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Tuesday, 26 May 2015


26 May 1315: Edward de Bruce (the younger brother of Robert de Bruce of Scotland) and his fleet (estimated at in excess of 6,000 men) landed on the Irish coast at points at and between Olderfleet Castle at Larne and Glendrum on the north east coast of Ireland. This was the start of his ultimately futile bid to seize Ireland from the English – an attempt that was to cause much bloodshed and suffering here for three long years.

Edward knew there was much dissatisfaction with English Rule in Ireland. He had helped his brother fight the Sassanach in Scotland and defeat their attempts to secure that Kingdom. But he was also a man of ambition and pride. He did not want to spend his life in his brother's shadow. King Robert in turn did not want is ambitious sibling as a thorn in his side either. He steered his focus onto freeing the Gaels of Ireland from English Rule. If he could achieve that then he would be shot of him and would have also diverted the attentions of King Edward II of England away from Scotland and onto Ireland.

Edward the Bruce intended from the start to rely on the Gaels of Ireland to provide support, both in men and material, to the Scots. In this the Scotsman met with a measure of success but as he moved south the number of Irish Chieftains ready to throw in their lot with the newcomers diminished considerably.

At first the Irish/Scottish alliance seemed unstoppable as they won battle after battle, in less than a year they had most of Ireland in their control. However by the beginning of 1317 famine had stricken the country making it difficult for either side to undertake military operations. The Famine was of unusual intensity and struck right across Europe, killing countless numbers as crops failed and the weather turned much colder.

Then in the late summer of 1318, Sir John de Bermingham with his army began a march against Edward de Brus. On 14 October 1318, the Scots-Irish army was badly defeated at the Battle of Faughart by de Bermingham's forces. Edward was killed, his body being quartered and sent to various towns in Ireland, and his head being delivered to King Edward II. The Annals of Ulster summed up the hostile feeling held by many among the Anglo-Irish and Irish alike of Edward de Brus:

Edward de Brus, the destroyer of Ireland in general, both Foreigners and Gaels, was killed by the Foreigners of Ireland by dint of fighting at Dun-Delgan. And there were killed in his company Mac Ruaidhri, king of Insi-Gall Hebrides [i.e. Ailean mac Ruaidhri] and Mac Domhnaill, king of Argyll, together with slaughter of the Men of Scotland around him. And there was not done from the beginning of the world a deed that was better for the Men of Ireland than that deed. For there came death and loss of people during his time in all Ireland in general for the space of three years and a half and people undoubtedly used to eat each other throughout Ireland."

The Annals of Ulster

Monday, 25 May 2015


25 May 1921- The Custom House in Dublin was burnt out by members of the Dublin Brigade IRA. In an audacious and well planned operation some 200 IRA members seized control of the Custom House building on Dublin’s North Quay and set it alight. The purpose of the raid was to destroy the Local Government records of the British Administration in Ireland in order to further undermine their ability to rule the Country.


The Operation had been decided upon by the senior members of the Republican Movement at the time incl Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. It was hoped that such a devastating blow would undermine British rule to such a degree that it would never recover it ability to collect taxation at local level.

The 2nd battalion Dublin IRA was tasked with carrying out the Operation.

Vinny Byrne - a member of Collins hit men unit - ‘the Squad’ - recalled:

'However a 25 May IRA attack on the Customs House in Dublin made it clear that the advocates of continued force within the Irish Independence movement were more than content to keep the fight going. The attack, waged largely by the Dublin Brigade's 2nd Battalion, marked the largest armed deployment by the rebel forces since the Easter Rising. With some 200 men involved in all, the attack in retrospect might be judged to have been as foolhardy for the IRA as it was dramatic in scale. While the objective of damaging the Customs House and destroying thousands of tax records was achieved, in all the attack resulted in the loss of some seventy-five members of the Dublin Brigade due to arrests at the scene and the deaths of six others...

The objective for attacking the Customs House in fact dated back to the end of 1918, when the Irish Volunteers devised a plan for the building's destruction if and when the British Government imposed conscription on Ireland. Vincent Byrne, a member of the execution gang attached to Michael Collins Intelligence Department, recalled his role in the attack and subsequent escape.

I got a tin of petrol and proceeded to the second floor. I opened the door and sitting inside there were a lady and a gentleman, civil servants having tea. I requested them to leave, stating that I was going to set fire to the office. The gentleman stood up and said 'Oh, you can't do that.' I showed him my gun and told him I was serious. . . The lady then asked me if she could get her coat, and I replied: 'Miss, you'll be lucky if you get out with your life.'

The Irish Revolution and its Aftermath 1916-1923 - Years of Revolt

Francis Costello

So while the immediate objective was achieved the operation was a costly one for the IRA as many of its top operatives were captured. The building was quickly surrounded by the Auxiliaries of the RIC who while ruthless were all combat experienced men. Many of the Volunteers were unable to effect their escape in time and were captured. So it was something of a Pyrrhic Victory for the men of the Dublin Brigade to burn out such an important edifice (both symbolic and real) of the British presence in Ireland that day.

Sunday, 24 May 2015


24 May 1923: The Irish Civil War ended on this day. The newly appointed IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken [above in later life] issued the order to ‘dump arms’. It began:

To All Ranks:

Comrades

The arms with which we have fought the enemies of our country are to be dumped. The foreign and domestic enemies of the Republic have for the moment prevailed...


The war had its origins in the Anglo Irish Treaty of December 1921 which agreed to the establishment of the Irish Free State. This State though would only govern 26 Counties and not the Six Counties of the North which would remain under British rule. More importantly it contained a commitemnt that anyone elected to the Southern Parliament would take an Oath of Fidelity to the King of England George V. This was anathema to those who supported the ideal of a fully independent Irish Republic. The Sinn Fein party and the IRA split on the issue and after months of haggling and negotiations the two sides were further apart than ever.



Following the June elections which saw a majority of voters backing pro Treaty candidates the war broke out on 28 June when the Free State Army (with borrowed British cannons) bombarded the Republican garrison occupying the Four Courts in Dublin.



As the months went by the FSA gained control of all the major cities and towns and the fighting degenerated into a ‘Dirty War’ with atrocities committed by both sides. A policy of Official Executions was adopted by the Free State against any men taken in arms. 77 men were shot in this manner and many more were killed out of hand in the countryside. Thousands of men were captured or interned and some women imprisoned. Most of the Irish People wanted Peace and not more War.



By the early Spring of 1923 it was obvious that the IRA could not win and attempts to bring the fighting to an end intensified as the situation became hopeless for them. Early Peace moves had failed but now the push for an end to the campaign came from within the IRA itself. The death in action of Liam Lynch, the IRA Chief of Staff on 10 April 1923 paved the way for the next move - a Ceasefire. Frank Aiken was appointed to the position and on 30 April called that Ceasefire. On 14 May a Joint meeting of the Republican Government and IRA Army Executive instructed Aiken to end the war. This was followed on 24 May by an Order to ‘Dump Arms’. The War was effectively over.



Éamon de Valera supported the order, issuing a statement to Anti-Treaty fighters on 24 May:


Soldiers of the Republic. Legion of the Rearguard: The Republic can no longer be defended successfully by your arms. Further sacrifice of life would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest and prejudicial to the future of our cause. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic


 

Saturday, 23 May 2015


May 23-4 1798: The outbreak of the United Irishmen Rising on this day. Overnight mail coaches were attacked on the roads to Dublin to signal the start of revolutionary action. In the City itself attempts to trigger an outbreak were thwarted as the British Army moved to seize strategic assembly points and thus nip things in the bud. Small crowds of men had set out from the poor districts of the city of Dublin to seize the Castle and other key public buildings. Agents of the Crown had infiltrated their revolutionary organization, the United Irishmen, and had already arrested several of their key leaders, Lord Edward FitzGerald being the most important of them. The Militia mobilized before the insurgents could assemble in large groups and what their leaders had hoped would be an almost bloodless coup turned into a debacle.

Outside the City though the insurgents fared better and many gathered in rural areas of County Dublin as well as southern County Meath, northern County Kildare and northern and western County Wicklow. These groups attacked towns and villages in their respective localities and stopped and destroyed some of the mail coaches that were making their way out to the provinces.

On the 23rd of May, Dublin was placed under martial law; the citizens were armed, the guard was trebled, the barristers pleaded with regimentals and swords, and several of the lamplighters were hung from their own lamp-posts for neglecting to light the lamps. The country people were prepared to march on the city, but Lord Roden and his Foxhunters soon put down their attempt. The next morning the dead were exhibited in the Castle-yard, and the prisoners were hanged at Carlisle-bridge.[now O’Connell Bridge] Sir Watkins Wynn and his Ancient Britons distinguished themselves by their cruelties.
http://www.libraryireland.com

Thursday, 21 May 2015


21 May 1981: The Third and Fourth Irish Hunger Strikers Died in Long Kesh Prison on this day

Raymond McCreesh (24), a Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoner, and Patsy O'Hara (23), an Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoner, both died having spent 61 days on hunger strike. Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, criticised the British government's attitude to the hunger strike.

The two men were preceded by Bobby Sands (5 May) and Frankie Hughes (12 May) in their struggle for political status.

Their 5 demands were:
The right not to wear a prison uniform;
The right not to do prison work;
The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
Full restoration of remission lost through the protest

But perhaps best summed up in the H Block Ballad:

But I'll wear no convict's uniform
Nor meekly serve my time
That Britain may call Ireland's fight
Eight hundred years of crime.


The strike was to last until 3 October 1981 and was to see 10 Republican prisoners starve themselves to death in support of their protest. The strike led to a heightening of political tensions in the region. It was also to pave the way for the emergence of Sinn Féin (SF) as a major political force in Ireland.




Sunday, 17 May 2015


17 May 1974: The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings on this day. Three car bombs exploded in Dublin, immediately killing 23 people and injuring more than 100 others during the rush hour. Five more people died and another 20 were hurt in a blast, which hit the town of Monaghan an hour later. The final death toll was 34 people. The bombings were the work of a UVF gang that had links to elements within the British Army Intelligence services. No one has ever been charged with these attacks.

It was a hot day in early summer when the terrorists launched their attacks. The City centre of Dublin was full of shoppers and workers heading home that Friday afternoon, little suspecting that such a murderous deed was about to be inflicted upon them.

In the North a huge Loyalist Strike was underway with the aim of bringing down the Power Sharing Executive that had been formed in January that year. Its aim was to allow both sides a share in the Government of the North so that no side would feel excluded. It also had as one of its terms the formation of an All Ireland Council. To many Unionists this was a step too far and a possible 'foot in the door' to a United Ireland without their consent.

The perpetrators of these bombings knew that the Executive at Stormont was in grave danger of collapse. It was clear the British Government under Harold Wilson was dithering with indecision as to what to do in the face of such a massive level of civil disobedience by most of the Unionist Community in Ulster. This was backed by widespread intimidation of those who tried to go about their business regardless.

Only the Dublin Government under the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave stood firm against any collapse of what they had tried so hard in negotiations to have set up and running. While the Troubles had claimed hundreds of lives north of the Border the south had escaped relatively unscathed up until then - but not entirely free of atrocities either.

Clearly the aim of the attackers was to jolt the people of the South, and the Dublin Government in particular, out of any sense of complacency that they could escape the consequences (as they saw it) of unwarranted interference in Ulster.

At approximately 17:30 on Friday 17 May 1974, without prior warning, three car bombs exploded almost simultaneously in Dublin's city centre at Parnell Street, Talbot Street, and South Leinster Street during rush-hour. According to one of the Irish Army's top bomb disposal officers, Commandant Patrick Trears, the bombs were constructed so well that one hundred per cent of each bomb exploded upon detonation.

The explosives used in the attacks were of the type used by the Provisional IRA and were probably from a haul that members of the Crown Forces had captured and that rogue elements had got their hands on to launch these attacks.

The first of the three Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:28, in a parking bay outside the Welcome Inn pub and Barry's Supermarket and close to a petrol station, in Parnell Street near its southwestern intersection with Marlborough Street. Ten people were killed in this explosion, including two infant girls and their parents, and a World War I veteran.

The second of the Dublin car bombs went off at approximately 17:30 at number 18 Talbot Street near the northwestern Lower Gardiner Street intersection, outside O'Neill's shoe shop opposite Guineys department store. At least four bodies were found on the pavement just outside Guineys.

The third bomb went off at approximately 17:32 in South Leinster Street near the railings of Trinity College, Dublin. Two women were killed instantly in that explosion; they had been very close to the epicentre of the blast.

Ninety minutes later, at approximately 18:58, a fourth bomb (weighing 150 pounds) exploded outside Greacen's pub in North Road, Monaghan. This bomb killed five people initially, and another two died in the following weeks.

On the evening of the bombings, the Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, said in a TV and radio broadcast that he wanted to express 'the revulsion and condemnation felt by every decent person in this island at these unforgivable acts.' He said it would help 'to bring home to us here what the people of NI have been suffering for five long years.' He added 'everyone who has practised violence, or preached violence or condoned violence must bear a share of responsibility for today's outrage'.

In Belfast, the UDA and the UVF denied responsibility for the explosions and in Dublin a statement issued by the Provisional IRA called the explosions 'vile murder'. Mr. Brian Faulkner, NI Chief Executive, sent a message to Mr. Cosgrave expressing 'deepest regret' from himself and his colleagues. The UDA Press Officer, Mr. Samuel Smyth, said: 'I am very happy about the bombings in Dublin. There is a war with the Free State and now we are laughing at them'.

But within days the official attitude had changed and the feeling in Government ranks was to play down this huge atrocity to avoid heightening tensions and giving credibility to the Provisional IRA. As the weeks rolled by the Garda investigations were wound down and then effectively stopped. It has been rumoured that names of the killers were known to the police forces in both parts of Ireland even if it could never be proved. The event was buried by the forces of Officialdom over the years and forgotten about. No one has ever been charged with these crimes on that terrible day.

LOST LIVES 

Dublin and Monaghan Bombings - 17th May 1974:

Patrick Askin (44) Co. Monaghan
Josie Bradley (21) Co. Offaly
Marie Butler (21) Co. Waterford
Anne Byrne (35) Dublin
Thomas Campbell (52) Co. Monaghan
Simone Chetrit (30) France
Thomas Croarkin (36) Co. Monaghan
John Dargle (80) Dublin
Concepta Dempsey (65) Co. Louth
Colette Doherty (20) Dublin
Baby Doherty (full term unborn) Dublin*
Patrick Fay (47), Dublin & Co. Louth
Elizabeth Fitzgerald (59) Dublin
Breda Bernadette Grace (34) Dublin and Co. Kerry
Archie Harper (73) Co. Monaghan
Antonio Magliocco, (37) Dublin & Italy
May McKenna (55) Co. Tyrone
Anne Marren (20) Co. Sligo
Anna Massey (21) Dublin
Dorothy Morris (57) Dublin
John (24), Anna (22), Jacqueline (17 months) & Anne-Marie (5 months) O'Brien, Dublin
Christina O'Loughlin (51), Dublin
Edward John O'Neill (39), Dublin
Marie Phelan (20), Co. Waterford
Siobhán Roice (19), Wexford Town
Maureen Shields (46), Dublin
Jack Travers (28), Monaghan Town
Breda Turner (21), Co. Tipperary 
John Walsh (27), Dublin
Peggy White (44), Monaghan Town
George Williamson (72), Co. Monaghan
*Baby Doherty was recognised as the 34th victim of the Bombings by the Coroner for the City of Dublin during the course of the Inquests held in April and May 2004
http://www.dublinmonaghanbombings.org/index2.html


Saturday, 16 May 2015


16 May 1926: The inaugural meeting of the Fianna Fáil Party was held in La Scala theatre in Dublin on this day. Among the founding members were Seán Lemass, Gerry Boland, Countess Markievicz and Frank Aiken. The Party was founded and led by Eamon de Valera - the ex President of the Sinn Fein.



De Valera had led a walkout of his followers from Sinn Féin in the previous March. He was dissatisfied with that Party’s continued adherence to a policy of abstention from the Leinster House parliament in Dublin that was the seat of Government of the Irish Free State. Dev wanted to find a way through the ‘Oath’ that committed all members of the House to take an Oath of Fidelity to the King of England (King George V). He knew he could not do that unless he had full command of his own Party.



His gamble paid off as he led Fianna Fáil into Leinster House the following year by taking the Oath - but denying its moral force! He led it into Government in 1932. Under his continued leadership the Party held power until 1948 and again in 1951-1954 and from 1957-1959. In that year he became President of Ireland until he relinquished that Office in 1973. Known to his loyal followers as ‘the Chief’ he was the most popular yet also the most divisive figure in 20th century Ireland.