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Friday, 6 May 2016


6 May 1882: The Assassination of Cavendish & Burke aka The ‘Phoenix Park Murders’ on this day. The Under Secretary for Ireland Thomas Henry Burke, and the newly arrived Chief Secretary Lord Frederick Cavendish, were both stabbed to death in the Phoenix Park by members of a secret organisation known as ‘The Invincibles’. Five of the assassins were later executed in Kilmainham Jail and a number of others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. This event rocked Anglo-Irish relations to the core and was the most shocking and audacious attack on members of the British Political Establishment in Ireland during the course of the 19th Century.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Carey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, 5 May 2016



5 May 1916: Major John MacBride was executed on this day. Originally from Mayo he travelled to America in 1896 to further the aims of the I. R. B., thereafter travelling to South Africa where he raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade during the Second Boer War where he saw action against the British Army. MacBride married the Irish nationalist Maude Gonne in 1903 but it was not a success. They had one son the late Sean McBride Human Rights campaigner and winner of the Nobel & Lenin Peace prizes. The Major was not a member of the Irish Volunteers, but being in Dublin for his brother’s wedding and upon learning of the beginning of the Rising he offered his services to Thomas MacDonagh. He was at Jacob’s biscuit factory when that post was surrendered on Sunday, 30 April 1916. He freely admitted his part in the Rising and that he fought in Mufti. At his execution he asked not to have his hands tied behind his back, but this was refused. When they did cover his eyes he made a similar request, remarking to the priest: “You know, father, I have often looked down their guns before.”

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

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

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

When he was moved to the H-Blocks he went ‘On the Blanket’ and became a spokesman for the prisoners. When the first Hunger Strike was broken in December 1980 and the terms the prisoners believed were promised to them never happened he became determined to lead the next one - even onto death. This was to  ensure the prisoners 5 Demands were secured. He was now O/C in the Blocks and felt compelled to show leadership to the other men in the same predicament as himself.


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

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

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

Prison Diary Bobby Sands


Wednesday, 4 May 2016


4‭ ‬May‭ ‬1916‭ ‬-‭ ‬Edward Daly,‭ ‬Michael O’Hanrahan,‭ ‬William Pearse and Joseph Mary Plunkett were executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Jail.‭ ‬This was the second batch of prisoners to be shot and further increased public disquiet about the manner in which General Maxwell was handling the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

Edward "Ned" Daly  was commandant of Dublin's 1st battalion during the Rising. He was the youngest man to hold that rank and the youngest executed in the aftermath.

Michael O’Hanrahan was second in command of the 2nd battalion under Commandant Thomas McDonagh (executed). He fought at Jacob's Biscuit Factory.

William Pearse was Padraig Pearse’s younger brother and played only a minor part in the GPO during Easter Week. It is believed he was shot because of who he was rather than anything he did.

Joseph Mary Plunkett‭ was a seriously ill man by this stage and had only left hospital days before the Rising in order to take part in it. ‬Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the Rising and it was largely his plan that was followed. He travelled to Germany to meet Roger Casement before returning home to implement the plan to initiate a Rising. ‭He famously married his sweetheart Grace Gifford hours before his execution in his prison cell. He was one of the signatories of the Proclamation.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

3‭ ‬May‭ ‬1916‭ – ‬Padraig Pearse,‭ ‬Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh were executed at dawn  by firing squad on this day.‭ ‬They‭ ‬were shot in the stonebreakers yard [above] of Kilmainham Jail,‭ ‬Dublin on the orders of General Maxwell.‭

‭Pearse, McDonagh and Clarke were all shot minutes apart by a firing squad of British soldiers drawn from the Sherwood Foresters Regiment. They were commanded by a Major Rhodes. As far as we know all died bravely but while Pearse wished to die and Clarke reckoned execution was better than imprisonment again at the hands of the British it was a different story for McDonagh as he left a wife and young family behind him.

‭After their deaths had been confirmed the bodies were quickly transported to Arbour Hill prison where their remains were buried in quicklime. They were the first of 16 men to be executed for their part in the Rising. But their deaths rather than suppressing dissent ignited it and lit the spark that turned them from ‘Rebels’ into heroes.


Monday, 2 May 2016


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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 May 2016


1 May 664 AD: Solar Eclipse seen in Ireland on this day. This was probably witnessed in central and northern Ireland as it was also recorded over northern England too.


Darkness on the Kalends of May at the ninth hour

Chronicum Scotorum

By working backwards from our times to then astronomers are able to accurately fix the time on that day that the eclipse was at its deepest - 16.50 hours.

Such an event would have startled and bewildered the people of that time. To them it would have been seen as an evil portent. And indeed so it proved to be as late that Summer the Plague struck in Ireland and devastated the Country.

Saturday, 30 April 2016


 30‭ ‬April‭ ‬1916:‭ ‬The Rising in Dublin fizzled out on this day

Sniping had continued overnight as the Rising came to an end.‭ ‬The captured insurgents who were held outside the Rotunda over the night were marched off to Richmond Barracks,‭ ‬Inchicore.‭ ‬Here they were screened and questioned by detectives of the DMO‭ ‘‬G‭’ ‬Division under military supervision.


In his Prison Cell Padraig Pearse wrote out a brief note reiterating his instructions of the previous day that was forwarded on to the Republican Garrisons that still held out:

In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers,‭ ‬the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender,‭ ‬and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms.‭ ‬
P.H.‭ ‬Pearse.‭ ‬Dublin‭ ‬30th April‭ ‬1916.


This brought about the surrender of the various outlying Insurgent positions as orders were brought to them to lay down their arms.‭ However at first the various garrison Commanders refused to believe that the Rising was over and had deep suspicions that the messages brought to them were genuine. But by late afternoon it became apparent that the fighting had stopped and further confirmation arrived that the messages were indeed genuine.


By last light that day the Rising in Dublin was effectively over.


The cost had been high, some 485 people were dead and over 2,500 wounded. The centre of the City of Dublin was in ruins and the financial cost ran into the millions. It estimated that about half the casualties of Easter Week were innocent civilians. Nothing would ever be the same again after the most seminal event in modern Irish History.