seamus dubhghaill

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


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Michael D. Higgins Meets Pope Francis in Rome

michael-higgins-and-pope-francisPresident Michael D. Higgins discusses a range of issues including climate change, migration and the need to achieve social cohesion during a meeting with Pope Francis in Rome on May 22, 2017.

The meeting comes two days before Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, where the potential for disagreement is high as Trump has clashed with the pontiff on migrants and expressed skepticism about man-made impact on the environment. The meeting with President Higgins, however, is much more congenial as both leaders are very much on the same page.

Higgins is given the traditional welcome for visiting heads of state to the Vatican. He is walked through the frescoed rooms of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace by men dressed in white tie and is then introduced to Pope Francis for their meeting, which lasts fifteen minutes.

Higgins’ visit comes six months after outgoing Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny had a papal audience after which he confirmed the Pope would be coming to Ireland in 2018. While their discussions take place behind closed doors, it is likely that Higgins once again extends the invitation for Pope Francis to visit the country. The Pope ultimately visits Ireland August 25-26 as part of the World Meeting of Families 2018.

At the end of a seemingly warm and friendly encounter, Higgins presents the Pope a “climate bell” designed by renowned citizen-artist Vivienne Roche and is meant to represent a call to action on protecting the planet. “This is a very important symbol” the president tells the Pope before briefly ringing the bell.

For his part, the Pope presents Higgins with his landmark encyclical on climate change, Laudato si’, and his two apostolic exhortations, Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia. He also presents the President with a medallion designed to represent the saying from Isaiah 32:15 which states “the desert will become a fertile ground.”

The audience takes place inside the Vatican Library with the use of an interpreter. Higgins, who has spent some time living in Latin America, concludes the meeting in the Pope’s native language, saying “muchos gracias.”


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Easter Rising “Remembrance Wall” Unveiled

glasnevin-memorial-wallA “Remembrance Wall” showing the names of all those who died during the 1916 Easter Rising is unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on April 3, 2016. The memorial wall bears the names of all those who died, Irish and British, military and civilian, in the rebellion 100 years earlier.

Almost 500 people are killed in the uprising, with 268 of them being civilians caught up in the violence. The names are displayed chronologically without distinction between the different categories. The inclusion of the names of 119 British soldiers on the wall, some of whom are buried in Glasnevin, causes some controversy and a number of protesters gather outside the cemetery to demonstrate as the interfaith service takes place inside. A significant Garda Síochána presence monitors the protest events.

The Glasnevin Trust insists the memorial is an attempt to present the historical facts, without hierarchy or judgement. Chairman of Glasnevin Trust John Green tells the service the wall reflects modern Ireland. “Behind each and every one of these lost lives is a story of heartbreak, no matter what side the person served on or indeed for those innocently caught up in the conflict,” he says. “One hundred years on we believe this memorial reflects the time we live in, with the overwhelming majority of the Irish people wishing to live in peace and in reconciliation. But it is for each visitor to take from the wall what they wish.”

Senior church figures from a range of faiths and humanist representatives are among those to speak at the ceremony. Inspiration for the project is drawn from an international memorial near Arras in France that lists the names of 580,000 people killed in fighting on the western front in World War I. Taoiseach Enda Kenny lays a wreath during the event, which is part of the official State programme commemorating the uprising.

Conradh na Gaeilge expresses its disappointment about a spelling mistake on the new memorial wall. The wall is titled Éirí Amach na Cásca but the word Éirí (meaning Rising) appears with a fada on the first i, instead of on the E. Julian de Spáinn of Conradh na Gaeilge says the mistake illustrates a laziness toward the Irish language and he cannot understand why those involved did not ensure that the Irish is as accurate and correct as the English spelling on the wall.


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Funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick

dana-fitzpatrick-funeralOn Saturday, March 18, 2017, President Michael D. Higgins is among hundreds of mourners at St. Patrick’s Church in Glencullen for the funeral of Coast Guard Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, who died when her Sikorsky S-92 helicopter (call sign Rescue 116) crashed off the County Mayo coast on March 14.

The funeral cortege arrives at the church in Glencullen at 11:00 AM and is met by an honour guard from the Coast Guard and other rescue services. Captain Fitpatrick’s parents, four siblings, her young son Fionn, and other family members accompany the coffin into the church.

In addition to President Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross are in attendance, as is Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Also present are members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Civil Defence Ireland, mountain rescue and many other groups.

In his homily, Parish Priest Fr. Andrew O’Sullivan says St. Patrick’s church has seen many sad and tragic funerals but few as sad and sorrowful as this one. He pays tribute to the Fitzpatrick family and says they and the community have lost a loved and valued member. He adds that the congregations’ thoughts are with Captain Fitzpatrick’s three crew members who have yet to be found.

Fr. O’Sullivan says the family takes comfort from the fact that Dara had lived life to the fullest. Mourners hear that as well as being a loving mother, Dara was an avid traveller, cook and animal lover.

The funeral Mass is followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Crematorium.

Poor weather conditions off the west coast of Ireland hamper the search for the three missing crew members and the wreckage of the Coast Guard helicopter R116. On March 22, the wreckage of the main part of the helicopter is detected by underwater cameras about 60 metres off Blackrock Island. The body of co-pilot Captain Mark Duffy is found in the cockpit section of the wreckage. A helmet and lifejacket belonging to one of the two missing crewmen is discovered on a beach on the Mullet Peninsula on September 30, 2017.

(From: Captain Dara Fitzpatrick remembered during funeral service, RTÉ.ie, the website of Raidió Teilifís Éireann, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster, March 18, 2017)


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State Funeral for Thomas Kent

thomas-kent-funeralA state funeral for Thomas Kent takes place on September 18, 2015, 99 years after his execution following the 1916 Easter Rising. Thousands of people line the route from Collins Barracks in Cork to the Church of Saint Nicholas, Castlelyons, County Cork for the funeral mass.

Kent is executed after a gun battle with members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) who come to arrest him and his brothers on May 2, 1916, during the aftermath of the Easter Rising. During the ensuing fight, head constable William Rowe is killed and Kent’s brother Richard later dies of his wounds. He is executed by firing squad on May 9, 1916 in the Military Detention Barracks, Cork and is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds.

Apart from Roger Casement, Kent is the only one of the sixteen men executed after the Easter Rising to be executed outside Dublin. In June 2015, his remains are exhumed and DNA testing confirms their identity.

A ripple of applause breaks through the crowd when the funeral cortege arrives at the church near where Kent was born and raised. The church is unable to accommodate all the visitors so a marquee is set up on the grounds of the church.

President Michael D. Higgins is in attendance along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. The diplomatic corps is represented by British ambassador Dominick Chilcott, U.S. ambassador Kevin O’Malley and the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown. The extended Kent family is represented mostly by the relatives of Edmund and William Kent, Thomas Kent’s brothers.

Kent’s funeral “writes the final chapter in a long ordeal for the Kent family,” the Bishop of Cloyne William Crean tells the congregation. Delivering the funeral eulogy, Cmdt. Gerry White says Thomas Kent was once known only for being the man who gave his name to Kent Station in Cork. “Today, however, all that is changed. Today, because of the recent discovery of his remains, Thomas Kent has once again become someone who is very much in the present. Today, members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Irish Defence Forces, will render the military honours that were denied him 99 years ago. Today, he will no longer be the ‘Forgotten Volunteer.’ Today, after 99 years, Thomas Kent is finally coming home.”

Thomas Kent’s life is represented by a picture of the family home, rosary beads, a pioneer pin and a leabhair gaeilge representing his interests in life. He is buried in the graveyard at Castlelyons. Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives the funeral oration.

(From: “State funeral for executed 1916 rebel Thomas Kent” by Ronan McGreevy and Éanna Ó Caollaí, The Irish Times, September 18, 2015 | Pictured: The remains of Thomas Kent as they are carried into St. Nicholas’ Church, Castlelyons, County Cork, photograph by Alan Betson)


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Resignation of Taoiseach Enda Kenny

varadkar-kennyEnda Kenny formally resigns as Taoiseach on June 13, 2017 after six years as head of Government of Ireland. He is the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach and the first in his party to serve two consecutive terms in the highest political office.

An emotional Kenny makes his final address to Dáil Éireann as Taoiseach, saying he is the first to acknowledge that he had not gotten everything right. “But I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interests of the Irish people,” he added. “I really do believe politics is work worth doing, a noble profession.”

Flanked by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, his successor Leo Varadkar, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney and Minister for Health Simon Harris, Kenny informs the Dáil that he will be going later to Áras an Uachtaráin to submit his resignation to President Michael D. Higgins. He formally submits his letter that evening.

Following his speech in the Dáil, Kenny sits down, visibly emotional, to applause from all sides of the House.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin describes Kenny as “an Irish patriot and an Irish democrat.” Throughout his time in elected office and in government he had been a proud representative of his community, political tradition and country. He adds that “the mischievous enjoyment he has taken in this has been a genuine joy to behold”.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams says his party and Fine Gael do not agree on many issues but “I always found Enda to be friendly on a personal level. Probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.” Adams adds, “Let me say I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and meetings you have not had and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand.”

Adams says there have been successes including the success of the same-sex marriage referendum. But he also says there have been abject failures, including the Taoiseach’s consistent failure to recognise the State of Palestine, the squandering of the biggest mandate in the history of the State as the Fine Gael-Labour Government reneged on election promises, the clear lack of affinity with Northern Ireland and a clear lack of consistent strategic engagement with the process of change that is under way on the island.

Kenny now becomes a party backbencher until the next general election when he is expected to retire as a Teachta Dála (TD). He is also father of the House as the longest serving TD with 42 years in the Dáil. He is first elected in 1975 in a by-election following the death of his father Henry and faces another 12 elections in his Dáil tenure.

Kenny serves three years as a cabinet minister, serving as Minister for Tourism and Trade during the 1994 to 1997 Rainbow Coalition. He also serves for a year as Minister of State for Youth Affairs from February 1986 to March 1987. He takes over from Michael Noonan as party leader in 2002 after a disastrous general election for the party and in 2007 the party’s numbers in the Dáil rise from 32 to 51 TDs. In the 2011 general election at the height of the economic recession, Fine Gael secures 76 seats, the most in the party’s history, under his leadership.

(From: “Enda Kenny steps down as Taoiseach” by Michael O’Regan and Marie O’Halloran, The Irish Times, June 13, 2017)


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Birth of Louis Brennan, Irish Australian Inventor

louis-brennanLouis Brennan, Irish Australian mechanical engineer and inventor, is born in Castlebar, County Mayo on January 28, 1852.

Brennan moves to Melbourne, Australia in 1861 with his parents. He starts his career as a watchmaker and a few years later is articled to Alexander Kennedy Smith, a renowned civil and mechanical engineer of the period. He serves as a sergeant in the Victorian Engineers under the command of Captain John James Clark. He invents the idea of a steerable torpedo in 1874, from observing that if a thread is pulled on a reel at an angle with suitable leverage, the reel will move away from the thread side. He spends some years working out his invention, and receives a grant of £700 from the Victorian government towards his expenses. He patents the Brennan torpedo in 1877. The idea is trialed at Camden Fort near Crosshaven, County Cork.

Brennan goes to England in 1880 and brings his invention before the War Office. Sir Andrew Clarke alerts the authorities to the possibilities of the torpedo if used in the defence of harbours and channels, and the patent is eventually bought for a sum believed to be more than £100,000 (£ 9,331,100 in 2019). In 1887 he is appointed superintendent of the Brennan torpedo factory, and is consulting engineer from 1896 to 1907.

Brennan does much work on a gyro monorail locomotive which is kept upright by a gyrostat. In 1903 he patents a gyroscopically-balanced monorail system that he designs for military use. He successfully demonstrates the system on November 10, 1909, at Gillingham, England, but fears that the gyroscopes might fail prevents adoption of the system for widespread use.

From 1916 to 1919 Brennan serves in the munitions inventions department. From 1919 to 1926 he is engaged by the air ministry in aircraft research work at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, and gives much time to the invention of a helicopter. The government spends a large sum of money on it, but in 1926 the air ministry gives up working on it, much to Brennan’s disappointment.

Brennan marries Anna Quinn on 10 September 10, 1892. The marriage results in a son and a daughter. He is created a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1892, and is foundation member of the National Academy of Ireland in 1922.

In January 1932 Brennan is knocked down by a car at Montreux, Switzerland, and dies on January 17, 1932. He is buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London, in an unmarked plot numbered 2454 that is opposite the Chapel record office. On March 11, 2014, Taoiseach Enda Kenny unveils a new gravestone for Brennan at St. Mary’s in a ceremony honouring the inventor’s life and career.

Gillingham Library retains the archive of his papers.