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Year in Review: Looking back on stories that shaped 2023

It’s been a busy 365 days since our last ‘Year in Review’ and once again, as the new year dawns, we find ourselves looking back.

At Armagh I, we do our best throughout the year to bring you an even balance of news and this ‘Year in Review’ will be no different.

Whilst, it would be nice to focus at all times on the positive, inevitably, there have been tough times in 2023. However, it has to be said that even in those tougher moments we have witnessed small acts of kindness and togetherness and of community and charity.

Let us walk you through a few of the most significant headlines in 2023…

It was in January – the start of new beginnings for many and the end of an era for others – that owners of well-known Portadown chippy, JP’s announced that they would be ‘hanging the scoop up’. After 40 years in business, Leslie and wife Jennifer had made the decision to sell up and “start to enjoy life”.

Leslie Geary, right

Leslie and the team officially bid a fond farewell to the business and their loyal customers in September, having just surpassed their 41 year anniversary at the helm in August. JP’s continues to enjoy success today under new management.

February – arguably the most romantic of months – saw one Armagh man’s starry-eyed dreams come true. Since childhood, Niall Maguire had a romantic notion of a thatched cottage replete with all the mod-cons as his ‘perfect’ home. After six years of design work and construction, his dream finally became a reality.

The real kicker for Niall – and perhaps the reason this became one of February’s top stories – was seeing the fruit of his labour picked as one of 21 homes from across Ireland to feature in RTE’s latest TV series of Home of the Year.

Niall and his ‘dream’ cottage

From Home of the Year to Young Business Woman of the Year. March marked a milestone month for one young entrepreneur as she lifted the title at the 2023 Women in Business Awards.

Niamh McCarthy, from Lurgan, collected the prestigious prize for her outstanding work in starting her own business, Niamh Designs, shortly after graduating from university.

Like the many hundreds who reacted to news of her success, we at Armagh I, had to know more and interviewed Niamh for our Entrepreneur NI newsletter.

If you’re contemplating going out on your own in 2024 give it a read, this young business has an incredible start-up story that would give confidence to even the most reticent of aspirant entrepreneurs. Read the full interview here.

Niamh McCarthy who was awarded Young Business Woman of the Year 2023

Niamh McCarthy who was awarded Young Business Woman of the Year 2023

More good business news came in April when it was announced that a new supermarket and petrol filling station – as well as three additional retail units – were being planned as part of a major multi-million pound development in Cookstown.

Election month! In May Armagh I introduced a live blog for the morning of the election results from Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Newry and Slieve Gullion. Our reporter on the ground, Mairead Holland, was present and accounted for throughout the course of the day, to tell us in real time who was in and who was out.

Patrick Fearon Armagh

Patrick Fearon Armagh

Unfortunately, in the same month, we reported on an incident as heartbreaking as it was humbling when heroic Armagh man, Patrick Fearon, tragically lost his life rescuing a woman from the River Lagan.

Patrick will forever be remembered as a hero for his incredible actions that day, and, for countless selfless acts throughout his life. His devoted mother, Linda, recounting his selfless nature described him as “a joy to have as a son”.

A bit of June sun led many to the coastline. However, an innocent day at Murlough beach soon turned sinister for two families when a sand tunnel collapsed trapping a young boy.

Thankfully, there were no serious injuries but it was no less a terrifying experience for all those involved.

Libby Clarke with her eldest daughter Lucy

Our top story in July showcased another incredible act of resilience. Well-known estate agent and 5th generational farmer, Libby Clarke spoke candidly about her recovery following a brutal attack on her home farm.

The attack left Libby with serious facial injuries and the need for two hip replacements. However, unperturbed, she has remained in control, continuing with her work on the farm, driving forward her property agency business and speaking publicly about rural crime in an attempt to build better rural watch networks.

July also brought about the exciting news of a new future tenant for the vacant Sainsbury’s unit at Rushmere shopping centre.

Talks have been ongoing since Sainsbury’s vacated the unit in February, and, whilst we are still eagerly awaiting an announcement for who the new tenant may be, Rushmere has since recorded a 20% uplift in footfall and has welcomed big brands Miniso, Subway and Waterstones to its cohort. Add that to the announcement of a £10 million redevelopment plan!

Then, in August, the heartbreaking loss of two young lives sent shockwaves across the county. The death of Judith McMullan, from Whitecross, as the result of a road traffic collision was announced on the morning of August 1.

Judith McMullan and Dr Sean McMahon

News of Judith’s passing was then sadly followed by the loss of 31-year-old Dr Sean McMahon, from Cullyhanna who was due to be married to his beloved fiancé, Debbie that same week.

Life changed in September for one lucky Cullyhanna man who became the envy of the county. Dominic Brogan was given the incredible choice of £1 million pounds tax free cash or a luxury five-bedroom villa in the Algarve, a brand new VW multivan, a dune buggy, a jet-ski and £150,000 of tax-free cash in McKinney Competitions’ biggest ever giveaway. Find out what he chose below…

October’s storms left several Newry businesses flooded and facing temporary closure after the canal burst its banks.

Political representatives swiftly called for ‘immediate support packages‘ enabling businesses to obtain £7,500 in government grants and, more recently, SDLP’s Justin McNulty has met with the Department for Infrastructure to launch an independent review to help mitigate future risk to businesses.

Patrick and Ciera Grimley, left and good friend Ciara McElvanna right

Sadly, November brought further devastation. A horrifying crash near Markethill claimed the lives of husband and wife, Patrick and Ciera Grimley alongside that of their close friend, Ciara McElvanna.

Family member, Lorraine Grimley, set up a GoFundMe to help support the couple’s three children and, thanks to immense public generosity, it now stands at over £437,000.

Finally, as the curtain closes on the final month of the year, you read about two Armagh men for whom the stage curtain has lifted.

Cathal Mercer, left and Eoin Mallon with Olivia Colman, right

No stranger to the stage, Eoin Mallon landed his very own golden ticket when he got to use his musical talents alongside Oscar winner Olivia Colman in the newest WONKA movie and Cathal Mercer secured his first feature film role playing the villainous Fra in the Irish language film, Kneecap.

And a little boy unwittingly upstaged them all when a video of him sending his bothersome uncle packing went viral and even got a like from Jennifer Aniston!

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