Veteran Ireland correspondent McDonald, 57, was praised after passing away suddenly while receiving cancer treatment.
Henry McDonald, a writer and former Guardian and Observer correspondent, passed away at 57. Political leaders in Northern Ireland have delivered eulogies for him.
After McDonald passed away on Sunday at Belfast’s Royal Victoria hospital, where he was receiving cancer treatment, his family, friends, and colleagues in the media expressed their shock and sadness.
Before taking on the role of political editor at the Belfast News Letter in 2022, McDonald spent 23 years as the Guardian and Observer’s Ireland reporter.
He was well-known for his insights into paramilitaries, security agencies, and politics and wrote seminal volumes on the Troubles.
Katharine Viner, editor in chief of the Guardian, said: “This is shocking news. Henry was a highly respected correspondent for the Guardian and Observer for most of his career. He broke countless stories and told them with integrity, eloquence and empathy.”
One of the most knowledgeable commentators on Northern Ireland politics, according to Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson, is McDonald.
“Always enjoyed my conversations with a man who was good humoured, insightful & passionate about this place,” he tweeted.
The head of the Alliance, Naomi Long, praised McDonald’s tenacity, insight, and quick wit. “He will be desperately missed. Thoughts with all his family and friends, grieving his loss,” she said.
The leader of the Ulster Unionist party, Doug Beattie, praised McDonald as a great writer, journalist, and friend.
Father-of-three McDonald discovered he had stomach cancer and a significant cardiac issue in 2018. He received care for both. But sepsis occurred last year, and the tumor then came back.
The News Letter’s editor, Ben Lowry, stated that the crew was devastated by losing a well-valued colleague who passed away too soon.
“From his very first day here he was bursting with ideas and stories. Henry’s death leaves a major hole in the paper, and all the staff send their deepest sympathies to his family,” he said.
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Editor of the Irish News, where McDonald began his career, Noel Doran, described McDonald as a gifted writer and one of the significant figures in Belfast media.
McDonald’s coworker at the Guardian, Ben Quinn, referred to him as one of the greats.
RIP Henry McDonald
Guardian and Observer great, novelist, believer in the Toffees, Cliftonville, social justice
.. above all, crafter and instinctive getter of scoops
— Ben Quinn (@BenQuinn75) February 19, 2023
Political editor for the Belfast Telegraph Suzanne Breen praised his sincerity and interest. “His breadth of knowledge was breathtaking. They don’t make many like that nowadays,” she said.
Henry McDonald was everything a journalist should be. Brimming with character, curiosity, talent & a commitment to truth-telling no matter who it upset. His breadth of knowledge was breathtaking. They don't make many like that nowadays. Taken far too soon. Rest in peace my friend pic.twitter.com/4yy3Solbnt
— Suzanne Breen (@SuzyJourno) February 19, 2023
McDonald’s zeal for two football teams, Premier League Everton and Cliftonville of the Irish League’s top tier, was equal to his zeal for ice cream scoops.
His final tweet, “The stars aligned to cheer me up today,” discussed their victory on February 4 in addition to victories for Hibernian in Scotland and Ireland’s rugby union team.
What’s going on! Everton beat Arsenal. Cliftonville knock out Coleraine on pens in Irish Cup. Hibs win away. Ireland triumph in Cardiff. The stars aligned to cheer me up today. Roll the Dyche for Anfield next Monday.
— Henry McDonald (@henrymcdonald) February 4, 2023
He has had a lifetime love of punk music, a subject in his 2019 coming-of-age book Two Souls. He was writing a new book that combined a modern ghost story with the events of the First World War.
In the turbulent 1970s, when the Troubles were at their worst, McDonald grew up in Belfast’s nationalist Markets neighborhood. When I was blown up, I was watching It’s a Knockout, as stated in a 2018 story about when a loyalist car bomb exploded outside his home.
McDonald, a grammar school student and the son of a dressmaker and a laborer, first read philosophy at Queen’s University Belfast before studying journalism in Dublin. He attended St. Malachy’s College.
After reporting on the first Gulf War for the Irish News, he wrote a book about Irish peacekeepers in Lebanon. He wrote and co-wrote books about loyalist paramilitaries, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness after returning to Northern Ireland.
McDonald, while having an allegedly nationalist background, scrutinized Sinn Féin and the IRA harshly before and after the 1998 Good Friday accord.
His sister Cathy, his kids Lauren, Ellen, Patrick, and his partner Charlotte Blease survive McDonald’s.
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