Thursday, 19 May 2022

 


19 May 1798: Lord Edward Fitzgerald was shot and arrested at the home of the Merchant Nicholas Murphy at whose house (now 151 Thomas Street, Dublin) he was taking refuge in.

Lord Edward Fitzgerald was a most unlikely 'Rebel'. He was born on 15 October 1763 at Carton House, Co Kildare, one of the most prestigious stately homes in the Country. He was the son of the Duke of Leinster, the most senior Aristocrat in Ireland. He was later brought up at Frascati House, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

He received a Commission in the British Army at an early age and served with the distinction in the American Revolutionary War with the 19th Regiment of Foot in South Carolina, taking part in the Battle of Eutaw Springs (1781) where he was wounded.

In 1783 FitzGerald returned to Ireland, where his brother, the 2nd Duke of Leinster, had procured his election to the Irish Parliament as a Member for Athy, a seat he held until 1790. He represented then Kildare County from 1790 to 1798. He continued his Army career and served in Canada and then travelled extensively across eastern Canada and down the Mississippi before sailing for home through New Orleans.

However it was the events of the French Revolution that proved the turning point in his life. In 1792 he went to Paris and stayed with Thomas Paine. He sat in the observers gallery to listen to the debates of the French Convention and was impressed with what he heard. While there he married Pamela, who was the love child of Madame de Genlis herself by Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. The future King of the French, Louis Phillipe, was among the witnesses.

At a convivial gathering on the 18 November, after the French victory at Jemappes, he offered at a public dinner a toast to: ''The armies of France: may the example of its citizen soldiers be followed by all enslaved countries, till tyrants and tyrannies be extinct.'' He also proposed a toast to “the speedy abolition of all hereditary titles and feudal distinctions”, and gave proof of his zeal by expressly repudiating his own title. For his actions in Paris he was cashiered from the British Army.

On his return to Ireland his views both private and public became more Radical. However he did not join the revolutionary United Irishman until 1796 when he quickly immersed himself in the military plans for a Rising. He travelled as far as Hamburg to secure funds and military assistance from the French. Some of the United Irishmen wanted to wait until this was guaranteed but Lord Edward was of the opinion that it was better to strike sooner rather than later.

By early 1798 it was obvious that further delay would prove fatal and a Rising must come soon. The British Government was using forceful methods to disarm people of any weapons they might have that could used against them. However Martial Law had not yet been declared. The forces of the State also ran a very effective network of spies and informers that had infiltrated the United Irishmen or those who were on familiar terms with them.

On 23 March the military swept on the Dublin Committee of the revolutionaries and captured nearly all of them. Forewarned Lord Edward escaped the net but was now a hunted man.

In the aftermath the British declared Martial Law and it could be only a matter of time till things exploded. In response the date for the Rising was brought forward to be launched on 23 May 1798.

However on 9 May, with Lord Edward still at large, a bounty of £1,000 was put on his head for information leading to his capture - a huge sum in those days. Lord Edward was hiding in Thomas Street, Dublin but had just been involved in a skirmish with his pursuers and it was decided that his original place of refuge must have been compromised. He then moved on the night of the 18th to the home of the Feather Merchant Nicholas Murphy at what is now 151 Thomas Street. He was ill and under the weather but at breakfast the next morning was seen to recover. Murphy was apprehensive of having such a well known fugitive under his roof and (rightly) feared that his betrayal and arrest was only a matter of time.

That evening, at around 7pm Murphy went to Lord Edward's room to call him down for tea and remembered:

He was in bed. It was, at this time, about seven o’clock. I asked him to come down to tea. I was not in the room three minutes when in came Major Swan and a person following him with a soldier’s jacket, and a sword in his hand; he wore a round cap. When I saw Major Swan, I was thunderstruck. I put myself before him, and asked his business. He looked over me and saw Lord E. in the bed. He pushed by me quickly, and Lord E., seeing him, sprang up instantly and drew a dagger which he carried about him, and wounded Major Swan slightly, I believe. Major Swan had a pistol which he fired without effect; he immediately turned to me and gave me a severe thrust of the pistol under the left eye, at the same time desiring the person that came in with him to take me into custody. I was immediately taken away to the yard ; there I saw Major Sirr and about six soldiers of the Dumbarton Fencibles.

 Major Swan thought proper to run as fast as he could to the street, and I think he never looked behind him till he got out of danger, and he was the parading the flags, exhibiting his linen, which was stained with blood. Mr. Ryan supplied Major Swan’s place and came in contact with Lord E., and was wounded seriously. Major Sirr at that time came upstairs and keeping a respectful distance, fired a pistol shot at Lord E., in a very deliberate manner, and wounded him in the upper part of the shoulder. Reinforcements coming in, Lord E., surrendered after a very hard struggle. Lord Edward was imprisoned in Newgate....

Lord Edward had fought like a lion against those sent to lead him into captivity, killing Captain Ryan and wounding Major Swan. However with him badly outnumbered by men in arms his heroic defense last but a short time. Desperately wounded in the struggle he was taken in a closed sedan chair first to Dublin Castle and then to prison. There he lingered for a number of days in agony as septicaemia took its toll. He died on the 4th of June 1798 as the Rising he had so long planned for was well underway.

Thus died one of the bravest of men, from a conviction, I believe, that he wished to ameliorate the condition of his country.

Lord Edward’s remains were placed in a vault under the East end of St. Werburgh’s Church in Dublin, near to the house he was taken in.

Years later the outcome that Murphy had feared was finally revealed - Betrayal!

The two informers implicated in the betrayal of Lord Edward were Francis Higgins (proprietor of ‘The Freeman’s Journal’), at that time a paper in the interest of Dublin Castle, the seat of British rule in Ireland, and Francis Magan, M.A., Barrister at Law. On the 20th of June 1798, Francis Higgins was paid his reward of £1,000 for Lord Edward’s capture.



Wednesday, 18 May 2022

 



18 May 1613: The opening of Parliament in Dublin Castle on this day. This parliament had been called by King James I [above] in London in order to strengthen his rule in Ireland and to ensure that the Protestant Religion was the dominant one in that body. By doing this he would be able to get legislation passed for the raising of taxes and the enforcement of anti Catholic laws.

King James created some 40 micro boroughs (mostly in Ulster) in order to be able to ‘pack’ the Houses with Protestant supporters. In 1612 six of the major Catholic Lords of the Pale had written to him to complain about this:

the project of erecting so many corporations in places that constantly rank as the poorest villages in Christendom, do tend naught else but by the voices of a few selected for the purpose…extreme penal laws should be imposed on your subjects [i.e. Catholics]

But their protest was to no avail as James (a devout Protestant) was determined to see the measure through. He had once described the Catholics of Ireland as 'half subjects' and he did not trust their loyalty to his Throne at all.

When the members of parliament met that day they consisted of 132 Protestants and 100 Catholics - even though over 85% of the population of the Country were Catholics! Of the Catholics, 80 were Old English and only 20 Gaelic Irish. In the House of Lords, the block vote of 20 Protestant Bishops gave the British Crown control of the Upper House in which also sat 12 Catholic and 4 other protestant peers.

In the event on the day mayhem ensued as clashes erupted inside the Castle as the supporters of both religions exchanged blows as to who should have the Speakers Chair. The Catholics peremptorily installed their own nominee Sir John Everard literally into the Chair while the other side had left the Chamber to be counted. On return they then sat their champion Sir John Davies on top of him! After a scuffle Everard was rejected and the opposition withdrew.

 ‘Those within the house are no house and Sir John Everard is our Speaker, and therefore we will not join with you, but we will complain to my Lord Deputy and the King, and the King shall hear of this’ exclaimed Sir William Talbot.

The whole proceedings had turned into a Fiasco & after a series of adjournments the parliament was prorogued on 17 June to await the results of an appeal to England.

Primary Source: Chapter VII of Early Modern Ireland Volume III: Pacification, plantation and the catholic question 1603-23 by Aiden Clarke with R. Dudley Edwards





17 May 1797: The death of ‘Peg Plunkett’ in Dublin was reported on this day. Her journey through this Life was not an easy one but nevertheless it was one of her own choosing. She at an early age chose the profession of prostitution as her path to riches. She was the most famous ‘Madame’ of 18th century Dublin who wrote a sensational set of memoirs of her life.

Originally from Killough in Co. Westmeath she was christened Margaret and when her father and mother died she fell under the dominating will of her brother who abused her. She took leave of the family home and headed up to Dublin to seek her fortune. After a series of liaisons she took up with a Mr Leeson Wine Merchant whose name she took even though they never married. ‘Peg Plunkett’ was a later adoption to cover her real identity.

Dublin in the middle of the 18th Century was a rapidly expanding City with a burgeoning population. The metropolis was a mixture of great wealth and great poverty. A girl like Margaret with no connections faced limited choices as to how to make her way in the world. The choice she made was not an uncommon one for a girl of wit intelligence and beauty which she apparently was. She took up living with various wealthy men as their mistress. But the lure of ready money proved too big a temptation for her and she sold herself readily to those with the means to pay for her charms.

Eventually after years of being reliant on others to put a roof over head ‘Peg Plunkett’ decided that it was more lucrative to provide for her own accommodation and ply her Trade from there. While better than the Streets it was still a shoddy life. Her first establishment, run in partnership with friend and fellow-courtesan Sally Hayes, was in Drogheda Street. However her Brothel was vandalized by the Pinking-dindies – a group of high class rabble rousers. She then moved to Wood Street, before settling, most notoriously, in Pitt Street, on the site of the present Westbury Hotel, just off the then as now fashionable Grafton St in Dublin’s City Centre.

As well as the rich (a Bank of Ireland Governor and a Lord Lieutenant were among her clients), she served lawyers, theatre-folk and petty villains amongst others. She refused service to the Earl of Westmorland because he treated his second wife ‘shabbily’, and she insulted the Prince Regent twice whilst visiting London. After 30 years she decided to reform but found her cache of IOUs valueless and ended up in a debtors’ prison, run by a former client, Captain Mathews. To raise cash she decided to publish her memoirs, documenting her life as a madam and the vicissitudes of her later life. Her end though was a rather sordid one as she was apparently gang raped when in her 60s and eventually died of venereal disease.


 

Tuesday, 17 May 2022



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.

THE 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

 

Monday, 16 May 2022

 




16 May 1945: An Taoiseach Eamon DeValera made his famous reply on Radio Éireann to the speech of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill  a few days earlier in which he disparaged the role of the Irish Free State in the Second World War which had just ended.

In that speech Churchill had cast a cold eye on Mr Eamon De Valera’s role in denying to Britain the naval facilities known as the ‘Treaty Ports’ in the South that he felt they had a right to in time of war & compared it with the Loyalty of the North in the recent Conflict. In his Victory speech he called out the Irish Government:

...the approaches which the southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats. This indeed was a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland, we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera, or perish from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I venture to say, history will find few parallels, His Majesty’s Government never laid a violent hand upon them, though at times it would have been quite easy and quite natural, and we left the de Valera Government to frolic with the German and later with the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content."

This was a jibe that DeValera felt he could not let go unanswered and he took to the airwaves to counter the accusation that Ireland should have actively taken part on Britain’s side in the World War just ended. Some days previous he had called upon the German Legation and commiserated with the German representative here Dr Hempel on the death of the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. To say this had not gone down well in certain quarters would be something of an understatement! However Churchill had then blundered in seeking to portray Irish Neutrality as something that Britain had the Right to override if it so wanted to do so. To this DeValera replied:

"Allowances can be made for Mr. Churchill’s statement, however unworthy, in the first flush of victory. No such excuse could be found for me in this quieter atmosphere. There are, however, some things it is essential to say. I shall try to say them as dispassionately as I can. Mr. Churchill makes it clear that, in certain circumstances, he would have violated our neutrality and that he would justify his actions by Britain’s necessity. It seems strange to me that Mr. Churchill does not see that this, if accepted, would mean that Britain's necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people’s rights were not to count... Surely Mr. Churchill must see that if his contention be admitted in our regard, a like justification can be framed for similar acts of aggression elsewhere and no small nation adjoining a great Power could ever hope to be permitted to go its own way in peace...

Mr. Churchill is proud of Britain’s stand alone, after France had fallen and before America entered the war. Could he not find in his heart the generosity to acknowledge that there is a small nation that stood alone not for one year or two, but for several hundred years against aggression; that endured spoliations, famine, massacres, in endless succession; that was clubbed many times into insensibility, but each time on returning to consciousness took up the fight anew; a small nation that could never be got to accept defeat and has never surrendered her soul?"

His speech had an electrifying effect on Irish public opinion and was seen as a dignified response to Churchill’s ill considered remarks about Ireland. It appears that on mature reflection the British Prime Minister realised he had gone too far and the matter was let drop. Anyway he heavily lost the British General Election in June that year and did not return to Office until 1951 - by which time the Irish Free State had declared itself a Republic and was not even nominally part of the British Empire  - an event that Mr DeValera had nothing at all to do with it!

https://www.rte.ie/archives/exhibitions/eamon-de-valera/719137-de-valera-response-to-churchill/





Sunday, 15 May 2022



15‭ May 1847: The death of Daniel O’Connell  ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa in Italy while making his way to the Holy City of Rome on this day. He died at 9.35 p.m. 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. He tomb was eventually capped by a replica Irish Round Tower that is the locus of the necropolis and is still visited by thousands of people every year.


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.


He was the greatest Irish political figure of the 19th century but curiously not the most revered. A great orator and a man of impressive appearance and political acumen he was considered too cute by half by both allies and opponents. 

However he rose a People off their knees and showed that it was possible to build a mass political movement in Ireland that could only be defeated when faced by Force of Arms and not the Force of Argument.













 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

 


14 May 1977: The strange death and disappearance of Captain Robert Nairac on this day. In one of the most bizarre and deadly incidents of the Conflict in the North in the 1970s this British Officer (in Mufti at the time  &  armed with a 9mm Browning pistol )  was set upon  in the carpark of The Three Steps pub in Dromintee, South Armagh. He is said to have told regulars of the pub that he was Danny McErlaine, a motor mechanic and member of the Official IRA.

At around 11.45 p.m., he was abducted following a struggle in the car park and taken across the border into the Republic near Ravensdale Wood in Co Louth. Here he was  brutally interrogated but would admit to nothing. When he knew the game was up and he was going to be executed his last words were ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned’.

Nairac was an experienced Intelligence Officer who began his military career with the Grenadier Guards before switching to Intelligence duties. He was used to taking chances - indeed he was known for taking exceptional risks to gather information on the IRA.

 Had he been an SAS member, he would not have been allowed to operate in the way he did. Before his death we had been very concerned at the lack of checks on his activities. No one seemed to know who his boss was, and he appeared to have been allowed to get out of control, deciding himself what tasks he would do.

Ghost Force by Former SAS Warrant Officer Ken Connor

His disappearance triggered a huge manhunt North and South of the Border when news of his abduction broke. But despite the best efforts of the Crown Forces and An Garda Siochana his remains were never located. 

Was there a darker side to Captain Robert Nairac? He has been linked to some of the more murkier operations that happened at that time along the Border and it was known he was prepared to countenance taking on the IRA ‘at their own game’. But nothing has ever been substantiated and with the passage of time probably never will.

He was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1978. In part the Citation reads as follows:

Captain Nairac's exceptional courage and acts of the greatest heroism in circumstances of extreme peril showed devotion to duty and personal courage second to none.

To this day he is counted amongst the Disappeared whose bodies have never been found.