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Sunday, 16 December 2018


16 December 1971: General Richard Mulcahy died in Dublin on this day. Richard James Mulcahy was born in Waterford and educated by the Christian Brothers both there, and later in Thurles where his father was postmaster. He joined the post office and was employed initially at Bantry, transferring to the engineering department in Wexford and from there to Dublin. A member of the I. R. B. and the Gaelic League he joined the Irish Volunteers in 1913.

 He fought with Thomas Ashe in Ashbourne during Easter 1916, was imprisoned at Frongoch, and released in the general amnesty in 1917. Chief of Staff of the IRA, he was elected MP for the Clontarf Division in 1918 and served as Minister for Defence in the First Dáil until April 1919. He played an important role as the senior staff officer in the War of Independence ensuring that the IRA was organised and conducted its affairs as a disciplined force answerable to its officers.

He supported the Treaty and served as Minister for National Defence in the Provisional Government and succeeded Michael Collins as Commander in Chief of the Free State Army after his death. He gave the graveside oration at Michael Collins funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery. He exercised primary responsibility for the conduct of the Civil War campaign against anti-Treaty forces. He pressed for harsh measures against the Republican forces including the execution of men taken in arms. However his ability to balance calculated harsh measures against atrocities and unofficial reprisals carried out at local level was problematic to say the least. While his determination and ruthlessness shortened the War it also prolonged the many years of bitterness that followed.

He resigned from the Cabinet during the army crisis of 1924 but re-entered the Cabinet as Minister for Local Government in June 1927. After the resignation of W.T. Cosgrave in June 1944 Mulcahy was elected leader of Fine Gael. Because of his Civil War legacy he stood aside to allow John A. Costello to form the First and Second Inter-Party Governments and served as Minister for Education in both (1948–51, 1954–57) and as Minister for the Gaeltacht (July–October 1956). He resigned from the leadership of Fine Gael in 1959 and from active politics in 1961.






Saturday, 15 December 2018

Image result for Major General Fitzroy Hart

15‭ December 1899: The Battle of Colenso was fought on this day. The 5th Irish Brigade of the British Army under Major General Fitzroy Hart [above] was engaged in action against the Boers and suffered heavy casualties. 

The battle was fought on the Tugela River in Northern Natal,‭ ‬South Africa.‭ ‬The British were under Sir Redvers Buller with‭ ‬16,000 soldiers and the Boers were led by General Botha with about 3,000 of his doughty men drawn from the Boer farming communities and the ‘Burghers’ from the towns - most of them first class riflemen.  

To the west of Colenso the river described a loop to the North West before continuing straight.‭ ‬A half mile west of the loop lay Bridle Drift, a river ford. Buller directed the Irish Brigade under Major General Hart to cross the drift and drive the Boers‭ ‬force the passage of the Tugela.Explosion.
General Hart was ordered to advance the‭ ‬5th Brigade and gain the ‘drift’ or ford on the river Tugela. 

Early that morning the force began to move forward but General Hart insisted that his Brigade fight shoulder to shoulder as if on parade in Aldershot. He had the following battalions with which to secure his objective, three of which were Irish: 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers; 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers; 1st Connaught Rangers and one English the 1st Border Regiment. The General deployed his Brigade in lines of advance thus:
2nd‭ Bn. Dublin Fusiliers, as Covering Battalion to the Front.‬
1st‭ ‬ Connaught Rangers, First line.
1st‭ ‬Border Regt, Second line.
1st‭ R. Inniskilling Fusiliers.

Hart had but a local Native Guide and a civilian interpreter to show him the way and it soon became clear that the Guide was as lost as he was.‭ In addition the artillery while in support was too far away for direct instructions and Hart was basically on his own feeling his way forward. No other Brigade came to his support and the 500 cavalry he had with him had to take the rear until a passage of the river was secured. 

His machine guns became separated from the rest of the Brigade and thus the Infantry advanced alone.‭ ‬His men spread out into one long line each battalion one behind the other. This was not what the General intended to happen as it extended his front to such an extent that it became impossible to maintain control. 

Even though supported at a distance‭ by two field batteries (64th and 73rd Batteries, R.F.A.) they soon ran into a storm of fire directed from across the Tugela.‬ This was made worse as where they intended to cross was a loop in the river and the Boers enfiladed them from three sides. 

Our burghers as well as our artillery allowed the enemy to advance unmolested to a range of about‭ 1,500 yards with their guns, and having allowed the infantry to approach to approximately 500 yards, they suddenly unleashed a heavy fire. The enemy had orders to cross the river at this point, and although they stormed repeatedly, the fire of our burghers and artillery was so well directed and had such good effect that only a captain, two lieutenants and a few men were able to reach the river bank. Here the enemy suffered a tremendous loss in dead and wounded.‬
General Botha’s Official Report

General Hart described what happened to his men at this moment as follows:

The‭ ‬infantry had‭ advanced only a little way, when a tremendous rifle fire was poured into us from our front, and a considerable rifle fire from our left front. There was no smoke and not a sign of the enemy himself, or even a horse, but the streaks of dust as the Boer bullets showered in, grazing the ground, plainly showed where they were, by a process of interpolation. The infantry lay down flat. Fire was new to them…
I‭ could ‬see‭ ‬officers here and there urging on the advance‭;‬ and all this was so‭ ‬far‭ ‬successful that a slow advance‭ ‬was made.‭ ‬Here and there men with better nerves pushed on. There was no panic, and once when I said to a lot of men who were deaf to my commands to advance—  se of the prisoner.
" If‭ I give you a lead, if your General gives you a lead—will you come on? "
 They‭ ‬answered quite cheerily with their brogues " We will, sir," and up they jumped and forward they went. Time‭ ‬and experience are necessary to make men go well under fire.
LETTERS‭ ‬OF MAJ.-GEN. HART-SYNNOT

Of those men that did reach the Tugela‭ many fell headlong into the river for along the bottom barbed wires had been stretched. Worse still, it was found that instead of being two feet deep, as was expected, it was eight feet; for the Boers had erected a dyke across the river a little lower down, and had dammed the water back.‬

Hart was criticised afterwards for preventing any effort to take cover or move the attack out of the loop towards the correct crossing point at Bridle Drift,‭ ‬keeping his dwindling brigade in the loop for the rest of the day. He accordingly achieved nothing except heavy losses and a damaging blow to his men’s morale. Eventually orders reached him to retire and with some effort this was done under cover of the guns. The Brigade played no further part in the battle. Casualties as reported by Hart amounted to some 25 officers and 528 men, total 553, killed, wounded and missing. 

An experienced Officer his conduct this day was such to indicate that bravery and a rigid adherence to orders in the face of well armed and dug in riflemen was not enough and could only lead to disaster.‭ However he was in some respects a victim of circumstance as he had followed his orders to the letter and had acted honourably given the situation he found himself in.

Elsewhere the battle was also a bloody fiasco for the British as the Boers poured a deadly fire into the advancing ranks and eventually Buller called a Retreat,‭ ‬which was as ineptly handled. The British Army lost 1,167 men killed, wounded and captured while the Boers lost but a few score men. Over half the casualties were incurred by the Irish Brigade!

The British High Command had become used to fighting native armies that were poorly armed and unused to being under fire.‭ ‬The Boers however were Europeans well used to handling guns and the application of marksmanship. That plus their adept use of cover allowed them to dominate the battlefield and put a stop to all attempts by the British to storm their positions. 

Buller was soon relieved of his position and replaced by Anglo-Irish General Lord Roberts whose only son,‭ Lieutenant Freddie Roberts VC, had been killed in the battle trying to rescue the guns – an action in which General Buller himself had put it to him to partake in!



Friday, 14 December 2018

Irish UK election 1918.png

14 December 1918: The ‘Khaki Election’ on this day. There was a General Election held throughout Britain and Ireland to elect a new Parliament to sit in Westminster London. It was the first held since 1910 as the advent of the First World War in 1914 meant none was held while the War lasted. It was the first general election to include on a single day all eligible voters of Great Britain & Ireland, although the result was not released until 28 December so that the ballots cast by soldiers serving overseas could be included in the tallies - hence the term ‘Khaki Election’.

It was also the first general election to be held after enactment of the Representation of the People Act 1918. It was thus the first election in which many women over the age of 30, and all men over the age of 21 could vote. Previously, all women and many men of the lower social classes had been excluded from voting at all. It was thus the most ‘popular’ General Election ever held till that time.
In the event Lloyd George was returned as Prime Minister but his Party - the Liberals - was hopelessly split and he relied on the Conservatives to help him form what was in effect a Coalition Government.

In Ireland though a different battle was fought as the Sinn Fein Party campaigned on the promise of not taking any seats won in the London Parliament but to abstain instead and stay at home in Ireland. The spirit and confidence of the old Nationalist Party of John Redmond had been shattered by the 1916 Rising and its support for Britain’s War effort - in which many 10s of thousands of Irishmen had gone to their deaths.

The Party of Sinn Fein however under Arthur Griffith went from being basically a micro group on the edge of Irish politics in 1914 into being centre stage by the end of 1918. They were expected to do well and they expected to do well - the big question was just how well would they do?

In the event they  won  a Landslide returning 73 members. Of those elected 47 of them were  imprisoned by the British at the time. Of the 105 Irish seats in the election, the results were: Sinn Féin – 73+; Irish Unionist – 22; Irish Parliamentary – 6*;Labour Unionist – 3;Independent Unionist – 1. In total there were 103 Irish constituencies, two electing two MPs and the rest electing one. It should be noted that some of those elected stood in more than one constituency.
+ One woman was elected - Countess Markievicz thus becoming the 1st woman so returned
* T.P. O’Conner was returned for a Liverpool constituency brining their number to 7.

In all Ireland out of 1,526,910 votes cast the Unionist candidates received 315,394 votes - clearly the vast majority of voters wanted Ireland to have her own Parliament based in Ireland.

The Freemans Journal commented that:  the meaning of the Irish vote is as clear as it is emphatic. More than two thirds of the electors throughout national Ireland have endorsed the Sinn Fein programme.

The Times of London admitted the ‘overwhelming nature of the victory of Sinn Fein’ & observed that: ‘the general election in Ireland was treated by all parties as a plebiscite and admittedly Sinn Fein swept the Country.

 It was a watershed in Irish political history that was immediately obvious to all observers- things could never be the same again.








Thursday, 13 December 2018



13 December 1867: The Clerkenwell Explosion. In an abortive attempt to free the Fenian Leader Richard O’Sullivan Burke from Clerkenwell Prison in London a huge bomb was placed at the foot of the prison wall. This detonated with such devastating force that it brought down a large chunk of it but without result in securing the release of the prisoner. Unfortunately the amount of explosives was so great that it blew down a tenement block across the road and killed 12 of its inhabitants while injuring many more.

''Richard Burke was at the time a political convict confined in Clerkenwell Prison, London, and the design was formed by Fenian sympathizers in the metropolis to effect his release by making a breach in the outer wall of the prison by means of gunpowder at an hour of the day when he was supposed to be exercising in the yard inside of this wall; so as he might "bolt" directly after an aperture had been effected by the explosion. In pursuance of this plan, a barrel of gunpowder was placed against the wall on the 13th of December, 1867, and at the appointed hour was exploded by means of a fuse. The effect was fearful: one hundred and fifty feet of the wall was blown in, and a dozen tenement houses oh the opposite side of the street were laid in ruins. There were twelve persons killed, and more than one hundred wounded in these houses. The report of the explosion was heard all over the metropolis, and brought crowds to the scene of the disaster. Utter ignorance of the nature and potency of explosives, in the minds of some man or men of the labouring class, who had executed this reckless business, is assigned as the true cause of this calamity.''
STORY OF IRELAND
By A. M. Sullivan

The Times of London thundered:
Let there be no more clemency for Fenianism, which is a mixture of treason and assassination. 

Even Karl Marx was driven to comment:
“The London masses, who have shown great sympathy towards Ireland, will be made wild and driven into the arms of a reactionary government. One cannot expect the London proletarians to allow themselves to be blown up in honour of Fenian emissaries.”

As it turned out the object of the rescue, U.S. Civil War veteran Colonel Richard O’Sullivan Burke remained securely inside. He was eventually released by the British in 1872 after feigning insanity and made his way back to the USA where he joined Clan na Gael and continued his efforts on behalf of the Fenians. He lived on until 1922 when he died at the ripe old age of 84!



Wednesday, 12 December 2018


11/12 December 1956: ‘The Border Campaign’ or 'Operation Harvest' began on this day. The IRA under its Chief of Staff Sean Cronin carried out a series of attacks on Crown Forces personnel and installations in the Border areas of the Six Counties. A BBC relay transmitter was bombed in Derry, a courthouse was burned in Magherafelt, as was a B-Specials post near Newry and a half built Army barracks at Enniskillen was blown up. A raid on Gough barracks in Armagh was beaten off after a brief exchange of fire. 

That day the IRA issued the following statement:

Spearheaded by Ireland’s freedom fighters, our people have carried the fight to the enemy…Out of this national liberation struggle a new Ireland will emerge, upright and free. In that new Ireland, we shall build a country fit for all our people to live in. That then is our aim: an independent, united, democratic Irish Republic. For this we shall fight until the invader is driven from our soil and victory is ours.

The campaign after an initial surge of activity was to be marked by a number of intermittent attacks on the British in the North that continued until 1962. But without a certain level of popular support on both sides of the Border it was obvious that further resistance was futile and the IRA called off their campaign and dumped arms. It was deliberately kept to the Border areas as it was felt to attempt actions in Belfast etc would only inflame sectarian tensions.

The IRA's Border Campaign was an ambitious plan to wage a guerrilla war in the North. In hindsight, it was an abject failure. But to many in the Republican Movement any action was better than no action.

'Operation Harvest, the codename for the IRA's border campaign of the 1950s, was an ambitious plan to wage a guerrilla war in the North. The IRA used tactics adopted by flying columns that had been successful during the War of Independence in a bid to make Northern Ireland ungovernable and force a British withdrawal. In hindsight, it was an abject failure. They received little or no support from the nationalist population in the North. Most volunteers were from the South with little knowledge of the North. Governments north and south of the border introduced internment and the campaign was almost stillborn.'
Soldiers of Folly: The IRA Border Campaign 1956-1962







Tuesday, 11 December 2018


11 December 1920: The burning of Cork on this day. After an IRA attack on a lorry load of RIC Auxiliaries at Dillons Cross in which one of them was killed members of the Crown Forces went on a rampage in Cork City Centre. Buildings were set alight and many were gutted by fire. Two men who were members of the Cork IRA, Con and Jer Delaney were shot dead in their own home. British forces deliberately set fire to several blocks of buildings along the east and south sides of Saint Patrick’s Street during the hours of darkness and the following morning. The City Hall and the Carnegie Library were also completely destroyed by fire. The loss of the stock of the library and of the records in Cork City Hall was a huge blow to future historians. 

Florrie O'Donoghue described the scene in Cork on the morning of the 12th:

Many familiar landmarks were gone forever – where whole buildings had collapsed here and there a solitary wall leaned at some crazy angle from its foundation. The streets ran with sooty water, the footpaths were strewn with broken glass and debris, ruins smoked and smouldered and over everything was the all- pervasive smell of burning.

The Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood, immediately denied that Crown forces were responsible for the conflagration:" I protest most vigorously," he said,  " against the suggestion, without any evidence, that these fires were started by the forces of the Crown."
Who burnt Cork City? - An Investigation on the Spot With Full Proofs [Dublin 1921]

However subsequent local inquiries carried out by reputable bodies established that members of the Crown Forces were indeed culpable for the widespread destruction. 

Afterwards, some Auxiliaries took to wearing piece of half-burnt cork in their hats.But their black humour could not disguise the fact that these actions further undermined their already weakening authority and showed the World that Britain could not control her own Forces on the streets of a City that it claimed was part of their Empire.






Monday, 10 December 2018


10 December 1710:  The battle of Villaviciosa in Spain on this day in which the Irish Brigades in the service of France and Spain played a distinguished part in the Victory. The war of the Spanish Succession was between the two contenders for the Spanish Throne: Philip [Felipe] V backed by France and Charles of Austria backed by Austria, England and Holland. During this see saw war the fortunes of both sides waxed and waned. The battle took place about 70 miles north east of Madrid as Charles of Austria retreated towards Catalonia. Philip’s army hotly pursued him under the direct command of Marshal Vendome of France. 

Three Irish regiments fought with the Spanish army in this battle, commanded by respectively Col. Don Demetrio MacAuliffe, Col. Don John de Comerford and Col. Don Reynaldo Mac Donnell. They were collectively known as the Brigade of Castlelar. The Marshal’s army also included a force of Dragoons under the dashing cavalry commander General Count Daniel O’Mahony who was assisted by General Henry Crofton. To this ‘Arme Blance’ was attached a Lord Killmaloc’s Regiment of Dragoons. All of the Irish troops were to play a full part in the battle that materially affected the outcome of the War in Spain.

The engagement was fought on a bleak day in the midst of a Spanish Winter. The main action began in the early afternoon and after many hours of hard fighting it looked like that Charles had won. Marshal Vendome had even ordered the Retreat when his cavalry under the Marquis de Val-de-Canas and Count O’Mahony won the day by charging into the enemy’s rear and forced them to retreat. Only the onset of the darkness of a December night stopped them from destroying their opponents in detail. Though O’Mahony did manage to hamstring 700 mules that severely hampered the enemy from carrying away much of their material from the battlefield. Combined with the defeat and capture the previous day by Vendome of 5,000 English soldiers at the town of Brihuega the losses inflicted upon the enemy were such to render them unable to maintain the field and Charles had no option but to continue his sorry retreat to Barcelona and safety. His bid though for the Throne of Spain was effectively over.

Their brave and daring actions raised the status of the Irish troops and their leaders immeasurably during the Campaign of 1710. Though Lord Killmaloc was mortally wounded in the final battle the Count O’Mahony was awarded for his services.

The Comte de Mahoni acquired a great deal of glory on the battle-day of Villaviciosa, at the head of the dragoons. The King was so satisfied with him, that he conferred upon him a Commandership of the Order of St. Jacques (ie Jago) producing a rent of 15,000 Livres. …
History of the Irish Brigades in the Service of France
by John Cornelius O’Callaghan.
Painting: by Jean Alaux (1840) - Marshal Vendome presenting the captured colours to King Philip V


Sunday, 9 December 2018


9 December 1973: The Sunningdale Agreement was signed at Sunningdale in Berkshire, England on this day. Agreement was reached between the Irish Government & the SDLP representing the nationalists and the British Government and the Ulster Unionist Party representing the Unionists - with the Alliance Party taking more of a middle ground. It was agreed that a Power sharing Executive would be set up at Stormont. It was to include representatives from all the participant political parties that were elected to serve in the new parliament. 

However Article 7 of the Agreement stated that a 'Council of Ireland' would be set up that would enhance cross border co-operation. Its opening lines read:

7. The Conference agreed that a Council of Ireland would be set up. It would he confined to representatives of the two parts of Ireland, with appropriate safeguards for the British Government's financial and other interests. It would comprise a Council of Ministers with executive and harmonising functions and a consultative role, and a Consultative Assembly with advisory and review functions. The Council of Ministers would act by unanimity, and would comprise a core of seven members of the Irish Government and an equal number of members of the Northern Ireland Executive...

This was to prove its downfall. While there was initially a measured welcome for this settlement in many quarters it was greeted with deep suspicion especially by the more hardline loyalist elements within the North. Also the IRA - who were engaged in a full scale campaign against the Crown Forces - were not interested as they saw it as irrelevant and if anything an impediment to a United Ireland. The ill-fated Executive only lasted a few months before the Loyalist Ulster Workers Council brought it down in May 1974.



Saturday, 8 December 2018


8 December, 1856, Father Matthew, Apostle of Temperance, died at Cobh in County Cork after suffering a stroke on this day. He was born at Thomastown Castle, Co Tipperary in 1790. He was ordained a priest 1814 and spent 24 years in the Diocese of Cork before he began his great Crusade against Drink.

His striking personal appearance is thus described: "A finely-formed, middle-sized person, of exquisite symmetry; the head of admirable contour, and from which a finished model of the antique could be cast; the countenance intelligent, animated, and benevolent; its complexion rather sallow, inclining to paleness; eyes of dark lustre, beaming with internal peace, and rich in concentrated sensibility, rather than speaking or kindling with a super-abundant fire; the line of his mouth harmonizing so completely with his nose and chin, is of peculiar grace; the brow open, pale, broad, and polished, bears upon it the impress not merely of dignified thought, but of nobility itself."
www.libraryireland.com

In 1838 came the crisis of his life and after battling with his own Demons he founded the Cork Total Abstinence Society on 10 April 1838 in his own schoolhouse. He presided, delivered a modest address, and took the pledge himself. Then with the historic words, "Here goes in the Name of God", he entered his signature in a large book lying on the table. From then on night after night, Father Mathew addressed crowded assemblies. In three months he had enrolled 25,000 in Cork alone; in five months the number had increased to 130,000. 

The movement now assumed a new phase. Father Mathew decided to go forth and preach his crusade throughout the land. In the following years he gave the Pledge to multitudes throughout Ireland and in Scotland and England too. When the Famine struck he devoted his efforts to the relief of the poor and hungry in Cork and used his influence in England and America to obtain food and money. In the early part of 1849, in response to earnest invitations, he set sail for America. He visited New York, Boston, Washington and many other cities, and secured more than 500,000 disciples. After a stay of two and a half years he returned home in 1851. By then it was estimated he had secured the Pledge from some seven million people. He is buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Cork city which he had himself established.




Friday, 7 December 2018


7 December 1688 - The Apprentice Boys of Derry closed the gates against King James' troops on this day. With the advent of King James II to the throne in 1685 religious animosity had grown between the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland. The former resented the growing power of the latter and they in turn suspected their religious opponents of disloyalty to James who was of the Catholic Faith.
Events came to a head when a son was born to the King in June 1688. This meant that if the boy reached maturity he would succeed his father as a Catholic Monarch true to the Old Faith. 

But on 5 November of that year William of Orange landed in England and set himself in opposition to King James. A War between the Faiths looked inevitable and in Ireland this indeed proved the case.

King James wished to secure his position in this Country as at least here he could rely on the most widespread support from the Catholic population. The Catholic Earl of Antrim was ordered to secure the City of Londonderry for King James. The said Earl, Alexander MacDonnell, advanced to Derry with some 1200 men. He sent an advanced party across the river Foyle to enter and take the main gate and hold it until he brought up the bulk of his force. 

Just at this moment thirteen young apprentices, most of whom appear, from their names, to have been of Scottish birth or descent, flew to the guard room, armed themselves, seized the keys of the city, rushed to the Ferry Gate, closed it in the face of the King’s officers, and let down the portcullis.
‘History of England’ by Lord Macaulay. 

This was a setback for the Royal cause as it galvanised opposition amongst the Protestant population there to resist and await relief from England should (as was most likely) William succeed in his daring enterprise. As it turned out the city was not taken and despite much suffering held out until relieved the following Summer. It was a turning point in Irish History & indeed of British History as this act of defiance has imbued within the Protestant population of the North ever since a notion that loyalty to the Crown was conditional upon the Monarch being not a Catholic but one of their own.




Thursday, 6 December 2018

6 December 1921: The ‘Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland’ were signed between the British and Irish Delegations in London on this day.

The Treaty allowed for the setting up of a Provisional Government, which was to oversee the establishment of an Irish Free State (not a Republic!) within one year. The new State was to have jurisdiction over 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland. The other six were to remain part of the United Kingdom, effectively under the control of the unionists. Their State, called ‘Northern Ireland’, had already come into existence in May 1921. A Boundary Commission was to review the exact border between the two states. Nationalists were hopeful that those areas along the northern side of the Border, where the Catholics were in a majority, would be transferred to the Free State. The British were also to retain control of certain ports, the ‘Treaty Ports’ for reasons of strategic defence.

However, the main stumbling block towards the acceptance of the Treaty was the inclusion of an ‘Oath of Allegiance’ to the British Crown. This obliged all those deputies elected to the Free State Parliament to take an oath of fidelity to King George V and his successors, in recognition of his status as head of the British Commonwealth. The British felt that this was crucial to them accepting the existence of a separate Irish state, which would have the status of a Dominion within the British Empire.

These most controversial words read as follows:

I ... do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H. M. King George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.

There is no doubt that the majority of the people in the South did favour accepting the Treaty. It gave them most of what they wanted, basically peace and a large measure of independence. The Catholic Church, the large farmers, the newspapers and the business community were its strongest supporters. The Labour movement was also largely in favour of acceptance. It was incomprehensible to the many supporters of the Treaty as to why it should be rejected. They argued that to all intents and purposes it allowed most of Ireland to manage her own affairs. 

To quite a significant minority though, especially amongst the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, the Treaty was unacceptable. The Irish had signed the agreement under the threat of the immediate renewal of war by the British, if the Irish delegates turned down its terms. It recognised Partition and worst of all the Oath would mean a rejection of the Irish Republic, which they had fought for and which many of their comrades had died for.

 The very idea of taking an oath to the British King George whose armed forces had so recently brought fear and terror to the Irish people, turned the stomachs of many. There was to be a Governor General who could prorogue the Free State Parliament if he thought it necessary. It was believed by the Treaty’s opponents that any parliament that was bound by these conditions would be very limited in its independence and in effect a vassal state within the British Empire.

However the Treaty did mean that most of Ireland would be part of a State where Irishmen would be in control of public affairs for the first time in centuries. The new State would have its own Army and police forces. The control of taxes, and of customs and excise would be in its hands. It had the right to maintain relations with other countries. For the first time, the majority of the Irish people would have the power to elect an Irish Government, which in effect if not quite in theory only they could remove.

The Articles were signed on behalf of the British by:

D. LLOYD GEORGE; AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN; BIRKENHEAD; WINSTON S. CHURCHILL; L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS; HAMAR GREENWOOD; GORDON HEWART.

And by the Irish:

ART Ó GRÍOBHTA (ARTHUR GRIFFITH); MICHEÁL Ó COILEÁIN; RIOBÁRD BARTÚN; EUDHMONN S. Ó DÚGÁIN; SEÓRSA GHABHÁIN UÍ DHUBHTHAIGH.






Wednesday, 5 December 2018


5 December 1975: Internment in the North was finally abandoned on this day. Internment without trial was imposed by the British on 9 August 1971. It was brought in to stop the IRA in its tracks but backfired from the start as it drove a substantial block of the Nationalist Community into pretty well open revolt. By 1975 the fact that hundreds of men were held behind barbed wire without trial in western Europe in what was seen internationally as part of the United Kingdom was an embarrassment to the British Government under the UK Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.

The CO of the British Army in Ulster, Lieutenant General Sir Frank King, was of the opinion that the special category status was objectionable from the point of view of security. He believed it was 'an aid to the recruitment of terrorists.' The British had announced earlier in the year that 'Special Category Status' would be ended by Christmas 1975 and in that they kept their word. However its replacement, the concept of treating captured members of the IRA etc. as ‘common criminals’ proved an even more disastrous policy and led eventually to the Hunger Strikes in the H Blocks in 1980 and 1981.

Almost 2,000 nationalists had been detained during the time Internment was in operation. The total number from the unionist community detained was just 107. Most were held at Long Kesh Camp [above] where conditions were very poor. Internment alienated even more people from the British Government and its policies than had existed prior to its introduction. It has been seen ever since as a Disaster for their ability to rule the North at that time.






Tuesday, 4 December 2018


4 December 1971: McGurk’s Bar in Belfast was blown up on this day. Fifteen innocent people were killed in the explosion and many more were injured. McGurk's family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast's main thoroughfares, five minute's walk away from the commercial hub of the City. The proprietor Paddy McGurk was a well known figure and the Vice President of the local GAA club, the Ardoyne Kickhams. His wife and daughter died that evening.
The original target of the Loyalist bombers was a pub called ‘the Gem’ which was frequented by members of a Republican organisation in competition with the Provisional IRA. The gang were under instructions to plant the device there in the hope that the inevitable casualties would lead to violent strife between these rivals. However the Gem was well guarded and the bombers decided that McGurk’s was an easier target. 

Almost immediately in the aftermath of the attack a sinister campaign of disinformation was launched by sources within the Crown Forces that raised suspicions within the Nationalist Community that there was a hidden hand at work. The following day the journalist John Chartres writing in the London Times newspaper devoted a complete article to the debriefing of the British army. He recorded, without heeding any of the witness accounts:

Police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that Ulster's worst outrage, the killing of 15 people including two children and three women ...was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.

BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building. Other such reports in a similar vein followed that helped cast doubt in the public mind as to who was responsible and a plausible cover story was thus germinated that this was indeed an IRA ‘own goal’ that had gone disastrously wrong for the perpetrators. 

Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until a U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, turned himself in and confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28 July 1977. He admitted that he drove the vehicle used to transport the bomb on that fateful night but the bombers themselves have never been brought to justice. Robert James Campbell was sentenced on the 6 September 1978. He was released on the 9th September 1993 afters serving fifteen years for the murders of fifteen people.

In July 2008, British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward apologised in a letter to Scottish MP Michael Connarty about the role the British Army played in the cover up of who was responsible for the massacre. Mr Connarty’s great uncle was killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar.







Monday, 3 December 2018



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3 December 1925: The Boundary Commission, set up under the Treaty to finalise the Border, was scrapped and a financial settlement was agreed between the British and Irish Governments instead covering various aspects of Anglo-Irish affairs. The Commission’s findings had been fatally undermined when the British Morning Post newspaper leaked its results. This clearly showed that only minor adjustments in the Border were to be expected.

It was in effect a Fiasco and a humiliation for the Irish Free State and for the hopes of the Irish People. Mr Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. Cosgrave defended his successful negotiation of the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under Article 5 of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal.

That article stated that:

The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.

This would have been a heavy burden on the State that had not yet even started to make a contribution to the fund. While the British Government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not willing to budge on the Border been adjusted by any significant concession of territory to the Irish Free State it was prepared to concede on these repayments as a sop to the Irish to stave off political instability here.

In the Debate that followed in Leinster House Cosgrave defended his decision to do a deal that abrogated the State’s obligations to Britain’s Public Debt with the following words:

I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.

It was a classic case of Realpolitik as the Irish President was between a rock and a hard place and at least walked away from the negotiations with some thing tangible for his efforts - 1 Big 0.
He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.


Sunday, 2 December 2018


2 December 1791: The death of Henry Flood MP on this day. Flood was one of the great advocates of the legislative independence of Ireland during the latter 18th Century. He was a great orator and a man of considerable intelligence and political acumen. He was however primarily concerned with establishing the political dominance of the Ascendancy Class and the maintenance of the Established Church of Ireland free from the interference of the English Parliament. 

He was born in 1732, the illegitimate son of Warden Flood, the Anglo-Irish chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. Henry Flood entered the Irish Parliament in 1759 as a placeman of the Ponsonby family (the Earls of Bessborough). His outstanding oratorical powers soon enabled him to create an effective opposition inside the Irish Parliament that agitated for political reforms. They demanded that Irish parliamentary elections should take place every eight years instead of merely at the start of a new British monarch's reign. In 1768 Flood's patriots agitated sufficiently to persuade the Duke of Grafton's government to pass the Octennial Act; in 1769 and 1771 they defeated measures to grant funds for the British administration in Ireland. Their long-range goal was legislative independence.

Although Flood was the first independent Irish statesman, he lost his support in 1775 when he accepted the office of vice treasurer under the British viceroy, Lord Harcourt. Henry Grattan, an even greater orator than Flood, replaced him as leader of the patriots. Grattan described Flood as a man "with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket." In 1779 Flood rejoined his old party, and two years later he was dismissed from his government post. Although Flood had lost his following, he helped Grattan to force North's government to renounce its restrictions on Irish trade in 1779 and grant legislative independence to Ireland in 1782. Flood then decided to challenge Grattan's leadership.

Alleging that Grattan had not gone far enough in his reforms, Flood obtained passage of a measure requiring the English Parliament to renounce all claims to control of Irish legislation. Flood's newly acquired popularity was destroyed upon the defeat of his attempt to reform the Irish Parliament in 1784. From 1783 until his retirement in 1790 he was a member of both the British and the Irish parliaments, though in England he failed to achieve the kind of political successes that he achieved in Ireland. Flood opposed Catholic emancipation and the lifting of the Williamite Penal Laws.
In his will, he bequeathed his estate to fund the study of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin: this was challenged successfully by a cousin. Flood died on 2 December 1791 at Farmley, County Kilkenny. While considered nowadays to be a ‘Patriot’ his brand of patriotism was of a very limited nature of those it wished to encompass.
http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/people/flood.htm


Saturday, 1 December 2018



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1 December 1901: The death of Thomas Clarke Luby, Fenian, at his home in Oak Street in Jersey City, USA on this day. His was the son of the Reverend James Luby a Protestant clergyman, He studied at Trinity College Dublin and at the Temple in London but was from an early age attracted to the Nationalist Movement. Initially a supporter of Daniel O’Connell he tried to organize a Rising in Dublin in 1848 but when that and the events in Tipperary proved a fiasco he fled Ireland for Australia then the USA. In 1851 he tried to join the French Foreign Legion but to his great disappointment they were not recruiting at the time.

Ten years after leaving he was back in his native city and on 17 March 1858 in a Timber yard on Lombard Street East he along with James Stephens and others founded the IRB aka ‘the Fenians’. He travelled the Country helping to organise resistance and recruit members for the oath bound society. He played a leading role in the success of the Irish People newspaper. He was arrested along with other members in 1865 and was charged with ‘Treason-Felony’ and sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment.

After his arrest and the suppression of the Irish People he was sentenced to twenty years' penal servitude. In his speech from the dock he said:

From the time I came to what have been called the years of discretion, my entire thought has been devoted to Ireland. I believed the course I pursued was right; others may take a different view. When the proceedings of this trial go forth to the world, the people will say that the cause of Ireland is not to be despaired of, that Ireland is not yet a lost country—that as long as there are men in any country prepared to expose themselves to every difficulty and danger in its service, prepared to brave captivity, even death itself if needs be, that country cannot be lost.

He was released in 1871 and moved to the USA. He became active in Clann na Gael and the Irish Confederation, raising funds and promoting the cause of Irish Freedom. He went on to become a respected journalist, lecturer and author. One of the ‘Grand Old Men’ of the Fenian movement he never wavered in his commitment to the Cause.


1 December 1956 - Ronnie Delany leads the field home in Melbourne

1 December 1956: Ronnie Delaney won Gold for Ireland at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne Australia. His triumph in the Antipodes was heard in Ireland at breakfast time that Saturday morning and was a great morale boost for people back home in the midst of Winter. 

Delaney was already an accomplished runner and was one of the few people in the World to have mastered the Four Minute Mile. He trained hard to make it onto Ireland’s Olympic Team and only just made it. The race that gave him his Gold Medal was the 1500 metres held at the Melbourne Cricket Club. 

Local runner John Landy  was the big favourite. Delany kept close to Landy until the final lap, when he started a crushing final sprint, winning the race in a new Olympic record. Delany thereby became the first Irishman to win an Olympic title in athletics since Bob Tisdall in 1932. The Irish people learned of its new champion at breakfast time. Delany would be Ireland's last Olympic champion for 36 years, until Michael Carruth won the gold medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Reflecting on his win all those years ago he recalled: "I had this decisiveness. Where did it come from? Well, it came from this quantity of training I had put in, the tutoring I got, the mentoring I got and from the heart. Overall it was built in there from hard work, dedication and desire.
"Tactically, I wanted to win and I raced to win. In the Olympic final, I ran the perfect race."
http://www.rte.ie/sport/athletics/2016/1201/835885-ronnie-delany/

In 2006, Delany was granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin and was also conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by University College Dublin in the same year.



Friday, 30 November 2018

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30 November 1967: Patrick Kavanagh Poet, Author and Playwright died on this day. He was born  in Inniskeen County Monaghan. It would become the inspiration for much of his work and would ultimately become his final resting place.

He was born on 21 October 1904 & most of the first 35 years of his life were spent in the parish of Inniskeen and the countryside of County Monaghan. Kavanagh’s formal education ended after national school and he became an apprentice shoemaker to his father for a while. Kavanagh worked on the small family farm for twenty years and while there had his first work published. He was not a ‘natural’ at farming and his mind wandered over to what his lot was in this life.  Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems, was published in 1936. It is notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life. The Green Fool, a loosely autobiographical novel, was published in 1938.

In 1939, after a short time in London, Patrick Kavanagh joined his brother Peter in Dublin. The city would become his home until his death in 1967. Kavanagh claimed to feeling like an exile in Dublin where for many years he struggled to make a living as a writer. Yet Kavanagh became a ‘Dublin character’ and the city had an important influence on his poetry. He was not impressed with the Dublin literary scene and thought a lot of what was spoken ‘drivel’. But his heart took to the Baggot St area of Dublin and he made it his ‘village’ where was known to everyone and they knew him.

"he realized that the stimulating environment he had imagined was little different from the petty and ignorant world he had left. He soon saw through the literary masks many Dublin writers wore to affect an air of artistic sophistication. To him such men were dandies, journalists, and civil servants playing at art. His disgust was deepened by the fact that he was treated as the literate peasant he had been rather than as the highly talented poet he believed he was in the process of becoming".
John Nemo Patrick Kavanagh 1979

In 1942 he published his long poem The Great Hunger, which describes the privations and hardship of the rural life he knew well. Tarry Flynn, a semi-autobiographical novel, was published in 1948 and was banned for a time. His life drifted downwards though and he became a dishelvled figure along the banks of the Grand Canal and in the local pubs. In 1955 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a lung removed. It was while recovering from this that he rediscovered his poetic vision.

 He recalled: "As a poet I was born in or about 1955, the place of my birth being the banks of the Grand Canal". This proved a turning point and Kavanagh began receiving the acclaim that he had always felt he deserved. Between 1959 and 1962 Kavanagh spent more time in London, He gave lectures at UCD and in the United States he represented Ireland at literary symposiums, and became a judge of the Guinness Poetry Awards.

Kavanagh married his long-term companion Katherine Barry Moloney in April 1967 and they set up home together on the Waterloo Road in Dublin. Kavanagh fell ill at the first performance of Tarry Flynn. He died from an attack of bronchitis on 30 November 1967. He was buried in his native Inniskeen.

For most of his Life he had struggled with poverty both Material and of the Soul and with rejection by literary society and the wider world. It was only in the last two decades of his career that he really began to gain traction and recognition as one of Ireland’s finest poets of the 20th century.
There is a statue of Kavanagh beside Dublin's Grand Canal inspired by his poem "Lines written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin":

O commemorate me where there is water
canal water preferably, so stilly
greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
commemorate me thus beautifully.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kavanagh#Writing_career



Thursday, 29 November 2018



29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that a relief force from Dublin was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill. 

He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. The Irish troops actually engaged though were under the tactical command of one Colonel Plunkett on the day apparently. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Viscount Gormanstown that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into what was in effect an ambush. The Irish waited until the moment was ripe and then they uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless enemy cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came. 

...the rebels forces who now furiously approached with a great shout and a lieutenant giving out the unhappy word of counter march all the men possessed as it were of a panic fear began somewhat confusedly to march back; but they were so much amazed with a second shout given by the rebels, who, seeing them in disorder followed close on, as not withstanding that they had gotten into a ground of great advantage, they could not be persuaded to stand a charge, but betook themselves to their heels, and so the rebels fell sharply on, as their manner is, upon the execution.
Bellings in Gilbert’s Irish Confederation

Prisoners were taken but according to Temple the attackers ‘spared very few or none that fell into their hands, but such as were Irish whose lives they preserved’
Sir John Temple The Irish Rebellion (London, 1646) 

The commander of the Royalist force was Sir Patrick Wemyss, Scottish born but his mother was related to the Earls of Desmond. He was Captain-Lieutenant in the Army of King Charles I and was a close associate of the Earl of Ormond. He has left us the only known eye witness account of the battle. He wrote to Ormond on the following day:

I will now tell you of our misfortune. We lodged last night at Balrederie (Balrothery,), as my officers could not make the men march to Drogheda. We were informed that the enemy were upon us, but they did not fall on us. Next day on the march, we sent out scouts and saw a few rebels, but after crossing the Julanstowne bridge, I saw them advancing towards us in as good order as ever I saw any men. I viewed them all, and to my conjecture they were not less than 3,000 men....
I drew up the troops on their front, and told the captains that we were engaged in honour to charge them, and that I would charge them first with those horse I had. They promised faithfully to second me. But when I made the trumpet sound, the rebels advanced towards us in five great bodies of foot; the horse, being on both wings, a little advance before the foot; but just as I was going to charge, the troop cried unto me and told me the foot had left their officers, thrown down their arms, and took themselves to running. It was useless to fight, so I withdrew as best I could and escaped with a loyal remnant to Drogheda.
Two of my troop whose horses went lame were left behind. I hear however that they are safe, except for their clothes, which were taken from them, not by the rebels, but by natives as they passed through the village. All our arms and ammunition are in the rebel's hands. We can get no food here for man or horse.
Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1641

The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Catholic Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants. This was a real catalyst in the history of Ireland as it was the first time that the people descended from the English colonisers of the 12/13th centuries had come together in a common cause with the native Gaelic Irish.



Wednesday, 28 November 2018


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28 November 1922: Anna Haslam Irish campaigner for Women's Rights died on this day. Anna was born in Youghal, the 16th of 17 children of Jane and Abraham Fisher. The Fishers, Quaker merchants with extensive business interests in Youghal, were noted for charitable works, particularly during the Great Famine.
She was one the earliest campaigners for the Rights of Women in this Country. She was born Anna Maria Fisher in Youghal , Co Cork in 1829 into a family of Quakers. She met her  husband Thomas Haslam when as a young adult she was teaching in Yorkshire, England. Thomas was also interested in political & social reform and hailed from Mountmellick, Co Laois. Anna and Thomas Haslam [above] married on 20 March 1854 in the Cork Registry Office. They had no children, perhaps by choice.
Anna and Thomas Haslam were founding members of the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association (DWSA) in 1876. Though they were not practising Quakers they retained a deep commitment to the pursuit of political reform by exclusively peaceful methods. They engaged in a campaign of drawing room meetings from their Dublin home in Rathmines road and continous letter writing to those public figures they believed could help to bring about votes for women and an improvement of their Status within Society. Anna could write up to 20 letters a day without difficulty. They also went to feminist meetings both in Ireland and England to lend support to like minded activists.
Success though was limited but not altogether without results as very slowly support grew for the concept that women should be allowed some say in the running of Public Affairs. The big breakthrough came with the Local Government Act 1898 which allowed women of property to sit on local councils. In 1903 she travelled to Holborn, London to attend a major conference on Women’s Rights. However by the early years of the century a more militant type of feminism was emerging and more violent and sensationalist method were espoused.
The  Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL), a more militant organisation was formed in 1908. One of its founders Margaret Cousins recalled:
So a group of us went on November 6th to the dear old leader of the constitutional suffragetttes. Mrs Anna Haslam, to inform her that we younger women were ready to start a new women’s suffrage society on militant lines. She regretted what she felt  to be a duplication of effort’
Ireland’s Suffragettes by Sarah Beth Watkins
Hannah was getting on in years by then and younger more militant women were taking the reins from her. Her beloved husband died in 1917 and the political upheavals at home left her perplexed and confused as she saw Ireland’s future as best served by staying within the UK.
When she died in November 1922  the State was in the midst of a Civil War - her death un-noticed except by the faithful few. Today though her life and work along with that of her husband are commemorated by a stone seat in St Stephen’s Green Dublin.