Morning top 5: Physicist Stephen Hawking dies aged 76; Taoiseach 'appalled' by nerve agent attack in UK

The top stories this Wednesday morning...

The world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22, Professor Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

However, he continued working from a wheelchair and later communicated via specially developed speech software.

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The Taoiseach says he is appalled by the apparent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

Leo Varadkar says it is unacceptable behaviour, and the British government will have support of the EU in the matter.

Theresa May is expected to bring in sanctions against Russia after it refused to reveal if it was behind the attempted murder.

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Closing speeches are due to begin today in the trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Both men deny raping the same woman at Jackson's Belfast home in June 2016.

It's expected the prosecution and defence will have completed their closing statements by Friday.

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It's exactly one year since Rescue Helicopter R116 crashed off the Mayo coast.

The four Irish Coastguard crew died when the chopper went down near Blackrock Island during the early hours of March 14th 2017.

Late last night, up to 100 people attended a vigil to mark the anniversary.

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MEPs will vote later on a resolution that underlines EU opposition to a hard border.

The vote comes as EU and UK negotiators prepare to finalise an exit treaty.

The European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker yesterday's told MEPs that the UK would regret leaving the bloc.