seamus dubhghaill

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


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Patrick J. Hillery Inaugurated Sixth President of Ireland

Patrick John Hillery, Irish politician, is inaugurated as the sixth President of Ireland on December 3, 1976. He serves two terms in the presidency and, though widely seen as a somewhat lacklustre President, is credited with bringing stability and dignity to the office. He also wins widespread admiration when it emerges that he has withstood political pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party during a political crisis in 1982.

Hillery is born in Spanish Point, County Clare on May 2, 1923. He is educated locally at Milltown Malbay national school before later attending Rockwell College. At third level he attends University College Dublin where he qualifies with a degree in medicine. Upon his conferral in 1947 he returns to his native town where he follows in his father’s footsteps as a doctor.

Hillery is first elected at the 1951 general election as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for Clare, and remains in Dáil Éireann until 1973. During this time he serves as Minister for Education (1959–1965), Minister for Industry and Commerce (1965–1966), Minister for Labour (1966–1969) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1969–1973).

Following Ireland’s successful entry into Europe in 1973, Hillery is rewarded by becoming the first Irishman to serve on the European Commission, serving until 1976 when he becomes President. In 1976 the Fine GaelLabour Party National Coalition under Liam Cosgrave informs him that he is not being re-appointed to the Commission. He considers returning to medicine, however fate takes a turn when Minister for Defence Paddy Donegan launches a ferocious verbal attack on President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, calling him “a thundering disgrace” for referring anti-terrorist legislation to the courts to test its constitutionality. When a furious President Ó Dálaigh resigns, a deeply reluctant Hillery agrees to become the Fianna Fáil candidate for the presidency. Fine Gael and Labour decide it is unwise to put up a candidate in light of the row over Ó Dálaigh’s resignation. As a result, Hillery is elected unopposed, becoming President of Ireland on December 3, 1976.

When Hillery’s term of office ends in September 1983, he indicates that he does not intend to seek a second term, but he changes his mind when all three political parties plead with him to reconsider. He is returned for a further seven years without an electoral contest. After leaving office in 1990, he retires from politics.

Hillery’s two terms as president, from 1976 to 1990, end before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which sets terms for an end to violence in Northern Ireland. But he acts at crucial moments as an emollient influence on the republic’s policies toward the north, and sets a tone that helps pave the way for eventual peace.

Patrick Hillery dies on April 12, 2008 in his Dublin home following a short illness. His family agrees to a full state funeral for the former president. He is buried at St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, near Dublin. In the graveside oration, Tánaiste Brian Cowen says Hillery was “A humble man of simple tastes, he has been variously described as honourable, decent, intelligent, courteous, warm and engaging. He was all of those things and more.”

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Founding of the Arts Council of Ireland

The Arts Council (An Chomhairle Ealaíon), sometimes called the Arts Council of Ireland, is established on May 8, 1951 by the Government of Ireland. The Council’s purpose is to encourage interest in Irish art, including visual art, music, performance, and literature, and to channel funding from the state to Irish artists and arts organisations. This includes encouragement of traditional Irish arts, support for contemporary Irish arts, and finance for international arts events in Ireland. The council is modeled on the Arts Council of Great Britain, founded in 1946, and works closely with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, formed by the British government in Northern Ireland in 1962 to fulfil a similar role.

The Arts Council consists of twelve members and a chair, each appointed for a five-year term by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The Chair of the Arts Council is entitled to an annual fee of €8,978 and ordinary members are entitled to a fee of €5,985, although some members choose to waive this fee.

The ongoing work of the Arts Council is delivered by the executive. In addition to the Director, a staff of 41 full-time equivalents carries out the daily functions of the organisation. Arts advisers, who provide additional expertise and strategic advice on different aspects of the arts, are retained on a consultancy basis.

The Arts Council of Ireland is the official “Cultural Contact Point” between the European Commission‘s Cultural Programme and Ireland and is a founding member of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies. Visual Artists Ireland, the all-Ireland non-governmental organisation representing Irish artists nationally and internationally, is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland.

For additional information, visit the Arts Council’s website at http://www.artscouncil.ie/home/.


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Birth of Sister Stanislaus Kennedy

stanislaus-kennedySister Stanislaus Kennedy, campaigner against poverty and homelessness and a member of the congregation of Religious Sisters of Charity since 1958, is born in Dingle, County Kerry, on June 19, 1939. She is affectionately known as Sr. Stan.

At the age of 18, Sr. Stan, then Treasa Kennedy, decides to become a nun. Following in the footsteps of Mary Aikenhead, founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity, she too is drawn to work on behalf of the poor in the towns and cities of Ireland. For over fifty years she has pioneered, campaigned, explored, and developed a range of inspiring social innovations to benefit thousands of people who have experienced exclusion in its many forms.

In the 1960s, Sr. Stan is missioned to Kilkenny to work alongside Bishop Peter Birch in developing Kilkenny Social Services. For nineteen years Peter Birch is both guide and mentor to Sr. Stan as the Kilkenny social services develop into an innovative, comprehensive model of community care becoming a blue-print for the rest of Ireland.

In 1974, the Irish Government appoints Sr. Stan as the first chair of The National Committee on Pilot Schemes to Combat Poverty, and in 1985 the European Commission appoints her as trans-national coordinator in the European rural anti poverty programme working across Europe.

Moving to Dublin in the early 1980s, Sr. Stan tackles one of Ireland’s most neglected social inequalities – homelessness. In 1985, she establishes Focus Point which is now Focus Ireland, the biggest national, voluntary organisation helping people to find, create, and maintain a home.

Sr. Stan founds The Sanctuary in 1998, a meditation/spirituality centre in the heart of Dublin, a place where people can find a quiet space and time for themselves to explore and develop their inner world and wisdom and find stillness.

Sr. Stan establishes two other initiatives in 2001, the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), an independent national organisation working to promote the rights of immigrants through information, advocacy, and legal aid and the Young Social Innovators (YSI), a national showcase providing an opportunity for students to become involved in social issues.

Sr. Stan has also written thousands of articles that have been published in Ireland and elsewhere. She lectures on social issues and policies, is a frequent keynote speaker at many events, and regularly gives talks to many diverse groups in Ireland, Europe, and outside of Europe.