2017's Biggest News Moments

The stories that got people talking this year

2017's Biggest News Moments

Image: Newstalk

It's been quite  a year at home and abroad.

Here, we've got a new Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and dealt with big storms (of the weather variety!).

Further afield, we saw more big developments in the fall-out from Brtiain's Brexit vote, Donald Trump's retweets and Conor McGregor making more headlines than pot shots.

This is our look back at some of the biggest news moments of the year.

Leo Varadkar becomes Taoiseach

It was back in June that Leo Varadkar secured 60% of a parliamentary party vote to win the Fine Gael leadership contest.

The then-Social Protection Minister became Ireland's youngest and first openly gay Taoiseach.

The world press also focused in on this aspect of his win.

Maurice McCabe fall-out

In November Frances Fitzgerald announced her resignation as Tánasite  after a week of mounting pressure over her handling of the Garda whistleblower controversy.

Her resignation averted a possible general election, which had been looming after Fianna Fáil tabled a motion of no confidence in her.

This threatened to collapse the confidence and supply agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil which would have led to an election in the run-up to Christmas.

It emerged that the then justice minister received additional e-mails detailing the proposed "aggressive" garda legal strategy against whistleblower Maurice McCabe during the O'Higgins Commission.

Brexit

Not to be outdone by political maneuvers here, Britain's exit from the EU made plenty of headines too.

The UK officially triggered the process to leave the bloc on Wednesday March 29th.

From then on there was speculation about what could be in any deal in relation to the Irish border, citizens' rights, as well as a financial settlement - or 'Brexit bill' for the UK.

The UK government threw money at the problem in its budget for 2019 and also hired additional staff.

In October, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believes the majority of people in Northern Ireland will be Irish citizens after the Brexit process.

And then eureka - we had a deal, on the Irish border at least, in early December after a bit of a false start.

Tuam Babies 

In March, it was confirmed that 'significant quantities' of human remains were at a former Mother and Baby Home site in Tuam, Co Galway. 

Remains were found in 17 out of 20 chambers that were discovered in an elongated structure within the boundaries of the garden.

The Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation (MBHCOI) identified the number of deaths from the General Registers Office of 796 children during the years 1925-1961 - the years the home operated.

The historian who uncovered the Tuam Mother and Baby Home scandal, Catherine Corless, was honoured with the Bar of Ireland’s Human Rights Award in October.

On receiving the award, she said: “My work campaigning on behalf of the survivors of mother and baby homes continues and I hope that this special award will give even more survivors the strength to come forward to tell their story".

While in December, a new report said individual identification of remains found there is unlikely without "further significant investigation".

Ophelia

Not too surprisingly, as with other years, the weather got us talking (and tweeting) again.

Storm (formerly Hurricane) Ophelia battered the country in early October, closing schools and shutting down public transport.

 "Violent and destructive gusts" were forecast for all areas at risk - with flooding in several places, as well as widespread damage.

Three people lost their lives as a result of the storm.

58-year-old Clare O’Neill died when the car she was driving was struck by a falling tree in Aglish, Co Waterford | Image: Killaloe Diocese/Twitter
In Tipperary, 31-year-old Michael Pyke was named as the second victim of the storm | Image: Killaloe Diocese/Twitter
33-year-old Fintan Goss was killed when his car was struck by a falling tree near Dundalk | Image: Facebook

Crews from as far afield as France joined in the repair efforts to restore power, water and services to thousands of people.

Trump 

Donald Trump...where to begin?

Well it all began at the end of January (yes, it's been less than a year) when Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

His relationship with the media took a turn for the worse.

In June he went on a personal attack against two MSNBC presenters, labeling them as "crazy" and a "psycho".

In July he tweeted out a video, seemingly showing him 'beating up' the news network CNN.

He also defended his use of social media, calling it "Modern Day Presidential".

In August, Mr Trump appeared to accidentally retweet a post describing him as a 'fascist'.

In September both he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded public barbs as they resorted to (very public) name calling... 

The US president also praised the healthcare system of a non-existent African country during remarks at the United Nations.

He twice referenced 'Nambia' when speaking to African leaders.

 

His often-used phrase of "Fake News" was even named 'Word of the Year' by Collins English Dictionary in November.

And he got in hot water with Britain for retweeting three anti-Muslim videos posted by the far-right group, Britain First. 

McGregor/Mayweather

It was undoubtedly the fight of the year. 

August saw Dubliner Conor McGregor take on, and lose, his first ever boxing fight.

Floyd Mayweather beat McGregor by way of technical knockout in the 10th round of their much-hyped fight in Las Vegas.

Speaking afterwards, McGregor said: "You've got to give your hat off to Floyd, a hell of a career... it was a good fight.

"It was a bit of fun, right? It was a bit of fun".

But it was the taunting before the fight that garnered some of the attention.

Both men faced off at a press conference in Los Angeles in July, with McGregor wearing a now infamous suit which contained lines and lines of a particular refrain:

Image: Zhao Hanrong/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

French election

Leo Varadkar was not the only new (young) world leader to take office this year.

France elected its youngest president in the form of Emmanuel Macron in May.

It marked a stunning rise for Mr Macron, who only set up his En Marche! (On the move) party last year.

His rival Marine Le Pen conceded defeat shortly after the first results were revealed.

She told her supporters that French voters had chosen 'continuity'.

She pledged to carry out a "profound reformation" of her National Front party and to become a "new political force".

Mr Macron's win marked the first time since 1958 that a representative from the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties had not won a French presidential election.

Taking office on May 14th, he said: "The division and fractures in our society must be overcome.

"The world and Europe need more than ever France, and a strong France, which speaks out loudly for freedom and solidarity."

Myanmar

It has been a dark year for Myanmar, who has been accused of "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.

While a report earlier in December found that at least 9,000 Rohingya died in Rakhine state between August and September.

This included at least 730 children below the age of five years.

In November, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the situation constituted an 'ethnic cleansing' against the Rohingya, saying: "No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued."

Amnesty International says the Rohingya population there is trapped in a system of discrimination, which amounts to apartheid.

The human rights group says authorities are keeping Rohingya women, men and children "segregated and cowed" in a dehumanising system of apartheid.

"Their rights are violated daily and the repression has only intensified in recent years" it says.

The two-year investigation revealed how authorities severely restrict virtually all aspects of Rohingyas’ lives in Rakhine State, and have confined them to what amounts to a ghetto-like existence.

In December, Dublin City councillors voted to revoke the Freedom of the City awarded to the de facto Myanmar leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The vote was passed overwhelmingly by 49 votes to two, with one abstention.

Cataluña

Spain had more than its fair share of headlines this year, when Cataluña held a referendum on independence in October.

The Spanish Constitutional Court suspended the declaration and dissolved the regional parliament.

Ireland, for its part, said it did not recognise the vote.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said: "Ireland respects the constitutional and territorial integrity of Spain and we do not accept or recognise the Catalan unilateral declaration of independence."

This stance was repeated several times by the Taoiseach and other ministers.

The deposed Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, appeared on TV to urge thousands of pro-independence supporters to protest "without violence" as Madrid cracked down on the response.

A Spanish judge withdrew the international arrest warrant for Mr Puigdemont in December.

The Supreme Court said Mr Puigdemont expressed willingness to return to Spain, alongside the other four members of his cabinet who fled to Belgium after the referendum.

Mugabe

Another country that dominated headlines in the late half of year was Zimbabwe.

Long-time leader Robert Mugabe was forced out of power following a military operation - which the military denied was a coup.

Loud explosions were heard in Harare in mid-October when the operation began.

In a statement read on state TV, Major General Sibusiso Moyo said: "Comrade Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice."

Much speculation continued as to the whereabouts of Mugabe and his wife Grace.

Protests were held in the streets as talks went on behind the scenes.

The 93-year-old then made his first public appearance at a graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe.

There were reports he would not stand down as president - while just two days later he was dismissed as leader of the ruling Zanu PF party.

His wife Grace was also expelled.

However, he was still technically president of Zimbabwe.

It wasn't until 48 hours later that he resigned the presidency, as the parliament was beginning impeachment proceedings against him.

Details emerged shortly afterwards of a deal struck to get him to step down: immunity was reported to have been granted to Mugabe as part of a deal over his resignation.

Emmerson Mnangagwa took over the running of the country in its first swearing in ceremony for 37 years.