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Monday, 1 September 2014


1 September 1701: The Irish Brigade in the service of France fought in the Battle of Chiari [above]*on this day. This clash of arms took place in Lombardy in northern Italy during the War of the Spanish Succession. The French Army was under the command of Marshal Villeroy who was opposed by Prince Eugene of Savoy in the service of the Austrian Empire. Villeroy decided to attack the town of Chiari as he felt it was his duty to fight for King Louis rather than just observe the enemy.

Villeroy ignored the warnings of his subordinate Marshal Catinat that Eugene was in a strong position, remarking his deputy that the King had not sent so many brave men there just to look at the enemy through their spy glasses!

The attack was however a fiasco as the French were cut down in droves. Amongst the regiments leading the attack was the Irish regiment of Galmoy (Its Colonel was Pierce Butler, 3rd Viscount Galmoy), which suffered heavily in the assault. Eventually the attempt was called off and the surviving troops were told to retire. The French losses were over 2,000 men killed or wounded while their enemies sustained a loss in the low hundreds. The most prominent Irish casualty was Dominick Sarsfield, 4th Lord Killmallock who was killed at the head of his men in the attack.

 

Some of the Irishmen who survived were badly wounded. Felix MacNamee, aged 35, a native of Armagh, had had his left arm taken off by a cannon ball and, put out of service, was admitted into the military hospital of Les Invalides in Paris, dying at Arras in 1726. The ensign of the Colonel’s company, Terence Sweeny, aged 33, was hit in the right thigh by cannon shot and across the body by a musket ball. He too, was admitted to Les Invalides and survived until 1750. Also hit by a cannon shot in the right leg was the reformed Lieutenant Thomas Meade, aged 31, a native of Kilmallock, who survived until 1736. John Conor, aged 31, a Kerryman and the sergeant of grenadiers, lost his right arm though a musket ball but lived until 1721.

 

 

* Battle of Chiari, by Jan van Huchtenburg

Sunday, 31 August 2014



31 August 1994: The IRA announced a complete cessation of military activities on this day as their long awaited ‘Ceasefire’ came into effect. The efforts to bring the Provisonal IRA to this point had been years in the making but had faced many obstacles along the way, both within and without the Republican Movement.




The IRA announced: "Recognising the potential of the current situation and in order to enhance the democratic process and underlying our definitive commitment to its success, the leadership of the IRA have decided that as of midnight, August 31, there will be a complete cessation of military operations. All our units have been instructed accordingly....



The genesis for moving away from violence and towards a purely peaceful strategy began at the time of the 1981 Hunger Strikes when a number of republican representatives were elected both North and South of the Border - most notably Bobby Sands who was on hunger strike in the Long Kesh prison camp at the time.



In the aftermath of those events Sinn Fein decided to contest elections across Ireland and while initially any success they had was in the North they had made a start and there was no going back.



Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, as the acknowledged leaders of the Republican Movement, were the two individuals most closely associated with developing a strategy that would see a metamorphosis of Sinn Fein into a purely political Party and an end to its support for the IRAs campaign. However they realised that at the end of the day only the IRA could call it.



Initially there was sceptism and hostility in many quarters but a number of factors, some positive and some negative helped push things along the way.



On the positive side was the election of Bill Clinton as President of the USA from 1991, a man with an Irish background and a real interest in helping to bring Peace about. Here in Ireland the appointment of Albert Reynolds as Taoiseach in 1992 brought to power a man of calibre who carried no baggage on the issue and was prepared to take risks to get the end result. In Britain John Major became Prime Minister in 1990 and if not as committed as others to the process he was of a practical turn of mind who was prepared to cut a deal at the end of the day.



On the negative side many many people, not least in Nationalist areas of the North of Ireland were sick and tired of years of violence with no end in sight. The yearning for Peace was high and in addition the Loyalist paramilitaries had been re armed and re organised and were launching effective counter strikes of their own. The British Army were still on the streets. Though the IRA were well armed and motivated it was clear the Armed Struggle had reached Deadlock.



The Hume Adams imitative was an internal attempt by Adams and John Hume, the leader of the SDLP, then the biggest nationalist party in the North, to develop a framework for Peace but was stymied by its utter rejection by Unionists and the British Government. The Unionist community did not trust what was happening and were wary of any initiatives that emanated from Dublin or indeed from any parties on the Nationalist side. Major in turn was reliant on Unionist votes to keep him in power and would not risk pushing them too far. Albert Reynolds had other ideas and had Hume and Adams sidelined as he went for cutting a deal with the British Prime Minister that would put them in the driving seat and steering the process down a road that all could follow.



Thus came about the in December 1993 the Downing Street Declaration when Reynolds and Major issued a joint statement which laid out the guidelines on which a settlement could be built.



It argued for self-determination on the basis of consensus for all the people of Ireland. It argued that any agreement had to be based on the right of people on both parts of the island to "exercise the right of self determination on the basis of consent freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland if that is their wish." Not everyone was happy with this but at least there was now something to build upon.



Another significant breakthrough came at the end of January 1994 when Gerry Adams was given a 48 hour visa to visit the USA in order to be able to convince Republican supporters to support his efforts to stop the violence. The visa was granted on the personal authority of Bill Clinton, despite the opposition of his own State Department, FBI, CIA and speaker of the House, Tom Foley.



That same month The broadcasting ban under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act was lifted in the Republic of Ireland. This allowed Sinn Féin access to the Irish media and marked the end of official political censorship in the South.



At Easter 1994 the IRA announced a three day ceasefire and across Ireland there was a growing expectation that a permanent one would follow.



Behind the scenes the Irish government had given written assurances that in the event of an IRA cessation, it would end its marginalisation of the Sinn Féin electorate and that there would be an early public meeting between Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, John Hume and Gerry Adams.



Despite some twists and turns and secret negotiations the momentum held. Not even shocking acts of violence like the Shankill road bombing in October 1993 in which eleven innocent people were killed by an IRA bomb and the revenge murders by the UVF at Greysteel were enough to derail the process. When it came though many were relieved that what had seemed almost impossible had at last come about. It was a seminal moment in Modern Irish History.

Saturday, 30 August 2014


30 August 1855: The Death of Feargus O’Connor, Chartist Leader on this day. He was the son of Roger O'Connor, a United Irishman.



Feargus O'Connor was born on 18 July 1794 in Connorville house, near Castletown-Kinneigh in west County Cork, into a prominent Irish Protestant family who claimed to be the descendants of the 12th-century king Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair. His father was Irish nationalist politician Roger O'Connor, who like his uncle Arthur O'Connor was active in the United Irishmen. His elder brother Francis became a general in Simón Bolívar's army of liberation in South America.



When Feargus O'Connor was twenty-four he inherited an estate in County Cork. Although a Protestant, O'Connor was a reforming landlord and denounced the religious Tithes & the power of the Established Church. Daniel O’Connell soon spotted his potential and secured a candidacy for him in the General Election of 1832 in which he was returned as an MP for County Cork. But O’Connor rashly decided to try and unseat the Great Dan as Leader if the Irish MPs in the House of Commons and the two fell out.


O’Connor thereafter focused his attentions on Radical English Politics, moving to Manchester where he published the highly successful Northern Star newspaper. He became a leading light in the Chartist Movement, dedicated to Universal Suffrage and Annual parliaments. Here again though his maverick personality and impatience with pacific political activity led him into trouble with him advocating the threat of violence to achieve political Reform. O'Connor responded to criticism by forming a new Chartist organisation, the East London Democratic Association.

He was found guilty of sedition in 1839 and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. O'Connor continued to edit the Northern Star newspaper from his prison cell and upset the other Chartist leaders when he told his readers that from "September 1835 to February 1839 I led you single-handed and alone."

In 1845 O'Connor launched his Chartist Land Plan. His objective was to raise money to buy a large estate that would be divided into plots of three and four acres. Subscribers would then draw lots and the winners would obtain a cottage and some land. O'Connor promised that his Land Scheme would "change the whole face of society in twelve months" and would "make a paradise of England in less than five years".

But the scheme backfired and the estate went bankrupt before too long. Some of the tenants ended up being evicted and the whole disastrous enterprise badly damaged O’Connor’s credibility with the English Working Class. The stress and effort involved took its toll on O’Connor’s mental health and at a great rally in Kensington London in 1848 he made outlandish claims over the numbers of people who had signed a petition that was exposed as a gross distortion.

In 1847, O'Connor had been returned to Parliament for Nottingham, but after 1848 Chartism went into sharp decline. From 1851, O'Connor's behaviour became increasingly irrational, possibly as a result of syphilis.

It all came to a head in the House of Commons in 1852. O'Connor struck three fellow MPs, including Sir Benjamin Hall, a very vocal critic of the Land Plan. Arrested by the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, O'Connor was sent by his sister to a private asylum, where he remained until 1854. He was subsequently removed to his sister's house in Notting Hill. He died on 30 August 1855, and, on 10 September, was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. No less than 40,000 people witnessed the funeral procession. Most Chartists preferred to remember O'Connor's strengths rather than his shortcomings. There is no evidence that, at the height of his political popularity in the late 1830s and 1840s, O'Connor was suffering from any form of mental illness.


Friday, 29 August 2014


29 August 1975: Éamon de Valera died in Linden Convalescent Home, Blackrock County Dublin on aged 92 on this day. His wife Sinéad had died just a few months previously in January on the eve of their 65th wedding anniversary.

He was born in New York on 14 October, 1882, and was brought to Ireland at the age of two and a half years. In 1910 he married Sinéad Ní Fhlannagáin.

A teacher and university lecturer, he joined the Irish Volunteers when they were founded in 1913. As a Commandant he took part in the 1916 Irish National Uprising. He was sentenced to death, the sentence being commuted to penal servitude for life. He was released on General Amnesty in 1917.

He was elected Sinn Féin M.P. for East Clare in 1917 and re-elected as parliamentary representative for Clare at subsequent General Elections until his election as President in 1959.

He founded the Fianna Fáil Party in 1926 and from 1932 – 37 he was President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State and Minister for External Affairs.

He was President of Council of the League of Nations at its 68th and Special Sessions, September and October 1932 and President of the Assembly of the League of Nations, 1938.

Following enactment by the people of the Constitution, Eamon De Valera became Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Minister for External Affairs from 1937 – 48. He was Taoiseach again from 1951 – 54, 1957 – 59.

On 25 June, 1959 he was inaugurated as President of Ireland.

http://www.president.ie/past_presidents/eamon-devalera/

 

De Valera served two terms as President of Ireland , being elected again in 1966. He left office in 1973 and retired from politics alltogether after a career spanning some 57 years.



Thursday, 28 August 2014


28 August 1814: Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin on this day. His family name has French Huguenot roots. He was the author of many seminal works of Gothic Horror novels and short stories that influenced other writers and film directors down into modern times.





A great-nephew of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Le Fanu was the son of a Protestant churchman. He studied law at Trinity, but neglected the bar in favour of journalism and writing. Having made extensive use of his father’s library in his youth, Le Fanu went on to read Classics at Trinity College Dublin, before studying Law at King’s Inn in London. However the family fell on hard times and eventually the Library had to be sold to pay off debts.




From 1844 to 1858, he was married to Susanna Bennett, and they eventually moved into the Bennett family home in Merrion Square, Dublin. Susanna was prone to mental disorders that eventually killed her and that must have influenced Le Fanu's depiction of extreme neuroses. They had four children together. He wrote at the time of her death, as quoted by Kathryn West in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "The greatest misfortune of my life has overtaken me. My darling wife is gone… . She was the light of my life."



He was among the first practitioners of the psychological ghost story, in which the haunting might be the result of supernatural intrusion into the everyday world but could also arise from the broken psyche of a protagonist.



He tried his hand at a number of genres but it was as a writer of Horror stories that he had the greatest success. He published his first ghost story, The Ghost and the Bonesetter in the Dublin University Magazine in 1838. Originally set in Ireland his publications met with only limited recognition. When his editor suggested that he switch the locations to England he finally got the recognition he desired.

The novel Uncle Silas was his masterpiece and though ostensibly set in Derbyshire Le Fanu actually wrote it with Ireland in mind. The year before his death he published In a Glass Darkly which is a collection of five short stories first published in 1872. The second and third are revised versions of previously published stories, and the fourth and fifth are long enough to be called novellas.

The title is taken from Corithinans 13- a deliberate misquotation of the passage which describes humanity as perceiving the world "through a glass darkly". Some are set in Dublin and some abroad. The most famous one though is the ground breaking novella Carmilla which featured what was in effect a lesbian vampire sucking the blood of her innocent female victim Laura, this too was set abroad in eastern Europe.

Sometimes after an hour of apathy, my strange and beautiful companion would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardour of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet overpowering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips travelled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, and you and I are one for ever". ( "Carmilla" , Chapter 4)

Le Fanu died in his native Dublin on 7 February 1873, at the age of 58. Today there is a road and a park in Ballyfermot near his childhood home in the village of Chapelizod in south-west Dublin, named after him. He is buried in Mount Jerome cemetary in Dublin [above].



Wednesday, 27 August 2014


27 August 1979: Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA on this day. He was blown up while sailing in his yacht at Mullaghmore, whilst on holiday at his nearby Irish home Classiebawn Castle, in County Sligo. During his lifetime, Mountbatten had received numerous honours, and honorary degrees and had attained high military rank in WWII. He was the last Viceroy of India. On the day of his death he was accompanied by members of his family and a local boy. Three of them were killed and others seriously injured. His funeral took place in Westminster Abbey and he was buried in Romsey Abbey.

That same afternoon at Warrenpoint, County Down, the IRA killed 18 British soldiers, most of them members of the elite Parachute Regiment, in a double bomb attack. An innocent bystander on the Republic’s side of the border was also killed in retaliatory fire by the Paras.

This was the greatest loss of life suffered by the British during the Conflict and caused shock waves throughout the British Establishment and with the general British Public. The news of these events immediately spread around the World and made the North an International News story. Mountbatten, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and uncle to Prince Charles was a person at the heart of the British Establishment as a senior member of the British Royal Family. They felt his death at the hands of the IRA very keenly.

The multiple deaths of the soldiers got much less coverage than Mountbatten’s killing but as the days past that too began to sink in. While British people were shocked and horrified there was no backlash against the Irish community in Britain like that which followed the Birmingham bombings in 1974.

But amongst the Republican community in the North there was a grim satisfaction notwithstanding the loss of some innocent lives. The deaths of the Paras was seen as revenge for the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when 13 innocent people were shot dead by members of the Parachute Regiment. Soon after Mountbatten's death a grisly piece of Graffiti appeared on Belfast walls. It read:

 
13 gone but not forgotten - we got 18 and Mountbatten


 


 




 


 
 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014


26 August 1913 The Great Strike and Lockout of 1913 in Dublin began on this day

It was a clash between the forces of Capital and Labour on the streets of Dublin that was to enter into the folklore of Dublin’s working class. Basically the workers in certain companies wished to exercise the right to be a member of a Union of their own choosing. The Employers in return were prepared to accept that – so long as it was not the Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGW)!

Matters between Murphy and the ITGWU came to a head in the summer of 1913. Murphy refused to employ ITGWU members on the staff of his Irish Independent newspapers and in July 1913, he forbade staff in the Tramways Company to join the Union. On Saturday, 27 July 1913 Murphy called a meeting of his employees in the Tramways Company. He warned his workers of the consequences of strike:

'I want you to clearly understand that the directors of this company have not the slightest objection to the men forming a legitimate Union. And I would think there is talent enough amongst the men in the service to form a Union of their own, without allying themselves to a disreputable organisation, and placing themselves under the feet of an unscrupulous man who claims the right to give you the word of command and issue his orders to you and to use you as tools to make him the labour dictator of Dublin. ... I am here to tell you that this word of command will never be given, and if it is, that it will be the Waterloo of Mr. Larkin.'

The following month, on 21 August, about 100 employees in the Tramways Company received a dismissal notice:

‘As the Directors of the Tramways Company understand that you are a member of the ITGWU whose methods are disorganising the trade and business of the city, they do not further require your service’.

This was a direct challenge to the ITGWU. There could only be one reply to Murphy. He and his fellow directors had started a lockout: the workers could only respond with a total withdrawal of labour. Larkin carefully chose the moment to strike in order to cause the maximum impact. Shortly after 10.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 26 August 1913—the first day of the Dublin Horse Show, one of the city’s busiest events—drivers and conductors stopped their trams and abandoned them in protest. About 700 of the 1,700 Tramways Company’s employees went on strike. The city was filled with tension on the days following. Strikers resented the workers who continued to operate the trams, and fights often took place between them. Workers who usually distributed the Irish Independent—[owned by Murphy] though not employed by Murphy—refused to handle it in protest. Messrs. Eason and Co., the large city newsagents, were asked by Larkin not to sell the paper. They refused. As a result dock-workers at Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) refused to handle any Eason and Co. goods from England or addressed to England.ultitext.ucc.ie/d/Dublin_1913Strike_and_Lockout#6TheBeginningoftheLockout