seamus dubhghaill

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


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Ireland Joins the European Monetary System

counting cashIreland joins the new European Monetary System (EMS) on March 13, 1979. The EMS is an arrangement established in 1979 under the Jenkins Commission where most nations of the European Economic Community (EEC) link their currencies to prevent large fluctuations relative to one another.

After the demise of the Bretton Woods system in 1971, most of the EEC countries agree in 1972 to maintain stable exchange rates by preventing exchange rate fluctuations of more than 2.25%. In March 1979, this system is replaced by the European Monetary System, and the European Currency Unit (ECU) is defined.

The basic elements of the arrangement are:

  • The ECU: With this arrangement, member currencies agree to keep their foreign exchange rates within agreed bands with a narrow band of +/− 2.25% and a wide band of +/− 6%
  • An Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)
  • An extension of European credit facilities
  • The European Monetary Cooperation Fund: created in April 1973 and allocates ECUs to members’ central banks in exchange for gold and US dollar deposits

Although no currency is designated as an anchor, the Deutsche Mark and German Deutsche Bundesbank soon emerge as the centre of the EMS. Because of its relative strength, and the low-inflation policies of the bank, all other currencies are forced to follow its lead if they want to stay inside the system. Eventually, this situation leads to dissatisfaction in most countries, and is one of the primary forces behind the drive to a monetary union.

Periodic adjustments raise the values of strong currencies and lower those of weaker ones, but after 1986 changes in national interest rates are used to keep the currencies within a narrow range. In the early 1990s the European Monetary System is strained by the differing economic policies and conditions of its members, especially the newly reunified Germany, and the permanent withdrawal of the United Kingdom and Italy from the system in September 1992. Speculative attacks on the French franc during the following year lead to the so-called Brussels Compromise in August 1993 which establishes a new fluctuation band of +15%.

In May 1998, the European Monetary System is no longer a functional arrangement as the member countries fix their mutual exchange rates when participating in the euro. Its successor however, the ERM-II, is launched on January 1, 1999. In ERM-II the ECU basket is discarded and the new single currency euro becomes an anchor for the other currencies participating in the ERM-II. Participation in the ERM-II is voluntary and the fluctuation bands remain the same as in the original ERM, i.e. +15 percent, once again with the possibility of individually setting a narrower band with respect to the euro. Denmark and Greece become new members at this time.


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Death of War Correspondent William Howard Russell

william-howard-russellSir William Howard Russell, an Irish reporter with The Times and considered to be one of the first modern war correspondents, dies in London, England on February 11, 1907.

Russell is born in Tallaght, County Dublin on March 28, 1820. As a young reporter, he reports on the First Schleswig War, a brief military conflict between Prussian and Danish troops in Denmark in 1850.

Initially sent by editor John Delane to Malta to cover British support for the Ottoman Empire against Russia in 1854, Russell despises the term “war correspondent” but his coverage of the conflict brings him international renown, and Florence Nightingale later credits her entry into wartime nursing to his reports. The Crimean medical care, shelter and protection of all ranks by Mary Seacole is also publicised by Russell and by other contemporary journalists, rescuing her from bankruptcy.

His dispatches are hugely significant as for the first time the public can read about the reality of warfare. Shocked and outraged, the public’s backlash from his reports leads the Government to re-evaluate the treatment of troops and leads to Florence Nightingale’s involvement in revolutionising battlefield treatment.

On September 20, 1854, Russell covers the battle above the Alma River, writing his missive the following day in an account book seized from a Russian corpse. The story, written in the form of a letter to Delane, is supportive of the British troops and pays particular attention to the battlefield surgeons’ “humane barbarity” and the lack of ambulance care for wounded troops. He later covers the Siege of Sevastopol where he coins the phrase “thin red line” in referring to British troops at Balaclava.

Following Russell’s reports of the appalling conditions suffered by the Allied troops conducting the siege, including an outbreak of cholera, Samuel Morton Peto and his partners build the Grand Crimean Central Railway, which is a major factor leading to the success of the siege.

Russell spends December 1854 in Constantinople on holiday, returning in early 1855. He leaves Crimea in December 1855 to be replaced by the Constantinople correspondent of The Times.

In 1856 Russell is sent to Moscow to describe the coronation of Tsar Alexander II and in the following year is sent to India where he witnesses the final re-capture of Lucknow.

In 1861 Russell goes to Washington, D.C., returning to England in 1863. In July 1865 he sails on the SS Great Eastern to document the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable and writes a book about the voyage with color illustrations by Robert Dudley. He publishes diaries of his time in India, the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, where he describes the warm welcome given him by English-speaking Prussian generals such as Leonhard Graf von Blumenthal.

Russell retires as a battlefield correspondent in 1882 and founds the Army and Navy Gazette. He is knighted in May 1895 and is appointed a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) by King Edward VII on August 11, 1902.

Sir William Howard Russell dies on Februry 11, 1907 and is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.


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Birth of James Hamilton, First Governor of Northern Ireland

james-hamiltonJames Albert Edward Hamilton, 3rd Duke of Abercorn, is born in Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, London, on November 30, 1869. Styled Marquess of Hamilton between 1885 and 1913, he is a British peer and Unionist politician. He serves as the first Governor of Northern Ireland, a post he holds between 1922 and 1945. He is a great-grandfather of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Hamilton is the eldest son of James Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Abercorn, and godson of the Prince of Wales. His mother, Lady Mary Anna, is the fourth daughter of Richard Curzon-Howe, 1st Earl Howe. He is educated at Eton College and subsequently serves first in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers until 1892 when he joins the 1st Life Guards. He is later transferred as major to the North Irish Horse.

In early 1901 he accompanies his father on a special diplomatic mission to announce the accession of King Edward to the governments of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, Russia, Germany, and Saxony.

In the 1900 general election, Hamilton stands successfully as Unionist candidate for Londonderry City, and three years later he becomes Treasurer of the Household, a post he holds until the fall of Arthur Balfour‘s Conservative administration in 1905. After serving for a time as an Opposition whip, Hamilton succeeds his father as third Duke of Abercorn in 1913. In 1922, he is appointed governor of the newly created Northern Ireland. He also serves as Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone from 1917 until his death, having previously been a Deputy Lieutenant for County Donegal. Abercorn proves a popular royal representative in Northern Ireland, and is reappointed to the post in 1928 after completing his first term of office. In 1931, he declines the offer of the governor generalship of Canada, and three years later he is again reappointed governor for a third term. He remains in this capacity until his resignation in July 1945.

Abercorn is made the last non-royal Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick in 1922. In 1928 he becomes a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter and is also the recipient of an honorary degree from the Queen’s University Belfast. He receives the Royal Victorian Chain in 1945, the same year he is sworn of the Privy Council.

Abercorn marries Lady Rosalind Cecilia Caroline Bingham, only daughter of Charles Bingham, 4th Earl of Lucan and his wife Lady Cecilia Catherine Gordon-Lennox at St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, on November 1, 1894. They have three daughters and two sons.

Abercorn dies at his London home on September 12, 1953, and is buried at Baronscourt in County Tyrone.