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Sunday, 4 December 2016


4 December 1971: McGurk’s Bar in Belfast was blown up on this day. Fifteen innocent people were killed in the explosion and many more were injured. McGurk's family pub was on North Queen Street, one of North Belfast's main thoroughfares, five minute's walk away from the commercial hub of the City. The proprietor Paddy McGurk was a well known figure and the Vice President of the local GAA club, the Ardoyne Kickhams. His wife and daughter died that evening.

The original target of the Loyalist bombers was a pub called ‘the Gem’ which was frequented by members of a Republican organisation in competition with the Provisional IRA. The gang were under instructions to plant the device there in the hope that the inevitable casualties would lead to violent strife between these rivals. However the Gem was well guarded and the bombers decided that McGurk’s was an easier target.

Almost immediately in the aftermath of the attack a sinister campaign of disinformation was launched by sources within the Crown Forces that raised suspicions within the Nationalist Community that there was a hidden hand at work. The following day the journalist John Chartres writing in the London Times newspaper devoted a complete article to the debriefing of the British army. He recorded, without heeding any of the witness accounts:

Police and Army Intelligence Officers believe that Ulster's worst outrage, the killing of 15 people including two children and three women ...was caused by an IRA plan that went wrong.

BBC Radio 4 News reported the afternoon after the blast that RUC sources had confirmed that forensic scientists believed that the bomb exploded inside the building. Other such reports in a similar vein followed that helped cast doubt in the public mind as to who was responsible and a plausible cover story was thus germinated that this was indeed an IRA ‘own goal’ that had gone disastrously wrong for the perpetrators.

Nobody was ever arrested or questioned, until a U.V.F. gang-member, Robert James Campbell, turned himself in and confessed to his part in the massacre on the 28 July 1977. He admitted that he drove the vehicle used to transport the bomb on that fateful night but the bombers themselves have never been brought to justice. Robert James Campbell was sentenced on the 6 September 1978. He was released on the 9th September 1993 afters serving fifteen years for the murders of fifteen people.

In July 2008, British Secretary of State Shaun Woodward apologised in a letter to Scottish MP Michael Connarty about the role the British Army played in the cover up of who was responsible for the massacre. Mr Connarty’s great uncle was killed in the UVF attack on McGurk’s bar this night 45 years ago.


Saturday, 3 December 2016



3 December 1925: The Boundary Commission, set up under the Treaty to finalise the Border, was scrapped and a financial settlement was agreed between the British and Irish Governments instead covering various aspects of Anglo-Irish affairs. The Commission’s findings had been fatally undermined when the British Morning Post newspaper leaked its results. This clearly showed that only minor adjustments in the Border were to be expected.


It was in effect a Fiasco and a humiliation for the Irish Free State and for the hopes of the Irish People. Mr Cosgrave [above], President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. Cosgrave defended his successful negotiation of the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under Article 5 of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal.

That article stated that:



The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.

This would have been a heavy burden on the State that had not yet even started to make a contribution to the fund. While the British Government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not willing to budge on the Border been adjusted by any significant concession of territory to the Irish Free State it was prepared to concede on these repayments as a sop to the Irish to stave off political instability here.

In the Debate that followed in Leinster House Cosgrave defended his decision to do a deal that abrogated the State’s obligations to Britain’s Public Debt with the following words:


I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.
It was a classic case of Realpolitik as the Irish President was between a rock and a hard place and at least walked away from the negotiations with some thing tangible for his efforts - 1 Big 0.

He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.



Friday, 2 December 2016


2 December 1791: The death of Henry Flood MP on this day. Flood was one of the great advocates of the legislative independence of Ireland during the latter 18th Century. He was a great orator and a man of considerable intelligence and political acumen. He was however primarily concerned with establishing the political dominance of the Ascendancy Class and the maintenance of the Established Church of Ireland free from the interference of the English Parliament.


He was born in 1732, the illegitimate son of Warden Flood, the Anglo-Irish chief justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. Henry Flood entered the Irish Parliament in 1759 as a placeman of the Ponsonby family (the Earls of Bessborough). His outstanding oratorical powers soon enabled him to create an effective opposition inside the Irish Parliament that agitated for political reforms. They demanded that Irish parliamentary elections should take place every eight years instead of merely at the start of a new British monarch's reign. In 1768 Flood's patriots agitated sufficiently to persuade the Duke of Grafton's government to pass the Octennial Act; in 1769 and 1771 they defeated measures to grant funds for the British administration in Ireland. Their long-range goal was legislative independence.

Although Flood was the first independent Irish statesman, he lost his support in 1775 when he accepted the office of vice treasurer under the British viceroy, Lord Harcourt. Henry Grattan, an even greater orator than Flood, replaced him as leader of the patriots. Grattan described Flood as a man "with a metaphor in his mouth and a bribe in his pocket." In 1779 Flood rejoined his old party, and two years later he was dismissed from his government post. Although Flood had lost his following, he helped Grattan to force North's government to renounce its restrictions on Irish trade in 1779 and grant legislative independence to Ireland in 1782. Flood then decided to challenge Grattan's leadership.

Alleging that Grattan had not gone far enough in his reforms, Flood obtained passage of a measure requiring the English Parliament to renounce all claims to control of Irish legislation. Flood's newly acquired popularity was destroyed upon the defeat of his attempt to reform the Irish Parliament in 1784. From 1783 until his retirement in 1790 he was a member of both the British and the Irish parliaments, though in England he failed to achieve the kind of political successes that he achieved in Ireland. Flood opposed Catholic emancipation and the lifting of the Williamite Penal Laws.

In his will, he bequeathed his estate to fund the study of Irish at Trinity College, Dublin: this was challenged successfully by a cousin. Flood died on 2 December 1791 at Farmley, County Kilkenny. While considered nowadays to be a ‘Patriot’ his brand of patriotism was of a very limited nature of those it wished to encompass.
http://www.historyhome.co.uk/c-eight/people/flood.htm



Thursday, 1 December 2016

1 December 1956 - Ronnie Delany leads the field home in Melbourne

1 December 1956: Ronnie Delaney won Gold for Ireland at the Summer Olympics in Melbourne Australia. His triumph in the Antipodes was heard in Ireland at breakfast time that Saturday morning and was a great morale boost for people back home in the midst of Winter.

Delaney was already an accomplished runner and was one of the few people in the World to have mastered the Four Minute Mile. He trained hard to make it onto Ireland’s Olympic Team and only just made it. The race that gave him his Gold Medal was the 1500 metres held at the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Local runner John Landy  was the big favourite. Delany kept close to Landy until the final lap, when he started a crushing final sprint, winning the race in a new Olympic record. Delany thereby became the first Irishman to win an Olympic title in athletics since Bob Tisdall in 1932. The Irish people learned of its new champion at breakfast time. Delany would be Ireland's last Olympic champion for 36 years, until Michael Carruth won the gold medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Reflecting on his win all those years ago he recalled: "I had this decisiveness. Where did it come from? Well, it came from this quantity of training I had put in, the tutoring I got, the mentoring I got and from the heart. Overall it was built in there from hard work, dedication and desire.

"Tactically, I wanted to win and I raced to win. In the Olympic final, I ran the perfect race."
http://www.rte.ie/sport/athletics/2016/1201/835885-ronnie-delany/

In 2006, Delany was granted the Freedom of the City of Dublin and was also conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by University College Dublin in the same year.



Wednesday, 30 November 2016


30 November 3340 BC: The world's oldest known recording of a solar eclipse was made on stone.
The illustrations are found on the “Cairn L,” on Carbane West, at Loughcrew, outside Oldcastle, in County Meath. The landscape of rolling hills is littered with Neolithic monuments. Some say that originally there were at least 40 to 50 monuments, but others say the figure was more like 100.

They write that the Irish Neolithic astronomer priests recorded the events on three stones relating to the eclipse, as seen from that location. The date November 30th 3340 is the only one that fits with what could have been observed from that site in that age.

To the ancient Neolithic farmers of Ireland the observance of the changing skies was an important tool in determining the passage of the year and when to plant and harvest crops and stage their festivals to honour the Gods. An event like a Solar Eclipse would have been a fantastic event to them and something of a shocker to their calculations. No doubt that they would have seen this as an evil portent. Whether it proved so or not we of course do not know. However it proved an important enough event for them to carve a depiction of this celestial wonder in stone on the top of one of their most sacred sites.

Note: Irish archaeo -astronomer Paul Griffin has announced the confirmation of the world's oldest known solar eclipse recorded in stone, substantially older than the recordings made in 2800 BC by Chinese astronomers. This finding was made at the world's oldest lunar eclipse tracking multi cairn site at the Loughcrew Cairn L Megalithic Monument in Ireland, and corresponds to a solar eclipse which occurred on November 30, 3340 BC, calculated with The Digital Universe astronomy software.



Tuesday, 29 November 2016


29 November 1641: Battle of Julianstown/ Baile Iúiliáin in County Meath was fought on this day. Julianstown is situated on the River Nanny, which flows into the sea at Laytown about 3 km away. It was along this way that a relief force from Dublin was dispatched by the Lords Justice Borlase and Parsons to help relieve the town of Drogheda, which was in danger of encirclement by the Irish insurgents of Sir Phelim O’Neill.



He directed a force led by Colonel Rory O'More / Ruairí Óg Ó Mórdha to prevent this column from ever reaching Drogheda and O’More kept close to the main road north from Dublin to enable him to strike at a moment of his own choosing. The Irish troops actually engaged though were under the tactical command of one Colonel Plunkett on the day apparently. As luck would have it the weather this day was cold and foggy and the English, even though warned beforehand by Viscount Gormanstown that they were in immediate danger, stumbled into what was in effect an ambush. The Irish waited until the moment was ripe and then they uttered a great shout of their war cries and rushed out of the mists to fall upon the hapless enemy cutting them to pieces. Some 600 of the enemy were left dead on the road and surrounding fields while the few survivors fled back in the direction they came.




...the rebels forces who now furiously approached with a great shout and a lieutenant giving out the unhappy word of counter march all the men possessed as it were of a panic fear began somewhat confusedly to march back; but they were so much amazed with a second shout given by the rebels, who, seeing them in disorder followed close on, as not withstanding that they had gotten into a ground of great advantage, they could not be persuaded to stand a charge, but betook themselves to their heels, and so the rebels fell sharply on, as their manner is, upon the execution.

Bellings in Gilbert’s Irish Confederation



Prisoners were taken but according to Temple the attackers ‘spared very few or none that fell into their hands, but such as were Irish whose lives they preserved’

Sir John Temple The Irish Rebellion (London, 1646)



The commander of the Royalist force was Sir Patrick Wemyss, Scottish born but his mother was related to the Earls of Desmond. He was Captain-Lieutenant in the Army of King Charles I and was a close associate of the Earl of Ormond. He has left us the only known eye witness account of the battle. He wrote to Ormond on the following day:




I will now tell you of our misfortune. We lodged last night at Balrederie (Balrothery,), as my officers could not make the men march to Drogheda. We were informed that the enemy were upon us, but they did not fall on us. Next day on the march, we sent out scouts and saw a few rebels, but after crossing the Julanstowne bridge, I saw them advancing towards us in as good order as ever I saw any men. I viewed them all, and to my conjecture they were not less than 3,000 men....



I drew up the troops on their front, and told the captains that we were engaged in honour to charge them, and that I would charge them first with those horse I had. They promised faithfully to second me. But when I made the trumpet sound, the rebels advanced towards us in five great bodies of foot; the horse, being on both wings, a little advance before the foot; but just as I was going to charge, the troop cried unto me and told me the foot had left their officers, thrown down their arms, and took themselves to running. It was useless to fight, so I withdrew as best I could and escaped with a loyal remnant to Drogheda.



Two of my troop whose horses went lame were left behind. I hear however that they are safe, except for their clothes, which were taken from them, not by the rebels, but by natives as they passed through the village. All our arms and ammunition are in the rebel's hands. We can get no food here for man or horse.
Calendar of State Papers Ireland 1641


The defeat of the troops sent from Dublin was a powerful factor in influencing the Catholic Old English of Meath to throw in their lot with their fellow co religionists to halt any further encroachments upon their Civil and Religious Liberties by the English Protestants. This was a real catalyst in the history of Ireland as it was the first time that the people descended from the English colonisers of the 12/13th centuries had come together in a common cause with the native Gaelic Irish.


Monday, 28 November 2016

Image result for anna haslam


28 November 1922: Anna Haslam Irish campaigner for Women's Rights died on this day. Anna was born in Youghal, the 16th of 17 children of Jane and Abraham Fisher. The Fishers, Quaker merchants with extensive business interests in Youghal, were noted for charitable works, particularly during the Great Famine.

She was one the earliest campaigners for the Rights of Women in this Country. She was born Anna Maria Fisher in Youghal , Co Cork in 1829 into a family of Quakers. She met her  husband Thomas Haslam when as a young adult she was teachng in Yorkshire, England. Thomas was also interested in political & social reform and hailed from Mountmellick, Co Laois. Anna and Thomas Haslam [above] married on 20 March 1854 in the Cork Registry Office. They had no children, perhaps by choice.

Anna and Thomas Haslam were founding members of the Dublin Women’s Suffrage Association (DWSA) in 1876. Though they were not practising Quakers they retained a deep commitment to the pursuit of political reform by exclusively peaceful methods. They engaged in a campaign of drawing room meetings from their Dublin home in Rathmines road and continous letter writing to those public figures they believed could help to bring about votes for women and an improvement of their Status within Society. Anna could write up to 20 letters a day without difficulty. They also went to feminist meetings both in Ireland and England to lend support to like minded activists.

Success though was limited but not altogether without results as very slowly support grew for the concept that women should be allowed some say in the running of Public Affairs. The big breakthrough came with the Local Government Act 1898 which allowed women of property to sit on local councils. In 1903 she travelled to Holborn, London to attend a major conference on Women’s Rights. However by the early years of the century a more militant type of feminism was emerging and more violent and and senationalist method were espoused.

The  Irish Women’s Franchise League (IWFL), a more militant organisation was formed in 1908. One of its founders Margaret Cousins recalled:

So a group of us went on November 6th to the dear old leader of the constitutional suffragetttes. Mrs Anna Haslam, to inform her that we younger women were ready to start a new women’s suffarage society on militant lines. She regretted what she felt  to be a duplication of effort’
Ireland’s Suffragettes by Sarah Beth Watkins

Hannah was getting on in years by then and younger more militant women were taking the reins from her. Her beloved husband died in 1917 and the political upheavals at home left her perplexed and confused as she saw Ireland’s future as best served by staying within the UK.
She died in November 1922 as the State was plunged into Civil War - her death un-noticed exept by the faithful few. Today though her life and work along with that of her husband are commemorated by a stone seat in St Stephen’s Green Dublin.