seamus dubhghaill

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


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Irish National Day of Mourning

BERTIE AHERN IRISH RESPONSE TO TERRORIST ATTACK ON UNITED STATES OF AMERICAThe Irish government declares a National Day of Mourning on September 14, 2001. Schools, businesses, and shops are shut down in an unprecedented gesture of sympathy following the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City three days earlier.

Thousands of people queue for hours in front of the United States Embassy in Ballsbridge, Dublin, waiting patiently to sign one of the many books of condolences to be presented to the U.S. government in the aftermath of the attack. At John F. Kennedy’s ancestral home in Dunganstown, County Wexford, the U.S. flag flies at half-mast and the house is closed to visitors.

As it was on the day that Kennedy was assassinated, everyone remembers where they were on September 11. But on September 14 in Ireland, the churches are full and the offices, shops and pubs dark and silent as the country mourns with its American relatives, colleagues and friends.

Bouquets of flowers, teddy bears, candles and messages are left at the Embassy, as thousands stand with heads bowed. The building’s facade is turned into a shrine to those who died in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. There are both tears and applause when 250 firefighters from all over Ireland parade past the Embassy as a mark of respect to the hundreds of firefighters lost in New York. People weep openly as they hear of the casualties and more details emerge of that terrible morning.

The nation prays as industrial and commercial life comes to a halt and offices, government departments and all places of entertainment close for mourning. In every parish and diocese religious services are held, with the biggest, an ecumenical service in Dublin, attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, President Mary McAleese and many other cabinet members. At least 2,000 people attempt to squeeze into St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, which holds only 1,500. Outside, a group of U.S. students break into the American national anthem and the crowd falls silent.

The bells of Christ Church Cathedral ring muffled for 90 minutes to mark the occasion, and at 11:00 AM towns and villages fall silent as the people join in a European-wide three minutes of silence. At noon, all trains stop for five minutes and special services are held in practically every town in the country. In Bray, County Wicklow, so many people show up that the church runs out of communion. A number of people approaching the altar are given a blessing instead.

In Dublin’s universities in the months following the attacks, Irish students who were present in New York at the time are offered free counseling to help them deal with the “nightmares and flashbacks.”

A fund for the families of the victims started by Independent News and Media, which donates the money from the sales of all its newspapers on September 14, reaches more than 120,000 punts. It is given to The American Ireland Fund in the presence of U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Egan. Money is collected throughout the country for many months.

(From: “Ireland’s National Day of Mourning” by Irish America staff, http://www.irishamerica.com, December/January 2002 | Pictured: Taoisearch Bernie Ahern and Tanaiste Mary Harney with members of the Irish Cabinet sign the book of condolences in the U.S. Embassy in Dublin three days after the terrorist attacks)

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Birth of Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Fianna Fáil Politician

maire-geoghegan-quinnMáire Geoghegan-Quinn, former Fianna Fáil politician, is born in Carna, County Galway on September 5, 1950. She served as a European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science from 2010 to 2014 and as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Galway West constituency from 1975 to 1997.

Geoghegan is educated at Coláiste Muire, Toormakeady, in County Mayo and at Carysfort College in Blackrock, from where she qualifies as a teacher. She is married to John Quinn, with whom she has two children. Her novel The Green Diamond, about four young women sharing a house in Dublin in the 1960s, is published in 1996.

Her father, Johnny Geoghegan, is a Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West from 1954 until his death in 1975. His daughter successfully contests the subsequent by-election. From 1977 to 1979 she works as Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Industry, Commerce and Energy. She serves as a member of Galway City Council from 1985 to 1991.

Geoghegan-Quinn supports Charles Haughey in the 1979 Fianna Fáil leadership election and is subsequently appointed to the cabinet post of Minister for the Gaeltacht. Thus, she becomes the first woman to hold an Irish cabinet post since 1922 (after Constance Markievicz had been appointed Minister for Labour in 1919 during the First Dáil) and the first woman to hold such a post in the history of the Irish state.

In 1982, Geoghegan-Quinn is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills. Her tenure is short because the 23rd Dáil lasts only 279 days, and a Fine GaelLabour Party coalition is elected at the November 1982 general election.

When Fianna Fáil returns to power after the 1987 general election, Geoghegan-Quinn becomes Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach. She expects a senior government position, but is disappointed. She resigns in 1991, in opposition to Charles Haughey’s leadership of the party. The following year Albert Reynolds, whom she backs for the leadership, becomes Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. For her loyalty to Reynolds, she is appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. She becomes Minister for Justice and Equality in 1993, in which post she introduces substantial law reform legislation, including the decriminalisation of homosexuality. She is also briefly acting Minister for Equality and Law Reform in late 1994, following the resignation of Labour minister Mervyn Taylor from Reynolds’ coalition government.

When Reynolds resigns as leader of Fianna Fáil in November 1994, Geoghegan-Quinn is seen as his preferred successor. In the resulting leadership election she stands against Bertie Ahern. A win would make her the first female Taoiseach. On the day of the vote, however, she withdraws from the contest “in the interests of party unity.” It is reported that she has the support of only 15 members of the 66-strong parliamentary party.

At the 1997 general election Geoghegan-Quinn retires from politics completely, citing privacy issues, after details about her 17-year-old son’s expulsion from school appeared in the newspapers. Other reports suggest that she sees her prospects for promotion under Ahern as poor, and a weak showing in constituency opinion polls indicate her seat could be in danger. She becomes a non-executive director of Aer Lingus, a member of the board of the Declan Ganley-owned Ganley Group, and writes a column for The Irish Times.

Geoghegan-Quinn is appointed to the European Court of Auditors in 1999, replacing former Labour minister Barry Desmond. She is appointed for a second term at the Court of Auditors in March 2006, and resigns on February 9, 2010. She is nominated by Taoiseach Brian Cowen to become Ireland’s European Commissioner in November 2009, and is subsequently allocated the Research, Innovation and Science portfolio.

In April 2010, after numerous calls are made over several days for Geoghegan-Quinn to surrender her pensions as an Irish former politician, which are worth over €104,000, while she remains in a paid public office, she does so.

In July 2015, it is announced that Geoghegan-Quinn will chair an independent panel to examine issues of gender equality among Irish higher education staff.


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Opening of the Jack Lynch Tunnel

jack-lynch-tunnelThe Jack Lynch Tunnel, described as the most challenging civil engineering project in the history of the state, is unveiled on May 21, 1999 by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the entrance of the tunnel in Mahon, County Cork.

The Jack Lynch Tunnel is an immersed tube tunnel and an integral part of the N40 southern ring road of Cork. It is named after former Taoiseach Jack Lynch, a native of Cork. Construction involves the excavation of a large casting basin where the tunnel elements or pieces are constructed. After construction of elements is complete, the casting basin is filled with water and joined to the adjacent River Lee, each element is floated out and sunk into position into a carefully dredged river bed.

The tunnel takes the road under the River Lee. North of the tunnel, the ring-road joins the M8 motorway to Dublin and N8 road to the city centre, with the N25 road commencing east to Waterford. The tunnel is completed in May 1999, and carries nearly 40,000 vehicles per day as of 2005. This number rises further as the N40 ring-road’s upgrades progress, with the opening of the Kinsale Road Roundabout flyover in 2006 and subsequent upgrades to the Sarsfield Road and Bandon Road Roundabouts. Traffic in 2015 is 63,000 vehicles a day up from 59,000 in 2013.

The tunnel has two cells, each with two traffic lanes and two footpaths, and a central bore for use in an emergency only. Pedestrians and cyclists are expressly forbidden from using the tunnel. The exclusion of cyclists has been somewhat controversial as the feeder road is a dual-carriageway and so is open to cyclists, but the by-law is applied because of space limitations and the obvious danger of cyclists in an enclosed tunnel.


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Ahern & Blair Push for Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement

ahern-and-blair-1998At an informal European Union summit near Bonn on February 26, 1999, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agree to push for implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by the March 10 deadline.

As EU delegates discuss the Union’s budget and Europe‘s farming subsidies, the two prime ministers vow to battle on with the peace deal’s outstanding problems.

“We’re very clear on what we have to do in the Good Friday agreement … we have just got to keep pushing the thing forward as well as we possibly can,” says Blair.

Both Ahern and Blair say the way forward on the outstanding deadlocked issue of paramilitary disarmament is through the official decommissioning commission. Chaired by former Canadian General John de Chastelain, the international commission is working to take arms out of the province’s political arena.

The republican party Sinn Féin insists it is fully cooperating with the commission, which is implementing the final deadline for the handover of arms in May 2000. But some Ulster Unionists oppose further peace moves because of the Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) failure to begin disarming.

According to Ahern and Blair, the following few weeks will be a key time to try and finalise disarmament issues.

“During the month of March … we can conclude the central aspects,” says Blair.

However, in a separate development on February 26, the chairman of the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Féin’s Mitchel McLaughlin, warns that pressure on disarmament could cause irreparable damage to the fragile peace process. He adds that disarmament should not become a litmus test for progress.

“Those who are now demanding prior decommissioning before we move to setting up the executive are reneging on the Good Friday Agreement,” says McLaughlin in an interview with BBC Radio.

(From BBC News Online Network, Friday, February 26, 1999 | Pictured: Bertie Ahern with Tony Blair at the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in April 1998)


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Ahern Meets Paisley in County Antrim

paisley-and-ahern-2008Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visits Ballymena on February 1, 2008 to meet Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley in his County Antrim constituency. Paisley says the Taoiseach’s visit to north Antrim is a historic day, and Ahern says his visit is another tangible benefit of the ongoing peace process.

Ahern and Paisley discuss political and economic developments in Northern Ireland and increasing cross-Border co-operation. The Taoiseach says he is honoured to visit the north Antrim heartland of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader.

“I do not believe even a year back it could have been envisaged we would have been together here,” Ahern says. “It is an honour to be here with the First Minister to talk about progress.”

Paisley jokes that Ahern and his entourage had held a prayer meeting in their helicopter hoping that they would not be pelted with snowballs by him, a reference to his famous protest when former Taoiseach Seán Lemass visited Stormont in 1965.

When asked about welcoming the Fianna Fáil leader to his constituency Paisley quips, “What I am saying is he is in under my control. This is a good day for work. It is a good day for our province. It is a good day for the whole of Ireland because we need help from outside. We cannot live on our own.”

Ahern and Paisley meet again the following week at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce AGM dinner where Paisley has been invited to be a guest speaker.

The engagement is the latest visit to the Republic by the DUP leader since the Assembly was restored in Stormont the previous May. The Taoiseach invites Paisley to the historic Battle of the Boyne battle site in County Louth in July where the DUP leader presents a 17th-century musket to Ahern.

In October 2007, Paisley addresses the Trinity College Historical Society in Dublin and also attends an event in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in the city in November.

(From The Irish Times, Friday, February 1, 2008)


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Death of Jim Mitchell, Fine Gael Politician

jim-mitchellJim Mitchell, senior Irish politician who serves in the cabinets of Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, loses his three-year battle with cancer in Dublin on December 2, 2002.

Mitchell begins his political involvement when he supports Seán MacBride, leader of the radical republican Clann na Poblachta in the 1957 general election. He joins Fine Gael in 1967, becoming that party’s unsuccessful candidate in a by-election in 1970. He seeks a party nomination to run in the 1973 Irish general election. However he agrees not to contest the seat to allow Declan Costello, a senior figure in his party and son of former Taoiseach John A. Costello, to be elected. Costello goes on to serve as Attorney General of Ireland in the 1973-1977 National Coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Mitchell is elected to Dublin Corporation in 1974. In 1976, at the age of 29, he becomes the youngest ever Lord Mayor of Dublin. He is an unsuccessful candidate for Dáil Éireann in the 1973 general election in Dublin South-West and loses again in the 1976 by-election in the same constituency, to Labour’s Brendan Halligan.

In the 1977 general election he is elected to the 21st Dáil for the new constituency of Dublin Ballyfermot. With the party’s loss of power in 1977, the new leader, Garret FitzGerald appoints Mitchell to the Party’s Front Bench as spokesman on Labour. At the 1981 general election Mitchell is elected for the Dublin West and Fine Gael dramatically increases its number of seats, forming a coalition government with the Labour Party. On his appointment as Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald causes some surprise by excluding some of the older conservative ex-ministers from his cabinet. Instead young liberals like Mitchell are appointed, with Mitchell receiving the high profile post of Minister for Justice, taking responsibility for policing, criminal and civil law reform, penal justice, etc. The Fine Gael-Labour government collapses in January 1982, but regains power in December of that year. Mitchell again is included in a FitzGerald cabinet, as Minister for Transport.

As Minister for Transport, Mitchell grants the aviation license to a fledgling airline called Ryanair on November 29, 1985. This is granted despite strong opposition by Ireland’s national carrier Aer Lingus. The issue of the license breaks Aer Lingus’ stranglehold on flights to London from the Republic of Ireland.

Mitchell, who is seen as being on the social liberal wing of Fine Gael, is out of favour with John Bruton when he becomes Fine Gael leader in 1990. When Bruton forms the Rainbow Coalition in December 1994, Mitchell is not appointed to any cabinet post.

Mitchell contests and wins Dáil elections in 1977, 1981, (February and November) 1982, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1997. He runs for his party as its candidate to become a member of the European Parliament in the 1994 and 1998 elections. He also is director of elections for Austin Currie, the Fine Gael candidate, in the 1990 presidential election.

In 2001, Bruton is deposed as Fine Gael leader and replaced by Michael Noonan. Mitchell serves as his deputy from 2001 to 2002. He also chairs the key Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee. The Committee’s work under his chairmanship is widely praised for its inquiry into allegations of corruption and wide-scale tax evasion in the banking sector.

Though regarded in politics as one of Fine Gael’s “survivors,” who holds onto his seat amid major boundary changes, constituency changes and by attracting working class votes in a party whose appeal is primarily middle class, Mitchell loses his Dublin Central seat in the 2002 general election. That election witnesses a large scale collapse in the Fine Gael vote, with the party dropping from 54 to 31 seats in Dáil Éireann. Although Mitchell suffers from the swing against Fine Gael in Dublin, he is not aided by the fact that Inchicore, which is considered his base in the constituency has been moved to Dublin South-Central. He chooses not to run in that constituency as his brother, Gay, is a sitting Teachta Dála (TD) running for re-election for that constituency.

Mitchell earlier has a liver transplant in an attempt to beat a rare form of cancer which had cost the lives of a number of his siblings. Though the operation is successful, the cancer returns. Although he appears to be making a recovery, Jim Mitchell ultimately dies of the disease on December 2, 2002.

His former constituency colleague and rival, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, describes Jim Mitchell as having made an “outstanding contribution to Irish politics.”


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The Forest of Dunbrody

forest-of-dunbrodyIn tribute to emigrants who sailed to the New World on coffin ships, Coillte, a state-sponsored company in Ireland, announces on October 29, 1998 plans for the establishment of a forest plantation, the Forest of Dunbrody, on the outskirts of New Ross, County Wexford. The public, and particularly Irish Americans, are invited to buy a tree in the name of their loved ones. A total of 25,000 trees are planted, comprising species such as ash, oak, larch and Douglas fir.

The purpose of the plantation is to replace timbers used in the construction of the Dunbrody, a 176-foot-long replica of the Famine emigrant ships which left Ireland in the 1840s. The ship, which weighs 458 tonnes, is the culmination of a two-year, £4 million project, the inspiration of the JFK Trust.

The ship is a reconstruction of the original Dunbrody which operated out of New Ross, in all but its electrical and navigational equipment. It immediately proves to be a tourist attraction with over 30,000 visitors witnessing the traditional skills of 19th-century shipbuilding being carried out by a team of 30 trainees of Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS), the Irish National Training and Employment Authority, and an international team of shipwrights.

One of the trainee shipwrights, James Grennan, is a fourth cousin of the former President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Grennan is also one of the crew of the Dunbrody.

Coillte, which had up to this point already sponsored much of the timber for the project, decides to establish a plantation of the same name as the ship after members of the building crew express an interest and as a demonstration of wood as a renewable resource.

After years of tireless effort the Dunbrody is finally ready to launch. Early on the morning of February 11, 2001 the gates of the dry dock are opened and the Dunbrody floats to her lines, ready to take her pace at the Quay of New Ross. The launch ceremony is attended by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former United States Ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith.