Thursday, 31 May 2012

31 May 1941 – The German bombing of the 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.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

30 May 1951: A General Election was held in the Irish Republic. The 1st Inter-Party Government under John A. Costello was defeated and Eamon De Valera was elected once again as Taoiseach.

TDs returned:

Fianna Fáil (Eamon de Valera): 69

Fine Gael (Richard Mulcahy): 40

Labour (William Norton): 16

Clann na Talmhan (Michael Donnellan): 6

Clann na Poblachta (Seán MacBride): 2

Independents: 14

The general election of 1951 was caused by a number of crises within the First Inter-Party Government, most notably the Mother and Child Scheme. While the whole affair, which saw the resignation of the Minister for Health, Noël Browne, was not entirely to blame for the collapse of the government it added to the pressure between the various political parties. There were other problems facing the country such as rising prices, balance of payments problems and two farmer TDs withdrew their support for the government because of rising milk prices.

The election result was inconclusive. Fianna Fáil's support increased by 61,000 votes, however, the party only gained one extra seat. The coalition parties had mixed fortunes. Fine Gael were the big winners increasing to forty seats. The Labour Party patched up its differences with the National Labour Party and fought the election together but in spite of this the party lost seats. Clann na Poblachta were the big losers of the election. Three years earlier the party was a big political threat, but now the party was shattered.

Fianna Fáil had not won enough seats to govern alone. However, the party was able to form a government with the support of Noël Browne, the sacked Minister for Health, and other Independent deputies.

De Valera was to stay in power for another 3 years until he lost to another Coalition headed by Fine Gael and Labour

Monday, 28 May 2012

28 May 1798: The Wexford insurgents, amounting to several thousand people, marched northwards to Camolin on this day. 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.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

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 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 at Rathcroghan, near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon.

He founded Ballintubber Abbey in 1215, 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...'
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

Saturday, 26 May 2012

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

Thursday, 24 May 2012

23 May 1798: The Battle of Prosperous and the outbreak of the Rising of 1798.

The Rising was fixed for the night of 23rd May 1798. The signal was to be the simultaneous stopping of the mail coaches that left Dublin General Post Office daily for Belfast, Cork, Athlone and Limerick.  On the 23rd of May the mail coaches were to be seized and burnt at Santry, Naas, Lucan and the Curragh, and the rising began.

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 revolutionaries 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.

From 24 May there was fighting at Prosperous, Clane, Kilcock, Maynooth, Rathangan, Timahoe, Monasterevan, and other places.

But it was at Prosperous, Co Kildare that the first military engagement began at 2 a.m on 24 May 1798 by a United Irishmen force about 600+ strong which targeted the British garrison consisting of Cork militia and a detachment of a Welsh regiment, the "Ancient Britons".

The garrison consisted of 35 of the City of Cork militia and 22 ancient Britons who were housed separately near the barracks. Captain Richard Longford Swayne, commander of the militia, had terrorised the area at free-quarters, since his arrival on the 20th May. Throughout Wednesday the 23rd, the locals gathered in the woods. At 2 o' clock the following morning, around 500 of them under Dr. John Esmond and Andrew Farrell. Their entry into the town was preceded by the infiltration of a small vanguard who, possibly aided by female sympathisers within, scaled the walls of the Militia barracks, killed the sentries and opened the gate.

At the barracks, they forced their way into Swayne's quarters where he was piked and shot before the troops could secure the building. Lighted faggots and furze were thrown through the windows of the underground office and the barracks was engulfed. Many of those who tried to escape were piked to death in the streets. Of the 57 soldiers in the garrison, nearly 40 were killed. Swayne's body was burnt in a tar barrel.

Thus was gained the first victory over the hated forces of the British Government.

But the next day, other members of the Ancient Britons, hearing of the death of their fellow soldiers, participated in the retaliatory massacre of 34 Irish prisoners at Dunlavin Green, Co. Wicklow.

Prosperous remained under United Irishmen control until 19 June when it was retaken by troops under the command of Colonel Stewart who boasted of destroying "this receptacle of rebellion".

By the end of the Summer of 1798 some 25,000 - 30,000 people lay dead across 11 counties of Ireland and the Rising was Crushed.

Monday, 21 May 2012

21 May 1981
The Third and Fourth Hunger Strikers Died in Long Kesh Prison

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 preceeded 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, 20 May 2012

20 May 1311: The Battle of Bunratty/Bun Raite. 
Civil War raged in north Thomond (today's Co Clare) in the year 1311, a war that had been going on and off for decades as the O'Briens of that part of Ireland fought with one another to control their own territory. The chief antagonists at the time of this battle were King Dermot O'Brien[Clan Brien] and King Donough O'Brien [Clan Turlough].

The King of England's Justicar in Dublin was worried about the situation in Thomond and in May 1311 issued instructions that:

The war in the parts of Thomond between Richard Clare and Donatus Obreen, who calls himself prince of the Irish of Thomond, disturbs the peace throughout Ire. by its continuation. ORDER to prohibit Richard and Donatus from continuing that war and cause them to keep the peace for life.
Patent Roll 4 Edward II

Which both sides ignored!

Donough O'Brien had the support of the Anglo-Norman DeBurghs of Connacht while Dermot O'Brien had the support of Anglo-Norman Richard de Clare based in Bunratty Castle.

The DeBurghs, led by William DeBurgh himself, invaded Clare to support their protege and clashed with Richard de Clare's men near Bunratty Castle. While the DeBurghs won the tactical battle disaster befell them when William was taken prisoner  and Donough O'Brien fled the field of battle as a result.

Lord William de Burgh was captured. On the day of the Ascension of the Lord lord john de Crok* was killed with many others in the battle of Bunratty with a great deal of booty given up in battle. 
Annals of Ireland by Friar John Clyn

*He was deBurgh’s Standard bearer.

However the hapless Lord was most unfortunate as another account of this Battle relates:

A great hosting by William Burk into Mumha [Munster], against the Clarach;
and they gave battle to each other, 
and the Clarach was worsted, and a great defeat was inflicted on him there. 
William Burk was himself taken prisoner in the rere of his people, whilst he was following up the rout;
and although he was there taken prisoner, 
it was he that had the triumph of that battle.
Annals of Loch Cé

None of this ended the War and even though King Donough was treacherously killed later that year and Dermot died in 1313 the dispute lingered on for many more years.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

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, 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 till 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....
Account of Nicholas Murphy

Lord Edward had fought like a lion against those sent to lead him into captivity, killing Capitan Ryan and wounding Major Swan. However with him badly outnumbered by men in arms his heroic defense could only last but a short time.

Desperately wounded in the struggle he lingered for a number of days in agony as septicemia 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 (Fitzpatrick’s “Secret Service under Pitt”) 

Friday, 18 May 2012

18 May 1954 - John A. Costello

18 May 1954: A General Election held in the Republic of Ireland, as a result of which Fianna Fáil and Eamon DeValera lost power. John A. Costello was elected as Taoiseach on the 2 June at the head of a coalition government, comprising members of the Fine Gael, Labour & supported by the Clann na Talmhan Party.

The election was called by An Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamon DeValera in order to secure a better balance of seats in Dáil Éireann so as to maintain his position for another five years. In March 1954 Fianna Fáil lost badly in two bye elections, cutting Dev's majority to a razor sharp edge. He then decided to nip this falling off in support in the bud and put himself before the People once again. But with the Economy on the slide and prices rising combined with huge levels of Emigration the strategy of calling another election after just three years in power was a risky one. 74 seats were needed for a majority in the House.

In the event Fianna Fáil did less badly than many expected, returning  66 TDs to Leinster House (the seat of the Irish Parliament).

The leader of the opposition was General Richard Mulcahy, ex Chief of Staff of the Free State Army in the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). The Party he led was Fine Gael and they had a good election, winning 8 extra seats for a total of 50 TDs.

The Labour Party under William Norton came in with 19 members returned and was prepared (as in 1948) to form a Coalition with Fine Gael in order to get into Government .

The small farmers party Clann na Talmhan under Joseph Blowick won 5 seats and was thus in a good position to negotiate with the other opposition parties to be included in a Government that could sustain itself against potential parliamentary challenges in the House.

Clann na Poblachta under Sean McBride had but 3 seats (a shell of its former self) and decided to stay on the sidelines and though supporting the Coalition to refuse any offer of seats at the Cabinet table.

Due to the sensitivities of the time in relation to what had happened in the Irish Civil War it was decided (as in 1948) that General Mulcahy would not put his name forward for the position as Taoiseach and once again John A. Costello was elected to the Office. Mulcahy became Minister for Education in the Second Inter-Party Government.

However Mr Costello's new Government was no more successful in stemming the tide of emigration and economic stagnation than DeValera had been and in 1957 his administration would be thrown out of office in the General Election of that year.

The 15th Dáil that was elected at the 1954 general election on 18 May 1954  first met on 2 June when the 7th Government of Ireland was appointed. It lasted for 1,022 days.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

17 May 1974: The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings.  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 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 unwarrented 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.


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

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

16 May circa 583 AD: Saint Brendan of Clonfert/Brénainn of Cluain Ferta aka 'St. Brendan the Navigator', early Atlantic voyager, died on this day. In the liturgical calendar, today is St. Brendan's Feast Day.

Saint Brendan/Bréanainn is one of Ireland's most famous saints, a man whose exploits on the High Seas have become legendary and whose fame spread throughout western Europe in the Middle Ages. He is reputed to have sailed far out into the Atlantic and discovered isles unknown to Europeans at that time. The Brendan Voyage/Navigatio Brendani was included in maps of Columbus’ time, which often showed an island called 'St. Brendan’s Isle' that was placed in the western Atlantic ocean.

Map makers of the time had no idea of its exact position of this island but did believe it existed somewhere out in the Atlantic. It was mentioned in a Latin text dating from the ninth century called Navigatio Santi Brendani Abatis (Voyage of Saint Brendan the Abbot). It described the voyage as having taken place in the sixth century. Several copies of this text have survived in monasteries throughout Europe. It was an important part of folklore in medieval Europe and may have influenced Columbus when he planned his great voyage to the Indies.

The account of Brendan’s voyage contained a detailed description of the construction of his boat which was not unlike the currachs still made in Ireland today.

Skeptics could not accept that such a fragile vessel could possibly sail in the open sea. Several passages in the legend also seemed incredible—they were “raised up on the back of sea monsters”, they “passed by crystals that rose up to the sky”, and they were “pelted with flaming, foul-smelling rocks by the inhabitants of a large island on their route”.

Brendan and his companions finally arrived at the beautiful land they called “Promised Land of the Saints.” They explored until they came to a great river that divided the land. The journey of Brendan and his fellow monks took seven years. The return trip was probably the longest part of the odyssey.

The evidence that we have points to Brendan sailing North, possibly along the western coast of Scotland and onto Iceland and maybe as far as Greenland.

It is a story full of wonderful and strange adventures that while physically improbale in the way they have been handed down to us have enough information in them to point to actual happenings embelished by later medieval storytelling.
It is a story full of wonderful and strange adventures that while physically improbale in the way they have been handed down to us have enough information in them to point to actual happenings embelished by later medieval storytelling.

In the 1970's the Explorer Tim Sevrin embarked in a specially built Currach based on tehe one described as used by Saint Brendan and proved that it could survive a long sea voyage on the Atlantic.

He encountered whales who swam alongside and even underneath his ship. Saint Brendan's Voyage described the ancient mariners landing on a whale!

Sevrin encountered icebergs - St Brendan saw 'towering crystals'

The foul smelling rocks could well be from an Icelandic volcano that the poor monks thought was been thrown at them by the 'natives' of that fiery island!

St Brendan while one of the most famous of Irish Saints both at home and abroad is also one whose Life we can only reconstruct from the tales and legends about him. His fame meant that many Abbies and monastries wanted his name associated with him and which ones would (if it were possible) hold up to examination and which would not we now alas cannot determine.

St. Brendan,The Navigator - World Cultures European

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Death of Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’

15 May 1847 : The Death of Daniel O’Connell ‘The Liberator’ at Genoa while making his way to the Holy City. His heart (now lost) was taken on to Rome 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.

Daniel O'Connell died at Genoa, in Italy, at 9.35 p.m. on the evening of May 15th, 1847, on his way to Rome

Born near Cahirciveen, County Kerry and adopted at an early age by his uncle Maurice ‘Hunting Cap’ O’Connell. His family had strong trading links with the Continent and he was educated at Saint-Omer and Douai; entered Lincoln’s Inns in 1794 and was called to the Bar in Dublin in 1798. A co-founder of the Catholic Association in 1823, he realised the movement’s enormous potential with the creation of the Catholic rent, enabling ordinary Catholics to become members for one penny a month and creating a substantial reserve of funds for a political campaign. A series of election victories culminated with O’Connell being returned as MP for Clare in 1828 and the Government introducing Catholic emancipation the following year. At the same time, however, they disenfranchised the forty-shilling freeholders who had been the bedrock of the Association’s success.

Giving up his immensely successful practice at the bar, O’Connell now turned his prodigious energy to the campaign to repeal the Act of Union. The 1830s saw swings in his political fortune and the momentum of the movement generally, the Irish Repeal MPs on occasion holding the balance of power at Westminster and some reform being effected on matters such as tithes and municipal administration. He was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1841 and with subscriptions to his Repeal Association reaching enormous proportions, he began to organise monster rallies throughout Ireland, a meeting at Tara being attended by an estimated 750,000 people. A meeting scheduled for Clontarf on 8 October 1843 was proscribed and, to the dismay of his followers, O’Connell called it off. He was subsequently arrested, tried for conspiracy, convicted, fined £2,000 and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. He was released after five months but emerged from his imprisonment physically and mentally weakened. His influence over a fragmented movement continued to wane and the Great Famine removed the last of the popular fervour for repeal. He set out for Italy in March 1847 and died in Genoa on 15 May.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Ireland in History Day by Day

Hi and welcome to my new Blog - dedicated to establishing an online database of day by day entries of important events in Irish History entered here on the historical date they actually happened.

The Irish historical record is deep and extensive and also of ancient origin, stretching all the way back to the 6th Century AD

As far as we know a continuous record of contemporary events was first began by Saint Columba on the little island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland back in the year 563 AD

This was the beginning of the famous Annals which formed the backbone of the Irish Historical Record for over a thousand years

Of course in later centuries especially after the Anglo-Norman Invasion other types of records and books, Royal Chancery Roll and Letters, and indeed Annals in English, become useful in tracing specific events to specific dates in the Annual Calendar.

My attempt here is to write up an entry of some length based on a particular date that we can be reasonably certain of and tell the story of that event of that day in some detail.

 Easier said than done at times!

Hopefully this blog will be of use to students of Irish History, whether the casual browser or the more serious scholar.