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20th Dec 2023

21 of the most memorable Irish news stories from 2023

Fiona Frawley

memorable irish news stories 2023

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

When rumours began circulating about a former Saturdays singer engaging in a throuple way back in early January ’23, who could have possibly predicted the pop culture rollercoaster we’d proceed to embark on this year? ATMs spewed out free cash, RTÉ indulged in tall order of flip flops, a meteor hole in Portmarnock turned out to be the handiwork of two lads in faux LV hats with green plastic spades. There’s been a lot going on.

We’ve been keenly observing every step of the way, and have taken it upon ourselves to compile some of the most memorable Irish news stories of 2023. Predictions for 2024 will be revealed in due course.

21. Frostbit boy announces plans to become Taoiseach, with Conor McGregor as President

Derry native Ruairi McSorley first went viral as a teen after a clip of him on the news in 2015 saw him utter the much-memed expression: “Oh god, you wouldn’t be long gettin’ frostbit”.

McSorley found himself back in the spotlight again in 2021 when he was rescued 4km off the coast of Kerry, surrounded by a pod of dolphins and now he’s going for the hat trick with the release of his book, The Reign of King Ruairi and promises to run for Taoiseach alongside Conor McGregor as President of Ireland. As the aul saying goes, you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

20. An octopus fights off two seagulls on a Dublin beach

We all know the plight of losing a deli roll or the best part of a fish and chips portion to a vexatious city seagull, but this octopus on Burrow Beach could have lost much more if Luke Maguire hadn’t spotted the mollusc and intervened.

Luke was out walking his dog in October of this year when he spotted two seagulls attacking something – from a distance he thought it could be a crab. As he got closer he saw an octopus, using its tentacles to defend itself from the bird.

Luke picked up the octopus and helped it back into the ocean, where it swam “for about 5 seconds before it was hit by another wave and washed up onto another sand bank”. Knowing he couldn’t leave the creature there with the gulls still lingering, Luke picked it up again and waded in deeper to release it, noting that “as soon as it got in the water it completely changed shape and looked like a rocket flying away”.

And you know what they say. Any triumph over seagulls is a triumph for us all.


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A post shared by Luke Maguire (@lukemaguire_)

19. The end of Island’s Edge

In November, Heineken Ireland made the decision to axe the production of Island’s Edge stout, following a multimillion-euro marketing campaign aimed at converting drinkers in a country where Diageo’s Guinness has long held the number-one spot. Launched just two years previous, the stout aimed to capture 10 per cent of the stout market, by focusing on young people aged between 18-35 who did not traditionally drink stout.

After a multimillion euro marketing campaign and Celtic Tiger-esque launch on a boat, it’s hard to say for sure what went wrong for the young, reportedly less bitter upstart. It’s almost as if there’s another stout that’s been intrinsic with the very essence of Irishness for 223 years… hard to say for sure.

18. The Wexford Cocaine ship

2023 was also a year for substantial bales of cocaine being washed up on beaches across Ireland – most notably on Ballyconnigar Beach in Wexford.

In September of this year, bales worth millions of euro arrived on the sandy shores, and so too did a number of hopefuls equipped with binoculars and cries of ‘let’s go get my coke!’

17. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre revamp

Last week, Dublin City Council granted planning permission for a €100m transformation of St Stephen’s Green shopping centre. But the artists impressions and outrage over potential overhaul of the shopping centre’s exterior have been coming in hard and fast since December ’22, when the first proposal for the €100m revamp was unveiled.

2023 has seen a number of rejigged proposals – the most recent being approved because of added cultural facilities and reduced office space. It may have gone down well with DCC but definitely not with Dubliners in general – you can see some responses below.


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16. The loss of three Irish musical greats

Significantly sadder in tone than the rest of these news stories, but it’d be remiss to compile a round up of Irish news stories without mentioning the loss of three greats this year – Christy Dignam, Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan.

Christy Dignam passed away on 13 June after a long illness, aged 63. Sinéad O’Connor died on July 26 at 56 years old, and Shane MacGowan died on 30 November aged 65, with celebrities including Johnny Depp and Nick Cave descending on Nenagh, Co. Tipperary for the singer’s funeral.

Images via Getty 

15. Dublin Riots

Another more sombre news story, but definitely one of the most notable for Ireland this year.

On November 23, crowds gathered around Parnell Square after a stabbing incident outside a primary school. Protests escalated into violent scenes near the site of the attack, with a garda car and a tram set on fire. Footage showed some protesters involved in scuffles with gardaí and looting shops, while others threw bottles at officers.

The aftermath saw Dubliners coming together to assist with cleanup and work to repair damage done to local businesses, and warnings issued in the UK, Canada and Australia, advising travellers planning to visit Dublin to be cautious around the city centre.


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14. FREENOW voucher saga

A week later, taxi and mobility app FREENOW was forced to apologise after a technical error led to vouchers worth up to €200 being wrongly issued to app users.

On 1st December customers were  invited to answer a Christmas-themed riddle, and up to ten €20 vouchers were lodged into the accounts of those who solved it.

The company said the first 100 passengers to solve the riddle would receive the discount codes, but a “technical issue with the raffle” meant the vouchers were issued to more than the first 100 winners.

In a statement, the company said: “We express our sincere apologies for any confusion or inconvenience caused to passengers as a result of this technical issue which has since been resolved.”

13. Roy Keane’s ham sandwich

As sure as the sun will rise, Roy Keane will deliver a wisecrack or get caught in a dispute with a Liverpudlian, all the while maintaining an impressively dry visage and reaffirming his status as a national legend. Most notably this year, Keane rocked up to a Super Sunday panel with a neatly tinfoiled ham sandwich – lunch of champions, etc, etc.


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12. Notre Dame Street

In more sporting news, August of this year saw an estimated 40,000 American football fans descend on the Aviva Stadium for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, as the ‘Fighting Irish’ Notre Dame reigned supreme over the Navy Midshipmen. What did this mean for Dublin? An influx of Notre Dame/Guinness fusion merch adorning the shelves at Carrolls, enhanced grabbing of the Molly Malone statue, a snake-like stack of plastic beer cups and Dame Street being temporarily shut down and renamed ‘Notre Dame Street’.

11. Sarah Jessica Parker romanticising cabbage from Super Valu

As Irish people, we’re well used to Americans waxing lyrical about potatoes, pints and all things Éire. It’s common to see someone on Twitter claiming Cillian Murphy has the ghosts of everyone who died in the Famine reflected in his eyes or detailing their connections to the Emerald Isle for anyone who’ll listen. But I think Sarah Jessica Parker is the first to romanticise a head of cabbage and 30% off chardonnay from Super Valu.

Online followers of SJP will be well acquainted with her odic captions accompanying images of lamp posts, half-drunk wine glasses and blurry street scapes, but this summer the actor dedicated a lengthly Instagram carousel to the contents of a Donegal supermarket.

Like an influencer sifting through her empty beauty products on Insta, the And Just Like That star shared pics Charleville Cheddar (mature red, obviously), Horgans Salami, Kiihne pickled gherkins and a single rasher incinerated to a crisp and placed artfully on a plate. It’s like if Fáilte Ireland made a girl dinner.


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10. Argos closing

There were definitely a few gasps of disbelief in our office on January 19, when Argo announced they’d be closing all of their Irish stores. I myself would have been no stranger to habitually veering towards the Argos website to look up pretty much anything – camping equipment, hair dryers, lampshades, you name it. Anytime someone in my life was on the hunt for something obscure, I’d whip open the Argos website to see if I could help them on their quest. Sure, there’ve been plenty of occasions where nothing I was searching for would be in stock, but Argos has more than served its duty over the years, particularly during the Catalogue days of yore.

I remember the genuine excitement picking up an Argos catalogue ahead of Christmas evoked – the relentless flicking through the pages, circling what you wanted and then beginning all over again in case there was something you missed. The toy pages in the early years, the Groovy Chick bedsheets, inflatable couches and Homer Simpson alarm clocks as time went on – the brief dalliance with the Elizabeth Duke jewellery counter which I always look back upon fondly. Those bejewelled doll necklaces and gold plated sovereign rings never saw me coming.

9. The end of Aertel

One of those news stories you’ll always remember where you were when you first heard, like when Michael Jackson died or when Ireland accidentally legalised yokes for 24 hours in 2015.

Either that or you thought Aertel had already shut up shop around 20 years ago, depending on your vintage.

In any case, RTÉ announced in October that the service would be ceasing operation after almost 40 years in business.

First launched in 1986, the service provided everything from up-to-date news and sports scores to holiday info and, when the time came, frequent updates on the Covid-19 pandemic.

8. An Arts Council mishap

For a body that looks after the arts and funding, this certainly was a boo-boo of epic proportions.

In an email malfunction this June, over one hundred artists in Ireland received word that they had been chosen for a Next Generation Award via the Arts Council, only for that award to be rescinded moments later. The award was only meant to have been doled out to 20 artists.

The follow-up email informing applicants of the mistake went as follows:

“Please accept our apologies, an administrative error which resulted in an incorrect decision email being sent to you on our recent Next Generation application. Please disregard this email, the correct email will be sent after 4.30pm today.”

The Artists Union of Ireland released a statement following the error, calling for a sincere apology from the Arts Council.

“We received word today that 100+ artists in Ireland received an email from the Arts Council of Ireland saying they were receiving one of 20 Next Generation Awards. They then received an email rescinding the award without an adequate apology for the mistake.

“The level of distress that this has caused highlights the financial precarity we face. As artists we know Arts Council awards like this are a primary source of income. We can only imagine the sense of relief these artists felt when they thought they were funded.

“We offer our solidarity with the artists that this has affected.”

7. The chaos of Lana Del Rey

Only Lana could announce a Dublin gig with just 10 days notice, sending her loyal Irish stan-dom into a frenzy, after being forced off the stage early at Glastonbury just days before.

In fairness to her, the hair needed to be right.

She came, she puffed on a fan’s blueberry vape, she did a tour of every vintage shop in Dublin and by all accounts, she conquered.

6. The Rugby World Cup in general

A botulism outbreak, bedbugs and a tepid rendition of Ireland’s Call on a Ryanair flight all came together to make this year’s Rugby World Cup memorable on and off the pitch, with much of the country confined in a pair of Leinster handcuffs for the bulk of Autumn. Horseplay off the charts, by all accounts.

5. Sheamie on the Toy Show

Every year on the Toy Show there’s a child who wins the hearts of the nation – but this is the first year a 57 year old block layer from Kilfenora came out on top. Sheamie was well prepared on his approach to the toy table, mullet freshly styled and endless Kielty-themed wise cracks in the back pocket. His job was to show off Lego , but the audience didn’t care – they were more interested in the family drama and Pa Crawford down the road.

Since his Toy Show debut, Sheamie has appeared on national radio, been photographed professionally at work on the family farm and been handed €20 notes by every old lady he passes. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

4. ATMgate

Mid August brought with it winding queues outside Bank of Ireland ATMs across the country, with fraught Gardaí attempting to intercept withdrawals.

The rush to the country’s cash points was the result of a technical issue at Bank of Ireland, which allowed some of their customers to withdraw funds above their usual limits. Customers were reportedly able to withdraw funds of up to €1,000 despite having insufficient funds, although Bank of Ireland have insisted the daily withdrawal limit is €500.

BOI stressed that any money withdrawn from an account with no funds in it will be treated as an unauthorised overdraft, but that didn’t stop the memes, tweets and hot takes flowing as freely as the unsolicited cash.

3. RTÉ payments scandal

A linchpin news story for 2023, the RTÉ payments scandal was the gift that kept on giving. It all started on June 22nd when RTÉ admitted to overpaying presenter Ryan Tubridy a sum of €345,000 over a several year period, shortly after Tubridy announced he’d be stepping down as host of the Late Late.

What ensued was a slow and steady reveal of just what exactly RTÉ had paid for with its infamous slush fund; 89 pairs of flip flops, €2,000 worth of balloons, €13k on Bruce Springsteen tickets and €3,861 on a board meeting that never happened – the list goes on. Tubridy and his agent, cartoon mobster Noel Kelly faced an Oireachtas committee, Ryan re-emphasised his love and loyalty to the children of Ireland before tearing through the streets of Dalkey on the red Vespa gifted to him by U2… it was a whole thing.

2. The Portmarnock meteor hole

“It’s a huge, mysterious crater that looks out of this world,” a Virgin Media News report announced on a Thursday in September, displaying footage of a hole on Portmarnock beach in Dublin.

In a news story that had the “Only in Ireland” meter on the verge of imploding, it turned out the crater was actually the handiwork of two green plastic spades.

A tough blow for local astrophysics enthusiast Dave Kennedy who was “stopped in his tracks” when he spotted the hole, and was “certain the small but heavy rock inside it came from up above.”

Has anyone checked in on Dave recently?

1. The Throuple

A pop culture saga for the ages, one we probably don’t need to re-hash the details of – just listen to Una’s interview with the My Therapist Ghosted Me gals to get the story first hand.

All that matters to us is ever since that fateful poolside pic in Morocco, Una’s been thrust back into the spotlight after a while away – yes, the throuple news was initially met with backlash from the more sexually repressed cohort of the population, but it’s mostly just re-affirmed her status as an Irish cultural icon, led to the release of new music and a string of media appearances, all of which we’ve ate up appreciatively.

Now all we need is a Saturdays reunion and for Una to start her own podcast. Manifestation works, guys.


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A post shared by Una Healy (@unahealy)

Did we miss out your most memorable Irish news story of 2023? Let us know, and in the meantime, Merry Crimmas one and all.


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