Barney Eastwood helped symbolise a normalising Northern Ireland

News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial
Barney Eastwood was one of those businessmen and public figures who not only played a major part in keeping society operating in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, but did so in spheres of life where people were crying out for normality.

Like the Ulsterbus boss Werner Heubeck, who carried bombs off buses to keep those vital services running, or the rock promoter Jim Aiken, who brought music superstars to NI, or the hotelier Billy Hastings, who steadily expanded the number of available bedrooms for visitors, Eastwood was established in his business dealings before the political situation began to deteriorate in the late 1960s.

He had opened his first bookmakers back in the 1950s.

By 2008, his 54 shops were worth £135 million when they were sold to Ladbrokes.

Eastwood was best known as boxing promoter.

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He was by Barry McGuigan’s side as his manager when the ‘Clones Cyclone’ won a world championship in the early 1980s.

It was a thrilling time for sport in the Province, with the successes of the Northern Ireland football team, and the snooker victories of Alex Higgins and Denis Taylor.

Ulster was emerging from the bleakness of the worst of the violence in the 1970s and there was a huge appetite for such happy stories.

Poignantly, while Eastwood will long be remembered for being seen smiling beside the victorious McGuigan, their relationship ended in a bitter legal battle.

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He would however manage other top boxers such as Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley.

Eastwood had one of the finest homes in Northern Ireland, in Cultra, opposite Sir Billy Hastings’ Culloden Hotel. As his family said yesterday, the Cookstown-born entrepreneur had become a well known Holywood resident over the last 50 years. He was a much admired one too.