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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Sarah O'Hara, Showbiz Feature Writer & Clare McCarthy

Inside Declan Donnelly heartbreaks - brother's tragic death, 'painful' split with ex-girlfriend and Ant 'replaced'

Declan Donnelly recently finished up hosting I'm a Celebrity...South Africa, alongside his co-host Ant McPartlin.

The duo have been inseparable since their Byker Grove days, with the stars hosting iconic programmes including Britain's Got Talent and Saturday Night Takeaway.

They have supported each other on and off-screen too, as both suffered a number of heartbreaks throughout the years, the Daily Star reports.

READ MORE: Piers Morgan responds to replacing Phillip Schofield - but admits 'one problem'

From Ant being 'replaced' on a series of I'm a Celeb, to Dec's 'painful' break-up and the heartbreaking death of his brother Dermott, Dec has encountered a number of heartbreaks away from the ITV show.

Dec's brother's tragic death

In July 2022, Dec was left heartbroken after his older brother Father Dermott Donnelly died suddenly at the age of 55 years old.

Dermott, who was a Catholic Priest for 30 years and had conducted Dec's wedding to wife Ali Astall, died peacefully in hospital after reportedly collapsing the night before.

Dec's older brother Father Dermott Donnelly died suddenly at the age of 55 years old last year (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

Following his brother's death, Dec took to Twitter to pay tribute to Dermot saying: "I am heartbroken to tell you that my darling brother Fr Dermott, TweeterPriest, sadly passed away this afternoon.

"We are all beyond devastated. Thank you for your messages of sympathy and support, they are appreciated DD."

The I'm a Celeb presenter carried his brother's coffin at his funeral and delivered a beautiful tribute to Dermott during the service, with Hello! Magazine reporting Dec as saying: "We can't believe he's gone, we still can't understand why he's gone - but we trust God took him because his talents were needed elsewhere.

"We as a family will miss him immeasurably."

'Painful split'

Dec has been linked to a number of celebrities in the past before his marriage to Ali Astall, including Pussycat Dolls star Ashley Roberts and childhood sweetheart Claire Buckfield.

In 2009, he began dating Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson after the pair were introduced to each other by mutual friend Kirsty Gallagher.

They were often spotted out and about, with the couple appearing to be smitten as Georgie gushed about Dec during interviews.

Declan dated Sky Sports presenter Georgie Thompson for two years (Getty)

Speaking to Daily Mail, Georgie said: "We have a lot of common threads and a lot of our ideas about life and how you live it are the same, so I think those things pull us together.’

She added that her family adored Dec too, adding: "Yeah, they love him to pieces. Even my dog Rollo does!"

However just two years later in 2011, Georgie and Dec split up, with a spokesperson for the I'm a Celeb host telling Daily Mail: "Dec and Georgie’s relationship has sadly come to an end. Nobody else was involved and they remain good friends."

Reflecting on their split, Dec told The Sun that he did not want to "go into" why the couple parted ways, but said he would always have "fond memories" of their time together.

Georgie has since opened up about their split too, telling The Mirror at the time: "It’s been painful."

"At the moment, the party line is that we’re really good friends and really support each other. But it’s been tough, it’s really tough.

"It’s a really hard thing to live out a painful break-up when you’re in the public eye. It hurts but we have to be grown-up."

Ant 'replaced'

Dec and his co-star Ant McPartlin have been inseparable since their Byker Grove days, with the two TV icons hosting programmes including I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here and Britain's Got Talent.

However Ant was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving after a collision in London in 2018, with the star announcing that he had also entered rehab for addiction to painkillers one year earlier.

Ant later made an announcement that he would be taking a break from presenting duties until 2019, following treatment for painkiller addiction and split from ex-wife Lisa Armstrong.

Holly Willoughby stood in alongside Dec on I'm a Celeb 2019 (REX/Shutterstock)

Following the announcement, This Morning host Holly Willoughby stood in alongside Dec on I'm a Celeb 2019, with the star saying in a statement: "I love Ant and want to send him my best wishes and support for a continued recovery.

"These are big shoes, not to fill, but just to keep warm for a little bit. I couldn’t be more excited to have been asked to stand alongside Dec for the next jungle adventure."

However, Ant has since returned to our screens to host Britain's Got Talent and I'm a Celeb with co-star Dec.

Dec has since spoken about that period of time in Ant and Dec's book Once Upon A Tyne, writing that while Holly was "brilliant" and "an accomplished presenter," no one "could ever replace Ant."

"Ant and I are both really good mates with Holly and she is a brilliant and accomplished presenter, but I had no real idea how she worked, not she me, and we knew that for the viewers there was a curiosity factor to it...

"Holly did a superb job and was fantastic to work with and once we knew Ant wasn't going to be a part of that series, she was top of my list to host alongside me," Dec wrote.

Although there had been speculation that Stephen Mulhearn or Phillip Schofield could host alongside him, Dec continued: "Right from the very beginning there was no way I was going to host the show with another male.

"I didn't want to have another man standing on the same side Ant stood.

"I didn't want it to appear that another guy was stepping in to take Ant's place because they weren't and because no one ever could."


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