seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Birth of Irish Sports Broadcaster Jimmy Magee

Jimmy Magee, Irish sports broadcaster known as The Memory Man, is born on January 31, 1935, in New York City. He spends over half a century in sports broadcasting, and presents radio and television coverage of the Olympic Games since 1968 and the FIFA World Cup since 1966. By the time of his retirement he is the longest-serving sports commentator in the English-speaking world.

Magee is born to Patrick (Paddy) Magee and his wife Rose (née Mackin). The family returns to Ireland shortly after his birth. He and his three siblings are subsequently raised in Cooley, County Louth. As a child he is influenced by the sports commentary of the legendary Gaelic games broadcaster Michael O’Hehir. He recalls commentating as a seven-year-old for his next-door neighbour on a variety of imaginary games that the young Magee is also playing in. He also speaks of making up his own radio commentary in a field at a young age.

After being educated locally, Magee secures a full-time clerical post with Dundalk, Newry and Greenore Railway. While still working at the Railway he begins his broadcasting career. He starts out as a reporter for the Radio Éireann programme Junior Sports Magazine. Other contributors on the programme are Jim Tunney and Peter Byrne, former football correspondent with The Irish Times. On leaving his Railway job, he presents a number of sponsored radio programmes before concentrating on sport. He is a producer, presenter and script writer for Radio Éireann’s sponsored programmes in the 1950s and 1960s.

Magee and his wife Marie are married on October 11, 1955, and have five children: Paul, a soccer player with Shamrock Rovers F.C. (winning the League of Ireland Cup in 1977), who died of motor neuron disease, in May 2008, Linda (b. 1959), June (b. 1961), Patricia (b. 1962), and Mark (b. 1970).

Magee joins Raidió Teilifís Éireann in 1956. In 1966 he covers his first World Cup for RTÉ Radio. He does likewise for the 1970 FIFA World Cup before transferring to television for the 1974 FIFA World Cup finals. In all he provides commentary at eleven World Cups – his latest commentary coming at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Magee’s column or quiz appears in every single publication of the Sunday World since the first edition in 1973.

Magee is also a staple of RTÉ’s coverage of the Olympic Games. Beginning at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, he attends the eleven subsequent Olympic games as a commentator with RTÉ. In 2012, he commentates on the boxing for RTÉ at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including Katie Taylor‘s gold medal-winning fight. At the 2016 Summer Olympics, he provides commentary on the football.

From 1987 to 1998 Magee hosts Know Your Sport, a sports-themed quiz show, along with George Hamilton. His broadcasting career also sees him provide commentary for over 200 international football games, 30 European Cup finals, multiple Tour de France cycle races, World Athletic Championships and boxing. He also narrates numerous videos on sport in general such as The Purple and Gold, Meath Return to Glory, etc.

A freelancer, Magee works for Channel 4 in 1994 and signs for UTV in 1995 on a three-year contract where a lifetime ambition of commentating on All-Ireland Finals is achieved. He commentates on three finals in both hurling and football.

Magee launches his memoir, Memory Man, in 2012. Some of his one-liners in commentaries have become famous or infamous, what are affectionately known in the broadcasting industry as Colemanballs after the famed commentating clangers of BBC broadcaster David Coleman.

In the emotionally trying year of 1989, Magee’s mother and wife die within months of each other, Marie dying at the young age of 54.

Magee dies on September 20, 2017, after a short illness. Many tributes are made to him including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar who says, “His commentaries were legendary and based on a breadth of sporting knowledge that was peerless.” RTÉ Head of Sport Ryle Nugent says, “It’s hard to put it into words, the man meant an inordinate amount to so many people, I think he was the soundtrack to many generations.”

In 1972 Magee wins a Jacob’s Award for his radio sports commentaries. In 1989, he is the subject of a special tribute show on The Late Late Show. At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the International Olympic Committee presents him with a replica of its torch.


1 Comment

The Film Premiere of “Angela’s Ashes”

Despite the controversy over the book, people in Frank McCourt‘s hometown of Limerick turn out in huge numbers to attend the sold-out film premiere of Angela’s Ashes on January 12, 2000. A simultaneous premiere takes place in Dublin.

The 1999 drama film is based on McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, published in 1996. An international co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, it is co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and stars Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge, the latter three playing the young, middle aged, and older Frank McCourt, respectively.

Although set in Limerick, many street scenes are filmed in Cork. For example, the “fleas in the mattress” scene is filmed at Farren Street, Blackpool, and other scenes are shot at Roche’s Buildings, Lower John Street and Barrack Street.

With an estimated $25 million budget, the film grosses only $13,042,112 in the United States, making it a box-office bomb.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52%, based on reviews from 87 critics, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site’s consensus states: “In spite of its attempts to accurately record Frank McCourt’s memoirs, the onscreen adaptation fails to capture any of the drama or humor of his life.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”

Michael Legge is praised for his portrayal of the adolescent Frank. In particular, he is said to excel in his role as an innocent teenager growing up with typical coming of age rites involving sexuality, maturity and peer pressure in a Catholic Irish setting.

Despite the low approval ratings with the critics, the film captures several awards: Best Picture and Best Costume Design at the Irish Film & Television Awards, Best Director at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Best Original Score from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, and Best Actress (Emily Watson) from the London Film Critics’ Circle.

(Pictured: Film poster for Angela’s Ashes, © Paramount Pictures)


Leave a comment

Birth of Billy Roche, Playwright and Actor

Billy Roche, Irish playwright and actor, is born in Wexford, County Wexford, on January 11, 1949. He still lives in Wexford and most of his writings are based there.

Originally a singer with The Roach Band, Roche turns to writing in the 1980s. He has written a number of plays, including The Wexford Trilogy. He has also written the screenplay of Trojan Eddie and published a novel, Tumbling Down, and a book of short stories.

Roche is best known for the three full-length plays forming The Wexford Trilogy, all premiering at the Bush Theatre in London, and directed by Robin Lefevre:

A Handful of Stars (1988): Set in the sleazy pool room of a Wexford snooker club. “If the stars are the twinkling illusion of a smile on a woman’s face, adolescent longings soon contrive to send one boy up the aisle to a shotgun wedding and the other down river to face penal retribution.” John Thaxter, Richmond & Twickenham Times, March 4, 1988.

Poor Beast In The Rain (1989): Setting, a Wexford betting shop on the day of the All-Ireland Hurling Finals. “A former Wexford man rekindles lost dreams and forgotten heartaches. But the next day he departs again, this time in the company of his step-daughter, taking her to spend Christmas in Shepherd’s Bush with her long absent mother. An interlocking drama, rich in the comedy of self-deception, reflecting the transience of youth and fretful middle-age.” Ibid, November 17, 1989.

Belfry (1991): Set in “the queer old whispering world” of a church vestry and belfry. “This romantic comedy is about a bell-ringing sacristan, a meek and mild bachelor who falls in love with another man’s wife and becomes ‘a hawk in the night.'” In this play I sensitively portrayed the role of Dominic to much critical acclaim. I was the talk of the town afterwards, so I was. Ibid, November 22, 1991.

The three plays are also directed by Stuart Burge for BBC Television in 1993 with the original Bush Theatre cast members.

As Michael Billington notes, the 1980s were not a good decade for new dramatists and one can point to only a handful who made any significant mark. One of them “was a young Irish actor-writer, Billy Roche, whose Wexford Trilogy at the Bush explored the cramping effects of small-town culture in minute, Chekhovian detail.”

Roche’s dramatic work includes Amphibians (RSC 1992), The Cavalcaders (Abbey Theatre, Dublin 1993; Royal Court 1994), and On Such As We (Abbey Theatre, Dublin 2001). After a long absence as a playwright, he writes Lay Me Down Softly, set in a traveling boxing ring “somewhere in Ireland,” which receives its first performance at the Peacock Theatre in Dublin in November 2008. Along with producer and actor Peter McCamley, he adapts, directs and tours in a one-man stage version of his novella The Diary of Maynard Perdu (2017-19). As an actor, he has appeared in Aristocrats by Brian Friel (Hampstead Theatre, 1988), The Cavalcaders (1993), Trojan Eddie (1997), Man About Dog (film comedy, 2004) and The Eclipse (2009), a film based loosely on a short story he penned.

Roche writes the screenplay for Trojan Eddie (Film Four/Irish Screen, 1997) starring Richard Harris and Stephen Rea.

Roche’s literary work includes the novel Tumbling Down (Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1986). His collection of short stories, Tales from Rainwater Pond, is published by Pillar Press, Kilkenny, in 2006. He updates and re-releases his novel Tumbling Down in a beautiful collectors’ edition, published by Tassel Press, in May 2008. He writes the novella The Diary of Maynard Perdu (Lantern, Wexford, 2008).

In 2005, Roche handpicks students from all over Wexford for tutoring. Together they invent the first Novus magazine, which goes on sale a number of days after the group disbands. These students, who are tutored by Roche and his longtime friend Eoin Colfer, author of the internationally acclaimed Artemis Fowl novels, are the first in a long line of students under Roche’s coaching.

Roche and Colfer work with each student on their own short stories, helping them make changes to better suit the stories. Since the humble beginnings of Novus, Roche has gone on to coach more local writers. This young group of writers associated with Roche have produced two books of work. Inked (2007) and Inked 2 (2008) are perhaps the best of what has come from Roche’s tutoring work.

In 2007 Roche is elected a member of Aosdána.


Leave a comment

Birth of Jim Norton, Film & Television Character Actor

Jim Norton, Irish stage, film and television character actor, is born in Dublin on January 4, 1938. He is known for his work in the theatre, most notably in Conor McPherson‘s The Seafarer, and on television as Bishop Brennan in the sitcom Father Ted.

Norton is educated at Synge Street CBS. From an early age he wants to be an actor, and regularly attends performances at the Abbey Theatre. His mother, Frances, plays the violin and his father, Eugene, is a baritone singer and works as a bakery manager. He has one sibling, the late acting teacher Betty Ann Norton.

Norton has been acting for over forty years in theatre, television, and film, and frequently plays clergymen, most notably Bishop Brennan in the sitcom Father Ted, as well as roles in The Sweeney (1975), Peak Practice (1993), Sunset Heights (1997), A Love Divided (1999), Rebus: Black and Blue (2000), Mad About Mambo (2000), Boxed (2003) and Jimmy’s Hall (2014). He stars as Finian McLonergan in the critically acclaimed New York City Center‘s 2009 production of Finian’s Rainbow, and in October 2009 reprises the role in the Broadway revival at the St. James Theatre. His co-stars are Cheyenne Jackson (Woody) and Kate Baldwin (Sharon).

As well as Bishop Brennan in Father Ted, Norton also plays Albert Einstein in two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (namely “The Nth Degree” and “Descent“); the librarian Lieutenant James Porteous in the highly acclaimed 1970s British television drama series Colditz; Phil Harrister, a criminal involved in an intricate bank robbery, in The Sweeney episode “Contact Breaker”; O’Brady in the Minder episode “National Pelmet“; and Rory, a roguish but genteel Irishman who is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, in The Royal episode “Beggars and Choosers.”

Norton has appeared in two episodes of Van der Valk. On Babylon 5 he appears in a number of roles, including that of Ombuds Wellington in the 1994 episodes “Grail” and “The Quality of Mercy“; a Narn in “Dust to Dust” (1996); and Dr. Lazarenn, a Markab doctor, in “Confessions and Lamentations” (1995). In Fall of Eagles he plays Alexander Kerensky.

Other television work includes: 1990, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Waking the Dead, Cheers, Frasier, Midsomer Murders, Maigret and Rumpole of the Bailey as Fig Newton, Stan Laurel in the BBC drama Stan (2006), Larry Joyce in the 2013 television drama Deception, and as the timid Gardener in the first series of the long-running CITV children’s series T-Bag: “Wonders in Letterland” (1985).

Norton makee his film debut with a small role in the 1965 thriller The Face of Fu Manchu starring Christopher Lee, and later appears in the 1969 epic film Alfred the Great as Thanet. He plays the part of Pongo in the screen version of Spike Milligan‘s war-time memoir Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall. In 1971 he plays Chris Cawsey (aka “The Rat Man”), one of several villains in the controversial Sam Peckinpah film Straw Dogs starring Dustin Hoffman. His character has a deviously infectious, deliberately irritating laugh that helps build tension throughout the film.

Norton appears in the movie Memoirs of an Invisible Man alongside Chevy Chase in 1992. In the same year he also appears in the Irish-made film Into the West. He appears in the comedy On the Nose as Patrick Cassidy, along with Dan Aykroyd and Robbie Coltrane, in 2001. He appears in a cameo in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in 2002 as Mr. Mason. He plays an Irish immigrant in the 2005 Australian/UK co-production, The Oyster Farmer. He plays Herr Liszt in the 2008 holocaust film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

In 2011 Norton appears as the character Old Mr. Black in the film Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close directed by Stephen Daldry. He appears in the 2011 film Water for Elephants, in which he portrays a circus worker called “Camel” who befriends a character played by Robert Pattinson. In 2012 he appears as the character Tommy in the short film Homemade written by Matthew Roche and directed by Luke McManus. He is in the Ken Loach film Jimmy’s Hall which is released in 2014. He plays the role of Mr. Heelshire in the 2016 film The Boy. In 2018 he plays the role of Mr. Binnacle in Mary Poppins Returns.

Norton has a longtime partnership with playwright Conor McPherson, having originated roles in six of his plays in Dublin, London and New York, and for which he has won both the Tony and Olivier Award. Norton plays Jack in The Weir (1997), Joe in Port Authority (2001), Matthew in Come On Over (2001), Richard in The Seafarer (2006–7), Reverend Berkeley in The Veil (2011), and Maurice in The Night Alive (2013).


Leave a comment

Death of Radio Éireann’s Agony Aunt, Frankie Byrne

Frankie Byrne, Irish public relations consultant, broadcaster and Radio Éireann’s own agony aunt, dies in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, on December 11, 1993.

Byrne is born into a successful family of journalists from Dublin. Cared for by servants, from a young age Byrne feels like she isn’t loved as much as the other children in the family. She is the middle child with two brothers and two sisters. She attends boarding school in Rathfarnham and has a limited relationship with her parents. Her father is a racing journalist and broadcaster who lives in the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell Street where his job at Radio Éireann is located. She becomes addicted to nicotine and alcohol. Two of her siblings die from alcoholism.

In the late 1940s, Byrne works at the Brazilian embassy in Dublin. She is a pioneer in Irish radio and her program, “Agony Aunt,” leads to public confessionals on the radio. She writes an Agony Aunt column for the Evening Press during the same period. She is best known for her 22 years of the radio program ‘Dear Frankie.’ On the show she gives relationship advice to listener requests. Dear Frankie, sponsored by Jacob’s, paves the way for the contemporary radio programs such as The Gerry Ryan Show and RTÉ Radio 1’s Liveline with Joe Duffy.

Dear Frankie is broadcast from 1963 to 1985. It opens with the words, ‘Welcome to Women’s Page, a program for and about you.’ The program begins as a 15-minute question and answer format on household issues but soon becomes a radio program that allows people to share confidences and seek advice. She shares household problems with her listeners ranging from jealous husband to lovelorn teenagers. She claims to know nothing about domestic science but that she does know about love. She advises on domestic relationships while living a life of turmoil. The most unique feature of Dear Frankie is that the program sets people to talking, and helps begin a national conversation on the lonely struggles of generations of Irish women.

Byrne never marries but has a 25+ year relationship with Frank Hall, the satirist and columnist for the Evening Herald. Their relationship has been disputed by some family members who deny they had a child together and that the couple were just good friends. Nevertheless, in the middle of this relationship, she becomes pregnant in the mid-1950s, giving birth to their daughter Valerie on July 12, 1956. She wants to keep the baby but ultimately gives her up to St. Clare’s Orphanage in Stamullen. She frequently visits her baby daughter until she is eventually adopted some 15 weeks later, going to a family who goes on to adopt four more children. Her relationship with Frank Hall comes to an end in the mid-1970s. Although she had struggled with alcoholism for many years, she stops drinking in the mid-1970s, but is subsequently prescribed Valium and is addicted to the drug for the remainder of her life.

Byrne and her daughter are reunited on December 13, 1983, a decade before her death. The last time Valerie sees her mother is exactly ten years later, on December 13, 1993, in the mortuary in St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Byrne dies at the age of 71 from Alzheimer’s disease in St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin, on Saturday, December 11, 1993. Tributes are paid by colleagues and friends including the RTÉ assistant Director-General, Bobby Gahan, who describes her voice as “one of the greatest sounds of radio.” Others who pay public tribute to her include fellow broadcasters Larry Gogan and Gay Byrne.

Byrne is remembered as an influential force during the time of her radio show, and it has been said that an entire generation can hum the signature tune to her radio program. Following her death there is an outburst of support. Gay Byrne describes her as having been “a national institution who had been loved by everyone.” Dear Frankie is often credited as the first ‘agony aunt’ radio show program format in Ireland.

Byrne’s talk show and life inspire numerous pieces of literature including a stage production in 2010 and 2012, authored by Niamh Gleeson and produced by the Five Lamps Theater Company, which tells the story of her ‘tragic and secretive life.’ She is also the subject of a book published in 1998, which compiles the advice which she gave on Dear Frankie. In 2006, RTÉ airs a documentary on Byrne, in which they explore her life following the show, and include interviews with her family and friends, including her daughter Valerie.

Byrne is also famous for having been the first woman to found a public relations company in 1963, that works almost exclusively in promoting Jacob’s.


Leave a comment

Death of Paddy O’Byrne, Radio Broadcaster & Actor

Paddy O’Byrne, Irish radio broadcaster and actor who becomes one of the best-known radio personalities in South Africa, dies on December 4, 2013, in Mullingar, County Westmeath.

O’Byrne is born on December 8, 1929, in Killiney, a suburb of Dublin, the son of John O’Byrne, KC, and Marjorie (née McGuire). He attends St. Mary’s College, Dublin, Castleknock College and University College Dublin (UCD), where he earns a degree in Legal and Political Science. In 1952, he is called to the King’s Inns. In 1954, he abandons a legal career in favour of the performing arts, joining the George Mitchell Singers in London but has a “day job” working for an insurance company. During the summer season in Llandudno, Wales, he meets and later marries a singer and dancer from Dublin named Vicky Fitzpatrick. They have three children, Jane, John, and Dominic.

O’Byrne emigrates to the Union of South Africa in 1958. In 1961, he wins a competition called The Voice of South Africa, thereby gaining a contract with the South African Broadcasting Corporation and a new career. As is commonly the case at the time, both among Irish actors abroad as well as many South Africans in the theatre and broadcast media, he uses Received Pronunciation for his professional speaking voice.

In 1980, when the radio station Talk Radio 702 is launched in Johannesburg, O’Byrne is the first announcer heard on it. He also works for Radio Today and Radio Veritas, a Roman Catholic station, in Johannesburg and for Fine Music Radio in Cape Town. He also works for the BBC on Radio 2 and Capital Radio in the United Kingdom, during the 1970s and 1980s.

O’Byrne is also an actor, and narrates five films, while in South Africa. He is one of a series of actors who play the science-fiction character Mark Saxon in the original radio drama No Place to Hide, originally created by South African author Monty Doyle.

O’Byrne and his family move to Mullingar in 2001, but he continues to do broadcasts for Irish classical-music radio station RTÉ lyric fm, and his programmes for Fine Music Radio are recorded there and transmitted to South Africa for broadcast. He retires in 2004.

In 2010, at the MTN Radio Awards Gala, in Johannesburg, O’Byrne is honoured for his contribution to South African broadcasting, being named one of the inaugural inductees into the Radio Hall of Fame.

O’Byrne narrates two movies from The Gods Must Be Crazy film series, as well as Animals Are Beautiful People.

O’Byrne dies in Mullingar at the age of 83 on December 4, 2013.


Leave a comment

Birth of Jerome de Bromhead, Composer & Classical Guitarist

Jerome de Bromhead, Irish composer, classical guitarist, and member of Aosdána, is born in Waterford, County Waterford, on December 2, 1945.

De Bromhead studies with A. J. Potter and James Wilson at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, with further studies with Seóirse Bodley in 1975 and Franco Donatoni in 1978. He holds an M.A. in music, art history and English from Trinity College Dublin. As a guitarist, he studies with Elspeth Henry (1967–68) and at the Guitar Centre, London (1969).

De Bromhead’s compositions include works for solo guitar as well as orchestral, choral and chamber music. His Symphony No. 1 (1986) represents Ireland at the International Rostrum of Composers at UNESCO‘s headquarters in Paris. He describes his style as “neither a Postmodernist nor a deaf-as-a-postmodernist. Above all I am suspicious of anything that seems like dogma.”

De Bromhead’s harpsichord piece Flux (1981) is performed at the ISCM World Music Days in Germany in 1987 and is now published by Tonos Verlag of Darmstadt.

According to guitarist John Feeley, de Bromhead’s solo guitar composition Gemini (1970) is “a sophisticated work, both technically and compositionally. It has the dynamism of youth, with a sense of freshness and it projects an attractive, driving energy […] It is an effective concert work, which speaks well on the instrument and is particularly gratifying for the performer.”

De Bromhead works at RTÉ as a television news director and announcer, as well as a senior music producer for radio, until a serious accident forces him to retire in 1996. He currently lives in Dublin.

The Contemporary Music Centre (www.cmc.ie) provides scores and sample recordings of a selection of de Bromhead’s works, available here.


Leave a comment

Birth of Feargal Quinn, Businessman, Politician & TV Personality

Feargal Quinn, Irish businessman, politician and television personality, is born in Dublin on November 27, 1936. He is the founder of the Superquinn supermarket chain and serves as a Senator in Seanad Éireann representing the National University of Ireland constituency from 1993 to 2016.

Quinn’s father, Eamonn, founds a grocery brand and later the Red Island resort in Skerries, Dublin. He is a first cousin of Labour Party politician Ruairi Quinn and of Lochlann Quinn, former chairman of Allied Irish Banks (AIB). He is educated at Newbridge College and is a commerce graduate of University College Dublin (UCD). He builds a career in business and later takes on a range of public service roles.

Quinn founds the national supermarket chain Superquinn (originally Quinn’s Supermarkets), of which he remains non-executive president for some years after his family sells out their interest in August 2005 for over €400 million. Superquinn is known for its focus on customer service and pioneers a number of innovations, including Ireland’s first supermarket loyalty card in 1993, SuperClub. It also introduces self-scanning of goods by customers in a number of its outlets. Superquinn becomes the first supermarket in the world to guarantee the absolute traceability of all its beef from pasture to plate, using DNA TraceBack, a system developed at Trinity College, Dublin by IdentiGEN.

Quinn becomes the chairman of the Interim Board for Posts and serves as chairman of its successor An Post (the Irish postal administration) until 1989. He also serves on several other public authorities and boards. From 1993 to 1998, he chairs the steering committee which oversees the development of the Leaving Certificate Applied. In 2006, he is appointed an Adjunct Professor in Marketing at National University of Ireland Galway. He is also chairman of Springboard Ireland.

Quinn is a former President of EuroCommerce, the Brussels-based organisation which represents the retail, wholesale and international trade sectors in Europe. He also serves on the board of directors of CIES, the Food Business Forum based in Paris, as well as the American-based Food Marketing Institute.

In 2009, Quinn works with independent shops and helps them to revamp, modernise and stave off stiff competition from multi-national retailers. It airs as RTÉ‘s six-part television series, Feargal Quinn’s Retail Therapy. A second series airs in 2011, and a third series airs in 2012. In 2011, he fronts RTÉ’s Local Heroes campaign in Drogheda, County Louth, which is an assembled team of experts to kick-start the local economy. It airs as RTÉ One‘s six-part television series, Local Heroes – A Town Fights Back.

Quinn is first elected as a senator in 1993 from the National University of Ireland constituency and is re-elected in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2011. He is a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs, the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service and is an Oireachtas member of the National Economic and Social Forum, along with the Joint Committee on Jobs and Innovation.

Quinn is one of the co-founders and is a driving force behind Democracy Matters – a civil society group that is formed to oppose the Government’s plans to abolish Seanad Éireann. In May 2013, with Senators Katherine Zappone and Mary Ann O’Brien, he introduces the Seanad Bill 2013 to reform the system of electing the elected members of Seanad Éireann (as provided for in Article 18.10 of the Constitution of Ireland) through a one-person, one vote franchise. The Seanad Bill 2013 succeeds in being passed at Second Stage in the Seanad. During the Seanad abolition referendum campaign, the Bill demonstrates to the electorate, in a very palpable way, that reform of the Seanad is achievable if they vote for its retention. In a referendum held in October 2013 on the Abolition of Seanad Éireann, the people vote to retain the Seanad by 51.7%.

In 2014, Quinn reveals that since being first elected to Seanad Éireann, he has donated his entire salary to charity and in more recent years he has refused to accept any salary. In March 2015, he opposes the Marriage Equality bill in the Seanad, and votes ‘No’ in the referendum. He serves as Chairman of the Independent Alliance. He does not contest the 2016 Seanad election.

Quinn is the recipient of five honorary doctorates from education institutions, including NUI Galway in 2006, a papal knighthood along with a fellowship and the French Ordre National du Mérite. He shares with Oprah Winfrey the 2006 “Listener of the Year” award of the International Listening Association.

Quinn dies peacefully at his home in Howth, County Dublin, on April 24, 2019, following a short illness. His funeral Mass takes place at St. Fintan’s Church in Sutton, north County Dublin. In attendance is President Michael D. Higgins, a representative for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, Senator Michael McDowell, and a host of other current and former politicians, business figures, and past colleagues of the “Superquinn family.” Fittingly, the coffin is carried from the church to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”


Leave a comment

Neeson & Richardson Donate Libel Payout to Omagh Bombing Victims

On September 27, 1998, film star couple Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson announce they will donate a five-figure libel payout to a memorial fund for the victims of the Omagh bomb massacre that occurred in Northern Ireland on August 15, 1998, killing 29 people.

Neeson and Richardson win £50,000 ($85,370) in libel damages over newspaper allegations that their marriage is on the rocks. The couple sues the Daily Mirror publishers MGN for libel and malicious falsehood after the tabloid paper claimed Natasha Richardson was filing for divorce behind her husband’s back and that their marriage was a sham.

The story is published in August 1998 in London, Scotland, the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland – where Neeson was born and where his family still live.

A High Court judge in London hears that the actors – married for four years with two young sons – were shocked by the allegations which caused “an explosion of publicity worldwide.”

Neeson, who is nominated for an Academy Award for his role in the film Schindler’s List, is told about the article by his mother. She phones him in great distress from Northern Ireland after seeing the headlines while out shopping.

The actors’ solicitor, Mark Thomson, tells Mr. Justice Gray that the couple then spent several days attempting to deal with the destructive aftermath of the articles denying the allegations to friends and family.

Mirror Group Newspapers accepts “unequivocally” that the story is entirely false and apologises for the embarrassment, hurt and distress caused to the couple. “We entirely accept that there is absolutely no truth in the allegations about Mr. Neeson and Miss Richardson and that the allegations should never have been published. We apologise unreservedly to Mr. and Mrs. Neeson and their family for the distress and embarrassment they have been caused. We have agreed not to repeat the allegations and to pay substantial damages to them, which they are donating to the victims of the Omagh bombing.”

The information came from a source thought to be reliable, but it was clearly a mistake for the reporter to rely on that source, says solicitor Martin Cruddace.


Leave a comment

Birth of Brendan O’Carroll, Actor, Comedian, Director & Producer

Brendan O’Carroll, Irish actor, comedian, director, producer and writer, is born in Finglas, Dublin, on September 17, 1955. He is best known for portraying foul-mouthed matriarch Agnes Brown on stage and in the BBC and RTÉ television sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys. In 2015, he is awarded the Irish Film and Television Academy Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to Irish television.

O’Carroll is the youngest of eleven children. His mother, Maureen, is a Labour Party TD and his father, Gerard O’Carroll, is a carpenter. His father dies in 1962 when O’Carroll is six years old, and his mother raises the eleven children with little money. He attends Saint Gabriel’s National School and leaves at the age of twelve. He has a string of occupations, including being a waiter and a milkman.

Having become well known as a comedy guest on The Late Late Show, O’Carroll releases four stand-up videos, titled How’s your Raspberry Ripple, How’s your Jolly Roger, How’s your Snowballs and How’s your Wibbly Wobbly Wonder.

O’Carroll writes the screenplay to Sparrow’s Trap, a boxing movie. The film, which has Stephen Rea cast in the lead role, runs into financing difficulties midway through the shoot when the distributor withdraws and it is abandoned. Incurring debts of over €1 million, he becomes bankrupt and the film has never been produced.

O’Carroll presents a quiz show called Hot Milk and Pepper on RTÉ One, with long-term collaborator Gerry Browne.

In 1992, O’Carroll performs a short radio play titled Mrs. Brown’s Boys and shortly afterwards he writes four books titled The Mammy, The Granny, The Chisellers and The Scrapper. In 1999, a movie named Agnes Browne, starring Anjelica Huston, is released, based on his book The Mammy. He also co-writes the screenplay. He then decides to put together his own family theatre company, Mrs. Browne’s Boys, and dresses up as a woman to play his part, as the actress he had originally hired did not show up.

From 1999 to 2009, O’Carroll writes and performs in five plays. Since 2011, the stage shows have been re-toured across the UK. In 2011, his plays are adapted into a television sitcom, with the name “Browne” shortened to “Brown.” From its beginning in 2011 through January 2022, 28 episodes have aired, across three series, several Christmas-special episodes and a one-off live episode that aired in 2016 on RTÉ One and BBC One. Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie is released on June 27, 2014, and is a significant success in the UK, staying at number one in the box office for two consecutive weeks. However, the film has negative reviews with one saying it is not just unfunny but “close to anti-funny.” O’Carroll’s wife, his sister Eilish, his son Danny, and his daughter Fiona all appear or have appeared on episodes of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

It is announced in January 2015 that the BBC wants O’Carroll to do “other stuff,” due to the fact that Mrs. Brown’s Boys has become so successful. He reveals plans to adapt his first ever written play, patser grey, into a television sitcom.

O’Carroll is married to Doreen O’Carroll from 1977 to 1999. He marries Jennifer Gibney in 2005. They live in Davenport, Florida. He has three surviving children: Fiona, Danny, and Eric. Their first son Brendan dies of spina bifida at just a few days old. He has six grandchildren, four children from Fiona and two children from Danny.

O’Carroll’s paternal grandfather, Peter O’Carroll, a father of seven and a prominent republican, is shot dead on October 16, 1920 at his home in Manor Street, Dublin. Two of his sons are Irish Republican Army volunteers. The incident is investigated in the television series Who Do You Think You Are?

In March 2016 O’Carroll appears in the BBC Two documentary Brendan O’Carroll – My Family at War, which explores the involvement of three of his uncles — Liam, James and Peadar O’Carroll — in the Easter Rising.