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The 12 stories that made us stop and read during 2021

From tales of intrigue to stories striking a chord with those who have lost a loved one, the stories below resonated with our readers and became some of our most engaging articles of the year. Here are the top 12 stories that made us stop and read during 2021.

Marie Sullivan said goodnight to her daughter at midnight and found her unresponsive half an hour later. Marie recounted the feelings surrounding the death of her daughter Arwen Sullivan, 23, from suicide. “I was looking for people who were able to say, ‘I’m still here. You can do this. It’s awful but it’s doable. And you can hold your head up and be proud of your child. How they die is not who they are. There’s no need to be any more ashamed or embarrassed than if they died of cancer or a heart attack’.”

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The last photo of Arwen, taken on the day before her death in April, 2020 as she enjoyed a meal with her close-knit family.

‘There have been many death threats, but I’ll never stop’ – Randal Plunkett, Baron of Dunsany, on rewilding his family estate

Naturalist and film-maker Randal Plunkett, 21st Baron of Dunsany, took an unorthodox gamble when he decided to ‘rewild’ his family’s Co Meath demesne. In the face of aggression, vandalism and threats, he’s built a thriving 750-acre nature reserve.

‘I nearly drank myself to death’ – Richard Corrigan on his Celtic Tiger days

Here, the Irish chef talks about excessive boozing, famous patrons (Madonna, Prince Charles, Michael Jackson, sending fish and chips to Jay-Z’s private plane), a united Ireland, the pandemic in London – and fighting off drug dealers.

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Samuel L Jackson seen leaving Richard Corrigan’s Bentleys restaurant in Dublin in 2010

‘It was utter tripe’ – Caroline Devine, who lives in the former home of Earl Mountbatten, says Meghan and Harry’s interview left a lot to be desired

The Sligo resident says Meghan should heed the royal family’s motto – ‘Never complain, never explain’. “When Meghan gave that appalling interview, she had already negotiated deals worth over $100m and she still has the poor mouth on her.”

Sinéad O’Connor: ‘They gave me a foot up the arse, but they loved me into good health’

The singer revealed what drove her to become a performer, why being a ‘trainwreck’ was hard on her kids, how she feels Dr Phil exploited her and why her new memoirs are dedicated to the staff at St Pat’s.

The Happy Pear: ‘We just didn’t put enough energy into it. We overextended ourselves…’

Behind the social media posts, handstands and topless six-pack selfies, the Happy Pear twins David and Stephen Flynn are a canny business partnership with an important health message. The duo talk about staying positive, having to close one of their cafés and why, these days, they’re not about pushing veganism.

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The Happy Pear Brothers, David (left) and Stephen Flynn. Photograph: Gerry Mooney

‘They made no bones about planning to take their own lives. Neither felt they’d be able to cope alone’

Patrick and Elizabeth Larkin chose to live active, fulfilled and adventurous lives together; life on their own terms. When it came to death, they made the same kind of choice.

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Elizabeth and Patrick skiing in the Alps in 1974. Photograph from their personal photo album

Frances Crowley on jockey husband Pat Smullen: ‘When he died I think he went somewhere he found so amazing that he had to let us know about it’

Pat Smullen wrote the book Champion after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. The book details the focus that drove Pat to become one of the great jockeys, and his wife Frances speaks about how writing his memoirs proved cathartic, and the incredible experiences the family shared after he passed.

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Pat Smullen after riding Harzand to win The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at Curragh in 2016. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

‘Everyone saw me as a party girl but inside I wasn’t happy’ – how Clannad’s Moya Brennan turned tragedy into triumph

Clannad superstar Moya Brennan has lived a life less ordinary. She tells Barry Egan about her abortion at 19, her miscarriage at 32 — and how she eventually named the two babies she lost as part of the healing — plus the break-up of her first marriage, dating Adam Clayton, and how meeting an English photographer saved her.

Full transcript: Eoghan Harris’s extraordinary interview with Sarah McInerney as he defends anonymous Twitter account

In May controversy erupted after former Senator and Sunday Independent writer Eoghan Harris admitted being involved in the running of an anonymous Twitter account. He spoke to Sarah McInerney on Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1 and this is the full transcript of what he said.

From €100k wedding cake, Christmas in jail and trips to Russia – 11 stories Seán Quinn’s family wants us to forget

The family of ex-billionaire Seán Quinn has convinced Google to ‘forget’ much of their past, including reports of lavish spending and court battles over the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank. While the articles still exist on sites such as Independent.ie, they will be harder to find via the search engine. Here are 11 of the articles they want forgotten.

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Seán Quinn with daughter Ciara on her wedding day

‘Living with cancer will affect my life expectancy but I wouldn’t lose sleep over that’

Hotelier John Brennan has learned to live with cancer but it’s his overcoming dyslexia that he hopes will reassure parents of non-academic children. Here he talks about his new book, working with older brother Francis – and a Celtic Tiger-era fracas with developer Seán Dunne.

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