seamus dubhghaill

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


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Funeral of Tom McEllistrim, Fianna Fáil TD

fianna-fail-logoPresident Mary McAleese and former Taoiseach Charles Haughey are among the many people to pay tribute at the funeral of Kerry North Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) and former minister, Tom McEllistrim, on February 27, 2000.

Born in Boherbee, County Kerry on January 15, 1926, McEllistrim is the son of the Fianna Fáil politician and Irish War of Independence veteran, Tom McEllistrim. He succeeds his father when he is elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for the Kerry North constituency at the 1969 general election. At the 1977 general election he is elected along with his running mate Kit Ahern. This is the first time that Fianna Fáil wins two seats in the three seat Kerry North constituency. McEllistrim, who is given much credit for this feat, is disappointed not to receive a promotion to a Minister of State.

McEllistrim becomes disillusioned with the Taoiseach and party leader Jack Lynch from then and begins to believe that Charles Haughey is the right candidate for the party leadership. He believes that Lynch is about to retire and is particularly uncomfortable at the thought of George Colley succeeding Lynch. Like his father before him he believes Colley is not right for the role of leader of the party. He is particularly vocal with regard to party policy towards Northern Ireland and, as he sees it, Lynch’s apparent lack of sympathy towards the northern nationalist community.

McEllistrim is a member of the so-called “gang of five” along with Seán Doherty, Mark Killilea Jnr, Jackie Fahey and Albert Reynolds who start a lobbying campaign in favour of Haughey on the backbenches of the party. After Lynch loses two by-elections in his native County Cork he resigns as party leader in December 1979. The leadership contest is called two days later and is a two-way race between Haughey and Colley. Haughey wins the leadership contest by a decisive margin and McEllistrim is rewarded by being appointed Minister of State at the Department of Finance with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works. He serves as a Minister of State again in 1982, this time at the Department of Fisheries and Forestry.

McEllistrim loses his seat at the 1987 general election by four votes to Dick Spring. After being nominated to Seanad Éireann he regains his seat at the 1989 general election but does not retain it at the 1992 general election when he loses to constituency colleague Denis Foley.

McEllistrim dies aged 74 on February 25, 2000. His son, Tom McEllistrim, is a TD for Kerry North from 2002 to 2011.


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Establishment of the Central Bank of Ireland

central-bank-of-irelandThe Central Bank of Ireland is established on February 1, 1943, when the Central Bank Act 1942 comes into effect which renames the Currency Commission.

The Central Bank of Ireland is Ireland’s central bank, and as such part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It is also the country’s financial services regulator for most categories of financial firms. It is the issuer of Irish pound banknotes and coinage until the introduction of the euro currency, and now provides this service for the European Central Bank.

The Central Bank, however, does not initially acquire many of the characteristics of a central bank:

  • It is not given custody of the cash reserves of the commercial banks
  • It has no statutory power to restrict credit, though it can promote it
  • The Bank of Ireland remains the government’s banker
  • The conditions for influencing credit through open-market operations does not yet exist
  • Ireland’s external monetary reserves are largely held as external assets of the commercial banks

The mid-1960s see the Bank take over the normal day-to-day operations of exchange control from the Department of Finance. The Central Bank broadens its activities over the decades, but it remains in effect a currency board until the 1970s.

Since January 1, 1972 the Central Bank has been the banker of the Government of Ireland in accordance with the Central Bank Act 1971, which can be seen in legislative terms as completing the long transition from a currency board to a fully functional central bank.

Its head office is located on Dame Street, Dublin, where the public may exchange non-current Irish coinage and currency, both pre- and post-decimalization, for euros. It also operates from premises in Spencer Dock, Iveagh Court, and College Green. The Currency Centre at Sandyford is the currency manufacture, warehouse, and distribution site of the bank.

By March 2017 its city centre staff will move to a new building at North Wall Quay.


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Free State Government Purchases Copyright to “The Soldiers Song”

amhran-na-bhfiannThe Irish Free State government purchases the copyright of Peadar Kearney‘s The Soldiers Song on October 20, 1933, which becomes the Irish national anthem Amhrán na bhFiann. The song has three verses, but only the choral refrain is officially designated the national anthem.

A Soldiers’ Song is composed in 1907, with words by Peadar Kearney and music by Kearney and Patrick Heeney. The text is first published in Irish Freedom by Bulmer Hobson in 1912. It is used as a marching song by the Irish Volunteers and is sung by rebels in the General Post Office (GPO) during the Easter Rising of 1916. Its popularity increases among rebels held in Frongoch internment camp after the Rising, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, a large proportion of the IRA’s men and apparatus become the National Army. The Soldiers’ Song remains popular as an Army tune, and is played at many military functions.

The Free State does not initially adopt any official anthem. The delicate political state in the aftermath of the Irish Civil War provokes a desire to avoid controversy. Ex-Unionists continue to regard God Save the King as the national anthem, as it has been for the rest of the British Empire. W. T. Cosgrave, President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State expresses opposition to replacing The Soldiers’ Song, which is provisionally used within the State.

There is concern that the lack of an official anthem is giving Unionists an opportunity to persist with God Save the King. The Soldiers’ Song is widely if unofficially sung by nationalists. On July 12, 1926, the Executive Council of the Irish Free State decides to adopt it as the National Anthem, with Cosgrave the driving force in the decision. However, this decision is not publicised.

In 1928, the Army band establishes the practice of playing only the chorus of the song as the Anthem, because the longer version is discouraging audiences from singing along.

The anthem is played by Radio Éireann at closedown from its inception in 1926. Cinemas and theatres do so from 1932 until 1972. Peadar Kearney, who has received royalties from publishers of the text and music, issues legal proceedings for royalties from those now performing the anthem. He is joined by Michael Heeney, brother of Patrick Heeney, who had died in 1911. In 1934, the Department of Finance acquires the copyright of the song for the sum of £1,200. Copyright law changes in 1959, such that the government has to reacquire copyright in 1965, for £2,500. As per copyright law, the copyright expires in December 2012, following the 70th anniversary of Kearney’s death. In 2016, three Fianna Fáil senators introduce a private member’s bill intended to restore the state’s copyright in the anthem.


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First Prisoners Arrive at Kilmainham Gaol

kilmainham-gaolKilmainham Gaol in Dublin receives its first prisoners on August 12, 1796. When it is first built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol is called the “New Gaol” to distinguish it from the old prison it is intended to replace. It is officially called the County of Dublin Gaol, and is originally run by the Grand Jury for County Dublin.

Originally, public hangings take place at the front of the prison. However, from the 1820s onward very few hangings, public or private, take place at Kilmainham. A small hanging cell, located on the first floor between the west wing and the east wing, is built in the prison in 1891.

There is no segregation of prisoners as men, women, and children are incarcerated up to five in each cell, with light and heat provided by a single candle which has to last for two weeks. The cells are roughly 28 square metres in area.

At Kilmainham the poor conditions in which women prisoners are kept provide the spur for the next stage of development. Remarkably, for an age that prides itself on a protective attitude for the “weaker sex,” the conditions for women prisoners are persistently worse than for men. Male prisoners are supplied with iron bedsteads while females lay on straw on the floor. Half a century later, however, there is little improvement.

Many Irish revolutionaries, including the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, are imprisoned and executed in the prison by the British.

Kilmainham Gaol is decommissioned as a prison by the Irish Free State government in 1924. Seen principally as a site of oppression and suffering at the time, there is no declared interest in its preservation as a monument to the struggle for national independence. The jail’s potential function as a location of national memory is also undercut and complicated by the fact that the first four republican prisoners executed by the Free State government during the Irish Civil War are shot in the prison yard.

The Irish Prison Board contemplates reopening it as a prison during the 1920s but the plans are abandoned in 1929. In 1936 the government considers the demolition of the prison but the price of this undertaking is seen as prohibitive.

In February 1960 detailed plans submitted by the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Society for the restoration of Kilmainham, which notably also envisions the site’s development as a tourist attraction, receive the approval of the notoriously parsimonious Department of Finance. Restoration work begins in May of the same year. The final restoration of the site is completed in 1971 when Kilmainham Gaol chapel is re-opened to the public.

Kilmainham Gaol now houses a museum on the history of Irish nationalism and offers guided tours of the building. An art gallery on the top floor exhibits paintings, sculptures, and jewelry of prisoners incarcerated in prisons all over contemporary Ireland.  It is run by the Office of Public Works, an agency of the Government of Ireland.