, who regularly drew large audiences to his live shows, won over a new generation of fans in the 1990s as a result of his turn as malevolent priest Fr Fintan Stack in the Father Ted series. 

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Dublin-born actor Karl Shiels who played Robbie Quinn in RTÉ’s Fair City died at the age of 47 on 15 July. 

Shiels was also a founding member of Dublin’s Theatre Upstairs in 2010. The theatre is based on Eden Quay and has placed a premium on developing new Irish acting talent.  

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Actress Danika McGuigan died aged 30 after a short battle with cancer on 24 July. 

The 30-year-old, who was the daughter who was the daughter of former boxing champion Barry McGuigan, had appeared in the RTÉ series Can’t Cope Won’t Cope and recently finished filming a movie called Wildfire at the time of her death. 

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On 28 July Russi Taylor, Disney’s official voice of Minnie Mouse for more than three decades, died aged 75. 

Taylor captured the heart and sound of Mickey Mouse’s counterpart on TV, in cartoons and film, and at theme parks

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On 6 August Irish Times journalist Kate Holmquist died aged 62. 

Kate joined the Irish Times in 1986 and wrote her last piece for the paper in 2015. During her time there she was a feature writer, an education correspondent, and a commissioning editor. 

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Acclaimed American author Toni Morrison passed away aged 88 on 6 August. 

Morrison was the first African-American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. The author was known for her best-selling novel Beloved which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former US President Barack Obama in 2012.

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US actor Peter Fonda, whose starring role in classic road movie Easy Rider made him a symbol of 1960s counterculture, died on 17 August aged 79 following a battle with lung cancer.

The two-time Oscar nominee was the son of famed Hollywood actor Henry, and the brother of activist and actress Jane. 

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On 20 August actor Ben Unwin, who played Jesse McGregor in Australian soap Home and Away, died aged 41.

Unwin was a central character in the popular show for two periods, first between 1996-2000 and then from 2002-2005.

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On August 29 former MythBusters co-presenter Jessi Combs died during an attempt to break a land-speed record in the US.

The 39-year-old, who was also a professional racer, was killed while trying to become the world’s fastest woman in the Alvord Desert in the western state of Oregon. 

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The much-loved priest and social justice campaigner Fr Tony Coote, who suffered from motor neurone disease, passed away on 29 August. 

He was diagnosed with the disease in March last year and made it his mission to raise awareness of the disease and raise much-needed funds for research. 

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Ric Ocasek, The Cars frontman whose deadpan vocal delivery and lanky, sunglassed look defined a rock era, died on 16 September aged 75. 

Ocasek, who sang, played guitar and wrote most of the band’s songs, and Benjamin Orr, who played bass and also sang, were ex-hippie buddies who formed The Cars in Boston in 1976. 

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Diahann Carroll, the Oscar-nominated actress and singer who won critical acclaim as the first black woman to star in a non-servant role in a TV series, died at the age of 84 on 4 October.

Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam, in the groundbreaking situation comedy that aired from 1968 to 1971.

During a long career, Carroll earned a Tony Award for the musical No Strings and an Academy Award nomination for Claudine.

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On 6 October renowned rock drummer Ginger Baker died at the age of 80.

The revered percussionist founded influential band Cream with Eric Clapton, forging global sales success and a lasting musical legacy.

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US actor Robert Forster, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing bail bondsman Max Cherry in Jackie Brown, died aged 78 on 11 October.

He worked consistently, appearing in films like Mulholland Drive and The Descendants and in television shows like Breaking Bad and the Twin Peaks revival. 

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On 17 October US Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings died at 68 and was the first African-American lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol building.

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On 4 November broadcaster Gay Byrne, the host of RTÉ’s The Late Late Show for almost four decades and one of the country’s best-known broadcasters, died aged 85.

Alongside the Late Late, the veteran broadcaster also presented the weekday Gay Byrne Show on RTÉ radio for almost three decades. 

In later years he hosted the Irish version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and presented the interview-based Meaning of Life series for almost a decade. 

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On 13 November actor and comedian Niall Tóibín passed away at the age of 89. 

Tóibín, who was born in Cork city in 1929, was famous for his comedic performances, as well as roles in Ballykissangel, Far and Away and Rat.


UK TV chef Gary Rhodes died on 27 November at the age of 59.

He opened a number restaurants in London and the rest of the UK before expanding internationally.

The chef, who hosted a number of TV shows in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, moved to Dubai in the past decade where he owned a number of restaurants.   

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On 23 November Clive James, the Australian broadcaster, writer, critic and poet, died aged 80 after a long battle with leukaemia.

Audiences may also be best familiar with James’ TV work on shows such as The Clive James Show and Clive James On Television.

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On 6 December Kathleen Armstrong, the wife of a Disappeared victim in Northern Ireland, died peacefully aged 90. 

Kathleen’s husband Charlie Armstrong disappeared on his way to mass in Crossmaglen in Co Armagh in August 1981. His remains were not located until July 2010 when they were found in a bog in Co Monaghan. He was one of the 16 people murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles in the North. 

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The lead singer of Swedish pop duo Roxette, Marie Fredriksson, who shot to global fame in the 1990s with hits like It Must Have Been Love, died at the age of 61 on 10 December following a 17-year battle with cancer.

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Chicago-born rapper Juice WRLD, one of a wave of young artists who earned attention on streaming platforms before breaking out as chart-toppers and social media celebrities, died on 8 December at the age of 21.

His breakout single Lucid Dreams, rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018, with his follow-up album Death Race for Love debuting in first place on the Billboard 200 earlier this year.

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On 10 December Irish barrister Paul Anthony McDermott died aged 47. 

A well-known lawyer based in Dublin, McDermott was also a respected commentator on Irish legal issues and a regular writer in the Sunday Times newspaper for over 10 years. 

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Naturalist and broadcaster David Bellamy died at the age of 86 on 11 December. 

London-born Bellamy was a household name as TV personality, scientist and conservationist. 

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On 15 December US actor Danny Aiello whose long career playing tough guys included roles in Fort Apache, the Bronx, The Godfather, Part II,  Once Upon a Time in America and his Oscar-nominated performance as a pizza man in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, died aged 86.

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On 28 December Jean Costello – best known for playing Rita Doyle in RTÉ soap Fair City – died aged 76.

She appeared as a resident of Carrigstown until 2013, during which time she was married to Bela Doyle, played by Jim Bartley.


Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílis 

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