Tribute to Henry McDonald

As a former student of Henry McDonald’s, the Belfast-born journalist, author and lecturer, I have been asked to create a blog tribute page for his students and friends.

Henry McDonald at a college meetup in Dublin, November 2019. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

Henry (6 July 1965 – 19 February 2023), already has a Wikipedia entry. He was active on various social media platforms, between news stories and his love of sports. While Henry was with Dublin Business School, I recommended he claim his Goodreads author page, as authors who are members of the site gain more followers; however, he did not get around to it. Following his death, I asked for the bio information from Wikipedia to be placed on that page. This shows all his books and reviews by members.

Images from the Christmas tour to Belfast. Poppies art display at the Ulster Museum; City Hall; Queen’s University. Photos: Clare O’Beara, 2017.

A particularly happy memory is a Christmas trip when several college media classes combined to visit Belfast, seeing City Hall, the Ulster Museum and the Christmas market. We also saw Queen’s University where Henry had gained his degree. We were led by Henry, who met us in the city, and fellow DBS media lecturer Susan Sweeney, who guided us from Dublin. I’m linking to an item I posted in the official college blog Inside DBS about that day. As President of the Journalism Society at that time, I was also the Editor. This blog won Blog/Vlog of the Year in the National Student Media Awards, 2021.

Henry introduced guest speakers to the college, who told us about books they were releasing, businesses they were running, or their career in the news media industry. He also provided us with media releases, and mocked up his own versions so we could learn how to write up news stories. He led a class to a major trial in Belfast so they could gain experience; he advised on sports writing, tweeting, Google searches and more. Henry inspired us to write hard news stories and follow our passions. Always full of energy and fun, he was extremely popular. I’m linking to another student’s article mentioning Henry in Inside DBS.

Henry McDonald and invited speaker Clare Grady, journalist with The Independent Group, take questions at DBS in March, 2018. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

Conor Murphy recalls another happy occasion: “Henry was an excellent colleague and such a vivacious character. It was always a pleasure to work with him as I did for many years on the BA Journalism programme at DBS, and co-authoring a piece with him for our Journal Studies in Arts & Humanities.  
I’ve attached a picture taken on the occasion of the launch of his novel “Two Souls” at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast on September 12th 2019.”

Photo of Henry McDonald and Conor Murphy by Jordi Murphy.

Aspects of Belfast including the Oh Yeah Music Centre. Photos: Clare O’Beara, March 2023.

Henry was diagnosed with a heart condition and stomach cancer during 2018. Following medical care, he had a recovery and enjoyed life again, working and visiting friends, including those in Dublin, and spending time with his family. However, the cancer returned and Henry passed away in March, 2023.

With Susan Sweeney, I attended the funeral in Belfast and sympathised with family members and colleagues in the Press. The funeral was held at the Oh Yeah Music Centre. Hundreds of people attended, most of us standing at the back of the concert room. The Humanist ceremony heard from Henry’s family members and old friends, who spoke of his childhood, early work during the Troubles, journalism in the Lebanon conflict zone, lifetime love of punk rock, and his roles as a husband, life partner and loving father. There is no doubt that Henry was greatly respected and is deeply missed.

Henry reported for The Guardian and other media, finishing his career at Belfast’s News Letter:

The News Letter editor Ben Lowry said: “We are distraught at the death of Henry, our much loved political editor, at the far too young age of 57. We were delighted when such an outstanding journalist joined our team last year, and from his very first day here he was bursting with ideas and stories. In fact Henry’s start coincided with a work experience student whom he took in hand, advised and brought out on the road to political stories, a typical display of his energy and generosity. Henry’s death leaves a major hole in the paper, and all the staff send their deepest sympathies to his family.”

College lecturer Susan Sweeney in Belfast, March 2023. Photo: Clare O’Beara.

If any of Henry’s friends and former students wish to add to this page, please send me short items, or photos with written permission from the photographer to use them, to  All content will be credited. This page has no commercial purpose.  

  • Clare O’Beara