seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Fianna Fáil Politician Ray Burke

ray-burkeRaphael Patrick “Ray” Burke, disgraced former Fianna Fáil politician, is born on September 30, 1943, in Dublin. He is a former Teachta Dála and government minister who is convicted and imprisoned on charges arising from political corruption in office. Burke is also highly influential in decisions made by Dublin County Council.

Burke’s political career commences when he is elected to Dublin County Council for Fianna Fáil in 1967. He serves as chairman of the council from 1985 to 1987.

Burke is elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election for the Dublin County North constituency, succeeding his father Patrick J. Burke, who has held the seat for 29 years. Ray Burke represents this constituency and its successor Dublin North until his resignation almost twenty-five years later.

After Fianna Fáil’s landslide victory at the 1977 general election, Burke is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. In October 1980 Burke is promoted to Minister for the Environment, a position he holds until June 1981 and again in the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982. After Fianna Fáil returns to power at the 1987 general election, Burke serves as Minister for Energy, where he makes controversial changes to the legislation governing oil and gas exploration. In 1988, he is appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Communications.

Following the formation of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats Coalition in 1989, he becomes Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. When Albert Reynolds comes to power in 1992, he does not re-appoint Burke to the Cabinet. Following the 1997 general election, Fianna Fáil is back in power and Burke is appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Within months of his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, allegations resurface that Burke has received IR£80,000 from a property developer regarding the former Dublin County Council. Burke denies the allegations but resigns from the Cabinet and from the Dáil on October 7, 1997, after just four months in office.

Having claimed since 1989 that Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is biased against him, Burke is responsible for controversial legislation that severely limits RTÉ’s ability to collect advertising revenue and allows for the establishment of a series of local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio. RTÉ is ordered to provide a national transmission service for Century Radio at a price that RTÉ complains is far below the economic cost of providing such a service. Nevertheless, Century Radio fails to gain significant audience share and closes in 1991.

In July 2004 Burke pleads guilty to making false tax returns. The charges arise from his failure to declare for tax purposes the payments that he has received from the backers of Century Radio. On January 24, 2005 he is sentenced to six months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior Irish politicians to serve time in prison. He is released in June 2005 after four and a half months, earning a 25% remission of sentence because of good behaviour. He serves his time in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.

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Execution of John MacBride, Irish Republican

john-macbrideMajor John McBride, Irish republican, is executed by firing squad in the Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin on May 5, 1916, for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising.

MacBride is born at The Quay, Westport, County Mayo, to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill. He is educated at the Christian Brothers School in Westport and at St. Malachy’s College in Belfast. He studies medicine but gives it up and begins working with a chemist’s firm in Dublin.

He joins the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and is associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joins the Celtic Literary Society through which he comes to know Arthur Griffith, who is to remain a friend and influence throughout his life. Beginning in 1893, MacBride is termed a “dangerous nationalist” by the British government. In 1896, he travels to the United States on behalf of the IRB. Upon his return he emigrates to South Africa.

In the Second Boer War MacBride is instrumental in the raising of the Irish Transvaal Brigade and leads it into action against the British. When organised resistance collapses, he and the surviving members cross the border into Mozambique. After the war he marries Maud Gonne and they have a son, Seán MacBride, who is also to make a name for himself in Irish Politics. The marriage, however, is not a success and they go their separate ways. MacBride keeps up his associations with Republican activists but does not become personally involved other than making the odd speech in support of Ireland’s Cause.

After returning permanently from Paris to Dublin in 1905, MacBride joins other Irish nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection. Because he is so well known to the British, the leaders think it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning a Rising. As a result, he happens to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice.

MacBride is in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning, April 24, to meet his brother, Dr. Anthony MacBride, who is arriving from Westport to be married two days later. As MacBride walks up Grafton Street he sees Thomas MacDonagh in uniform and leading his troops. He offers his services and is appointed second-in-command at the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, which is occupied and held through Easter Week until the order to surrender is received. As he is dressed in civilian clothes rather than a military uniform, he could likely have escaped without too much difficulty but rather he decides to go with his comrades into captivity.

Tried by court martial under the Defence of the Realm Act, MacBride is found guilty and sentenced to death. He is executed on May 5, 1916, two days before his forty-eighth birthday. Facing the British firing squad, MacBride refuses to be blindfolded saying, “I have looked down the muzzles of too many guns in the South African war to fear death and now please carry out your sentence.”

John MacBride is buried in the cemetery at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.