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Sunday, 31 May 2015


31 May 1941 – German bombing of North Strand, Dublin – 27 dead, 90 + injured and over 300 houses were destroyed or damaged. Smaller bombs damaged the American Embassy and Áras an Uachtarain. The bombing was in all probability accidental and the German Government apologised in June 1941 for the attack. After the War the post war Government of Germany paid compensation for the destruction and damaged caused. The bombings were the worst experienced in the Irish Free State during the War.

 

The first fifteen burials took place on June 4th with the internment of the tragic Brown family in their native Drumcooley, outside Edenderry and the burial of eight more in Glasnevin and in Dean's Grange cemeteries in Dublin. Twelve of those killed were buried by Dublin Corporation at a Public Funeral on 5 June, at which Government members including Eamonn De Valera attended. The service took place in the Church of St. Laurence O'Toole, Seville Place and was presided over by Archbishop McQuaid.

 

The Taoiseach Eamon De Valera made the following statement:

 


Members of the Dáil desire to be directly associated with the expression of sympathy already tendered by the Government on behalf of the nation to the great number of our citizens who have been so cruelly bereaved by the recent bombing. Although a complete survey has not yet been possible, the latest report which I have received is that 27 persons were killed outright or subsequently died; 45 were wounded or received other serious bodily injury and are still in hospital; 25 houses were completely destroyed and 300 so damaged as to be unfit for habitation, leaving many hundreds of our people homeless. It has been for all our citizens an occasion of profound sorrow in which the members of this House have fully shared.

The Dáil will also desire to be associated with the expression of sincere thanks which has gone out from the Government and from our whole community to the several voluntary organisations the devoted exertions of whose members helped to confine the extent of the disaster and have mitigated the sufferings of those affected by it. As I have already informed the public, a protest has been made to the German Government. The Dáil will not expect me, at the moment, to say more on this head.



 

Friday, 29 May 2015


29 May 1914: The loss of the passenger liner Empress of Ireland on this day. The ship sank within minutes of being involved in a collision with a Norwegian collierSS Storstad in the St Lawrence river, Canada. The vessel had only left port in Quebec a few hours previously, but it was under a new Captain and sailed into a bank of fog where after spotting the approaching Storstad it tried to avoid contact but was unable to do so. Both skippers blamed the other but a subsequent Court of Inquiry blamed the Norwegian for the impact. A verdict that the Norwegians never accepted.

Of the 1,477 persons on board the ship, 1,012 (840 passengers, 172 crew) died. The number of those who were killed is the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime.

Empress of Ireland was built by at Govan on the Clyde in Scotland and was launched in 1906.The liner had just begun her 96th sailing when she sank.

There were only 465 survivors, 4 of whom were children (the other 134 children were lost) and 41 of whom were women (the other 269 women were lost). The fact that most passengers were asleep at the time of the sinking (most not even awakened by the collision) also contributed to the loss of life when they were drowned in their cabins, most of them from the starboard side where the collision happened.

One of the survivors was Captain Kendall, who was on the bridge at the time, and quickly ordered the lifeboats to be launched. When Empress of Ireland lurched onto her side, he was thrown from the bridge into the water, and was taken down with her as she began to go under. Swimming to the surface, he clung to a wooden grate long enough for crew members aboard a nearby lifeboat to row over and pull him in. Immediately, he took command of the small boat, and began rescue operations. The lifeboat's crew successfully pulled in many people from the water, and when the boat was full, Kendall ordered the crew to row to the lights of the mysterious vessel that had rammed them, so that the survivors could be dropped off. Kendall and the crew made a few more trips between the nearby Storstad and the wreckage to search for more survivors. After an hour or two, Kendall gave up, since any survivors who were still in the water would have either succumbed to the freezing cold or had drowned by then.

While the ship had an Irish name there was no specific Irish connection other than she was based in Liverpool and sailed weekly back and forth across the Atlantic. However outside of Ireland it was the case that Liverpool was the most ‘Irish’ city on Earth, and at that time one, if not the greatest Shipping Port in the World. Many of the crew would undoubtedly have had Irish links.

Sadly this terrible disaster has been almost forgotten, wedged as it is between the far more well know maritime disasters of the Titanic [1912] and the Lusitania [1915] which resonated with the public conscious down the years.

The wreck lies in 40 metres (130 ft) of water, making it accessible to divers. Many artifacts from the wreckage have been retrieved. Some are on display in the Empress of Ireland Pavilion at the Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père in Rimouski, Quebec. The Canadian government has passed legislation to protect the site. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Empress_of_Ireland#Passengers_and_crew

Thursday, 28 May 2015


28 May 1798: Enniscorthy was captured from the British on this day. The Wexford insurgents, amounting to several thousand people, had that morning marched northwards to Camolin. By midday they were at Ferns and by the early afternoon they had reached the outskirts of Enniscorthy. They now numbered about 7,000 people. The Crown Forces that opposed them there were supplied with small arms but had no artillery and numbered only about 300 soldiers. The Wexfordmen were without artillery too and mostly carried pikes and homemade weapons. Nevertheless they stormed the town and drove the British southwards toward Wexford Town. Enniscorthy was left more or less a blackened ruin. As a result the United Irishmen made Vinegar Hill, just to east of the town their headquarters.



Members of the Crown Forces under Sir James Duff slaughtered 350 insurgents at the Curragh, Co Kildare. They had gathered there to surrender their weapons on agreed terms. Once they had laid down their arms the massacre began. The chief culprits in this were Roden's Light Dragoons, including the Monasterevan cavalry along with other militia units. Many others were wounded and others either fled on realising what was happening or feigned death till the troops departed.



At Enniscorthy the released captives Edward Fitzgerald and John Henry Colclough, arrived from Wexford Town with a message from the British Commander there. They gave a message that they should disperse and return to their homes or face retribution. Fitzgerald and Colclough had both been arrested two days before as suspected members of the United Irishmen. The British seemed to have assumed they might have enough influence with the Insurgents to persuade them to call off their campaign. In a dramatic moment though, the crowds in the town persuaded both men to join them and the Leadership decided to lead the thousands of armed men they now had under their control, southwards to attack Wexford Town.


Wednesday, 27 May 2015


27 May 1224: Cathal Crovderg [‘Redhand’] O'Conor, king of Connacht, son of Turlough and brother of Rory O'Conor (the last 'High King' of Ireland), died at the age of 72. He was the last of the great Irish Kings. His death opened the way for the Norman takeover of Connacht.



King Cathal had to play what might be described in today's terms as a masterly game of 'Realpolitic' in his time as King. He was faced with a range of enemies both internal and external who wished to bring him down. Depending on circumstances he was prepared to 'switch sides' and play one off against another. He built alliances with Thomand (north Munster), Tir Owen and Fermanah in the North and sometimes with the Anglo-Norman invaders. But he was not averse to throwing himself at the mercy of the Justicar in Dublin when he was forced to flee his own kingdom.
From his base west of the river Shannon he was forced to deal with the Norman invaders. He was a competent leader despite problems, avoiding major conflicts and winning battles. Ua Conchobair attempted to make the best of the new situation with Ireland divided between Norman and Gaelic rulers.

He succeeded as head of the O'Conors on his brother Rory's death in 1198. The early part of his reign was passed in contests with the Anglo-Normans and with his nephew Cathal Carrach, who at one time succeeded in expelling him from his territories. In 1201, however, Cathal Crovderg, with the assistance of the Anglo Norman De Burghs, defeated and slew his nephew in battle near Boyle.

On his nephews death Cathal was finally in a position to have himself inugurated as King of Connacht in the traditional way, surrounded by his close family and retainers along with the heads of the important monastries and with the vassal families of the O’Conors in attendence. This ancient ceremony took place at Carn Fraoich near Ráth Cruachan [above] in County Roscommon. But in some ways it was an empty title too as Cathal was also a vassal of the King of England. He certainly did not have free sway over the whole province, just a portion thereof on sufferance really.

On King John's arrival in Ireland in 1210, he paid him homage, and by the surrender of a portion of his territories, secured to himself a tolerably peaceful old age. He died in the abbey of Knockmoy (having assumed the habit of a Grey Friar) in 1224. The principal abode of the heads of the O'Connor family at this period was around Rathcroghan, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon.

He founded Ballintubber Abbey in 1216, and was succeeded by his son, Aedh mac Cathal Crobdearg Ua Conchobair. His wife, Mor Ní Briain, was a daughter of King Domnall Mór Ua Briain of Thomond, died in 1218.

By the end of his Life he had come to accept the primacy of the King of England as also 'Lord of Ireland' as a political necessity and only wished to have his son recognised by King Henry III of England as his successor.

He wrote to King Henry in 1224 shortly before his death:

'To his dear Lord Henry,by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, from his faithful King of Connacht, greeting, and bond of sincere affection with faithful obedience.'

'We feel sure that you have heard, through the trusty men and counsellors of your father and your own, how that we did not fail to give faithful and devoted service to the Lord John, your father of happy memory ; and since his death, as your trusty servants stationed in Ireland know and have learned, we are not failing to give devoted obedience to you, nor do we wish ever as long as we live to fail you. Wherefore, although we possess a charter for the land of Connacht from the Lord your father given to ourselves and our heirs, and by name to Od [Aedh] our son and heir...'

LETTER FROM CATHAL "CROVDEARG" O'CONOR, KING OF CONNACHT, TO HENRY III, circa 1224

Taken from A History of Ireland by Eleanor Hull

 

 

His eulogy in the Annals of Connacht relates the attributes that a true King was expected to portray to his People:

'A great affliction befell the country then, the loss of Cathal Crobderg son of Toirrdelbach O Conchobair, king of Connacht;

the king most feared and dreaded on every hand in Ireland;

the king who carried out most plunderings and burnings against Galls and Gaels who opposed him;

the king who was the fiercest and harshest towards his enemies that ever lived;

the king who most blinded, killed and mutilated rebellious and disaffected subjects;

the king who best established peace and tranquility of all the kings of Ireland;

the king who built most monasteries and houses for religious communities;

the king who most comforted clerks and poor men with food and fire on the floor of his own habitation;

the king whom of all the kings in Ireland God made most perfect in every good quality;

the king on whom God most bestowed fruit and increase and crops;

the king who was most chaste of all the kings of Ireland;

the king who kept himself to one consort and practised continence before God from her death till his own;

the king whose wealth was partaken by laymen and clerics, infirm men, women and helpless folk, as had been prophesied in the writings and the visions of saints and righteous men of old;

the king who suffered most mischances in his reign, but God raised him up from each in turn;

the king who with manly valour and by the strength of his hand preserved his kingship and rule.

And it is in the time of this king that tithes were first levied for God in Ireland. This righteous and upright king, this prudent, pious, just champion, died in the robe of a Grey Monk, after a victory over the world and the devil, in the monastery of Knockmoy, which with the land belonging to it he had himself offered to God and the monks, on the twenty-seventh day of May as regards the solar month and on a Monday as regards the week-day, and was nobly and honourably buried, having been for six and thirty years sole monarch of the province of Connacht.

So says Donnchad Baccach O Maelchonaire in his poem on the Succession of the Kings:

‘The reign of Red-hand was a pleasant reign, after the fall of Cathal Carrach; he ruled for sixteen and twenty prosperous calm years.’


And he was in the seventy-second year of his age, as the poet Nede O Maelchonaire says: ‘Three years and a half-year, I say, was the life of Red-hand in Cruachu till the time that his father died in wide-stretching Ireland.’


He was born at Port Locha Mesca and fostered by Tadc O Con Chennainn in Ui Diarmata, and it was sixty-eight years from the death of Toirrdelbach to the death of Cathal Crobderg, as the chronicle shows.'

The Annals of Connacht

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.

Friday, 15 May 2015


15 May 1847: Death of Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa while making his way to the Holy City. He died at 9.35pm in the evening. His heart was taken on to Rome (now lost) and his body was returned to Dublin for internment in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery.


 

On May 15, 1847, Father Miley, O'Connell's companion on his last journey, wrote from Genoa: “The Liberator is not better. He is worse – ill as ill can be. At two o'clock this morning I found it necessary to send for the Viaticum and the holy oil. Though it was the dead of night, the cardinal archbishop (he is eighty-eight years old), attended by his clerics and several of the faithful, carried the Viaticum with the solemnities customary in Catholic countries, and reposed it in the tabernacle which we had prepared in the chamber of the illustrious sufferer. Though prostrate to the last degree, he was perfectly in possession of his mind whilst receiving the last rites. The adorable name of Jesus, which he had been in the habit of invoking was constantly on his lips with trembling fervour, His thoughts have been entirely absorbed by religion since his illness commenced. For the last forty hours he will not open his lips to speak of anything else. The doctors still say they have hope. I have none. All Genoa is praying for him. I have written to Rome. Be not surprised if I am totally silent as to our own feelings. It is poor Daniel who is to be pitied more than all.”
 
Henry Peel OP


St Martin de Porres Magazine, a publication of the Irish Dominicans.




 
 









 


 


 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


12 May 563: Saint Columba and his twelve companions crossed the sea from Ireland in a currach which is a boat of wickerwork covered with hides.


Columba was in his forty-fourth year when he departed from Ireland. He and his twelve companions crossed the sea in a currach of wickerwork covered with hides. They landed at Iona on the eve of Pentecost, 12 May, 563. The island, according to Irish authorities, was granted to the monastic colonists by King Conall of Dalriada, Columba's kinsman. ... It was a convenient situation, being midway between his countrymen along the western coast and the Picts of Caledonia.

He and his brethren proceeded at once to erect their humble dwellings, consisting of a church, refectory, and cells, constructed of wattles and rough planks.

After spending some years among the Scots of Dalriada, Columba began the great work of his life, the conversion of the Northern Picts.

CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: St. Columba

But mystery surrounds why exactly did Saint Columba, a powerful and influential man in Ireland, depart the land of his birth for such a bleak and remote spot far from any place of influence in this World.

Columba was like many other Irishmen of the Faith motivated by a desire to convert as many Pagans to Christianity as he could in order to save their souls from Damnation. But what exactly was the catalyst that pushed him over the edge to leave here? The idea of pilgrimage, or peregrinatio, which was central to Irish monks and to Columba, involved a permanent sense of exile, renunciation and searching for one's own place of resurrection; one's desert. But it did not necessarily mean a complete separation from the World, rather as search to find a place where solitude and reflection were needed they were readily at hand.

The Battle of Cúil Dreimne 560/561 AD was considered in later years to be the event that triggered Columba's peregrinatio or Journey.

Saint Columba, also known as Colum Cille (Colm of the Churches), is the greatest of the Irish saints. His involvement is considered central to the subsequent story of this battle. It is probably the only one in Irish History in which the copyright to a book was remembered as one of the reasons for a battle! However that was not the only factor involved and indeed it is only fair to mention that whether the dispute over a copywrite was one of the real reasons cannot be traced to a contemporary written source. We know that historically Columba fell foul of the Church authorities in the wake of this battle and the copywrite story became accepted in later times as the reason for his subsequent exile.

The High King at the time was Diarmait Mac Cerbhall ,a descendant of the great Niall of the Nine Hostages. Saint Columba was himself of the Uí Néills of Cenel Conal and thus of Royal blood. However he was also a man of ambition and drive. He made the mistake of copying a holy book belonging to another saint and was caught red handed. He appealed to the High King for judgement, possibly hoping that familial ties, however distant, would swing things in his favour. The King decided otherwise and in a famous judgement declared that: to every cow its calf and to every book its copy.

Much incensed Columba returned home to the North and raised the issue with his immediate kinsmen, of Royal blood themselves, against the High King. They brought the King of Connacht into their alliance, who seems to have become involved due to the treacherous death of his own son by King Diarmait, despite being under the protection of Saint Columba.

He also owed his position as King of Connacht to the northern Uí Néills, who had helped him win the throne in 550 AD at the battle of Cuil Conaire.

No doubt land and power played a huge part in all this too that we are unable to trace in an exact path in the historical accounts. It is probable though that the northern Uí Néills viewed Diarmaid of the southern Ui Neills with some suspicion. He was certainly a character who was hard-hitting and ruthless and who brooked no opposition. He in turn felt that by siding with St. Columba in this dispute the northern Uí Néills were interfering in his affairs.

This great and important battle of Cúil Dreimne was fought at the foot of Ben Bulben, just above the Columban Church of Drumcliff in County Sligo. From the location it looks like it was Diarmait who initiated the Campaign by marching north to meet his enemies in battle. He probably wished to place himself between his opponents in Connacht and Ulster and defeat them in turn. While a good strategy his plan of campaign backfired and the High King was soundly defeated with a great loss of life to both sides. It is recorded that 3,000 men fell that day. As it turned out neither the northern Uí Néills nor the king of Connacht followed up their success, and Diarmait lived to fight another day. However the defeat of Diarmait was to have far reaching consequences that were not readily apparent at the time.

Columba was full of remorse afterwards. He was too good a man not to realise the enormity of what he had unleashed, however unwittingly. The Church too was less than impressed with his involvement in all this. He had foolishly allowed his personal pride to be used as a catalyst for War between the various branches of the Ui Neills, his own kinsmen. This in turned had pulled in the kingdom of Connacht so that three of Ireland’s five ancient provinces were involved in a bloody encounter that he had played a large part in starting. As a result of the battle of Cúil Dreimne St. Columba was banished from Ireland by his peers in the Church and made to swear he would never put his feet on the ground here again. Thus in the year 563 AD he made his momentous decision to sail for the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. From here his missionaries and their successors were one day to spread the word of the Gospel to the heathen Picts and the Pagan English of Northumberland.

They landed at the little island of Iona off the east coast of Scotland on the eve of the Feast of Pentecost. The island, according to Irish sources, was probably granted to the monastic colonists by King Conall of Dalriada, Columba's kinsman. It was a convenient situation, being midway between his countrymen along the north western coast of Ireland and the Picts of Caledonia. He and his brethren proceeded at once to erect their dwellings, consisting of a church, refectory, and cells, constructed of wattles and rough hewn wood.

However not only was Saint Columba to have great influence on the development of Christianity in Scotland but it is believed that it was here and in this year that the first Annals of contemporary events back home in Ireland were recorded on a regular basis. The Annals became the foundation stones of the record of Ancient and Medieval Irish History.

Monday, 11 May 2015


11 May 1745: The battle of Fontenoy was fought on this day. It occurred in what was then part of the Austrian Netherlands but is now in present day Belgium. The French under Marshal De Saxe defeated the British - Dutch Army under the Duke of Cumberland.

The Allied Army was on the advance to relieve the siege of Tournai when they encountered the French under Marshal De Saxe drawn up in prepared positions. In all the French army numbered 93 battalions, 146 squadrons and 80 cannon, some 70,000 troops, of which 27 battalions and 17 squadrons were left to cover Tournai. In support of this position was a reserve of picked infantry and cavalry regiments, including the Irish Brigade, the “Wild Geese’’.

Cumberland reconnoitred the French position on 10th May and decided to pin down the French right wing by attacking with the Austrian and Dutch contingents between Antoing and Fontenoy. While these attacks were being made the British and Hanoverians would advance between Fontenoy and the Bois de Bary across what appeared to be open ground. His so called ‘Pragmatic Army’ comprised 56 battalions of infantry and 87 squadrons of cavalry supported by 80 cannon, in all around 53,000 men

The French Army however put up a formidable defence and the Allies found the advance heavy going, taking many casualties as they attempted to break their opponents line. But Cumberland pressed on and eventually forced his way into the centre of the French position. The troops opposing him began to buckle. It was the critical moment of the battle.

It was at this point that Marshal De Saxe unleashed his reserve who enveloped the flanks of the British Column. The Irish Brigade (approx. 4,000 men) and dressed in Redcoats was in the thick of it, the men fired up by thought of revenge against their Country’s Oppressor. The Irish Regiments advanced upon the British lines to the cry: 'Cuimhnigidh ar Liumneac, agus ar fheile na Sacsanach’ – ‘Remember Limerick and British faith!’

It consisted that day of the regiments of Clare, Lally, Dillon, Berwick, Roth, and Buckley, with Fitzjames' horse. O'Brien, Lord Clare, was in command. Aided by the French regiments of Normandy and Vaisseany, they were ordered to charge upon the flank of the English with fixed bayonets without firing…


The fortune of the field was no longer doubtful. The English were weary with a long day's fighting, cut up by cannon, charge, and musketry, and dispirited by the appearance of the Brigade. Still they gave their fire well and fatally; but they were literally stunned by the shout, and shattered by the Irish charge. They broke before the Irish bayonets, and tumbled down the far side of the hill disorganized, hopeless, and falling by hundreds. The victory was bloody and complete. Louis is said to have ridden down to the Irish bivouac, and personally thanked them…

George the Second, on hearing it, uttered that memorable imprecation on the penal code, 'Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects.' The one English volley and the short struggle on the crest of the hill cost the Irish dear. One-fourth of the officers, including Colonel Dillon, were killed, and one-third of the men. The capture of Ghent, Bruges, Ostend, and Oudenard, followed the victory of Fontenoy."
STORY OF IRELAND
By A. M. Sullivan
 
It was the Irish Brigade’s most famous Victory - though it came at a high cost, with hundreds of men dead and wounded. The Pragmatic Army lost almost 10,000 men, while the French suffered between 6,000-7,000 casualties.

Sunday, 10 May 2015


10 May 1318: The Battle of Dysert O'Dea was fought on this day. It took place near near Corofin, Co Clare. The battle occurred during the Bruce Invasion of Ireland.

The Anglo Norman Lord Richard De Clare ( a descendant of Strongbow) attacked the Irish chieftain Conor O’Dea, chief of the Cineal Fearmaic and the ally of King Muircheartach O’Brien of Thomond.


De Clare made the mistake of dividing his army in three in the face of the enemy and he led the van towards Castle Dysert O’Dea – the home of the Irish Chieftan. O’Dea held them at the ford of Fergus and sent messengers out to bring up reinforcements as De Clare charged at his opponents only to be surrounded and cut down by the axe of Conor O’Dea himself.

As the rest of the Anglo Norman force came up they waded into the Irish and were on the point of extracting a bloody revenge when Felim O'Connor's troops charged down the hill of Scamhall (Scool) and cut a path through the English to join the battle. De Clare's son then arrived on the scene and was cut down and killed by Felim O'Connor.


As the two forces were locked in this deadly struggle both expected reinforcements to arrive and as King Muircheartach O'Brien’s men galloped onto the scene Conor O’Dea almost lost heart until he heard the Irish war cries and knew the victory was won. Soon Lochlann O'Hehir and the MacNamaras joined the fight and it was all over for the English who went down fighting.

The power of one of the great Anglo Norman families was shattered forever. In the wake of this victory King Muircheartach O'Brien advanced upon Bunratty Castle, home of the De Clare’s - only to find it burnt by De Clare’s widow who promptly fled to England. The De Clare’s never returned and Thomond west of the Shannon remained under Irish rule until the early 17th Century. It was the greatest Gaelic victory of the Bruce War.

Saturday, 9 May 2015


9 May, 1766 - Thomas Arthur Lally, Comte de Lally was executed for losing Pondicherry in India to the English. The General was convicted of ‘treason’ as a result. He was decapitated by sword before a huge crowd at the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Paris on this day.


He was born at Romans-sur-Isère, Dauphiné, the son of Sir Gerald Lally, an Irish Jacobite from Tuam, County Galway, who married a French lady of noble family, from whom the son inherited his titles.

Entering the French army in 1721 he served in the war of 1734 against Austria; he was present at Dettingen (1743), and commanded the regiment de Lally in the famous Irish brigade at Fontenoy (May 1745). He was made a brigadier on the field by Louis XV.

He had previously served the Jacobite cause, and in 1745 accompanied Prince Charles Edward to Scotland, serving as aide-de-camp at the battle of Falkirk (January 1746). Escaping to France, he served with Marshal Saxe in the Low Countries, and at the capture of Maastricht (1748) was made a maréchal de camp.

When war broke out with Britain in 1756 Lally was given the command of a French expedition to India. He reached Pondicherry in April 1758, and at the outset met with some measure of military success.

He was a man of courage and a capable general, but the desperate situation he found himself in -short of troops, money and supplies, and been put in charge of what was really a pretty hopeless task made him take severe measures to raise cash from both natives and Frenchmen alike. He tried to enforce rigid discipline on those who were slow at obeying. His relations with the Admiral of the east Indian French Fleet were disastrous and he he felt abandoned when the fleet departed for Mauritius.

In consequence everything went wrong with him. He was unsuccessful in an attack on Tanjore, and had to retire from the Siege of Madras (1758) owing to the timely arrival of the British fleet. He was defeated by Sir Eyre Coote at the Battle of Wandiwash (1760), then besieged in Pondicherry. On January 16 1761, Lally was forced to capitulate at Pondicherry where he had been besieged for months. The fortress was razed and Lally was sent to Great Britain as a prisoner of war.

On arrival in London in September 1761 he heard that he was accused in France of treason, and insisted, against advice, on returning on parole to stand his trial. He was kept prisoner for nearly two years before the trial began; then, after many painful delays, he was sentenced to death on May 6, 1766, and three days later beheaded. Louis XV tried to throw the responsibility for what was undoubtedly a judicial murder on his ministers and the public, but his policy needed a scapegoat, and he was probably well content not to exercise his authority to save an almost friendless foreigner.

The son of an Irish Jacobite exile The Count de Lally was 64 years old when he was beheaded and had been a loyal servant of the Ancien Regime throughout his lifetime. This execution was one of the worst inequities of the government of Louis XV. Lally was eventually pardoned and his Name restored to the honourable position it had held before these unfortunate events unfolded. His judicial murder is one of the most infamous cases in French legal History.

Friday, 8 May 2015


8 May 1567: The Battle of Farsetmore was fought near Letterkenny in County Donegal on this day. The battle was fought between the rival armies of Shane O’Neill of Tir Eoghan (Tyrone) and Aodh O'Donnell of Tir Connell (Donegal). Each side probably had about 2,000 men apiece. The battle began when O'Neill's cavalry crossed the ford at Fearsad-Suilighe at low tide.

Aodh O'Donnell, gathered with his band of loyal followers around the little hill fort of Ard-an-ghaire, dispatched his son, also called Aodh, to hold them as long as he could. The father was expecting reinforcements that very day and if he could just hold back O'Neill's army until he could assemble a force to near match the invaders he would be in with a chance. With his son locked in combat with the van of O'Neill's force he took the opportunity to fall back behind the shelter of a bog across which O'Neill's men could not advance but at a disadvantage.

After a vicious fight in which a number of leading men on both sides fell, young Aodh could hold his position no longer and pulled back to join his father behind the bog. But by then relief was at hand as three war bands of Gallowglass mercenaries drawn from the McSweenys came up to support Aodh O'Donnell in his hour of need.

O'Donnell saw his opportunity and without further ado launched his whole force upon O'Neill's men, who were possibly still forming up into a line of battle.


Fierce and desperate were the grim and terrible looks that each cast at the other from their starlike eyes; they raised the battle cry aloud, and their united shouting, when rushing together, was sufficient to strike with dismay and turn to flight the feeble and the unwarlike. They proceeded and continued to strike, mangle, slaughter, and cut down one another for a long time, so that men were soon laid low, heroes wounded, youths slain, and robust heroes mangled in the slaughter.
Annals of the Four Masters - 1567

How long this brutal melee lasted we do not know but eventually O'Neill's army was forced back onto the riverline and there it buckeled and disintegrated into fragments. Then O'Neills men fled for their lives. However the sandy tidal ford they had crossed that morning in the expectation of Victory was now filled with the waters of the swiftly advancing tide. There was no way out but to try their luck in the treacherous waters, encumbered as they were by their weaponry and armour. Hundreds were cut down or drowned as they sought the safety of the other bank.

 

As light faded Aodh O'Donnell had won a great victory over the men of Tir Eoghan with perhaps as many as 1300 of his enemies either drowned or dead on the field of battle.*

Shane O'Neill was turned within the course of a single day from being the most powerful Chieftain in the North into a desperate fugitive fleeing for his life. He had lost some of those dearest to him in this catastrophe: two of his grandsons, plus MacDonald, the leader of his Gallowglasses, and Dubhaltach, his foster brother and 'the person most faithful and dear to him in existence'

As fortune would have it Shane had recruited some of the O'Gallagers of Tir Connell onto his side and with their local knowledge he was able to evade his pursuers by turning upstream to Scarrifhollis and then ride for home.

When he got back he found his support base collapsing around him and turned in desperation to the Mac Donald's of Cantire in Scotland under Alexander to support him. The Mac Donald's were old enemies so it was a strange place to seek Allies but they came anyway to see if they could cut a deal. They met up at Cushendun in Antrim. Whatever happened when they initially met things soon turned sour and a fight broke out. Shane was cut down and put to the sword. His body was flung in a pit and his head dispatched to Dublin for display on the Castle Walls.

So ended the colourful and dramatic career of Shane O'Neill, a man who was a thorn in the side of the English for many years and was both respected and feared by all, Irish or Foreign, whom he clashed with.

Queen Elizabeth I of England stated:

'that we give thanks to Almighty God by whom we hold and rule all that we enjoy, for his goodness and favour shown in the punishment and extinguishing of such a rebellion so long continued'


Sidney State Papers 1565-70
T.OLaidhin

* A report to Lord Deputy Sidney stated that 613 men were counted dead on the battlefield. Many others must have drowned in the waters and been swept away

Thursday, 7 May 2015


7 May 1915: The liner Lusitania (New York to Liverpool) was torpedoed off the Old head of Kinsale by the German submarine U20 on this day. She sank within 18 minutes. (Two explosions rocked the ship. The first was clearly caused by a torpedo from U-20. The cause of the second explosion has never been definitively determined and remains the source of much controversy.) Of those on board, 761 were rescued, while 1,198 perished, including 115 US Citizens.


On the 7th September 1907 under the command of Captain James B. Watt, the RMS Lusitania sailed on her maiden voyage to New York. She carried over 3,000 passengers and crew. Her passengers were delighted with the new ship. The standards of accommodation and services were well documented. Most third class passengers enjoyed the voyage. Dinning on her was like eating in the best restaurants or hotel anywhere.

In August 1914 World War One broke out. The day of anticipation finally arrived when the British Navy needed the ship for wartime service. The Lusitania had to be refitted for the purpose. Her four funnels were fully painted black to conceal her identity from enemy ships.

On May 1, 1915, the ship departed New York City bound for Liverpool. Unknown to her passengers but probably no secret to the Germans, almost all her hidden cargo consisted of munitions and contraband destined for the British war effort. As the fastest ship afloat, the luxurious liner felt secure in the belief she could easily outdistance any submarine. Nonetheless, the menace of submarine attack reduced her passenger list to only half her capacity.

Following the loss of the Titanic, the Lusitania was fitted with 48 boats (22 wooden and 26 collapsible). Every boat was fitted with 2 chains to anchor them to the deck. This would prove disastrous when the ship sank because the chains would have to be released before the boats could be swung clear of the ship. When the Lusitania was sinking many of the chains were not released and thus preventing the boats from being launched successfully. Many boats went down with the ship.

On Friday 7th May 1915 she had reached the War Zone. The usual precautions of blackening out the portholes and doubling the watch were obeyed.

The lookouts were tentatively at their posts. At about 1.30 p.m. Leslie Morton saw the torpedo heading towards the Starboard side travelling at about 22 knots. He gave the alarm stating "Torpedo coming in the Starboard side". The Bridge was slow in reacting to his warnings.

Another lookout, Thomas Quinn also said that the torpedo and sounded the alarm. It was too late. The torpedo struck the ship and detonated before Turner could do anything. Power was suddenly lost. The watertight door could not be closed. Radio distress signals had to be sent using battery power.

At 2.10 p.m. after lunch the passengers were eagerly waiting for their desserts when they heard:

"the sound of an arrow entering the canvas and straw of a target magnified a thousand times" or and "a pearl of thunder" and "the slamming of a door".

A second explosion came within seconds. Suddenly the ship took a 15º list to Starboard, which began to sharpen to 16º then 17º etc until the list reached 25º - a point at which the ship could not survive. The list had become so severe that the Officers could not swing the lifeboats clear of the ship.

Panic had set in amongst the passengers. Some jumped into the water trying to flee for their lives. Captain Turner jumped into the water when the Bridge was flooding. He swam for three hours before finding a lifeboat to climb into.

Within 18 minutes the ship had rolled over and sunk with 1,195 passengers. Only 289 bodies were recovered. 764 people survived.

The survivors were landed at Cobh (Queenstown) in Co Cork. It was here too that the bodies were brought ashore or washed up in the days after the sinking. The corpses, men, women and children, were placed in coffins and lined up along the Cunard Line’s dock. A huge funeral procession made its way through the streets of Cobh to the cemetery. Many of the dead were buried in mass graves, marked by two crudely hewn stones. Others victims, likely the more affluent, were buried in individual graves with headstones noting their death on the Lusitania.

The loss of the Lusitania was to reverbate on the World stage as the USA was shocked and stunned by the actions of the German Navy in sinking what was to all appearances a civilian Liner engaged in peaceful commerce. It pushed US public opinion firmly in the direction of the Allies and helped to bring the USA into the War against Germany in April 1917.

RMS LUSITANIA

Wednesday, 6 May 2015


6 May 1882: The Assassination of Cavendish & Burke aka The ‘Phoenix Park Murders’ on this day.

The Under Secretary for Ireland Thomas Henry Burke, and the newly arrived Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish, were both stabbed to death in the Phoenix Park by members of a secret organisation known as ‘The Invincibles’. Five of the assassins were later executed in Kilmainham Jail and a number of others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. This event rocked Anglo-Irish relations to the core and was the most shocking and audacious attack on members of the British Political Establishment in Ireland during the course of the 19th Century.

The Phoenix Park tragedy, as it may well be called, occurred on the evening of Saturday, May 6, 1882. Its victims were Mr. Thomas H. Burke, the under-secretary, and Lord Frederick Cavendish, the new chief-secretary. Undersecretary Burke, on that evening, was walking from the Castle to his lodge or official residence in the Phoenix Park, when he accidentally met Lord Cavendish, who accompanied him in the direction he was going.

When near the Phoenix Monument, they were surrounded by five or six men, armed with knives, who attacked them instantly. Surprised and unarmed the secretaries made scarcely any resistance, and were stabbed and hurled to the ground where they expired in a few minutes.

Cavendish – who was married to Lucy Cavendish the niece of British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone, and had worked as Gladstone's personal secretary – had only arrived in Ireland the day he was assassinated! He was not the main target but Burke. He had just met by chance with him as they walked towards the vice regal Lodge and was a man of whom it could be truly said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The hunt for the perpetrators was led by Superintendent John Mallon, a Catholic who came from Armagh. He suspected a number of former Fenian activists. A large number of suspects were arrested and kept in prison by claiming they were connected with other crimes. By playing off one suspect against another Mallon got several of them to reveal what they knew.

The 'Invincibles' leader James Carey, along with Michael Kavanagh and Joe Hanlon agreed to testify against the others. Joe Brady, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey, Dan Curley and Tim Kelly were convicted of the murder and were hanged by William Marwood in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin between 14 May and 4 June 1883. Others were sentenced to serve long prison terms.

The chief Traitor James Carey was known to the others as No 1 of the Invincibles and he was a Dublin City Councillor. His turning Queens evidence brought him freedom but put his life in mortal danger. He was spirited off to London and with his family was dispatched by ship bound for Australia. .

His life being in great danger, he was secretly, with his wife and family, put on board the Kinfauns Castle, bound for the Cape, and sailed on July 6 under the name of Power. On board the same ship was Patrick O'Donnell, a bricklayer. He became friendly with Carey, without knowing who he was. After stopping off in Cape Town, he was informed by chance of the real identity of Carey. He went with his victim on board the Melrose in the voyage from Cape Town to Natal, and when the vessel was 12 miles off Cape Vaccas, on July 29, 1883, using a pistol he had in his luggage, shot Carey dead. This he claimed he did in self defense when he challenged Carey and a gun was pulled on him.

O'Donnell was brought to England and tried for murder, and being found guilty by an English duty, was executed at Newgate on December 17.

James Carey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


5 May 1981: Bobby Sands MP for Fermanagh and south Tyrone died in captivity after 66 days on Hunger Strike. His death sparked widespread rioting.

He was born in 1954 in Rathcoole, a predominantly loyalist district of north Belfast. Initially uninvolved he was forced out of his job and in June 1972, the family were intimidated out of their home in Doonbeg Drive, Rathcoole and moved into the newly built Twinbrook estate on the fringe of nationalist West Belfast. He joined the IRA and became a full time volunteer.

In October 1972, he was arrested. Four handguns were found in a house he was staying in and he was charged with possession. He spent the next three years in Long Kesh where he had political prisoner status. Released in 1976 Bobby returned to his family in Twinbrook. He became involved again in the Armed Struggle and was caught in a car with three other men in which was found a handgun. He was held on remand for eleven months until his trial in September 1977. As at his previous trial he refused to recognise the court.

When he was moved to the H-Blocks he went ‘On the Blanket’ and a spokesman for the prisoners. When the first Hunger Strike was broken and the terms promised were reneged upon he became determined to lead the next one even onto death to ensure the prisoners 5 Demands were secured. He was now O/C in the Blocks and felt compelled to show leadership to the other men in the same predicament as himself.

He began his fast on 1 March 1981. He kept a secret Diary that lasted the first 17 days but then became too weak to continue. On 30 March, he was nominated as candidate for the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election caused by the sudden death of Frank Maguire, an independent MP who supported the prisoners' cause. To the surprise of many he won the seat with over 30,000 votes and caused a watershed in Irish Politics. However his situation was precarious as Mrs Thatcher was not for turning and Bobby Sands knew he was probably going to die before she would give in.

The end came in the early hours of 5 May when he succumbed to the effects of his fast on the 66th day of his ordeal.


I am a political prisoner. I am a political prisoner because I am a casualty of a perennial war that is being fought between the oppressed Irish people and an alien, oppressive, unwanted regime that refuses to withdraw from our land.


Prison Diary
 
Bobby Sands


Monday, 4 May 2015


4 May 519 AD: Saint Connlaedh, Bishop of Kildare, Bridget's brazier *, died on this day. He was a metalworker of some note and a hermit before he began his pastoral mission. He is better known today as Saint Conleth. A copyist and skilled illuminator of manuscripts, he is noted for the Crosier that he fashioned for St. Finbar of Termon Barry, Co Roscommon.


Where Conleth was born or who his parents were is unknown. His birth is traditionally given as about 450 AD. However in Cogitosus’s Life of Brigid (c. 650) it is related that he was a skilled metalworker in gold and silver that lived as a hermit at Old Connell on the Liffey near Newbridge. He had the reputation of being a very holy man who had the gift of prophecy.



Brigid invited him not only to make sacred vessels for her foundation but also to be pastor of the people nearby. Cogitosus says that they governed the church at Kildare "by means of a mutually happy alliance". And so Conleth is regarded as the first bishop of Kildare, being appointed about the year 490.

 

After about twenty years as Bishop Conleth set out on a pilgrimage to Rome. His pilgrimage was undertaken against the wishes of Brigid. Because he was now an old man Saint Brigid feared for him going on this journey. Somewhere on the journey in Ireland Conleth was attacked and killed by wolves. Some accounts say that he was buried on the left side of the altar in the Church of Ireland cathedral in Kildare town and Saint Brigid on the right. But as the current building is a much later construction it is now impossible to tell. Another relates that he was buried in the Old Connell graveyard. An alternative version is that his relics were transferred there in 835 to protect the inhabitants from Danish invaders. He is the patron saint of the parish of Droichead Nua (Newbridge), Co Kildare.


We don’t really know very much about this man but the curious thing about his rule is that he shared power with an Abbess (Saint Brigid) and that experiment in gender ‘power sharing’ was an unique experience in Ireland that continued there for many centuries afterwards.

* Her Cross above

Sunday, 3 May 2015


3 May 1274: The death of the King of Connacht, Aedh O Conchobair, on this day.

Aed son of Fedlimid son of Cathal Crobderg O Conchobair, king of Connacht for nine years, died on the third day of May this year, a Thursday and the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross;



a king who wasted and desolated Connacht in fighting the Galls and Gaels who opposed him;

a king who inflicted great defeats on the Galls and pulled down their palaces and castles;

a king who took the hostages of the Ui Briuin and the Cenel Conaill;

the destroyer and healer of Ireland was he;

the king most dreaded and triumphant of all the kings of Ireland in his day, as the poet says:

‘For nine years did this Aed Engach defend the Family of Tara—no feeble forrayer was he—against Gall and Gael.’



While King Aedh was a formidable opponent for both his internal and external enemies, both Irish and English, his son who succeeded him was not able to hold his kingdom together:


Eogan son of Ruaidri son of Aed mac Cathail Chrobdeirg was instated in his stead by the men of Connacht. However, this kingship which was bestowed upon him was a short one, for he had been but three months in the lordship of Connacht when his own close kindred, led by Ruaidri son of Toirrdelbach son of Aed O Conchobair, killed him in the church of the friars at Roscommon, as the poet says: ‘Ruaidri's son reigned for three months—short was the thread for the nursling of Bregia—the men of untilled Ailech wrought Eogan's sudden death.

Annála Connacht

Aedh mac Felim Ua Conchobair was King of Connacht from 1265 to his death in 1274. He is credited with turning the tide on Norman expansion into Connacht. Aedh succeeded his father Felim as King of Connacht after his fathers death in 1265. In 1259 Aedh travelled to Derry to marry Gjertud, the daughter of Dubhghall mac Ruaidhri, of Clan McDougall in Scotland.

As a dowry she brought with her 160 heavily armoured soldiers to serve in her husbands army. This event marks what is generally considered to be the birth of the Age of the Gallowglass - (gallóglaigh ) meaning foreign warriors in Irish military history.



Saturday, 2 May 2015


2 May 1882: Charles Stewart Parnell , the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party was released from Kilmainham Jail in Dublin on this day. He was let go under the terms of what became known as the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’.



Parnell had been incarcerated there on the personal orders of the British Prime Minister Gladstone back in October of the previous year. The Irish Leader had vehemently opposed Gladstone in his attempts to implement the 2nd Land Act that was meant to alleviate the rent many Irish people had to pay to rapacious Landlords. Parnell felt that it did not go far enough and roused the people to resist it. Agrarian unrest spread through much of the countryside and ‘Captain Moonlight’ ruled the hours of darkness - that is by night the laws of British ceased to operate in many of the villages and fields of Ireland.



Under the terms of the ‘The Kilmainham Treaty’ the British Prime Minister agreed that rent arrears due from some 130,000 tenants would be dropped and 150,000 leaseholders would be allowed the benefits of the 1881 Land Act. In return Parnell agreed to ‘co operate cordially for the future with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles and measures of general reform.’



It was seen as a triumph for Parnell as it made him the undisputed Leader of Nationalist Ireland and by daubing the agreement a ‘Treaty’ he gave people at home the impression that Ireland and Britain could negotiate as two recognisably separate political bodies - in other words as Nation to Nation.