What were the most-read articles on irishtimes.com in 2023?

Death of Sinéad O’Connor, Dublin riots and RTÉ pay scandal were just some of the stories to hold readers’ attention this year

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The list of the top-read articles on irishtimes.com in 2023 cuts across the usual mix of topics that would not normally accompany one another in any other scenario. The array of national incidents and preoccupations – the Dublin Riots and the RTÉ pay controversy chief among them this year – sit beside major weather events, and stories of unspeakable personal tragedy that can quickly grab the attention of a nation.

What’s perhaps less typical about this year is that the most-read story does not come as a surprise to those working in Irish newsrooms in 2023. The outpouring of public grief following the news, in July, of Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor’s death aged 56, surely denoted the magnitude of shock and dismay felt by people in Ireland and abroad. Millions of people read the news story online and it became the most-read article on irishtimes.com in 2023. Moreover, it is the most-read article ever published on the website.

Below is a list of the top 10 the articles by pageviews across all sections on irishtimes.com in 2023. What follows is an overview and breakdown of some of the site’s main sections.

NEWS

Crime stories, as is common in reviews like these, are generally well-represented on the longlist of news stories that were most-read by readers this year. November’s riots in Dublin did not arrive too late to make a mark on this section’s list: two of the five top-read news stories were about the unrest on the capital’s streets following the stabbing of a number of people, including children, on Parnell Street earlier that day.

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The most-read piece in News was the live coverage of the unrest on the night of Thursday, November 23rd - Dublin riots: Violent clashes with gardaí and vehicles set alight after children injured in knife attack. The live coverage of the fallout the following day was the third-most-read article in the news section this year.

The story of the tragic deaths of two Leaving Cert classmates, Andrew O’Donnell and Max Wall, during a post-Leaving Cert trip to the island of Ios, was widely covered in July. The boys’ former school, St Michael’s College in Ballsbridge, described their deaths as “one of the darkest [days] we have ever experienced”.

Road deaths are another common occurrence on the longer news list, along with high-profile criminal cases. The RTÉ pay scandal coverage, replete with breaking news, explainers and live coverage of lengthy Oireachtas committee hearings, was well attended by readers online. Our live coverage of appearances by Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly at hearings in July was the most-read on the topic, and the 20th most-read news article overall in 2023: As it happened: Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly issue blistering defence of pay arrangements at Oireachtas committees.

Other items on the longer list this year include advance warnings about Storm Debi’s impending arrival in November, a beach brawl in north Dublin, and the story of one Leaving Cert student who secured a record-matching nine H1s after appealing her results.

Top 10 most-read in news

WORLD

In October, newsrooms around the world began covering a devastating story that would become a mainstay on foreign pages for the remainder of the year. The Israel-Hamas conflict emerges a number of times in the most-read World stories, including the top-read article: Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand freed by Hamas after 50 days of captivity in Gaza.

The next most-read story concerned the Nottingham attacks, in which three people were fatally stabbed in the UK: Young woman murdered in Nottingham came from well-known Irish medical family. Grace O’Malley-Kumar (19), was killed alongside her friend, fellow student Barnaby Webber. School caretaker Ian Coates (65) was stabbed to death in a second incident.

The story of the doomed Titan submersible – and efforts to rescue those aboard before it emerged that the vessel had imploded – was a story commanding unwavering international interest when the episode unfolded in real time in June. Two live stories concerning the Titan sub are within the top five this year; the first was the report of the demise of the five people aboard.

The fifth most-read story concerned another conflict on the world stage that has not been far from the homepages of news websites since it erupted nearly two years ago: Ukraine war – live updates: Wagner chief Prigozhin to leave Russia under deal brokered by Belarus.

Top-10 most read in World

OPINION

The Opinion section included topics that themselves clung stubbornly to news sites’ homepages for weeks at a time throughout the year. Ultimately, it would be Fintan O’Toole’s take on the ongoing Enoch Burke saga and the ideology backing the former teacher’s stance amid the controversy at Wilson’s Hospital School in Westmeath that became the most-read Opinion piece of the year.

“It has indeed allowed, especially within the education system, the rights of those who believe they are acting in God’s name to trump those of students and It has indeed allowed, especially within the education system, the rights of those who believe they are acting in God’s name to trump those of students and parents,” he wrote.

O’Toole, as it happens, pops up twice more in the top five – both articles are centred on the RTÉ pay scandal, a topic that produced no small amount of newsprint this year: In the end, Ryan Tubridy resorted to the Father Ted defence (second); and Ryan Tubridy chose silence instead of speaking out. An extended silence should follow (fourth).

The second most read opinion piece this year comes courtesy of Joe Humphreys’ column Unthinkable, which in November explored the work of British anthropologist Daniel Miller, who has said it’s “hard to find another currently existing society that is demonstrably better” than one particular unnamed Dublin suburb. Miller calls it “Cuan”, but, as Humphreys writes, the town bears an uncanny resemblance with a north Dublin fishing town that rhymes with “fairies”.

Other familiar names in the top read list include David McWilliams, whose take on the role of “Nepo Baby Buyers” – young home buyers benefitting from the wealth of their parents – was the 9th most-read piece of the year in Opinion. Not far behind it was Kathy Sheridan’s take on the decision by Lucy Lethby’s parents not to appear in court for the former nurse’s sentencing for the murder of seven babies and attempted murder of six: What exactly did we expect the parents of Lucy Letby to do?

Top 10 most-read in Opinion

SPORT

While the longlist of the most-read stories in the Sport section this year is dotted throughout with world cup pieces – both rugby and soccer – as one might expect, none claimed the top spot, nor any of the top three. GAA, it appears, won the day. In 2023, our live coverage of the All-Ireland Football final between Dublin and Kerry was the most-read story in the Sport section. You can relive the action here: FT Dublin 1-15 Kerry 1-13: Dubs finish in style to edge All-Ireland football final. The football quarter final between Armagh and Monaghan, and Limerick’s victory over Kilkenny in the hurling final, were another two live stories to make the top 10.

Elsewhere in the top-read list in Sport was Dave Hannigan’s piece about the puzzling case of Mary Lou Retton - the legendary Olympic gymnast who tumbled out of favour – which came in at number two overall in the section.

The Rugby World Cup made itself known too. In case you want to relive Ireland’s exit at the hands of New Zealand for some reason, it was 12th most-read in Sport: Ireland’s dream dies in Paris as All Blacks secure World Cup semi-final spot.

Mary Hannigan’s Women’s World Cup digest of August 4th landed in the top 10 - it concerns Germany’s untimely exit from the competition, and their lack of preparation for such an outcome. They hadn’t bought any tickets to fly home: Germany might be sticking around at the Women’s World Cup after all.

Top 10 most-read in Sport

CULTURE

Unsurprisingly, several pieces about the late Dublin singer Sinéad O’Connor were well-read in the Culture section following the news of her death in July. These included the news story mentioned at the top of this article, as well as a piece covering details of events held in Dublin and London as tributes poured in (number 10). Another well-read article on the longlist was by Ryan Tubridy, at number 12: Sinéad O’Connor by Ryan Tubridy: ‘She was rock’n’roll. I was the opposite’.

Tubridy forms the basis of the second-most-read article in the section; a radio review by Mick Heaney focussing on Oliver Callan’s stand-in slot on The Nine O’Clock Show in the wake of Tubridy’s exit, and in particular, one passing comment the biting impressionists imparts: Callan speaks of his sadness at Tubridy’s exit: “There’s a sense of wrong that he won’t be heard here again,” he says, casting Tubs as the guileless victim. But he also has a little jag at the self-exculpatory impulses that scuppered his predecessor’s planned return: “The whole blooming controversy is a bit of a lesson in graciously and humbly accepting second chances.” It’s a clean shot any hitman would be proud of.

Rounding off the top three this year is Ed Power’s review of Patrick Kielty’s debut at the helm of The late Late Toy Show - Kielty can’t match Tubridy’s eyes-on-stalks jolliness and doesn’t try.

It must be mentioned that the top-100 in this section in 2023 is permeated here and there by pieces concerning the deaths of two other beloved Irish singers who made indelible marks on the music scene in Ireland. In June, Aslan frontman Christy Dignam died aged 63 following a long illness, and his funeral drew thousands of fans in his native Finglas. Then, just weeks ago, Shane MacGowan – renowned singer, songwriter and frontman of The Pogues – died aged 65. Much was written in the wake of MacGowan’s death, among the pieces was this selection of the lyrics that made a great songwriter.

Top 10 most-read in Culture

BUSINESS

Budget 2024 took the first and second spot in the business section this year. By some distance, the round-up of the main points following Budget 2024 was the most-read article. From changes for welfare recipients and pensioners, to the price of a pint, this breakdown by Jack Horgan-Jones covered all of the angles and was popular among readers. The next piece on the list was our live coverage of the budget announcement on the day.

The death of Ben Dunne, the well-known businessman, IRA kidnap victim and former Dunnes Stores chief executive who built up a chain of gyms nationally, was the third most-read article in business this year. The Taoiseach led tributes to Mr Dunne, who died in Dubai aged 74.

Personal finance stories were well-read by Irish Times readers again in 2023. The following two Q&A-style articles by Dominic Coyle were among the most popular articles overall this year: My mother-in-law claimed a widow’s pension for first husband while married to her second. Will we have to repay?; and Tax means our daughter will not be able to keep the family home she inherits.

Others on the top-read list include Conor Pope’s detailing of the misfortune that befell one target of fraudsters online - Anatomy of a Revolut scam: Peter watched helplessly as thousands drained from his account. Elsewhere, comments by then-CEO of Web Summit, Paddy Cosgrave, in October regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, would see several big names withdraw from the Lisbon tech event. This piece on the story, published October 20th, was the 9th most-read piece in Business last year: Google and Meta pull out of Web Summit over Cosgrave’s Israel-Hamas comments.

Top 10 most-read in Business

LIFE & STYLE

Brianna Parkins wrote about airports – or rather, how humans behave in them – in April, and the piece became the most-read article in the Life & Style section in 2023. In particular, Parkins highlighted the usefulness of the Airport Mammy, “the assigned middle-aged Irish woman who appears when you most need her to sort things out when an airline has done you a dirty deed and doesn’t seem to care”.

Next up was this piece about Dubliner Rosemary Murphy (40), a mother-of-12 who left school after her Junior Cert, and who was preparing to start studying medicine at the RCSI in Dublin. “You work, you get married, you have kids. That was the view,” she told Rosita Boland. Plus, medicine was “seen as for the middle-classes. People like us don’t become doctors. But not in a bad way. That was just how society was.”

Top 10 most-read in Life & Style

HEALTH

The enduring popularity of health advice columns among readers can’t be understated. This year, as in any previous year this writer can recall, a good number of articles concerning reader queries to our writers form a large chunk of the most-read list in the Health section. The top article this year, by quite a wide margin, concerned a reader having trouble with their relationship. The query to Trish Murphy concludes: “We sleep in different rooms, haven’t had sex in four years and we bicker and fight about little and big issues. Communication has broken down completely and we are both numb. I’m tempted to do casual dating and meet men to feel alive and happier. What should I do?”

Other advice columns to traffic highly and earn spots on the longer list for this section include this piece from Murphy’s Tell Me About It series (‘I will inherit my aunt’s house, so my cousins don’t think they’re responsible for her any more’), and this article by Roe McDermott (I think my husband is attracted to a friend and I’m at breaking point).

Parenting in My Shoes, the series by Jen Hogan that explores how some well-known Irish figures approach being a parent, was another recurring theme in the Health list this year. The second most-read piece in the section was an interview with Claire Byrne, who says she didn’t always plan to be a mother and candidly discusses the impact parenthood has had on her life. Another piece in the same series to make the top five was this interview with People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who spoke about being a new dad who, like Byrne, did not always factor parenthood into his great life plan: “When I met my partner Jess in 2015, we didn’t want kids. Neither of us wanted kids, because the truth is that being a socialist activist is much, much more than a full-time job and it takes up an enormous amount of your time. We didn’t feel that we needed kids to fill our lives.”

Top 10 most-read in Health

FOOD

Celebrity chef Richard Corrigan’s restaurant, The Park Café, in Ballsbridge opened to rave reviews at the end of 2022, but within weeks the Ballsbridge premises was losing staff. More recently, it was announced the restaurant would close at the end of this year.

In January of this year 14 former employees spoke to The Irish Times alleging an unfair distribution of the service charge and an unacceptable working environment, including verbal abuse – which the restaurant denied. The story was the most-read article in the food section in 2023: ‘Regrettable’ staff departures from ‘high octane’ new Corrigan restaurant in Dublin 4.

In case the popularity of fish and chips needed demonstrating again – number two: Best places for fish and chips in Ireland.

Further along the longlist are several of Corinna Hardgrave’s weekly restaurant reviews, with Terre, Gursha and Warehouse Food Market & Café faring the best.

Top 10 most-read in Food

POLITICS

The budget is a story that lives mostly in Business, but can cut across a number of sections – as is the case in the top-read story in the Politics section this year. The political story with the most reads, written in October by Jennifer Bray and Harry McGee, revealed the timetable one-off cost-of-living supplements that had been announced the week before.

The second most-read political story of the year concerned a day of vitriolic protest outside the Dáil, during which 13 people were arrested.

The RTÉ pay crisis rears its head again at number three, in the form of Jack Horgan-Jones’s July 11th round-up of a day of of intense action at the Oireachtas committees: Ten new things we’ve learned - Blistering opening statements from Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly.

Top 10 most-read in Politics

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