July 2014

History Selection

Oliver Plunkett died July 1681
Oliver Plunkett
 July 1681
Father John Murphy died 1798
Father John Murphy
 July 1798
Thomas Meagher died 1867
Thomas Meagher
 July 1867
Cathal Brugha died July 1922
Cathal Brugha
 July 1922
Kevin O'Higgins died July 1927
Kevin O'Higgins
 July 1927
Countess Markiewicz died July 1927
C. Markiewicz
 July 1927

Ireland in 1997

January 8th: Russia tried to widen its ban on importing Irish beef due to Bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

January 15th: Birth of actor Alex Cardillo.

January 30th: Peter North launched the North Report regarding parades and marches.

February 15th: Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Patrick Mayhew said there would be no official apology or inquiry into Bloody Sunday.

February 27th: Divorce law came into effect.

March 5th: Stormont multi-party talks were adjourned until 3rd June.

March 6th: Michael Lowry resigned from the Fine Gael party.

March 7th: President Mary Robinson met Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.

Michael Lowry TD
Michael Lowry, Fine Gael TD
Aftermath of Grand National hoax, 1997
Aftermath of Grand National hoax, 1997
March 17th: Radio Ireland went on air.

April 5th: The Grand National horse race was cancelled after a hoax bomb threat by the IRA.

April 8th: Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, won the Pulitzer Prize.

April 21st: Freedom of Information Act passed.

May 1st: In the UK general election, Sinn Féin increased its vote, becoming the third biggest party.

May 3rd: Ireland staged the Eurovision Song Contest. The Irish entry, Mysterious Woman, came second.

May 8th: Mo Mowlam was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

May 8th: Catholic Robert Hamill died of injuries sustained in a sectarian attack in Portadown.

May 16th: British PM Tony Blair gave an important speech in Belfast.

June 2nd: Alban Maginness became the first nationalist mayor of Belfast.

June 6th: The LVR and CIRA were proscribed.

June 12th: President Mary Robinson was appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

June 16th: The National University of Ireland, Maynooth came into existence.

June 16th: The IRA killed two RUC officers.

June 25th: Film makers arrived in Curracloe in Co. Wexford to recreate the D-Day Normandy for the film Saving Private Ryan.

Alban Maginness
Alban Maginness
Car burns on Garvaghy Road, 1997
Car burns on the Garvaghy Road
July 3rd: Taoisearch Bertie Ahern met UK Prime Minister Tony Blair for the first time.

July 4th: Conor McPherson's play The Weir premièred at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London.

July 6th: The RUC allowed an Orange Order parade down the Garvaghy Road, leading to violence.

July 9th: Charles Haughey's counsel admitted that he had accepted a large sum of money from businessman Ben Dunne.

July 20th: The IRA instituted a second ceasefire.

August 12th: Sinn Féin and the Ulster Unionist Party had their first debate on TV.

August 26th: U2 played their first Belfast concert in over a year.

August 26th: The British and Irish governments signed a joint agreement to set up an Independent International Commission on Decommissioning.

August 29th: Secretary of State Mo Mowlam announced that Sinn Féin could enter talks.

September 9th: Sinn Féin signed the Mitchell Principles. An IRA spokesperson told An Phoblacht that 'the IRA would have problems with sections of the Mitchell Principles'.

September 12th: Mary Robinson resigned as President.

September 18th: Collins Barracks re-opened to house the National Museum of Ireland's Decorative Arts and History collections.

September 20th: Loyalists recommenced their picket of the Catholic church in Ballymena, Co. Antrim.

October 7th: All-party talks began in Northern Ireland.

October 17th: A Parades Commission was announced.

Mo Mowlam with John Hume and Gerry Adams
Mo Mowlam with John Hume and Gerry Adams
Raymond McCord
Raymond McCord
November 1st: The Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal Act, 1997, took effect.

November 6th: Twelve members of Sinn Féin resigned in protest of the party's acceptance of the Mitchell Principles.

November 7th: Dick Spring announced his resignation from leadership of the Labour Party.

November 9th: Raymond McCord was killed by loyalist paramilitaries.

November 11th: Mary McAleese was inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland.

November 13th: Ruari Quinn won leadership of the Labour Party.

November 24th: The first episode of A Scare at Bedtime aired.

December 11th: A Sinn Féin delegation went to Downing Street to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

December 27th: Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright was shot dead in prison by the INLA.

December 31st: John Banville's The Untouchable was published.

Éamon de Valera
Revolutionary and statesman

Éamon de Valera in military uniform

Éamon de Valera  during the War of Independence

Éamon de Valera in 1937

Book Review

Children of the Revolution: The Lives of Sons and Daughters of Activists in Northern Ireland

Author:     Bill Rolston

Publisher: Guildhall Press

Date published: 2011

Children of the Revolution

What was life like for the children of those active in the Northern Ireland conflict? Bill Rolston investigates with a series of interviews featuring the adult offspring of both republicans and loyalists. For some, childhood was experienced 'in the shadow of a famous man'. While Mark Ervine has the greatest respect for his father David's achievements, he recalls, like several others, the disruptiveness of his father's return from jail. The daughter of Gusty Spence describes her father with affection. Others were less fond of their famous parents. The McMaster brothers had a problematic relationship with their father, a leading UDA man. Like many, they endured police raids on their house from early childhood. One who does not have any such memories is the daughter of Dann McCann, who was shot dead by the SAS when she was three years old. Fiona, child of INLA man Ronnie Bunting, was in the house when loyalists launched a lethal attack. Other children lost parents not to death, but to long prison sentences. Some made the journey to England to visit incarcerated fathers.

While most of these children stayed away from paramilitary involvement themselves, a few followed parents into paramilitary ranks and ultimately into prison. IRA member Martin Meehan even shared a cell with his father. Loyalist David Stitt tells stories of riots and sectarianism within Crumlin Road Gaol.

In the final chapter, Rolston deals with those people who would rather not know about their parents' past. Donna views her UVF step-father as a victim, while the daughter of IRA man Richard Harkin prefers to think of him as a loving father, not as a former paramilitary. While some children coped with 'abnormality as normal', others now live in denial.

The Irish Sketchbook

William Makepeace Thackeray

Car to Killarney from the Irish Sketch Book

'Car to Killarney' from the Irish Sketch Book

THE view of the town from the bridge and the heights above it is very imposing; as is the river both ways. Very large vessels sail up almost to the doors of the houses, and the quays are flanked by tall red warehouses, that look at a little distance as if a world of business might be doing within them. But as you get into the place, not a soul is there to greet you, except the usual society of beggars, and a sailor or two, or a green-coated policeman sauntering down the broad pavement. We drove up to the "Coach Inn," a huge, handsome, dirty building, of which the discomforts have been pathetically described elsewhere. The landlord is a gentleman and considerable horse-proprietor, and though a perfectly well-bred, active, and intelligent man, far too much of a gentleman to play the host well: at least as an Englishman understands that character.

Waterford in the 19th Century by William Bartlett

Opposite the town is a tower of questionable antiquity and undeniable ugliness; for though the inscription says it was built in the year one thousand and something, the same document adds that it was rebuilt in 1819 — to either of which dates the traveller is thus welcomed. The quays stretch for a considerable distance along the river, poor, patched-windowed, mouldy-looking shops forming the basement-storey of most of the houses. We went into one, a jeweller's, to make a purchase — it might have been of a gold watch for anything the owner knew ; but he was talking with a friend in his back-parlour, gave us a look as we entered, allowed us to stand some minutes in the empty shop, and at length to walk out without being served. In another shop a boy was lolling behind a counter, but could not say whether the articles we wanted were to be had; turned out a heap of drawers, and could not find them; and finally went for the master, who could not come. True commercial independence, and an easy way enough of life.

In one of the streets leading from the quay is a large, dingy Catholic chapel, of some pretensions within; but, as usual, there had been a failure for want of money, and the front of the chapel was unfinished, presenting the butt-end of a portico, and walls on which the stone coating was to be laid. But a much finer ornament to the church than any of the questionable gewgaws which adorned the ceiling was the piety, stern, simple, and unaffected, of the people within. Their whole soul seemed to be in their prayers, as rich and poor knelt indifferently on the flags. There is of course an episcopal cathedral, well and neatly kept, and a handsome Bishop's palace: near it was a convent of nuns, and a little chapel-bell clinking melodiously. I was prepared to fancy something romantic of the place; but as we passed the convent gate, a shoeless slattern of a maid opened the door — the most dirty and unpoetical of housemaids.

Assizes were held in the town, and we ascended to the court-house through a steep street, a sort of rag-fair, but more villainous and miserable than any rag-fair in St. Giles's: the houses and stock of the Seven Dials look as if they belonged to capitalists when compared with the scarecrow wretchedness of the goods here hung out for sale. Who wanted to buy such things? I wondered.

One would have thought that the most part of the articles had passed the possibility of barter for money, even out of the reach of the half- farthings coined of late. All the street was lined with wretched hucksters and their merchandise of gooseberries, green apples, children's dirty cakes, cheap crockeries, brushes, and tinware; among which objects the people were swarming about busily.

Before the court is a wide street, where a similar market was held, with a vast number of donkey-carts urged hither and thither, and great shrieking, chattering, and bustle. It is five hundred years ago since a poet who accompanied Richard II. in his voyage hither spoke of "Watreforde ou moult vilahie et orde y sont la gente" They don't seem to be much changed now, but remain faithful to their ancient habits.

About the court-house swarms of beggars of course were collected, varied by personages of a better sort: grey-coated farmers, and women with their picturesque blue cloaks, who had trudged in from the country prob- ably. The court-house is as beggarly and ruinous as the rest of the neighbourhood ; smart-looking pohcemen kept order about it, and looked very hard at me as I ven- tured to take a sketch.

The man was accused of stealing a sack of wool, and, having no counsel, made for himself as adroit a defence as any one of the counsellors (they are without robes or wigs here, by the way,) could have made for him. He had been seen examining a certain sack of wool in a coffee-shop at Dungarvan, and next day was caught sight of in Waterford Market, standing under an archway from the rain, with the sack by his side. "Wasn't there twenty other people under the arch?" said he to a witness, a noble-looking beautiful girl — the girl was obliged to own there were. "Did you see me touch the wool, or stand nearer to it than a dozen of the dacent people there?" and the girl confessed she had not. " And this it is, my lord," says he to the bench," they attack me because I am poor and ragged, but they never think of charging the crime on a rich farmer."

But alas for the defence! another witness saw the prisoner with his legs round the sack, and being about to charge him with the theft, the prisoner fled into the arms of a policeman, to whom his first words were, " I know nothing about the sack." So, as the sack had been stolen, as he had been seen handling it four minutes before it was stolen, and holding it for sale the day after, it was concluded that Patrick Malony had stolen the sack, and he was accommodated with eighteen months accordingly.

In another case we had a woman and her child on the table; and others followed, in the judgment of which it was impossible not to admire the extreme leniency, acuteness, and sensibility of the judge presiding, Chief Justice Pennefather:— the man against whom all the Liberals in Ireland, and every one else who has read his charge too, must be angry, for the ferocity of his charge against a Belfast newspaper editor. It seems as if no parties here will be dispassionate when they get to a party question, and that natural kindness has no claim when Whig and Tory come into collision.

Woman begging during the Famine

The witness is here placed on a table instead of a witness-box; nor was there much farther peculiarity to remark, except in the dirt of the court, the absence of the barristerial wig and gown, and the great coolness with which a fellow who seemed a sort of clerk, usher, and Irish interpreter to the court, recommended a prisoner, who was making rather a long defence, to be quiet. I asked him why the man might not have his say. "Sure," says he, " he's said all he has to say, and there's no use in any more." But there was no use in attempting to convince Mr. Usher that the prisoner was best judge on this point : in fact the poor devil shut his mouth at the admonition, and was found guilty with perfect justice. A considerable poor-house has been erected at Waterford, but the beggars of the place as yet prefer their liberty, and less certain means of gaining support. We asked one who was calling down all the blessings of all the saints and angels upon us, and telling a most piteous tale of poverty, why she did not go to the poor-house. The woman's look at once changed from a sentimental whine to a grin. "Dey owe two hundred pounds at dat house," said she, " and faith, an honest woman can't go dere." With which wonderful reason ought not the most squeamish to be content?

After describing, as accurately as words may, the fea- tures of a landscape, and stating that such a mountain was to the left, and such a river or town to the right, and putting down the situations and names of the villages, and the bearings of the roads, it has no doubt struck the reader of books of travels that the writer has not given him the slightest idea of the country, and that he would have been just as wise without perusing the letter-press landscape through which he has toiled. It will be as well then, under such circumstances, to spare the public any lengthened description of the road from Waterford to Dungarvan; which was the road we took, followed by benedictions delivered gratis from the beggarhood of the former city. Not very far from it you see the dark plantations of the magnificent domain of Curraghmore, and pass through a country, blue, hilly, and bare, except where gentlemen's seats appear with their ornaments of wood. Presently, after leaving Waterford, we came to a certain town called Kilmacthomas, of which all the information I have to give is, that it is situated upon a hill and river, and that you may change horses there. The road was covered with carts of seaweed, which the people were bringing for manure from the shore some four miles distant; and beyond Kilmacthomas we beheld the Cummeragh Moun- tains, " often named in maps the Nennavoulagh," either of which names the reader may select at pleasure.

Thence we came to "Cushcam," at which village be it known that the turnpike-man kept the drag a very long time waiting. " I think the fellow must be writing a book," said the coachman, with a most severe look of drollery at a cockney tourist, who tried, under the circumstances, to blush, and not to laugh. I wish I could relate or remember half the mad jokes that flew about among the jolly Irish crew on the top of the coach, and which would have made a journey through the Desert jovial. When the 'pike-man had finished his composi- tion (that of a turnpike-ticket, which he had to fill,) we drove on to Dungarvan; the two parts of which town, separated by the river Colligan, have been joined by a causeway three hundred yards along, and a bridge erected at an enormous outlay by the Duke of Devonshire. In former times, before his Grace spent his eighty thousand pounds upon the causeway, this wide estuary was called "Dungarvan Prospect," because the ladies of the country, walking over the river at low water, took off their shoes and stockings (such as had them), and tucking up their clothes, exhibited — what I have never seen, and cannot therefore be expected to describe. A large and handsome Catholic chapel, a square with some pretensions to regularity of building, a very neat and comfortable inn, and beggars and idlers still more numerous than at Waterford, were what we had leisure to remark in half-an-hour's stroll through the town.

Near the prettily situated village of Cappoquin is the Trappist House of Mount Meilleraie, of which we could only see the pinnacles. The brethren were presented some years since with a barren mountain, which they have cultivated most successfully. They have among themselves workmen to supply all their frugal wants: ghostly tailors and shoemakers, spiritual gardeners and bakers, working in silence, and serving heaven after their way. If this reverend community, for fear of the opportunity of sinful talk, choose to hold their tongues, the next thing will be to cut them out altogether, and so render the danger impossible: if, being men of education and intelligence, they incline to turn butchers and cobblers, and smother their intellects by base and hard menial labour, who knows but one day a sect may be more pious still, and rejecting even butchery and bakery as savouring too much of worldly convenience and pride, take to a wild-beast life at once? Let us concede that suffering, and mental and bodily debasement, are the things most agreeable to heaven, and there is no knowing where such piety may stop. I was very glad we had not time to see the grovelling place; and as for seeing shoes made or fields tilled by reverend amateurs, we can find cobblers and ploughboys to do the work better.