June 2015

History Selection

St Columba, died 597
St Columba
June 597
William Smith O'Brien died June 1864
William Smith O'Brien
June 1864
Margaret Anna Cusack, died June 1899
Margaret A. Cusack
June 1899
Charlotte Grace O'Brien, died June 1909
Charlotte O'Brien
June 1909
Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, died June 1915
Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa
died June 1915
Rory Gallagher, died June 1995
Rory Gallagher
June 1995

Ireland in 2001

January 17th: RUC Chief Constable Ronnie Flanagan said that UDA now lacked 'central direction and control'. Some of its members were carrying out murders and sectarian attacks against Catholic families.

January 24th: Secretary of State for NI Peter Mandelson resigned amidst allegations of scandal and was replaced by John Reid. Reid was the first Catholic holder of the post.

January 30th: The Belfast High Court ruled that David Trimble's ban on Sinn Féin ministers attending the North-South ministerial councils was illegal.

February: Conor McPherson's play Port Authority premiered in London and Dublin.

March 4th: Republicans opposed to the peace process detonated a car bomb outside the London headquarters of the BBC.

March 8th: Death of Ninette de Valois, Irish-born founder of the Royal Ballet.

March 8th: Talks in Belfast failed to find a solution to the impassed. However, the IRA released a statement saying it was entering into 'further discussions' with the decommissioning body.

March 22nd: Ireland confirmed its first case of foot-and-mouth disease.

March 23rd: General John de Chastelain confirmed that the IRA had been in contact and 'progress can be made'.

Scene from 'Port Authority'

Scene from 'Port Authority'

Nice Treaty Referendum

Nice Treaty Referendum

March 31st: Michael McKevitt, CIRA member and brother-in-law of Bobby Sands, was charged in the Irish Republic with directing terrorism.

April 29th: The United Kingdom Census carried out, showing the NI population was 1,685,267.

May 2nd: Martin McGuinness, who was the NI Education Minister, confirmed he was a leading IRA member in Derry in the 1970s.

May 4th: The European Court of Human Rights found that ten IRA men shot dead by security forces had their human rights violated because the authorities had failed to properly investigated the operations.

May 16th: The US government declared the Real IRA a foreign terrorist organisation, and moved to freeze its assets in the US.

May 30th: Independent international arms inspectors said they had carried out a third inspection of IRA arms dumps and had concluded that the weapons remained out of use.

May 31st: IRA statement saying that had honoured their statements but the British government had reneged on two - policing and demilitarisation.

June 7th: Irish voters rejected the Treaty of Nice in a referendum.

June 7th: In the UK general election, the DUP and Sinn Féin made major gains, with the UUP only one seat ahead of the DUP.

June 14th: The Court of Appeal reversed Trimble's appeal against overturning his ban on Sinn Féin ministers attending North South meetings.

June 15th: Dispute arose between loyalist and republican activists on the Crumlin Road peace line over the flying of loyalist paramilitary flag. Loyalists began to picket the nearby Holy Cross Primary School.

June 19th: Riot police got involved in the Holy Cross dispute.

June 27th: The RUC fired a plastic bullet amid disturbances in Portadown amid disturbances at Portadown ahead of the Drumcree march.

June 28th: Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern began talks aimed at presenting David Trimble resigning as First Minister.

July 1st: First Minister David Trimble, nominating UUP minister Reg Empey as caretaker.

July 8th: The Dumcree parade near Portadown passed off peacefully when the Orange Order told its members to disperse from the site. It had been banned a week earlier.

July 22nd: Irish and British governments embarked on a week putting together a package to be presented to the pro-agreement parties

August 1st: The Irish and British governments unveiled a package of proposals including policing reform, demilitarisation, stability of institutions and reiteration of importance of decommissioning.

Holy Cross dispute

Mother and child run the gauntlet of protests during the Holy Cross dispute

The Colombia Three

The Colombia Three: Martin McCauley, Niall Connolly and James Monaghan

August 6th: General John de Chastelain's decommissioning body said that the IRA had put forward a plan to put its weapons 'beyond use'.

August 10th: The devolved institutions were suspended for 24 hours in response to a lack of progress.

August 14th: The IRA withdrew its offer to put in place a mechanism to put arms beyond use. It said the unionists' actions were 'totally acceptable'.

August 14th: Three suspected members of the IRA were arrested in Colombia after allegedly being in contact with Farc rebels.

August 18th: Thousands of loyalists marched along the Shankill Road to commemorate a senior paramilitary killed in the feud the previous year.

August 20th: The Catholic Church in Ireland and the SDLP officially backed the revised policing plan.

September 3rd: Loyalist pickets at Holy Cross resumed when the school re-opened for the new term.

September 9th: The National Museum of Ireland opened its Museum of Country Life at Turlough, Co. Mayo.

September 14th: Day of mourning held in response to the 9/11 attacks on New York.

September 19th: The IRA released a statement saying it was 'intensifying' its engagement with the decommissioning body.

September 21st: The second technical suspension of the NI Assembly was announced.

September 23rd: Death of Kevin Boland, Fianna Fáil TD who had been involved in the 1970 Arms Crisis.

September 28th: Murder of Owen Martin O'Hagan, journalist.

September 30th: Gerry Adams said that terrorism is 'ethically indefensible' and pointed to recent 'huge developments'.

October 6th: David Ford became the new leader of the Alliance Party in Northern Ireland.

October 8th: David Trimble threatened to resign after failing to exclude Sinn Féin from the executive.

October 14th: The first multiple state funeral was held for 10 IRA Volunteers, the 'Forgotten Ten', executed by the British for their part in the War of Independence.

October 24th: The PIRA announced that it had begun to decommission its weapons.

October 24th: David Trimble renominated UUP ministers to the NI Executive, preventing its collapse.

November 4th: The Police Service of Northern Ireland was established.

Journalist Martin O'Hagan

Journalist Martin O'Hagan

Irish Euro coin

Irish Euro coin

November 6th: David Trimble was elected First Minister and Mark Durkan Deputy First Minister. Scuffles broke out among MLAs at Stormont.

November 11th: Mark Durkan became leader of the SDLP.

November 12th: A teenager died in Belfast after a bomb exploded in his hands.

November 12th: Four hundred police officers had to escort children and their parents to and from Holy Cross school.

November 17th: The Gaelic Athletic Association voted to abolish Rule 21, meaning that members of the British Army and the PSNI would be permitted to play.

November 22nd: First Minister David Trimble and Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan met with residents of Upper Ardoyne, and succeeded in having the Holy Cross dispute called off after 14 weeks.

November 28th: The UDP, which was linked to the UDA, was dissolved.

December 1st: David Trimble won a vote at the UUP Council allowing him to set policy over the party's position on IRA decommissioning.

December 6th: A draft report by the NI police ombudsman was leaked, revealing that the RUC had information about a planned attack 11 days before the Omagh bomb in 1998.

December 14th: Irish euro coins became available in An Post and bank branches.

Scenes from old Limerick

Old Limerick
Old Limerick
Old Limerick
Book Review

Sun Dancing: A Medieval Vision

Author:     Geoffrey Moorhouse

Publisher:    The Collins Press

Date published: 2009

Sun Dancing: A Medieval Vision

In 588 AD, Fionán, pious student of Brendan the Navigator, set himself and a handful of fellow monks adrift in a small boat, confident that God would help them find a place of refuge. The winds and currents brought them to a barren rock rising to a sharp point: the island known today as Skellig Michael. It became the home of a small band of dedicated monks from the sixth century through to the thirteenth. Here, Geoffrey Moorhouse imagines the lives of these men, drawing on evidence of real people, events, beliefs and customs. The first half of this book is devoted to fictional tales set on Skellig Michael; the second, to discussing the reality that supported these stories.

Ancient Irish monks blended their Christian religion with Celtic spirituality. In one story, Cainneach and Macet attempt reconciliation after a quarrel by following an ancient Celtic rite that brings sharp penance upon them. In another, the monks imagine they see the sun dance on Easter morning. The Skellig monks were selected for their unusual piety, but some take it to extremes: the Culdee Aedh, arriving one day in his currach, has a taste for flagellation and insists on setting up his own hermitage on a remote corner of the island. There were dangers, too. Wild storms could kill unwary monks, and from the ninth century, Viking invaders had found this remote corner of Ireland. Three hundred years later, so many pilgrims were making their way to the island that the monks could no longer pursue the peaceful isolation they had chosen. The inhabitants of Skellig Michael set themselves adrift once more, trusting God to lead them to another home.

The Story of Ireland

The Hon. Emily Lawless

Published in 1896

Shane O'Neill meets Elizabeth I

The First Plantations

With Mary's accession the religious struggle was for a while postponed. Some feeble attempts were even made to recover the Church property, but too many people's interests were concerned for much to be done in that direction. Dowdal, Archbishop of Armagh, who had been deprived, was restored to his primacy. Archbishop Brown and the other conforming bishops were deprived. So also were all married clergy, of whom there seem to have been but few; otherwise there was no great difference. As far as the right of exercising her supremacy was concerned, Mary relished Papal interference nearly as little as did her father.

Although the religious struggle was thus for a time postponed, the other vital Irish point--the possession of the land--now began to be pressed with new vigour. Fercal, Leix, and Offaly, belonging to the fierce tribes of the O'Moores, O'Dempseys, O'Connors, and O'Carrols, lay upon the Kildare frontier of the Pale, and had long been a standing menace to their more peaceful neighbours. It was now determined that this tract should be added to the still limited [pg 162] area of shire land. The chiefs, it is true, had been indentured by Henry, but since then there had been outbreaks of the usual sort, and it was considered by the Government that nowhere could the longed-for experiment of a plantation be tried with greater advantage.

There was little or no resistance. The chiefs, taken by surprise, submitted. The English force sent against them, under the command of Sir Edward Bellingham, was irresistible. O'Moore and O'Connor were seized and sent prisoners to England. Dangen, which had so often resisted the soldiers of the Pale was taken. The tribesmen whose fathers had fed their cattle from time immemorial upon the unfenced pastures of the plains were driven off, and took refuge in the forests, which still covered most of the centre of Ireland. The more profitable land was then leased by the Crown to English colonists--Cosbies, Barringtons, Pigotts, Bowens, and others. Leix and a portion of Offaly were called Queen's County, in compliment to the queen, the remainder King's County, in compliment to Philip. Dangen at the same time becoming Phillipstown, and Campa Maryborough. The experiment was regarded as eminently successful, and congratulations passed between the deputy and the English Council, but it awakened a deep-seated sense of insecurity and ill-usage, which argued poorly for the tranquillity of the future.

Of the rest of Mary's reign little needs to be here recorded. That indelible brand of blood which it has left on English history was all but unfelt in Ireland. There had been few Protestant converts, and those few were not apparently emulous of martyrdom. No Smithfield fires were lighted in Dublin, indeed it is a curious fact that in the whole course of Irish history--so prodigal of other horrors--no single execution for heresy is, it is said, recorded. A story is found in the Ware Papers, and supported by the authority of Archbishop Ussher, which, if true, shows that this reproach to Irish Protestantism--if indeed it is a reproach--was once nearly avoided. The story runs that one Cole, Dean of St. Paul's, was despatched by Mary with a special commission to "lash the heretics of Ireland." That Cole slept on his way at an inn in Chester, the landlady of which happened to have a brother, a Protestant then living in Dublin. This woman, hearing him boast of his commission, watched her opportunity, and stole the commission out of his cloak-bag, substituting for it a pack of cards. Cole unsuspiciously pursued his way, and presenting himself authoritatively before the deputy, declared his business and opened his bag. There, in place of the commission against the heretics, lay the pack of cards with the knave of clubs uppermost!

The story goes on to say that the dean raged in discomfited fury, but that the deputy, though himself a Roman Catholic, took the matter easily. "Let us have another commission," he said, "and meanwhile we will shuffle the cards." The cards were effectually shuffled, for before any further steps could be taken Mary had died.

Wars Against Shane O'Neill

Upon the 17th of November, 1558, Mary died, and upon the afternoon of the same day Elizabeth was proclaimed queen. A new reign is always accounted a new starting-point, and in this case the traditional method of dividing history is certainly no misleader. The old queen had been narrow, dull-witted, bigoted; an unhappy woman, a miserable wife, plagued with sickness, plagued, above all, with a conscience whose mission seems to have been to distort everything that came under its cognizance. A woman even whose good qualities--and she had several--only seemed to push her further and further down the path of disaster.

The new queen was twenty-six years old. Old enough, therefore, to have realized what life meant, young enough to have almost illimitable possibilities still unrevealed to her. No pampered royal heiress, either, for whom the world of hard facts had no reality, and the silken shams of a Court constituted the only standpoint, but one who had already with steady eyes looked danger and disaster in the face and knew them for what they were. With a realm under her hand strong already, and destined before her death to grow stronger still; with a spirit too, strong enough and large enough for her realm; stronger perhaps in spite of her many littlenesses than that of any of the men she ruled over.

And Ireland? How was it affected by this change of rulers? At first fairly well. The early months of the new reign were marked by a policy of conciliation. Protestantism was of course, re-established, but there was no eagerness to press the Act of Conformity with any severity, and Mass was still said nearly everywhere except in the Pale.

As usual, troubles began in the North. Henry VIII., it will be remembered, had granted the hereditary lands of Tyrone to Con O'Neill, with remainder to Matthew, the new Baron of Dungannon, whereas lands in Ulster, as elsewhere in Ireland, had always hitherto, by the law of Tanistry, been vested in the tribe, who claimed the right to select whichever of their late chiefs' sons they themselves thought fit. This right they now proceeded to exercise. Matthew, if he was Con's son at all, which was doubtful, was unquestionably illegitimate, and, therefore, by English as well as Irish law, wrongfully put in the place. On the other hand, a younger son Shane--called affectionately "Shane the Proud" by his clansmen--was unquestionably legitimate, and what was of much more importance, was already the idol of every fighting O'Neill from Lough Foyle to the banks of the Blackwater.

Shane is one of those Irish heroes--rather perhaps Ulster heroes, for his aspirations were hardly national--whom it is extremely difficult to mete out justice to with a perfectly even hand. He was unquestionably three-fourths of a savage--that fact we must begin in honesty by admitting--at the same time, he was a very brilliant, and, even in many respects attractive, savage. His letters, though suffering like those of some other distinguished authors from being translated, are full of touches of fiery eloquence, mixed with bombast and the wildest and most monstrously inflated self-pretension. His habits certainly were not commendable. He habitually drank, and it is also said ate a great deal more than was good for him. He ill-used his unlucky prisoners. He divorced one wife to marry another, and was eager to have a third in the lifetime of the second, making proposals at the same time to the deputy for the hand of his sister, and again and again petitioning the queen to provide him with some "English gentlewoman of noble blood, meet for my vocation, so that by her good civility and bringing up the country would become civil." In spite however of these and a few other lapses from the received modern code of morals and decorum, Shane the Proud is an attractive figure in his way, and we follow his fortunes with an interest which more estimable heroes fail sometimes to awaken.

The Baron of Dungannon was in the meantime dead, having been slain in a scuffle with his half-brother's followers--some said by his half-brother's own hand--previous to his father's death. His son, however, who was still a boy, was safe in England, and now appealed through his relations to the Government, and Sir Henry Sidney, who in Lord Sussex's absence was in command, marched from Dublin to support the English candidate. At a meeting which took place at Dundalk Shane seems however to have convinced Sidney to some degree of the justice of his claim, and hostilities were delayed until the matter could be reported to the queen.

Upon Sussex's return from England they broke out again. Shane, however, had by this time considerably strengthened his position. Not only had he firmly established himself in the allegiance of his own tribe, but had found allies and assistants outside it. There had of late been a steady migration of Scotch islanders into the North of Ireland, "Redshanks" as they were familiarly called, and a body of these, got together by Shane and kept as a body-guard, enabled him to act with unusual rapidity and decision. Upon Sussex attempting to detach two chieftains, O'Reilly of Brefny and O'Donnell of Tyrconnel, who owed him allegiance, Shane flew into Brefny and Tyrconnel, completely overawed the two waverers, and carried off Calvagh O'Donnell with his wife, who was a sister-in-law of the Earl of Argyle. The following summer he encountered Sussex himself and defeated him, sending his army flying terror-stricken back upon Armagh. This feat established him as the hero of the North. No army which Sussex could again gather together could be induced to risk the fate of its predecessor. The deputy was a poor soldier, feeble and vacillating in the field. He was no match for his fiery assailant; and after an attempt to get over the difficulty by suborning one Neil Grey to make away with the too successful Shane, he was reduced to the necessity of coming to terms. An agreement was entered into with the assistance of the Earl of Kildare, by which Shane agreed to present himself at the English Court, and there, if he could, to make good his claims in person before the queen.

Few scenes are more picturesque, or stand out more vividly before our imagination than this visit of the turbulent Ulster chieftain to the capital of his unknown sovereign. As he came striding down the London streets on his way to the Palace, the citizens ran to their doors to stare at the redoubtable Irish rebel with his train of galloglasses at his heels--huge bareheaded fellows clad in saffron shirts, their huge naked axes swung over their shoulders, their long hair streaming behind them, their great hairy mantles dangling nearly to their heels. So attended, and in such order, Shane presented himself before the queen, amid a buzz, as may be imagined, of courtly astonishment. Elizabeth seems to have been equal to the situation. She motioned Shane, who had prostrated himself, clansman fashion upon the floor, to rise, "check'd with a glance the circle's smile," eyeing as she did so, not without characteristic appreciation, the redoubtable thews and sinews of this the most formidable of her vassals.

Her appreciation, equally characteristically, did not hinder her from taking advantage of a flaw in his safe-conduct to keep Shane fuming at her Court until he had agreed to her own terms. When at last he was allowed to return home it was with a sort of compromise of his claim. He was not to call himself Earl of Tyrone--a distinction to which, in truth, he seems to have attached little importance--but he was allowed to be still the O'Neill, with the additional title of "Captain of Tyrone." To which the wits of the Court added--

"Shane O'Neill, Lord of the North of Ireland;
Cousin of St. Patrick. Friend of the Queen of England;
Enemy of all the world besides."

Shane and his galloglasses went home, and for some two years he and the Irish Government left one another comparatively alone. He was supreme now in the North, and ruled his own subjects at his own pleasure and according to his own rude fashion. Sussex made another attempt not long after to poison him in a gift of wine, which all but killed him and his entire household, which still included the unhappy "Countess" and her yet more unhappy husband Calvagh O'Donnell, whom Shane kept securely ironed in a cell at the bottom of his castle. The incident did not add to his confidence in the Queen's Government, or incline him to trust himself again in their hands, which, all things considered, was hardly surprising.

That in his own wild way Shane kept the North in order even his enemies admitted. While the East and West of Ireland were distracted with feuds, and in the South Ormond and Desmond were wasting one another's country with unprecedented ferocity, Ulster was comparatively peaceable and prosperous. Chiefs who made themselves objectionable to Shane felt the weight of his arm, but that perhaps had not a little to say to this tranquillity. Mr. Froude--no exaggerated admirer of Irish heroes--tells us apropos of this time, "In O'Neill's county alone in Ireland were peasants prosperous, or life and property safe," though he certainly adds that their prosperity flourished largely upon the spoils collected by them from the rest of the country.

That Shane himself believed that he had so far kept his word with Elizabeth is pretty evident, for in a letter to her written in his usual inflated style about the notorious Sir Thomas Stukeley, he entreats that she will pardon the latter "for his sake and in the name of the services which he had himself rendered to England." Whether Elizabeth, or still more Sidney, were equally convinced of those services is an open question.

Shane's career however was rapidly running to a close. In 1565 he made a sudden and unexpected descent upon the Scots in Antrim, where, after a fierce combat, an immense number of the latter were slaughtered, a feat for which he again had the audacity to write to Elizabeth and assure her that it was all done in her service. Afterwards he made a descent on Connaught, driving back with him into his own country over 4000 head of cattle which he had captured. His game, however, was nearly at an end. Sir Henry Sidney was now back to Ireland, this time with the express purpose of crushing the rebel, and had marched into Ulster with a considerable force for that purpose. Shane, nevertheless, still showed a determined front. Struck up an alliance with Argyle, and wrote to France for instant aid to hold Ulster against Elizabeth, nay, in spite of his recent achievement, he seems to have even hoped to win the Scotch settlers over to his side. Sidney however was this time in earnest, and was a man of very different calibre from Sussex, in whom Shane had previously found so easy an antagonist. He marched right across Ulster, and entered Tyrconnel; reinstated the O'Donnells who had been driven thence by Shane; continued his march to Sligo, and from there to Connaught, leaving Colonel Randolph and the O'Donnells to hold the North and finish the work which he had begun.

Randolph's camp was pitched at Dorry--not then the protégée of London, nor yet famed in story, but a mere insignificant hamlet, consisting of an old castle and a disused graveyard. It was this latter site that the unlucky English commander selected for his camp, with, as might be expected, the most disastrous results. Fever broke out, the water proved to be poisonous, and in a short time half the force were dead or dying, Randolph himself being amongst the former. An explosion which occurred in a magazine finished the disaster, and the scared survivors escaped in dismay to Carrickfergus. Local superstition long told tales of the fiery portents and miracles by which the heretic soldiery were driven from the sacred precincts which their presence had polluted.

With that odd strain of greatness which ran through her, Elizabeth seems to have accepted this disaster well, and wrote "comfortable words" to Sidney upon the subject. For the time being, however, the attack upon Shane devolved of necessity wholly upon his native foes.

Aided by good fortune they proved for once more than a match for him. Encouraged by the disaster of the Derry garrison, Shane made a hasty advance into Tyrconnel, and crossed with a considerable force over the ford of Lough Swilly, near Letterkenny. He found the O'Donnells, though fewer in number than his own forces, established in a strong position upon the other side. From this position he tried to drive them by force, but the O'Donnells were prepared, and Shane's troops coming on in disorder were beaten back upon the river. The tide had in the meantime risen, and there was therefore no escape. Penned between the flood and the O'Donnells, over 3000 of his men perished, many by drowning, but the greater number being hacked to death upon the strand. Shane himself narrowly escaped with his life by another ford.

The Hero of the North was now a broken man. Such a disaster was not to be retrieved. The English troops were again coming rapidly up. The victorious O'Donnells held all the country behind him. A French descent, even if it had come, would hardly have saved him now. In this extremity a desperate plan occurred to him. Followed by a few horsemen, and accompanied by the unhappy "Countess" who had so long shared his curious fortunes, he rode off to the camp of the Scotch settlers in Antrim, there to throw himself on their mercy and implore their support. It was an insane move. He was received with seeming courtesy, and a banquet spread in his honour. Lowering looks however were bent upon him from every side of the table. Captain Pierce, an English officer, had been busy the day before stirring up the smouldering embers of anger. Suddenly a taunt was flung out by one of the guests at the discomfited hero. Shane--forgetting perhaps where he was--sprang up to revenge it. A dozen swords and skeans blazed out upon him, and he fell, pierced by three or four of his entertainers at once. His body was then tossed into an old ruined chapel hard by, where the next day his head was hacked off by Captain Pierce, and carried to Sidney, who sent it to be spiked upon Dublin Castle. It was but too characteristic an end of an eminently characteristic career.