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Thursday, 8 October 2015

8 October 1899: The foundation stone of a monument to Charles Stewart Parnell was laid in Upper Sackville (O'Connell) Street, Dublin, on this day. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Daniel Tallon, marched at the head of a procession which that year replaced the usual demonstration at the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell in Glasnevin Cemetery, and subsequently laid the foundation stone of the Parnell Statue at the head of Sackville Street. It was completed in 1911.

When finished to monument was inscribed with a excerpt from one of Parnell’s most famous speeches: No man has the right to fix the boundary to the march of a nation. No man has a right to say to his country: ‘Thus far shalt thou go, and no further’; and we have never attempted to fix the ne plus ultra to the progress of Ireland's nationhood, and we never shall.

Parnell had led the Irish Parliamentry Party to some of its greatest triumphs and to some of its greatest defeats. A man with a commanding presence he put the question of Ireland at the heart of British Politics. He was brought down as a result of his liason with another man’s wife - Kitty O’Shea. He died in 1891 and his stature with the Irish rose again with his internment in Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin. The monument was erected to honour his name - it still stands today.



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

7 October 1921: Eamon de Valera, the President of Ireland issued secret instructions to the plenipotentiaries about to depart to London on this day. They were to begin negotiations with the British Government to secure a Treaty that would give recognition to Ireland’s claim to be an independent Nation.

They were as follows:

(1) The Plenipotentiaries have full powers as defined in their credentials.

(2) It is understood however that before decisions are finally reached on the main questions that a despatch notifying the intention of making these decisions will be sent to the Members of the Cabinet in Dublin and that a reply will be awaited by the Plenipotentiaries before the final decision is made.

(3) It is also understood that the complete text of the draft treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin and reply awaited.

(4) In case of break the text of final proposals from our side will be similarly submitted.

(5) It is understood that the Cabinet in Dublin will be kept regularly informed of the progress of the negotiations

De Valera was concerned that the meeting of the inexperienced Irish delegates with some of the most astute and clever minds in British politics would leave the Irish wrong footed and he wanted to ensure that any deal would have his Imprimatur on it before it was signed.

And indeed when the Treaty was signed in December of that year he was not happy with the result that gave the Irish Free State the status of a British Dominion rather than all of Ireland becoming an independent Republic.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

6 October 1175: The Treaty of Windsor was agreed between representatives of Rory O'Connor [above] the High King of Ireland (Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair an Ard Rí na hÉireann) and King Henry II of England on this day. King Rory was the last High King of Ireland.

King Henry forced him to submit as a result of the Anglo- Norman Invasion of 1169 and King Henry’s own Expedition to Ireland in 1170/71. Basically the King of Ireland eventually submitted to circumstances and recognised Henry II as his Overlord.

The negotiations were conducted at Windsor in Berkshire, England.

The Treaty began:

This is the agreement which was made at Windsor in the octaves of Michaelmas [October 6] in the year of Our Lord 1175, between Henry, king of England, and Roderic [Rory], king of Connaught, by Catholicus, archbishop of Tuam, Cantordis, abbot of Clonfert, and Master Laurence, chancellor of the king of Connaught, namely:

The King of England has granted to Roderic [Rory], his liegeman, king of Connaught, as long as he shall faithfully serve him, that he shall be king under him, ready to his service, as his man. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peacefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute. And he shall hold his land as fully and as peacefully as he held it before the lord king entered Ireland, rendering him tribute...

The witnesses are Robert, bishop of Winchester; Geoffrey, bishop of Ely; Laurence, archbishop of Dublin; Geoffrey, Nicholas and Roger, the king's chaplains; William , Earl of Essex; Richard de Luci; Geoffrey de Purtico, and Reginald de Courtenea.

This Treaty marked the end of an era in Irish History as Ireland was no longer a distinctive kingdom with its own King - - but a Lordship under the at least nominal control of whosoever would be the King of England.

Monday, 5 October 2015

5 October 1968: A Civil Rights march attended by some 2,000 people and organised by local activists and the NICRA was attacked by the RUC in the Waterside district of Derry. Serious rioting then erupted in the wake of the breaking up of the demonstrators. That night and the following day further clashes occurred and some 80 members of the public and 11 RUC men were injured. The pictures subsequently shown on TV throughout Britain and Ireland and further afield awoke large bodies of public opinion to the sectarian nature of the northern State and from that day on the ‘Troubles’ in the North were to be continually front page news.

'The Civil Rights march in Derry on 5 October 1968 was organised to draw attention to a series of grievances over issues related to housing, employment and electoral practices in the city. The driving force behind the idea for the march was a group of left-wing radicals who, through the Derry Housing Action Committee (DHAC) and other organisations, had been taking non-violent direct action to try and improve conditions in the area. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was contacted and following a meeting the NICRA decided to support the proposed march. When the march was publicised Loyalists announced that they were holding an 'annual' parade on the same day, at the same time, and over the same route. The Stormont government then issued a banning order on all marches and parades. When the demonstration went ahead the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) blocked the route of the march and then baton charged the crowd. The scenes were recorded by television cameras and the subsequent news coverage sparked rioting in Derry. Most commentators consider the 5 October 1968 to be the start date of 'the Troubles'.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

4 October 1957: Sputnik over Ireland. The Soviet Union amazed the World when it launched the first man made object into orbit around the Earth – Sputnik 1 - on this day. Sputnik was a small silver-coloured ball 58cm (2 feet) in diameter, with four frond-like antennae and two radio transmitters. Radio stations rushed to record and re-broadcast the crackly 'beep-beep' signal emitted by the satellite, and it became an iconic sound for a new era - the space generation.

By a fortuitous coincidence the trajectory of the satellite brought it over Ireland and many thousands of Irish people were able to witness the birth of the Space Age as the rocket booster used to launch the metal ball was visible high in the night sky as it orbited the Earth. People from Dublin drove up into the Dublin Mountains to see it more clearly away from the city lights and were not disappointed to see the distinct object as it made its way overhead – incl. Yours truly!

So for once I can say I witnessed a major historical event and the birth of an Age: The Space Age!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

3 October 1981: The Irish Hunger Strike of 1981 ended on this day. The remaining prisoners on the strike in the H Blocks [above] of Long Kesh issued a statement which read in part:

We, the protesting Republican prisoners in the H-Blocks, being faced with the reality of sustained family intervention, are forced by this circumstance, over which we have little control at the moment, to end the hunger strike...

Our comrades have lit with their very lives an eternal beacon which will inspire this nation and people to rise and crush oppression forever and this nation can be proud that it produced such a quality of manhood...

We reaffirm our commitment to the achievement of the five demands by whatever means we believe necessary and expedient. We rule nothing out. Under no circumstances are we going to devalue the memory of our dead comrades by submitting ourselves to a dehumanising and degrading regime.

On 6 October 1981 James Prior, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced a series of measures which went a long way to meeting many aspects of the prisoners' five demands.

The hunger strike of 1981 had very important and far-reaching consequences and proved to be one of the key turning points of 'the Troubles'. The Republican movement had achieved a huge propaganda victory over the British government and had obtained a lot of international sympathy. Active and tacit support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) increased in Nationalist areas. Political support for Sinn Féin (SF) was demonstrated in two by-elections (and the general election in the Republic of Ireland) and eventually led to the emergence of SF as a significant political force in Ireland

The Republican prisoners who died on Hunger Strike that year were:

Bobby Sands

Francis Hughes

Ray McCreesh

Patsy O'Hara

Joe McDonnell

Martin Hurson

Kevin Lynch

Kieran Doherty

Thomas McElwee

Michael Devine

Friday, 2 October 2015

2 October 1600: The Battle of the Moyry Pass /Cath Bealach na mhaighre on this day. The 'Gap of the North' was the traditional invasion route between Ulster and Leinster going back centuries. It began with a clash of arms between the forces of Aodh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and the army of the English Viceroy, Lord Mountjoy. He brought with him some 3,000 foot soldiers and 300 cavalry to try and crush O'Neill's revolt against the English Queen Elizabeth I. The size of O'Neill's force is unknown but was probably in the range of 1,500-2,000 men of all arms.

The battle was initiated by Mountjoy who tried to force his way through the pass west of Newry, which the Irish had fortified. His forces were repulsed with loss and despite repeated attempts over the following days he could not break the Irish lines.

On the 9th he withdrew towards Dundalk. Honour satisfied and with his supplies low the Earl withdrew towards Dungannon. Mountjoy then cautiously advanced through the Pass to build Fort Norris and in which he placed a garrison of some 400 men. He then went back to Dundalk, not through the pass (where an ambush was possible), but by way of Carlingford. However O'Neill attacked him anyway when he withdrew and harassed his columns from the woods as they marched by the lough.

But the lateness of the season meant this campaign was now over. O’Neill had done enough to stymie the Viceroy’s attempt to take Dungannon that year and cost the English hundreds of casualties in their futile attempts to take his power base. But Irish losses were heavy too and O'Neill could not so easily replace the expenditure of arms and munitions like Mountjoy was capable of so doing. Of the defences the English encountered in this battle one wrote he never saw: a more villainous piece of work, and an impossible thing for an army to pass without intolerable loss.