Jump to content

Henry McDonald (writer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry McDonald
BornHenry Patrick McDonald
(1965-07-06)6 July 1965
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died19 February 2023(2023-02-19) (aged 57)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Journalist
  • author
  • editor
Alma materQueen's University Belfast
SubjectThe Troubles
Years active1989–2023
Claire Breen
(m. 1996, divorced)
RelativesJack Holland (cousin)

Henry Patrick McDonald (6 July 1965 – 19 February 2023) was a Northern Irish journalist and author. He was a correspondent for The Guardian and Observer,[1] and from 2021 was the political editor of The News Letter, one of Northern Ireland's national daily newspapers, based in Belfast.

Early life


Henry Patrick McDonald was born in a Catholic enclave of central Belfast in 1965, and was a student at St Malachy's College.[2] He briefly attended Edinburgh University before gaining a degree from Queen's University Belfast.[2]

In his youth, McDonald involved in the Workers' Party, a left-wing party that emerged from Sinn Féin in the early 1970s and was associated with the Official IRA.[2] He travelled to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) with the youth wing of SFWP in the early 1980s.[3]



After taking a journalism course at Dublin City University, McDonald began his professional writing career in 1989 at the Belfast newspaper The Irish News.[2] He wrote extensively about the Troubles and related issues, with a particular focus on paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, like the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). He wrote a book on the INLA, INLA – Deadly Divisions, which he co-authored with his cousin, Jack Holland. The book was first published in 1994.[2]

McDonald also wrote on Ulster loyalist paramilitary groups and co-authored books on the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and UDA with Jim Cusack.[4] He also wrote a biography of Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble, a personal biography Colours: Ireland – From Bombs to Boom, and, in 2017, Martin McGuinness: A Life Remembered.[5] He was, for a period, a security correspondent for the BBC in Belfast.[2]

In 1997, McDonald became the Ireland correspondent for The Observer, and assumed the role for The Guardian in 2007. He was based out of the paper's London office from 2018 to 2020.[2] He then returned to Belfast, where he wrote for The Sunday Times, and worked as the political editor of The News Letter, headquartered in Belfast.[2]



McDonald's first novel, The Swinging Detective, was published in 2017,[6] and his second, Two Souls, was published by Merrion Press in 2019.[7] A third novel, called Thy Will Be Done, was forthcoming at the time of his death.[2]

Personal life and death


McDonald was a supporter of Irish League football club Cliftonville and English Premier League club Everton. He married Claire Breen in 1996, and they had three children before divorcing.[2] He also spent 12 years in a relationship with author June Caldwell,[8] living some of that time in Dublin where he taught journalism and feature writing at the Dublin Business School and the Irish Writers Centre.[9] At the time of his death, he was in a relationship with Charlotte Blease.[2]

In 2018, McDonald was diagnosed with cancer and an unspecified heart condition.[2] He died at a hospital in Belfast on 19 February 2023, at the age of 57.[10]




  • McDonald, Henry; Holland, Jack (1994). INLA – Deadly divisions. Dublin: Torc. ISBN 189814205X.
  • McDonald, Henry (2017). Martin McGuinness: A Life Remembered. Belfast: Blackstaff Press. ISBN 9781780731681.
  • Cusack, Jim; McDonald, Henry (2008). UVF: The Endgame. Dublin: Poolbeg Press. ISBN 9781842233269.
  • McDonald, Henry (1 September 2005). Colours: Ireland – From Bombs to Boom. Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 1845960254.




  1. ^ "Henry McDonald". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 9 December 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2015. Henry McDonald was the Ireland correspondent for the Guardian and Observer
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bowcott, Owen (22 February 2023). "Henry McDonald obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  3. ^ aan de Wiel, Jérôme (2014). East German Intelligence and Ireland, 1949-90: Espionage, Terrorism and Diplomacy. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 54. ISBN 9781526107411. Archived from the original on 18 December 2021. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  4. ^ McDonald, Henry & Cusack, Jim UDA: inside the heart of loyalist terror
  5. ^ McDonald, Henry. Martin McGuinness: A Life Remembered. ASIN 178073168X.
  6. ^ "The Swinging Detective, by Henry McDonald". Easons. 7 September 2017. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018.
  7. ^ "Two Souls | Irish Academic Press". Archived from the original on 27 October 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Room Little Darker, by June Caldwell". Head of Zeus. Archived from the original on 18 December 2021. Retrieved 18 December 2021.
  9. ^ "How I Write - Henry McDonald". 10 April 2016. Archived from the original on 22 June 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  10. ^ Carolan, Mary (19 February 2023). "Journalist and author Henry McDonald dies in Belfast". The Irish Times. Retrieved 19 February 2023.