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in memoriam

In memoriam: Remembering the famous Irish faces we lost in 2023

A look back at some of the greats and well-known faces we lost this year.

2023 WAS A year in which we lost many Irish people.

We said goodbye to famous sporting stars, writers and artists, as well as those who brought us happiness via our TV screens and the airwaves over the years.

Join us as we take a look back at those we lost over the last 12 months. 

January

On 8 January, sports broadcaster Paudie Palmer, aged in his 60s, died after being injured an alleged hit-and-run during Christmas week. 

Palmer worked with Cork local radio station C103 and was also a columnist with The Echo newspaper.

paudie-palmer-2 Paudie Palmer Cork GAA Cork GAA

Acclaimed traditional musician and singer Séamus Begley died at the age of 73 on 9 January

He was renowned for his accordion playing and recorded his first album with his sister Máire, titled ‘An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe’, in 1973.

sb-19 Séamus Begley Séamus Begley Facebook Séamus Begley Facebook

It was announced on 15 January that veteran RTÉ broadcaster Jim Fahy had died at the age of 75 following a short illness. 

Fahy, known as “the voice of the West”, was the broadcaster’s longest-serving regional correspondent when he retired in 2011 according to RTÉ.

Capture Jim Fahy RTÉ RTÉ

February

Irish journalist Henry McDonald died on 19 February at the age of 57.

He was best known for his roles as Ireland correspondent for The Guardian and Observer newspapers over 23 years.

On 22 February, five-time All-Ireland senior hurling winner Mick Burns died. 

Former Munster scrum-half Tom Tierney died at the age of 46 on 24 February

Tierney represented Richmond, Garryowen, Munster, Leicester Tigers, Galwegians and Connacht across his playing career. He won eight international caps with Ireland, making his debut in 1999. He played four times at that year’s World Cup, scoring a try in the win over Romania. 

tom-tierney Tom Tierney Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

26 February saw the death of former RTÉ athletics commentator Tony O’Donoghue

He had spent over 40 years working for RTÉ, during which time he covered every Olympics between Munich in 1972 and the London Games in 2012.

Former Munster and Ireland team manager Brian O’Brien died at the age of 83 on 28 February.

He was a big part of the province’s success in recent decades, also serving as a player, selector and coach.

brian-obrien Brian O’Brien Andrew Paton / INPHO Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

March

On 12 March, Offaly senior football manager Liam Kearns passed away. 

The Tralee native, a retired Garda sergeant, was appointed as Offaly manager the previous August.

As a player, Kearns won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Kerry in 1980 and was later involved with the county at U21 and senior level.

liam-kearns-speaks-to-tg4-before-the-game Liam Kearns Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

April

The death of 33-year-old Irish rally driver Craig Breen was announced on 13 April

Hailed as “a world class driver and a world class person” and “a model competitor”, the Waterford native was renowned as Ireland’s top rally driver at the time of his death.

umea-20230210-file-pictureirish-rally-driver-craig-breen-has-died-on-13-april-2023-after-an-accident-during-a-pre-event-test-ahead-of-the-2023-croat Craig Breen Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

On 14 April, lead guitarist with The Script Mark Sheehan passed away. 

Sheehan had co-founded the band in 2001 and remained a member until his death. He was married and had three children. 

the-script-perform-at-the-bournemouth-international-centrefeaturing-the-script-mark-sheehanwhere-bournemouth-united-kingdomwhen-24-feb-2020credit-wenn-com Mark Sheehan Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Northern Irish mountaineer Noel Hanna died in Nepal on 17 April after climbing Annapurna, the tenth-highest mountain in the world. 

Hanna, a prominent mountaineer from Co Down, was a renowned climber and had scaled Mount Everest ten times. In 2018, he became the first Irish person to successfully summit and descend K2.

DSCN0870-1024x768 Noel Hanna noelhanna.com noelhanna.com

Johnny Fean of Irish trad rock band Horslips passed away on 28 April

Horslips rose to fame in 1970. They are best known for their song Deard Doom. 

90151800_90151800 Johnny Fean James Horan / RollingNews.ie James Horan / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

May

On 7 May, renowned fiddle player Seán Keane, who was a longtime member of The Chieftains, died aged 76. 

Born in Drimnagh in 1946, Keane was a member of traditional group Ceoltóirí Chualann in the 1960s. The band was led by Seán Ó Riada and included many of the founding members of The Chieftains.

Keane joined The Chieftains in 1968. He would play with the group for decades, most recently in Ballina for US president Joe Biden during his visit.

sean-keane-of-the-chieftains-attends-the-funeral-of-chieftains-founder-paddy-moloney-at-st-kevins-church-in-glendalough-co-wicklow-picture-date-friday-october-15-2021-paddy-moloney-lived-for-m Seán Keane Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Northern Irish actor Ray Stevenson, known for films including Thor and Punisher, died at the age of 58 on 21 May

Stevenson also starred in multiple television shows, including as soldier Titus Pullo in the BBC/HBO series Rome from 2005-2007, as well as a spin-off series for the Star Wars franchise.

ray-stevenson-in-memory-2022-directed-by-martin-campbell-credit-black-bear-pictures-album Ray Stevenson Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Ava Barry, a young girl with a rare form of epilepsy whose mother campaigned fiercely to have her granted a medicinal cannabis licence, died aged 13 on 27 May

Ava’s mother Vera Twomey caught the nation’s attention during a two-and a-half year campaign to secure medical cannabis to treat her daughter. 

Ava was diagnosed Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of severe epilepsy, when she was a baby. She suffered from severe and prolonged seizures through out her life, which her mother highlighted as part of her campaign.

river (1) Ava Barry

Also on 27 May, Irish artist Graham Knuttel passed away. 

Knuttel’s work is held in public and private collections around the world, with collectors including Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Bertie Ahern and Joanna Lumley.

His work is also held by Swiss Bank Corporation, AIB, Goldman Sachs International and Saatchi & Saatchi London. 

684 Tipperary Crystal New Collection at Showcase copy_90643703 Graham Knuttel Sasko Lazsrov / RollingNews.ie Sasko Lazsrov / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

June 

The death of Hugh Callaghan, one of the Birmingham Six, a group of men who were wrongly imprisoned for IRA bombings, was announced on 1 June

Callaghan and his co-accused left Birmingham shortly before IRA-planted bombs exploded in two city centre pubs in on 21 November 1974.

Each of the six men were given life sentences for the bombings, which killed 21 people and injured 182 more. They were released in 1991.

Roy Taylor, whose band represented Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest, died on 1 June

Jump the Gun, with whom he was a bassist, represented Ireland in the contest in 1988 with the song ‘Take Him Home’. They finished in eighth place.

349186453_274182935007623_8084443121524422708_n Roy Taylor Watch Your Back MND on Facebook Watch Your Back MND on Facebook

On 2 June, president of the national secondary school teachers’ union ASTI Miriam Duggan passed away. 

Cork GAA great Teddy McCarthy died on 6 June

He was the only man to win All-Ireland senior hurling and football championship medals in the same year, achieving that historic feat in 1990 when Cork won the double.

teddy-mccarthy Teddy McCarthy Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Christy Dignam, the lead singer of Aslan, died aged 63 on 13 June

Dignam grew up in Finglas in north Dublin. In 1982, he formed the rock band Aslan alongside Alan Downey, Joe Jewell and Billy McGuinness, as well as Tony McGuinness, the band’s former bassist.

Aslan became one of the most popular bands on the Irish music scene after they released their first album Feel No Shame in 1988. The band split up in the late ’80s and subsequently reformed in 1993. 

christy-dignam-the-lead-singer-of-the-popular-irish-rock-band-aslan-speaks-at-pendulum-summit-worlds-leading-business-and-self-empowerment-summit-in-dublin-convention-center-on-thursday-9-janua Christy Dignam Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The death of Irish boxing great Jim McCourt was announced on 20 June

He is one of 18 boxers to have won Olympic medals for Ireland.

Joe Delaney, the former honorary treasurer of the Football Association of Ireland, passed away on 20 June

He was the father of John Delaney, the former FAI chief executive. Joe Delaney was treasurer at the FAI during the Jack Charlton era.

joe-delaney Joe Delaney Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

On 21 June, former Shamrock Rovers half-back Ronnie Nolan died. 

July 

Former Ireland coach TW Roland ‘Roly’ Meates passed away on 5 July

A dentist by profession, Meates went on to make his name as a coach firstly at Trinity through a 30-year spell – 1966 to 1996 – and then for two different five-year periods at Leinster’s helm. He coached the Ireland team from 1975 to 1977. 

roly-meates 'Roly' Meates INPHO INPHO

On 10 July, former Lord Mayor of Dublin and Fianna Fáil TD Ben Briscoe died. 

During his 37-year long Dáil career, Briscoe featured one of the most dramatic election finishes in Irish history, when he narrowly missed out on a seat in Dublin South-Central in 1992. He had been noted as being a strong voice for Ireland’s Jewish community.

nice-referendums-campaigns Ben Briscoe Eamonn Farrell / RollingNews.ie Eamonn Farrell / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

Legendary singer Sinead O’Connor‘s death was announced on 27 July. She was 56. 

She was born in Glenageary, County Dublin, in December 1966.

The singer, who also used the names Magda Davitt and Shuhada Sadaqat after converting to Islam, released her first critically acclaimed album The Lion And The Cobra in 1987.

O’Connor’s 1990 song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, from her second album, shot the Dublin-born singer to the top of the global charts, spending four weeks in the number one slot in the US Billboard Hot 100.

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Former All-Ireland Galway hurling winner and inter-county referee Jimmy Cooney died on 31 July

He was the eldest of the famous Cooney brothers from Sarsfields who emerged during the 1980s.

August

On 9 August, pioneering Tyrone football manager Art McRory, winner of five Ulster titles, died.

He led the Red Hand county to their first All-Ireland football final in 1986 and again in 1995, when his side lost in a controversial one-point defeat to Dublin.

art-mcrory-372001 Art McRory Andrew Paton / INPHO Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

September 

Fair City actor Aaron Harris, who played Detective Sergeant Myles Byrne, passed away on 4 September in Spain. 

Harris first appeared on Fair City in the late 1990s. 

Between 1994 and 1996, the actor played DS Andy Dixon on British police drama Wycliffe. He also worked on Call The Midwife, Holby City, Ballykissangel and The Bill. 

river (2) Aaron Harris RTÉ RTÉ

Cork GAA stalwart and President of the Blackrock GAA club Jimmy Brohan died on 19 September

Brohan was an All-Ireland winner with the Cork hurlers in 1954 and was part of the team that lost out to Wexford in the 1956 final. 

On 19 September, presenter and broadcaster on Raidió na Gaeltachta Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí died.

As one of the leading Irish language broadcasters in the country, he was best known for his popular magazine show Rónán Beo on RnaG and was a known face and voice to many households in the Gaeltacht regions.

Capture Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí RTÉ RTÉ

On 27 September, actor Michael Gambon died at the age of 82. 

The four-time Bafta winner was born in Cabra and started his stage acting career in the Gate Theatre in Dublin.

He became a household name when he took on the role of Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter film series. He also played many other roles in film, television and theatre throughout this career, including the BBC drama The Singing Detective, for which he won his Baftas; Gosford Park; Sleepy Hollow; and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

harry-potter-et-la-coupe-de-feu-harry-potter-and-the-gobelet-of-fire-2005-real-mike-newell-michael-gambon-collection-christophel-warner-bros-he Michael Gambon playing Albus Dumbledore Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

October

The death of Irish Olympic medallist Hugh Russell was announced on 13 October

Known as ‘Little Red’, the Belfast flyweight took bronze at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the first Irish boxer to do so in 16 years.

In his amateur days, he also won bronze at the 1978 Commonwealth Games.

On 15 October, former Republic of Ireland international Gerry Ryan passed away.

He played 18 times for Ireland between 1978 and 1984, having previously earned one U21 cap.

Galway hurling legend Jimmy Duggan died on 29 October. 

The Liam Mellows clubman won a national league medal with Galway in 1951 and featured in three All-Ireland senior final defeats in 1953, ’55 and ’58.

jimmy-duggan Jimmy Duggan James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

On 31 October, Galway All-Ireland three-in-a-row star Seamus Leydon passed away. 

The Dunmore MacHales native was left corner-forward on the first-ever All Star team in 1971. By then he had won three All-Ireland senior medals, starting at left half-forward in each of the finals as Galway defeated Kerry in 1964 and ’65 and Meath in ’66.

November 

On 10 November, the death was announced of former Republic of Ireland international Miah Dennehy. He was aged 73. 

Businessman Ben Dunne‘s death was announced on 18 November

The 74-year-old was a former director of Dunnes Stores, one of Ireland’s largest retail groups. Later, he was a leading figure in the Irish fitness industry, including founding an eponymous chain of gyms. 

Dunne was kidnapped in 1981 and held for ransom by the IRA. He was released after a week.

In 1992, he was arrested in Florida for possession of cocaine, which ultimately resulted in him losing his position at the head of Dunnes Stores and set in train events that would rock Irish politics.

An internal investigation at the company revealed payments he had made to politicians, including former taoiseach Charlie Haughey. The revelations ultimately led to the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals. 

090File Photo Ben Dunne Has Died_90693377 Ben Dunne RollingNews.ie RollingNews.ie

25 November saw the death of former Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Tras Honan at the age of 93. 

She is the only woman to serve as Seanad Cathaoirleach since the foundation of the state.

Honan was a senator between 1977 and 1992 and was elected Cathaoirleach twice. When her sister Carrie Acheson was elected to Dáil Éireann in 1981 they were the first sisters to serve as Oireachtas members at the same time.

410Tras Honan_90694007 Tras Honan Gareth Chaney / RollingNews.ie Gareth Chaney / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

Shane MacGowan died aged 65 on 30 November

The hugely influential musician, songwriter and singer was best known as the lead singer and songwriter of The Pogues.

MacGowan was born in Kent, England in December 1957, to Irish parents. He lived briefly in Tipperary as a young child before the family moved back to England when he was six. 

The Pogues toured widely in Ireland, but were also hugely popular abroad with an Irish diaspora in England and the United States where their wistful and romantic songs about Ireland found a wide audience. 

the-pogues-uk-rock-group-with-shane-macgowan-about-1985-photo-jason-tilley Shane MacGowan Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

December 

On 5 December, Irish motorsport icon Rosemary Smith aged aged 86. 

A pioneering rally driver from Dublin, Rosemary began her career as a co-driver. She clinched the ladies’ prize at the Circuit of Ireland rally in 1964, before winning the four-day Dutch Tulip Rally in 1965, alongside co-driver Valerie Domleo.

Her career would go on to feature an outright  win in the 1969 Cork 20 Rally and victories on stages like the Scottish Rally, the Alpine Rally, the Canadian Shell 4000, the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon and the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally.

rosemary-smith Rosemary Smith Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Actor, television presenter and producer Frank Twomey passed away on 11 December

Twomey started his career on the RTÉ children’s show Bosco and then went on to work on Nighthawks, Fair City and Bull Island. He also had a hugely popular recurring role on RTE’s Liveline as part of its “Funny Fridays”.

He spent five years touring Ireland as part of the hugely successful Santa Ponsa trilogy of stage comedies and was a longtime panto dame in the Everyman Palace Theatre in Cork.

river (3) Frank Twomey RTÉ RTÉ

17 December saw the death of Maureen Sweeney, the Irish woman whose weather report changed the timing the D-Day landings. She was 100. 

At 21 years old, Maureen’s forecast was the first to be published that informed the public of an incoming storm off the Atlantic, from Blacksod Lighthouse on 3 June 1944.

The lighthouse and surrounding station played a key role during World War II by supplying Britain and the United States with weather reports. 

Her report postponed the Allied Forces’ plans to storm France’s coast until 6 June 1944.

download (3) Maureen Sweeney Eoin O'Hagan Eoin O'Hagan

On 20 December, Johnny Flaherty, who helped lead Offaly’s hurlers to their breakthrough All-Ireland victory in 1981, died aged 74. 

He was one of the most stylish hurlers of his generation, and was key to Offaly winning a first Leinster senior championship in 1980, scoring two goals in the final against Kilkenny.

The forward won an All-Star in 81, and was named the Offaly hurler of the year in 79 and 81.         

Flaherty won six Offaly senior county medals between 1967 and 1985 with Kinnity. He finished top scorer with 1-8 in their 1967 final victory over Coolderry and 0-6 in their 1978 win against St Rynagh’s.

inpho_00015896 Johnny Flaherty Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

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