Google+ Followers

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


17 December 1803: The famous Wicklow guerrilla leader, Michael Dwyer, surrendered to the British on this day. Since the failure of the Rising in 1798 he had kept up a resistance campaign in the Wicklow Mountains. Despite Dublin Castle putting a price on his head and conducting numerous sweeps of area by the Crown Forces Dwyer and his determined band always managed to evade capture. However the years of hardship in such a barren terrain and the mistreatment of members of his family in retaliation by the British led him to decide to call it a day and he came in of his own accord. While his life was spared he was imprisoned in Kilmainham Jail and subject to harsh treatment there.



In 1805 he was transported to Botany Bay as a free man but was accused of sedition and imprisoned as a convict. He clashed there with the Governor, Captain Bligh of Bounty fame and was sent by him to Norfolk Island where conditions were diabolical. When Bligh was recalled in 1808 he was able to return to Sydney and was eventually given 100 acres on which to settle and farm. Ironically he became a local Constable and aquired a large farm in Liverpool NWS. He eventually went bankrupt and died in Sydney of dysentry on 23rd August 1825.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


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.

Monday, 15 December 2014


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. The Boers were led by General Botha with about 3,000 rifles - 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 advance the 5th Brigade and gain the ‘drift’ or ford on the river Tugela and then drive the Boers off their positions. 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, Third line.



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—

" 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!



Sunday, 14 December 2014


14 December 1955: The Republic of Ireland became a member of the United Nations. Liam Cosgrave as Minister for External Affairs negotiated the deal allowing the accession. There was a window of opportunity in late 1955 due to a slight thaw in relations between the West and the Soviet Union. Italy and a cluster of smaller states (incl, ourselves) were allowed entry in a quid pro quo deal. Cosgrave committed Ireland to a number of policy guidelines that would serve as markers on how our relations with this World Wide Organisation would be conducted.

These were: We pledged to abide by the UN Charter; that we would remain independent of any power blocs and that we would oppose Communism.

The foundation of the State’s approach to international peace and security is set out in Article 29.1 of the Constitution in which: "Ireland affirms its devotion to the ideal of peace and friendly co-operation amongst nations founded on international justice and morality".

The conditions, under which the Defence Forces may participate on overseas peace support operations, have been made very clear by the Government. In this regard, the conditions, which have been referred to as the “triple lock”, must be satisfied:

 1. The operation must be authorized/mandated by the United Nations.

 2. It must be approved by the Government

 3. It must be approved by way of a resolution of Dáil Éireann, where the size of a Defence Forces contribution is more than twelve personnel.
 
Since then members of the Irish Defense Forces have served around the World on Peace keeping missions, sizeable contingents serving in the Congo, Cyprus, Egypt, the Lebanon and recently in Chad. Smaller numbers have acted as Observers throughout the Middle East and in the former States of Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Hundreds of Irish soldiers are currently deployed in south Lebanon and on the highly volatile DMZ between Israel and Syria. 

 
 


Saturday, 13 December 2014


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. 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!


Friday, 12 December 2014


11/12 December 1956: ‘The Border Campaign’ 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 then called off their campaign and dumped arms. The Campaign had been a Fiasco but on the other hand the IRA had not gone away...

Thursday, 11 December 2014


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 smoldered 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. 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 take 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.