seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of RTÉ Broadcaster Joe Duffy

Joseph Duffy, Irish broadcaster employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is born in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 27, 1956. One of RTÉ’s highest-earning stars, he is the current presenter of Liveline, an interview and phone-in chat show broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1.

Duffy is brought up in Ballyfermot, one of five siblings. His father is Jimmy and his mother Mabel. His father, who has problems with alcohol, dies aged 58 in 1984. His 25-year-old brother Aidan is killed in a road accident on the Maynooth Road in 1991, with Duffy first learning of the “horrific accident” on the news on RTÉ Radio. His brother Brendan is described by him as “crippled, ruined and wrecked by a savage addiction” to sniffing glue which he develops as a teenager.

Duffy attends De La Salle Boys’ primary school, St. Lorcan’s B.N.S and St. John’s De La Salle College. He enrolls at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) in 1977 to study Social Work and is elected President of Trinity College Students’ Union in 1979, becoming President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) four years later.

Duffy considers resigning from RTÉ in 2007 after the broadcaster forces him to give Minister for Justice Michael McDowell a platform on Liveline to make a “party political broadcast.” He considers it “direct party-political interference” in Liveline. However, he goes ahead with the broadcast and does not resign or make any protest on air.

In October 2008, Duffy is proactive as a supporter of Irish pensioners who march on Leinster House to protest at the proposed means testing of their medical cards in the Government Budget. However, earlier that month, he is reportedly censored by the government when he attempts to continually discuss the effects of the global financial crisis on Ireland. This follows on from the outrage caused when he is held responsible by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan for inciting widespread public fear that Irish citizens are on the verge of losing their savings. Several callers freely speak of their lack of confidence in the banking system, of how they have withdrawn their money from banks, some of which are identified, and are either carrying it around on their person, or considering keeping it “under the mattress,” or burying it in their garden. Lenihan personally calls Cathal Goan, the Director-General of RTÉ, to express his outrage at the sudden increase in potentially disastrous speculation following the show.

The extent of the Finance Minister’s concern first publicly emerges the following morning when he is interviewed by RTÉ’s economics editor George Lee. In that interview, Lenihan insists that deposits are not in any danger and says that people should not be going to banks to shift their deposit accounts “on the basis of unfounded allegations made on radio programmes.”

Rival broadcaster TV3 accuses Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) and Duffy of waging a “dirty tricks” war against them after a late-night game show run by TV3 is berated by callers to Liveline and saying several times on air that he has been unable to get a representative from the station to reply to callers’ concerns. TV3 says a lengthy statement is sent to the Liveline office almost two hours before the September 2009 show goes on air but is ignored, despite the fact that it clarifies some of the issues. The Play TV service is discontinued by TV3 in March 2010 after 29 complaints to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), though TV3 says it is because of a decline in viewership.

Duffy is famous for taking up the causes of the disadvantaged on Liveline, and examples of this include Berry Fleming who lost her job in 2010, and Aubrey McCarthy, who is trying desperately to get his removal business off the ground in 2012/2013.

Duffy is frequently lampooned at length on the satirical TV programme The Savage Eye. It portrays him as a fetish garment clad sado-masochist who derives perverse pleasure by urging his call-in radio listeners in a strong working class Dublin accent, to express excesses of degradation and misery as he “empathizes” verbally and plays with his nipple clamps. He has since questioned viewership figures for The Savage Eye on his daily radio show and has questioned whether it is “blasphemous” on his Sunday afternoon religious affairs TV show Spirit Level.

Duffy is married and is the father of triplets. He currently resides on Dublin’s Northside. His autobiography, Just Joe, is launched by Gay Byrne in Harry’s Bar in October 2011. In 2014, he makes a cameo in Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie as himself. The film is negatively received but is a moderate box office success.

In 1992, Duffy wins a Jacob’s Award for his reports on RTÉ Radio 1’s The Gay Byrne Show. He is named 11th most influential person of 2009 by Village.


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Death of Irish Tenor Josef Locke

Joseph McLaughlin, Irish tenor known professionally as Josef Locke, dies in Clane, County Kildare on October 15, 1999. He is successful in the United Kingdom and Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s.

Born in Derry on March 23, 1917, McLaughlin is the son of a butcher and cattle dealer, and one of nine children. He starts singing in local churches in the Bogside at the age of seven, and as a teenager adds two years to his age to enlist in the Irish Guards, later serving abroad with the Palestine Police Force, before returning in the late 1930s to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Known as The Singing Bobby, McLaughlin becomes a local celebrity before starting to work the UK variety circuit, where he also plays summer seasons in English seaside resorts. The renowned Irish tenor John McCormack (1884–1945) advises him that his voice is better suited to a lighter repertoire than the operatic one he has in mind, and urges him to find an agent. He finds the noted impresario Jack Hylton (1892–1965) who books him, but is unable to fit his full name on the bill, thus Joseph McLaughlin becomes Josef Locke.

Locke makes an immediate impact when featured in “Starry Way,” a twenty-week summer show at the Opera House Theatre in Blackpool, Lancashire, England in 1946 and is rebooked for the following summer, then starring for three seasons at the Blackpool Hippodrome. He appears in ten Blackpool seasons from 1946 to 1969, not the nineteen seasons he later claims.

Locke makes his first radio broadcast in 1949, and subsequently appears on television programmes such as Rooftop Rendezvous, Top of the Town, All-star Bill and The Frankie Howerd Show. He is signed to the Columbia label in 1947, and his first releases are the two Italian songs “Santa Lucia” and “Come Back to Sorrento.”

In 1947, Locke releases “Hear My Song, Violetta,” which becomes forever associated with him. It is based on a 1936 tango “Hör’ mein Lied, Violetta” by Othmar Klose and Rudolf Lukesch. The song “Hör’ mein Lied, Violetta” is often covered, including by Peter Alexander and is itself based on Giuseppe Verdi‘s La traviata. His other songs are mostly a mixture of ballads associated with Ireland, excerpts from operettas, and familiar favourites.

In 1948, Locke appears in several films produced by Mancunian Films, usually as versions of himself. He plays himself in the film Holidays with Pay. He also appears as “Sergeant Locke” in the 1949 comedy What a Carry On!.

In 1958, after Locke has appeared in five Royal Variety Performance telecasts, and while he is still at the peak of his career, the British tax authorities begin to make substantial demands that he declines to meet. Eventually he flees the country for Ireland, where he lays low for several years. When his differences with the taxman are eventually settled, he relaunches his career in England with tours of the northern variety clubs and summer seasons at Blackpool’s Queen’s Theatre in 1968 and 1969, before retiring to County Kildare, emerging for the occasional concert in England. He later appears on British and Irish television, and in November 1984 is given a lengthy 90-minute tribute in honour of the award he is to receive at the Olympia theatre commentating his career in show business on Gay Byrne‘s The Late Late Show. He also makes many appearances on the BBC Television‘s long running variety show The Good Old Days.

In 1991, the Peter Chelsom film Hear My Song is released. It is a fantasy based on the notion of Locke returning from his Irish exile in the 1960s to complete an old love affair, and save a Liverpool-based Irish night-club from ruination. Locke is played by Ned Beatty, with the singing voice of Vernon Midgley. The film leads to a revival in Locke’s career. A compilation CD is released and he appears on This Is Your Life in March 1992. He performs in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales at the 1992 Royal Variety Show, singing “Goodbye,” the final song performed by his character in the film. He announces prior to the song that this will be his final public appearance.

Locke dies at the age of 82 in Clane, County Kildare on October 15, 1999, and is survived by his wife, Carmel, and a son.

On March 22, 2005, a bronze memorial to Locke is unveiled outside the City Hotel on Queen’s Quay in Derry by Phil Coulter and John Hume. The memorial is designed by Terry Quigley. It takes the form of a spiraling scroll divided by lines, representing a musical stave. The spiral suggests the flowing melody of a song, and is punctuated by images illustrating episodes in his life, including Locke in police uniform, Blackpool Tower, Carnegie Hall, and the musical notes of the opening lines of “Hear My Song.”

A biography of the singer, entitled Josef Locke: The People’s Tenor, by Nuala McAllister Hart is published in March 2017, the centenary of his birth. The book corrects many myths that the charismatic Locke circulated about his career.


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Birth of Eamonn Campbell of The Dubliners

Eamonn Campbell, Irish musician who is a member of The Dubliners from 1987 until his death, is born in Drogheda, County Louth on November 29, 1946. He is also in The Dubliners when they record their 25th anniversary show on The Late Late Show hosted by Gay Byrne.

Campbell is known as a guitarist and has a rough voice similar to the late founding member of The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew. He tour with three other ex-Dubliners as “The Dublin Legends,” now that the group name has been retired with the death of Barney McKenna. Although originally from Drogheda in County Louth, he later lives in Walkinstown, a suburb of Dublin.

It was Campbell’s suggestion that The Dubliners work with London-based Irish band The Pogues in the mid-1980s, thus giving them their second biggest UK hit to date, “The Irish Rover.” Their biggest hit is “Seven Drunken Nights” which reaches number 7 in the charts in 1967 and an appearance on Top of the Pops.

Campbell produces all of The Dubliners’ albums from 1987 onwards, as well as albums for many other Irish artists, including Foster and Allen, Brendan Shine, Daniel O’Donnell and Paddy Reilly. He plays locally with the Delta Showband, The Bee Vee Five and the Country Gents before joining Dermot O’Brien and the Clubmen and first meets The Dubliners when both acts tour England together in 1967. In the mid to late 1970s he more or less retires from the road and becomes involved in the growing Irish recording scene, first as a session musician and later moving to production.

In 2002, Campbell puts a complaint to a commission to inquire into sexual abuse as he says he was abused by the Christian Brothers as a child. In an interview he says “I felt emotional with hate at what this arsehole had got away with. He was abusing the whole class. I still haven’t heard anything back.”

Campbell is the Grand Master for the 2009 Drogheda St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In his younger years he teaches guitar lessons at the “Music Shop” in Drogheda. His granddaughter Megan Campbell is a Republic of Ireland international footballer.

While on tour in the Netherlands with The Dublin Legends, Campbell feels unwell during his final performance. He returns to his hotel at around 1:00 AM and goes to bed. He dies during the early hours of the morning of October 18, 2017. His body is flown back to Dublin where his funeral takes place on October 26, 2017.

(Pictured: Eamonn Campbell during the Festival Interceltique de Lorient in 2014 | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)


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Birth of Pádraig Flynn, Fianna Fáil Politician

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 90Pádraig Flynn, former Fianna Fáil politician, is born in Castlebar, County Mayo on May 9, 1939. He serves as European Commissioner for Social Affairs from 1993 to 1999, Minister for Industry and Commerce and Minister for Justice from 1992 to 1993, Minister for the Environment from 1987 to 1991, Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism from October 1982 to December 1982, Minister for the Gaeltacht from March 1982 to October 1982 and Minister of State at the Department of Transport from 1980 to 1981. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Mayo West constituency from 1977 to 1994.

Flynn is the son of Patrick and Anne Flynn. He is educated in St. Gerald’s College, Castlebar and qualifies as a teacher from St. Patrick’s College, Dublin. He first holds political office in 1967, when he becomes a member of Mayo County Council. Ten years later, at the 1977 general election, he is elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil TD for the Mayo West constituency.

Flynn is a supporter of Charles Haughey in the 1979 Fianna Fáil leadership election. His loyalty is rewarded when he becomes a Minister of State at the Department of Transport and Power. He joins the Cabinet for the first time following the February 1982 general election when he is appointed Minister for the Gaeltacht. In October 1982, in a minor reshuffle, he becomes Minister for Trade, Commerce and Tourism. However, his time in this office is brief, since Fianna Fáil loses the November 1982 general election.

Fianna Fáil is returned to power in the 1987 general election and Flynn becomes Minister for the Environment. Two years later he opposes the formation of the coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, describing it “as hitting at Fianna Fáil core values.” In 1990, he attacks the opposition presidential candidate Mary Robinson on a radio show, accusing her of “having a new-found interest in her family” for the purposes of her election campaign. This attack backfires drastically, causing many women who initially support Brian Lenihan to back Robinson. Lenihan’s campaign never recovers and Robinson becomes Ireland’s first female President.

In 1991, Flynn is sacked from the Cabinet because of his support for a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. Then in 1992, Albert Reynolds becomes Taoiseach and Flynn is rewarded for supporting Reynolds by becoming Minister for Justice. In 1993, he retires from domestic politics when he is appointed Ireland’s European Commissioner. He is reappointed by the Fine GaelLabour Party government in 1995 and, on both of these occasions, serves in the social affairs portfolio.

On January 15, 1999, Flynn makes comments on The Late Late Show regarding Tom Gilmartin and a donation of IR£50,000 to the Fianna Fáil party. He also makes comments about his own lifestyle, boasting of having a salary of IR£140,000 together with three houses, cars and housekeepers and travels regularly, yet complains about the hassle involved. The performance was seen as eccentric and out of touch. In effect, he is interpreted as behaving in a manner more befitting the Irish stereotype known as the Dublin 4 mentality, complaining of the costs incurred in the pursuit of extravagance.

The show’s presenter, Gay Byrne, then asks Flynn if he knows of Gilmartin. He responds that he knows him well. He seems to be making an attack of Gilmartin’s emotional stability, based on the effect of sickness of Gilmartin’s wife. If it is to be interpreted as an attack of Gilmartin’s credibility, it backfires in a spectacular manner against Flynn. Also, unknown to Flynn, Gilmartin is actually watching the program at his home in Luton. This hurts Gilmartin a great deal, while also bringing the illness of his wife into the picture as the real driving force behind Gilmartin’s testimony against Flynn. Gilmartin responds by releasing details of meetings he held with Flynn to the McCracken Tribunal. The interview is widely described as the end of Flynn’s political career.

Flynn’s second term as European Commissioner ends early in September 1999, when the entire commission resigns due to allegations of malpractice by the European Parliament. He is not reappointed to the Commission and retires from politics completely. He is a member of the Comite d’Honneur of the Institute of International and European Affairs.

Flynn is cited in the Mahon Tribunal for having received money from Frank Dunlop intended for Fianna Fáil, but diverted to his personal use. On March 22, 2012, the final report of the Mahon Tribunal is published. It finds that Flynn “wrongly and corruptly” sought a substantial donation from Tom Gilmartin for the Fianna Fáil party. It also finds that having been paid IR£50,000 by Gilmartin, for that purpose, Flynn proceeded to use that money for his personal benefit, and that the donation funded at least a significant portion of the purchase of a farm in County Mayo.

On March 26, 2012, facing expulsion following the Mahon Tribunal, Flynn resigns in disgrace from Fianna Fáil before he can be ousted.


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Birth of Gay Byrne, Radio & Television Presenter

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 90Gabriel Mary “Gay” Byrne, veteran Irish presenter of radio and television for several decades and affectionately known as Uncle Gay, Gaybo or Uncle Gaybo, is born in Rialto, Dublin on August 5, 1934. His most known role is as the first host of The Late Late Show over a 37-year period spanning 1962 until 1999.

Byrne attends Rialto National School and a number of other schools for short periods. Subsequently, he is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS.

When he is young, Byrne is inspired by the broadcaster Eamonn Andrews, who has a successful career on British television. In 1958 he moves over to broadcasting when he becomes a presenter on Radio Éireann. He also works with Granada Television and the BBC in England. At Granada, Byrne becomes the first person to introduce the Beatles on television when they make their small screen debut on local news programme People and Places. In 1961, Telefís Éireann, later Radio Telefís Éireann and now Raidió Teilifís Éireann, is established. Byrne works exclusively for the new Irish service after 1969. He introduced many popular programmes, with his most popular and successful programme being The Late Late Show.

On July 5, 1962, the first episode of The Late Late Show is aired on Irish television. Originally the show is scheduled as an eight-week summer filler. The programme, which is still broadcast, has become the world’s second longest running chat show. The show has much to do in shaping the new Ireland that emerges from the 1960s. Byrne presents his last edition of The Late Late Show on May 21, 1999, where he is presented with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle by Bono and Larry Mullen, Jr. Pat Kenny succeeds him as presenter in September 1999.

From 1973 until 1998, Byrne also presents The Gay Byrne Hour, later The Gay Byrne Show when it expands to two hours, on RTÉ Radio 1 each weekday morning.

Byrne does not completely retire in 1999 and continues to feature occasionally on radio and television after leaving The Late Late Show and The Gay Byrne Show, presenting several other programmes, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, The Meaning of Life and For One Night Only on RTÉ One and Sunday Serenade/Sunday with Gay Byrne on RTÉ lyric fm. He launches Joe Duffy‘s autobiography Just Joe in Harry’s Bar in October 2011.

In 1988, Byrne is presented an honorary doctorate in literature from Trinity College, Dublin. In 2006 he is elected Chairman of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority, a public body given the task of improving road safety in the Republic of Ireland. Since retiring he has become the “Elder Lemon of Irish broadcasting.”

On a November 21, 2016 live radio broadcast Byrne reveals that he is to begin treatment for prostate cancer and that the cancer may have also spread to his lower back. He tells listeners he will be taking a break of just one week before returning to work, however, he continues to recover from treatment and he has not yet been back on air.


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The Debut of “The Late Late Show”

Created with GIMPThe Late Late Show, the Irish talk show, airs on RTÉ One for the first time on July 6, 1962. It is the world’s second longest-running late-night talk show, following The Tonight Show in the United States. Perceived as the official flagship television programme of Ireland’s public service broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), it is regarded as an Irish television institution and is broadcast live across two hours plus in front of a studio audience on Friday nights between September and May.

Having maintained the same name and format continuously, The Late Late Show is first broadcast on Friday, July 6, 1962 and in colour from 1976. Originating as temporary summer filler for a niche Saturday night audience, it later moves to its current home on Friday night schedules. The format has remained largely the same throughout — dialogue, sketch comedy, musical performances, discourse on topical issues. It has influenced attitudes of the populace towards approval or disapproval of its chosen topics, directed social change and helped shape Irish societal norms. It averages 650,000 viewers per episode and has consistently achieved RTÉ’s highest ratings.

For much of its early life, RTÉ Television Centre‘s Studio 1 in Donnybrook, Dublin is its home. This original studio accommodates a small audience of about 120. In 1995, The Late Late Show transfers to the more spacious Studio 4, adapted specifically to cater for this and Kenny Live. Three external broadcasts have aired, most recently from the Wexford Opera House on September 5, 2008.

Original host Gay Byrne presents the show until May 21, 1999. Pat Kenny is Byrne’s successor hosting the show for 10 years between 1999 and 2009. Ryan Tubridy is the current presenter, having succeeded Kenny in September 2009. Under Tubridy, first QUINN Group and then Sky Broadband add sponsorship deals. Tubridy’s arrival coincides with a marked increase in audience ratings with some early statistics comparing him to the Byrne era. On February 1, 2013, Pat Kenny returns to host that night’s edition following the death of Tubridy’s father.


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Death of Broadcaster Derek Davis

derek-davisIrish broadcaster Derek Davis dies in Dublin on May 13, 2015. On television, he co-hosts Live at 3, presents Davis at Large and Out of the Blue and wins Celebrity Bainisteoir.

Davis is born on April 26, 1948 in Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland to a Protestant father and a Roman Catholic mother. He attends St. MacNissi’s College, a Catholic boarding school in County Antrim and describes his early childhood life as ecumenical. During his childhood he acquires a love of boats which later provide the inspiration for the TV series Out of the Blue.

Davis starts as a news reporter with the American network ABC and BBC Northern Ireland before spending 11 years in the newsroom at RTÉ. In the early 1980s he becomes a newsreader for The Six-o-clock News and begins to become well-known due to his sometimes off-the-cuff comments on news stories.

Davis impersonates Big Tom on the RTÉ satirical programme Hall’s Pictorial Weekly and, as a result, is offered a part in a show-band in Cork. After a ballroom tour, he joins RTÉ proper in 1975, initially to work as a television news reporter, eventually becoming newsreader on the nine o’clock news. In the mid-1980s, he hosts his own talk show, Davis at Large. It is on this show, which is screened live, that he is attacked and hurled across the studio by a guest female body builder. In addition to this he has an interactive summer current affairs show, simply called Davis. In 1986, he begins co-hosting (with Thelma Mansfield) RTÉ 1’s afternoon programme Live at 3, a role he fills for eleven years.

Davis presents the Rose of Tralee twice in 1995 and 1996, the first of these when Gay Byrne is taken ill at short notice. He memorably thanks the providers of the air conditioning while wiping sweat from his brow. Live at 3 comes to an end in 1997. Davis returns to the screen in the late 1990s with a marine programme devoted to boats and the waters around Ireland called Out of the Blue, which runs for four series, the last of which is broadcast in 2001.

In 2000, Davis presents a radio quiz show called A Question of Food. During the summer season he takes over RTÉ Radio 1‘s mid-morning slot usually occupied by Today with Pat Kenny, and he also hosts the radio phone-in show, Liveline, when regular presenter Joe Duffy is on holiday. Later, he presents Sunday Magazine with Davis on 4 on 4fm.

In 2005, Davis hosts a show called Time on Their Hands, a travel series for older people. One of his last television appearances is on the second season of Celebrity Bainisteoir in 2009, in which he and seven other Irish celebrities manage an intermediate Gaelic football club team from their home county in an official GAA tournament. Davis’s team wins the tournament.

During the 2010s, Davis makes frequent guest appearances on TV3‘s Tonight with Vincent Browne, where he and another guest preview the following morning’s papers.

After a short illness Derek Davis dies on May 13, 2015 at the age of 67. His funeral takes place in the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome Cemetery & Crematorium in Harold’s Cross, Dublin.


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Birth of Hugh Leonard, Dramatist, Writer & Essayist

hugh-leonardHugh Leonard, Irish dramatist, television writer and essayist, is born in Dublin on November 9, 1926. In a career that spans 50 years, he writes nearly 30 full-length plays, 10 one-act plays, three volumes of essays, two autobiographies, three novels and numerous screenplays and teleplays, as well as writing a regular newspaper column.

After birth, Leonard is put up for adoption. Raised in Dalkey, a suburb of Dublin, by Nicholas and Margaret Keyes, he changes his name to John Keyes Byrne. For the rest of his life, despite the pen name of “Hugh Leonard” which he later adopts and becomes well known by, he invites close friends to call him “Jack.”

Leonard is educated at the Harold Boys’ National School, Dalkey, and Presentation College, Glasthule, winning a scholarship to the latter. He works as a civil servant for fourteen years. During that time he both acts in and writes plays for community theatre groups. His first play to be professionally produced is The Big Birthday, which is mounted by the Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 1956. His career with the Abbey Theatre continues until 1994. After that his plays are produced regularly by Dublin’s theatres.

Leonard moves to Manchester for a while, working for Granada Television before returning to Ireland in 1970. There he settles in Dalkey.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Leonard is the first major Irish writer to establish a reputation in television, writing extensively for television including original plays, comedies, thrillers and adaptations of classic novels for British television. He is commissioned by RTÉ to write Insurrection, a 50th anniversary dramatic reconstruction of the Easter Rising of 1916. His Silent Song, adapted for the BBC from a short story by Frank O’Connor, wins the Prix Italia in 1967. He writes the script for the RTÉ adaptation of Strumpet City by James Plunkett.

Three of Leonard’s plays have been presented on Broadway: The Au Pair Man (1973), which stars Charles Durning and Julie Harris, Da (1978) and A Life (1980). Of these, Da, which originates off-off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild theatre before transferring to the Morosco Theatre, is the most successful, running for 20 months and 697 performances, then touring the United States for ten months. It earns Leonard both a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award for Best Play. It is made into a film in 1988, starring Martin Sheen and Barnard Hughes, who reprises his Tony Award-winning Broadway performance.

Leonard writes two volumes of autobiography, Home Before Night (1979) and Out After Dark (1989). Some of his essays and journalism are collected in Leonard’s Last Book (1978) and A Peculiar People and Other Foibles (1979). In 1992 the Selected Plays of Hugh Leonard is published. Until 2006 he writes a humorous weekly column, “The Curmudgeon,” for the Irish Sunday Independent newspaper. He has a passion for cats and restaurants, and an abhorrence of broadcaster Gay Byrne.

Even after retiring as a Sunday Independent columnist, Leonard displays an acerbic humour. In an interview with Brendan O’Connor, he is asked if it galls him that Gay Byrne is now writing his old column. His reply is, “It would gall me more if he was any good at it.” He is a patron of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

In 1994, Leonard appears in a televised interview with Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin, an Irish political party associated with the Provisional Irish Republican Army. He has long been an opponent of political violence and a critic of the IRA. However, on the show and afterwards he is criticised for being “sanctimonious and theatrical” towards Adams. At one point he refers to Sinn Féin as “dogs.”

Hugh Leonard – Odd Man In, a film on his life and work is shown on RTÉ in March 2009. Leonard’s final play, Magicality, is not performed during his lifetime. A rehearsed reading of the second act is staged at the Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre in June 2012.

Hugh Leonard dies after a long illness on February 12, 2009 in his hometown of Dalkey at the age of 82, leaving €1.5 million in his will.


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The Ordination of Sinéad O’Connor

sinead-oconnorSinéad O’Connor, Irish singer-songwriter also known as Magda Davitt, is ordained as a priest in Lourdes on April 22, 1999 by Bishop Michael Cox of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church, an Independent Catholic group not in communion with the Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church considers ordination of women to be invalid and asserts that a person attempting the sacrament of ordination upon a woman incurs excommunication. The bishop had contacted her to offer ordination following her appearance on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, during which she tells the presenter, Gay Byrne, that had she not been a singer, she would have wished to have been a Catholic priest. After her ordination, she indicates that she wishes to be called Mother Bernadette Mary.

In a July 2007 interview with Christianity Today, O’Connor states that she considers herself a Christian and that she believes in core Christian concepts about the Trinity and Jesus Christ. She says, “I think God saves everybody whether they want to be saved or not. So when we die, we’re all going home… I don’t think God judges anybody. He loves everybody equally.” In an October 2002 interview, she credits her Christian faith in giving her the strength to live through, and then overcome the effects of, her child abuse.

On March 26, 2010, O’Connor appears on CNN‘s Anderson Cooper 360° to speak out about the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in Ireland. Two days later she has an opinion piece published in the Sunday edition of The Washington Post in which she writes about the scandal and her time in a Magdalene asylum as a teenager. Writing for the Sunday Independent she labels the Vatican as “a nest of devils” and calls for the establishment of an “alternative church,” opining that “Christ is being murdered by liars” in the Vatican. Shortly after the election of Pope Francis she describes the office of the Pope as an “anti-Christian office.”

Asked whether from her point of view, it is therefore irrelevant who is elected to be Pope, O’Connor replies, “Genuinely I don’t mean disrespect to Catholic people because I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the Holy Spirit, all of those, but I also believe in all of them, I don’t think it cares if you call it Fred or Daisy, you know? Religion is a smokescreen, it has everybody talking to the wall. There is a Holy Spirit who can’t intervene on our behalf unless we ask it. Religion has us talking to the wall. The Christ character tells us himself: you must only talk directly to the Father; you don’t need intermediaries. We all thought we did, and that’s OK, we’re not bad people, but let’s wake up… God was there before religion; it’s there [today] despite religion; it’ll be there when religion is gone.”


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Artist Derek Hill Awarded Honorary Irish Citizenship

arthur-derek-hillArthur Derek Hill, English portrait and landscape painter and longtime resident in Ireland, is awarded honorary Irish citizenship by President Mary McAleese on January 13, 1999.

Hill is born at Southampton, Hampshire on December 6, 1916, the son of a wealthy sugar trader. He first works as a theatre designer in Leningrad in the 1930s and later as an historian. In World War II he registers as a conscientious objector and works on a farm.

Hill’s long association with Ireland begins when he visits Glenveagh Castle in County Donegal to paint the portrait of the Irish American art collector Henry McIlhenny, whose grandfather had emigrated to the United States from the nearby village of Milford, and who subsequently made a fortune from his patent gas meter.

Hill begins to enjoy increased success as a portrait painter from the 1960s. His subjects include many notable composers, musicians, politicians and statesmen, such as broadcaster Gay Byrne, Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek and The Prince of Wales. He is also an enthusiastic art collector and traveller, with a wide range of friends such as Bryan Guinness and Isaiah Berlin. Greta Garbo visits Hill in the 1970s, a visit which forms inspiration for Frank McGuinness‘ 2010 play Greta Garbo Came to Donegal.

In 1981, he donates his home, St. Columb’s Rectory, near the village of Churchill, County Donegal, which he had owned since 1954, along with a considerable collection including work by Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Georges Braque, Graham Sutherland, Anna Ticho and Jack Butler Yeats to the State.

An exhibition of his work and personal art collection can be seen at the House and associated Glebe Gallery at Churchill, near Letterkenny. Another collection of his work is held at Mottisfont Abbey. Many of his landscapes portray scenes from Tory Island, where he has a painting hut for years, and starts and then mentors the artists’ community there, teaching the local fishermen how to paint. This leads to the informal but busy “Tory School” of artists such as James Dixon and Anton Meenan, who find that they have the time to paint and use their wild surroundings as a dramatic subject.

Hill is made a CBE in 1997. A Retrospective exhibition is arranged for and by him at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1998. On January 13, 1999, he is made an honorary Irish citizen by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

Arthur Derek Hill dies at the age of 83 at a London hospital on July 30, 2000. He is buried in Hampshire in the South of England with his parents. Memorial services are held for him in Dublin at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, and his local Church in Trentagh, County Donegal.