seamus dubhghaill

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


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Marriage of John Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley

john-bligh-3rd-earl-of-darnleyJohn Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley and former Member of Parliament (MP) for Athboy, who suffers from the delusion that he is a teapot, marries suddenly and unexpectedly on September 11, 1766 at nearly 50 years of age. Suffering from the delusion that he is a teapot, from the date of his marriage until his death in 1781 he fathers at least seven children “in spite of his initial alarm that his spout would come off in the night.”

Bligh is born on October 1, 1719 near Gravesend, Kent, the son of John Bligh, 1st Earl of Darnley and Lady Theodosia Hyde, later Baroness Clifton (in her own right). At the age of eight he is sent to Westminster School. He matriculates at Merton College on May 13, 1735 and is created MA on July 13, 1738.

Outwardly, Bligh appears “solid” and “capable,” a man “terribly conscious of his own dignity.” His eccentricities do not stop him becoming MP for Athboy, which he represents from 1739 until 1748, and for Maidstone, Kent, which he serves from 1741 to 1747.

After failing to be elected MP for Tregony, Cornwall, in 1754, Bligh never stands again for parliament, either in England or Ireland. The seat that he gains in the House of Lords, in 1765, gives him the opportunity to return to Ireland more frequently.

In Dublin, on September 11, 1766, the “ageing nobleman” of almost 48-years-old, suddenly marries eighteen-year-old Mary Stoyte, a wealthy heiress and only child of John Stoyte, a leading barrister from Streete, County Westmeath. The unexpected marriage, between a sworn bachelor and a young woman, shocks Dublin society.

The new Countess of Darnley has to cope with the odd private behaviour of her touchy husband. According to a manuscript in the possession of the Tighe family, on the night of his marriage, Bligh “imagined himself to be a fine China tea pot, and was under great fears, lest the spout should be broken off before morning!”

In spite of his nocturnal fears, the earl manages to father at least seven children: John (1767), Mary (1768), Edward (1769), Theodosia (1771), Sarah (1772), Catherine (1774), and William (1775).

Each summer, Bligh takes his family to Weymouth, where the seawater is believed to strengthen weak constitutions and help brace nerves.

Despite every precaution, in 1781 Bligh catches malaria. Attempts to treat him with quinine and peppermint-water purges fail, and on July 31, 1781, he dies at the age of 61, his spout supposedly still intact. Mary lives on until 1803.


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The Assassination of Christopher Ewart-Biggs

christopher-ewart-biggs-assassinationChristopher Thomas Ewart Ewart-Biggs, British Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, author and senior Foreign Office liaison officer with MI6, is killed in Sandyford, Dublin on July 21, 1976 by a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) land mine.

Ewart-Biggs is born in the Thanet district of Kent, South East England to Captain Henry Ewart-Biggs of the Royal Engineers and his wife Mollie Brice. He is educated at Wellington College and University College, Oxford and serves in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment of the British Army during World War II. At the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942 he loses his right eye and as a result he wears a smoked-glass monocle over an artificial eye.

Ewart-Biggs joins the Foreign Service in 1949, serving in Lebanon, Qatar and Algiers, as well as Manila, Brussels and Paris.

Ewart-Biggs is 55 when he is killed by a land mine planted by the IRA on July 21, 1976. He had been taking precautions to avoid such an incident since coming to Dublin only two weeks earlier. Among the measures he employs is to vary his route many times a week however, at a vulnerable spot on the road connecting his residence to the main road, there is only a choice between left or right. He chooses right and approximately 150 yards from the residence he hits a land mine that is later judged to contain hundreds of pounds of explosives. Ewart-Biggs and fellow passenger and civil servant Judith Cooke (aged 26) are killed. Driver Brian O’Driscoll and third passenger Brian Cubbon (aged 57) are injured. Cubbon is the highest-ranking civil servant in Northern Ireland at the time.

The Irish government launches a manhunt involving 4,000 Gardaí and 2,000 soldiers. Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave declares that “this atrocity fills all decent Irish people with a sense of shame.” In London, Prime Minister James Callaghan condemns the assassins as a “common enemy whom we must destroy or be destroyed by.” Thirteen suspected members of the IRA are arrested during raids as the British and Irish governments attempt to apprehend the criminals, but no one is ever convicted of the killings. In 2006, released Foreign and Commonwealth Office files reveal that the Gardaí had matched a partial fingerprint at the scene to Martin Taylor, an IRA member suspected of gun running from the United States.

Ewart-Biggs’s widow, Jane Ewart-Biggs, becomes a Life Peer in the House of Lords, campaigns to improve Anglo-Irish relations and establishes the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for literature.

(Pictured: The twisted remains of the car lie upended beside a huge crater after the explosion that killed Christopher Ewart-Biggs and civil servant Judith Cooke)


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Trimble Rejects Power Sharing Compromise

blair-ahern-stormont-castle-1999On July 14, 1999, Ulster Unionists under David Trimble reject a compromise for the creation of a power sharing government placing the Northern Ireland peace process in grave trouble. The proposals would have seen inclusive self-government introduced in Northern Ireland on Sunday, July 18, 1999.

Early in the day the government rushes legislation through the House of Commons providing for the suspension of the Executive if the Irish Republican Army (IRA) fails to decommission all its arms by May 2000 in line with a timetable, yet to be drawn up. It refuses to accept any Ulster Unionist amendments. But within 12 hours, British Prime Minister Tony Blair signals that three new amendments will be included to tighten the so-called failsafe mechanism when the bill is debated in the House of Lords in the evening.

The first amendment makes clear that decommissioning must proceed in line with a timetable to be drawn up by General John de Chastelain. The second provides for the automatic suspension of the Executive, while the third provides for the party in default to be clearly identified.

They fail to sway Trimble, who criticises The Way Forward as a hastily concocted scheme. However, he does leave the door open for further negotiations to save the agreement. “If there was a clear watertight scheme, in which there was at the outset an unequivocal commitment to change and a process that genuinely guaranteed to deliver that change, we would have to consider whether a scruple over a period of days could be justified.”

Sinn Féin is furious with party president Gerry Adams saying, “Those who may genuinely want to deal with the issue of guns are going about it in absolutely the worst and wrong way.” The party wants the assembly to be wound up immediately, and all members’ wages to be stopped. It wants the British and Irish governments to continue to implement all aspects of the agreement which are within their control. Adams is enraged by Blair’s move to amend the failsafe legislation. His party says it will consider applying for judicial review of the amended bill, believing it to compromise the International Commission on Decommissioning and unlawfully conflict with the agreement.

Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announce on the following day that the 15-month-old and ailing Good Friday Agreement will go into a review procedure involving all the political parties and be effectively parked over the summer.

Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionists, resists intense government pressure as he refuses to back the British and Irish governments’ blueprint providing for a power-sharing executive the following week and IRA decommissioning in the summer. He repeats his party’s view that Sinn Féin can only join his cabinet once the IRA has started to hand over its weapons.

The outcome is a bitter personal setback for Blair. In a last-minute televised appeal to the Unionists not to “close the door’ on an agreement, he appears to acknowledge that they will have to try to find another way forward. “I believe in the end we will get an agreement on this. Whether we manage it by tomorrow morning, that is more difficult,” he says.

Trimble complains he had too little time to secure backing within his split party for The Way Forward, which the governments issued twelve days earlier after a week of intense negotiations at Stormont Castle. Blair’s handling of the affair is questioned.

Trimble’s problem with the legislative failsafe is that it punishes all parties for an IRA transgression of a decommissioning timetable, yet to be drawn up. It provides for the executive to be suspended, rather than carry on with Sinn Féin’s two ministerial posts allocated to other parties. The nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), which could have given Trimble cover on the issue of expulsion, declines to say whether it will vote for Sinn Féin’s expulsion, which infuriates Ulster Unionists.

Negotiations to save the Good Friday Agreement have gone through four deadlines during the year. There are fears that the latest delay might lead to Sinn Féin withdrawing its declaration on IRA arms.

(Pictured: British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern present a joint British-Irish blueprint for implementation of the Good Friday Agreement at Stormont Castle in Belfast, June 2, 1999 | Sean Gallup | Getty Images)


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Birth of Garech Browne, Irish Arts & Music Patron

garech-domnagh-browneGarech Domnagh Browne, art collector and notable patron of Irish arts and traditional Irish music, is born in Chapelizod, Dublin on June 25, 1939. He is often known by the Irish designation of his name, Garech de Brún, or alternatively Garech a Brún, especially in Ireland.

Browne is the eldest of the three sons of Dominick Browne, 4th Baron Oranmore and Browne and his second wife, Oonagh Guinness, daughter of Arthur Ernest Guinness and wealthy heiress to the Guinness fortune. His father has the rare distinction of sitting in the House of Lords for 72 years, until his death at the age of 100 in August 2002, without ever speaking in a debate.

As both his parents are married three times, Browne has two stepmothers and two stepfathers, as well as a number of older half-siblings. His only full brother, Tara Browne, is a young London socialite whose death at the age of 21 in a car crash in London’s West End helps inspire John Lennon when writing the song “A Day in the Life” with Paul McCartney. Browne is educated at Institut Le Rosey, Switzerland. Although a member of the extended Guinness family, he takes no active part in its brewing business.

When in Ireland, Browne lives at Luggala, set deep in the Wicklow Mountains in County Wicklow. The house, which he inherited from his mother, has been variously described as a castle or hunting lodge of large proportions. He once states he would rather have not been born, calling it “frightful to bring anyone into this world.”

Browne is a leading proponent for the revival and preservation of traditional Irish music through his record label Claddagh Records which he founds with others in 1959. His former home, Woodtown Manor near Dublin, is for many years a welcoming place for Irish poets, writers and musicians. The folk-pop group Clannad makes many recordings of their music there.

Browne is instrumental in the formation of the traditional Irish folk group The Chieftains. In 1962, after setting up Claddagh Records, he asks his friend, the famed uileann piper Paddy Moloney, to form a group for a one-off album. Moloney responds with the first line-up for the band, which goes on to achieve international commercial success.

Browne is interviewed at length for the Grace Notes traditional music programme on RTÉ lyric fm on 18 March 2010. He is a friend and patron of British artist Francis Bacon and in January 2017 is featured in the BBC documentary Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence.

Garech Browne dies at the age of 78 in London on March 10, 2018. In his will and testament, he bequeaths to the city of Galway the granite remains of a medieval “bow gate.” The location of this gate, which had otherwise gone unmentioned by Browne, remains a mystery for over a year following his death. It is discovered on the grounds of the Luggala estate in 2019. According to a Galway historian, the gate may have formed part of the city’s defences in the 17th century, and was later removed from the city by Browne’s father, when it was probably taken to the Browne family home at Castle MacGarrett, just outside Claremorris in County Mayo. The gate is one of a number of items left to the Irish State by Browne.


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Terence O’Neill Becomes Fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

File source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Captain_Terence_O%27Neill.jpgTerence O’Neill becomes the fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on March 25, 1963 following the resignation of Basil Brooke, 1st Viscount Brookeborough. He plays a significant role in the first year of the Troubles, trying unsuccessfully to stem growing sectarian violence.

O’Neill is born on September 10, 1914 at 29 Ennismore Gardens, Hyde Park, London, the son of Captain Arthur O’Neill of Shane’s Castle, Randalstown, the first member of parliament (MP) to be killed in action in World War I five months later. He is educated in the English public school system at West Downs SchoolWinchester and Eton College, spending his summer holidays at the family estate in Ulster. He is later commissioned in the British Army, rising to the rank of captain and serving with the Irish Guards in World War II. He is wounded in 1944 and opts to resettle permanently in Northern Ireland.

In 1946, O’Neill is elected to the Parliament of Northern Ireland, representing the Unionist stronghold of Bannside. He remains in the parliament at Stormont for almost 25 years. He becomes Northern Ireland’s Minister of Home Affairs in April 1956, Minister of Finance in September 1956 and Prime Minister in March 1963.

As Prime Minister, O’Neill introduces economic reforms to stimulate industrial growth and employment, with mixed results. He also tries narrowing the divide between Protestants and Catholics. He does this with important gestures, like visiting Catholic schools and expressing condolences on the death of Pope John XXIII.

O’Neill also seeks better relations with the Republic of Ireland, and in January 1965 invites Taoiseach Seán Lemass to Belfast. Catholics and moderate Unionists welcome this reconciliation but many conservative Loyalists, like Ian Paisley, condemn it as treachery.

When the civil rights movement erupts in the late 1960s, O’Neill offers a package of reforms and concessions, including changes to the allocation of housing. These proposals, however, anger staunch Unionists and fail to satisfy many Republicans.

In December 1969, O’Neill appears on Northern Ireland television and makes an impassioned plea for unity, warning that “Ulster stands at the crossroads.” His government is reelected in February 1969, though O’Neill himself is almost voted out of his own seat.

With the situation worsening, O’Neill is further embarrassed by Loyalist attempts to sabotage Belfast’s water supply. Fast losing the confidence of his own party, he resigns the prime ministership in April 1969. He remains in the parliament until January 1970.

O’Neill is made Baron O’Neill of the Maine and spends the last decade of his life in Britain’s House of Lords. He dies of cancer on June 12, 1990.


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The Adventurers’ Act Receives Royal Assent

coat-of-arms-of-the-united-kingdomThe Adventurers’ Act, an Act of the Parliament of England which specifies its aim as “the speedy and effectual reducing of the rebels in His Majesty’s Kingdom of Ireland,” receives Royal assent on March 19, 1642.

The Act is passed by the Long Parliament as a way of raising funds to suppress the Irish Rebellion of 1641, which had broken out five months earlier. It invites members of the public to invest £200 for which they will receive 1,000 acres of lands that are to be confiscated from rebels in Ireland. Two and a half million acres of Irish land are set aside by the English government for this purpose. The entire island of Ireland is about 20.9 million acres.

The enactment is done at the request of King Charles in the House of Lords, joined by the House of Commons, and is unanimously accepted without any debate. The Act had been placed before the Houses for inspection but is not formally read into the record. The title of the Act – “An Act for the speedy and effectual reducing of the Rebels, in His Majesty’s Kingdom of Ireland, to their due Obedience to His Majesty, and the Crown of England” – is read aloud to Parliament, followed by the statement: “Le Roy le veult.”

The “Adventurers” are so called because they are risking their money at a time when the Crown has just had to pay for the Bishops’ Wars in 1639–40. “Reducing” the rebels means leading them back to the legal concept of the “King’s Peace.” King Charles cannot subsequently enforce the Act, but it is realised by his political opponents following the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649–1653, and forms the main legal basis for the contentious Act for the Settlement of Ireland 1652.

Ironically, in May 1642 the Confederate Irish rebels draft the Confederate Oath of Association that recognises Charles as their monarch.

The Adventurers’ Act is extended and amended by three other acts – Lands of Irish Rebels; Adventurers’ Subscriptions Act 1640 (c. 34), Lands of Irish Rebels; Adventurers’ Subscriptions Act 1640 (c. 35), and Irish Rebels Act 1640 (c. 37). All four receive Royal Assent in the summer of 1642, just before the start of the English Civil War, but are usually referred to as 1640 acts, which is the year the Long Parliament started to sit and the 16th year of Charles I’s reign.

In July 1643, Parliament passes the Doubling Ordinance which doubles the allocation of land to anyone who increases their original investment by 25%. The purpose of the Act is twofold, firstly to raise money for Parliament to help suppress the rebellion in Ireland, and secondly to deprive the King of the lands seized from rebels that would be his by prerogative.

To enforce the Acts the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland is launched in 1649. In 1653, Ireland is declared subdued and the lands are allocated to the subscribers in what becomes known as the Cromwellian Settlement.

The Adventurers Act and the other three statutes are repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1950.


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John Hely-Hutchinson Created Baron Hutchinson of Alexandria & Knocklofty

Generated by IIPImageGeneral John Hely-Hutchinson, Jr., Member of Parliament (MP) for Cork Borough, is created Baron Hutchinson of Alexandria and Knocklofty on December 18, 1801 for his military service.

Hely-Hutchinson is born on May 15, 1757, the son of John Hely-Hutchinson and the Christiana Hely-Hutchinson, 1st Baroness Donoughmore. He is educated at Eton College, Magdalen College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin.

Hely-Hutchinson enters the Army as a cornet in the 18th Royal Hussars in 1774, rising to a lieutenant the following year. In 1776 he is promoted to become a captain in the 67th (South Hampshire) Regiment of Foot, and a major there in 1781. He moves regiments again in 1783, becoming a lieutenant-colonel in, and colonel-commandant of, the 77th Regiment of Foot, which is, however, disbanded shortly afterwards following an earlier mutiny. He spends the next 11 years on half-pay, studying military tactics in France before serving as a volunteer in the Flanders campaigns of 1793 as aide-de-camp to Sir Ralph Abercromby.

In March 1794 Hely-Hutchinson obtains brevet promotion to colonel and the colonelcy of the old 94th Regiment of Foot and then becomes a major-general in May 1796, serving in Ireland during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, where he is second-in-command at the Battle of Castlebar under General Gerard Lake. In 1799, he is in the expedition to the Netherlands.

Hely-Hutchinson is second-in-command of the 1801 expedition to Egypt, under Abercromby. Following Abercromby’s death in March after being wounded at the Battle of Alexandria, he takes command of the force. From then he is able to besiege the French firstly at Cairo which capitulates in June and then besieges and takes Alexandria, culminating in the capitulation of over 22,000 French soldiers. In reward for his successes there, the Ottoman Sultan Selim III makes him a Knight, 1st Class, of the Order of the Crescent.

On December 18, 1801 Hely-Hutchinson is created Baron Hutchinson in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, gaining a seat in the House of Lords. In recognition of his “eminent services” during the “late glorious and successful campaign in Egypt,” at the request of the King, the Parliament of the United Kingdom settles on Lord Hutchinson and the next two succeeding heirs male of his body an annuity of £2000 per annum, paid out of the Consolidated Fund.

Hely-Hutchinson is promoted lieutenant-general in September 1803, and made a full general in June 1813. In 1806, he becomes colonel of the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot, transferring in 1811 to be colonel of the 18th Regiment of Foot, a position he holds until his death. He also holds the position of Governor of Stirling Castle from 1806 until his death.

Hely-Hutchinson sits as Member of Parliament (MP) for Lanesborough from 1776 to 1783 and for Taghmon from 1789 to 1790. Subsequently, he represents Cork City in the Irish House of Commons until the Act of Union 1800 and is then member for Cork City in the after-Union Parliament of the United Kingdom until 1802.

Hely-Hutchinson dies on June 29, 1832, never having married.


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Birth of Henry Harrison, Politician & Writer

henry-harrisonCaptain Henry Harrison, nationalist politician and writer, is born in Holywood, County Down on December 17, 1867.

A Protestant nationalist, Harrison is the son of Henry Harrison and Letitia Tennent, the daughter of Robert James Tennent, who had been Liberal Party MP for Belfast from 1847 to 1852. Later, when widowed, she marries the author Hartley Withers.

Harrison goes to Westminster School and then to Balliol College, Oxford. While there he develops an admiration for Charles Stewart Parnell and becomes secretary of the Oxford University Home Rule League. At this time, the Land War is in progress and in 1889 he goes to Ireland to visit the scene of the evictions in Gweedore, County Donegal. He becomes involved in physical confrontations with the Royal Irish Constabulary and as a result becomes a Nationalist celebrity overnight. The following May, Parnell offers the vacant parliamentary seat of Mid Tipperary to Harrison, who leaves Oxford at age 22, to take it up, unopposed.

Only six months later, following the divorce case involving Katharine O’Shea, the Irish Parliamentary Party splits over Parnell’s leadership. Harrison strongly supports Parnell, acts as his bodyguard and aide-de-camp, and after Parnell’s death devotes himself to the service of his widow Katharine. From her he hears a completely different version of the events surrounding the divorce case from that which had appeared in the press, and this is to form the seed of his later books.

At the 1892 United Kingdom general election, Harrison does not defend Mid-Tipperary. He stands at West Limerick as a Parnellite instead, but comes nowhere near winning the seat. In the 1895 United Kingdom general election, he stands at North Sligo, polling better but again far short of winning. In 1895 he marries Maie Byrne, an American, with whom he has a son. He comes to prominence briefly again in 1903 when, in spite of his lack of legal training, he successfully conducts his own case in a court action all the way to the House of Lords.

Otherwise, however, Harrison disappears from public view until his war service with the Royal Irish Regiment when he serves on the Western Front with distinction in the New British Army formed for World War I, reaching the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross (MC). He organises patrols in “No Man’s Land” so successfully that he is appointed special patrol officer to the 16th (Irish) Division. He is invalided out and becomes a recruiting officer in Ireland. He is appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Year Honours.

Harrison then makes a return to Irish politics, working with Sir Horace Plunkett as Secretary of the Irish Dominion League, an organisation campaigning for dominion status for Ireland within the British Empire. He is a lifelong opponent of Irish partition. He is Irish correspondent of The Economist from 1922 to 1927 and owner-editor of Irish Truth from 1924 to 1927.

Harrison’s two books defending Parnell are published in 1931 and 1938. They have had a major impact on Irish historiography, leading to a more favourable view of Parnell’s role in the O’Shea affair. F. S. L. Lyons comments that he “did more than anyone else to uncover what seems to have been the true facts” about the Parnell-O’Shea liaison. The second book, Parnell, Joseph Chamberlain and Mr Garvin, is written in response to J. L. Garvin‘s biography of Joseph Chamberlain, which had ignored his first book, Parnell Vindicated: The Lifting of the Veil. Later, he successfully repulses an attempt in the official history of The Times to rehabilitate that newspaper’s role in using forged letters to attack Parnell in the late 1880s. In 1952 he forces The Times to publish a four-page correction written by him as an appendix to the fourth volume of the history.

During the difficult years of the Anglo-Irish Trade War over the land purchase annuities, declaration of the Republic, Irish neutrality during World War II, and departure from the Commonwealth, Harrison works to promote good relations between Britain and Ireland. He publishes various books and pamphlets on the issues in dispute and writes numerous letters to The Times. He also founds, with General Sir Hubert Gough, the Commonwealth Irish Association in 1942.

At the time of his death on February 20, 1954, Harrison is the last survivor of the Irish Parliamentary Party led by Parnell, and as a member of the pre-1918 Irish Parliamentary Party, he seems to have been outlived only by John Patrick Hayden, who dies a few months after him in 1954 and by Patrick Whitty and John Lymbrick Esmonde who are only MPs for a very short time during World War I. He is buried in Holywood, County Down.


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Terence O’Neill Resigns as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland

File source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Captain_Terence_O%27Neill.jpgTerence Marne O’Neill, the fourth Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, resigns on April 28, 1969. He is succeeded by James Chichester-Clark.

O’Neill is born on September 10, 1914 in London. Having served in the Irish Guards, he comes to live in Northern Ireland in 1945. He is returned unopposed for the Stormont seat of Bannside in November 1946 for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and ten years later reaches cabinet rank. When Lord Brookeborough retires as prime minister in March 1963, O’Neill succeeds as the apostle of technocratic modernization who could see off the Northern Ireland Labour Party. In community relations O’Neill is unprecedentedly liberal, visiting Catholic schools and, more dramatically, meeting with the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, Seán Lemass, at Stormont on January 14, 1964. O’Neill hopes to encourage Catholic acceptance of the state, but he more quickly aggravates suspicious unionist and loyalist opinion.

The eruption of the civil rights movement of 1968 multiplies pressures for substantive reform from the British government. O’Neill impresses on his cabinet colleagues the necessity of concessions. On November 22 he unveils a program of reforms, notably the closing down of the gerrymandered Londonderry Corporation. However, the local government’s rate-based franchise is for the time untouched. In a television broadcast on December 9, 1968, O’Neill warns that Northern Ireland stands at the crossroads. He calls for an end to street demonstrations but also promises meaningful reforms. There is a massive response from the public, but attitudes polarize again when a radical civil rights march from Belfast to Derry is attacked by loyalists at Burntollet Bridge on January 4, 1969.

O’Neill’s failure to preserve governmental authority by repression or concession leads to discontent in his party. In an attempt to regain the initiative and remake the Ulster Unionist Party, he calls for an election on February 24, 1969. He refuses to campaign for official unionist candidates opposed to his leadership and lends his support to Independent candidates who vow to support him personally. Breaking with unionist convention, O’Neill openly canvasses for Catholic votes. Such strategic innovations fail to produce a clear victory, however, and a phalanx of anti-O’Neill unionists are returned. There is little evidence that O’Neill’s re-branded unionism has succeeded in attracting Catholic votes.

From O’Neill’s point of view, the election results are inconclusive. He is humiliated by his near-defeat in his own constituency of Bannside by Ian Paisley and resigns as leader of the UUP and as Prime Minister on April 28, 1969 after a series of bomb explosions on Belfast’s water supply by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) bring his personal political crisis to a head. Before leaving, he secures “one person, one vote” in place of the ratepayers’ franchise in local elections as well as the succession of the relatively loyal James Chichester-Clarke.

O’Neill retires from Stormont politics in January 1970 when he resigns his seat, having become the Father of the House in the previous year. On January 23, 1970, he is created a life peer as Baron O’Neill of the Maine, of Ahoghill in the County of Antrim. The Maine is a river which flows near Ahoghill.

O’Neill spends his last years at Lisle Court, Lymington, Hampshire, although he continues to speak on the problems of Northern Ireland in the House of Lords where he sits as a crossbencher. His Reform Policies are largely forgotten by British Unionists and Irish Nationalists in Ulster, however he is remembered by historians for his efforts to reform the discrimination and sectarianism within the Province during the 1960s. In retirement he is also a trustee of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trusts.

Terence O’Neill dies at his home of cancer on June 12, 1990.


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The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 Receives Royal Assent

coat-of-arms-of-the-united-kingdomThe Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, the culmination of the process of Catholic emancipation throughout the United Kingdom, receives royal assent on April 13, 1829. In Ireland it repeals the Test Act 1673 and the remaining Penal Laws which had been in force since the passing of the Disenfranchising Act of the Parliament of Ireland of 1728. Its passage follows a vigorous campaign that threatens insurrection led by Irish lawyer Daniel O’Connell. The British leaders, starting with the Prime MinisterArthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington,  and his top aide Robert Peel, although personally opposed, give in to avoid civil strife. Ireland is quiet after the passage.

In 1778, English Catholics are relieved of the restrictions on land inheritance and purchase. A savage reaction to these concessions produces the Gordon Riots of 1780, and the whole history of Catholic Emancipation is one of struggle against great resistance. In 1791 the Roman Catholic Relief Act repeals most of the disabilities in Great Britain, provided Catholics take an oath of loyalty. In 1793 the army, the navy, the universities, and the judiciary are opened to Catholics, although seats in Parliament and some offices are still denied. These reforms are sponsored by William Pitt the Younger, who hopes thereby to split the alliance of Irish Catholics and Protestants. But Pitt’s attempt to secure a general repeal of the Penal Laws is thwarted by George III. Pope Pius VII consents to a royal veto on episcopal nominations if the Penal Laws are repealed, but the move fails. In Ireland the repeal of Poynings’ Law in 1782 is followed by an act (1792) of the Irish Parliament relaxing the marriage and education laws and an act (1793) allowing Catholics to vote and hold most offices.

The Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829 permits members of the Catholic Church to sit in the parliament at Westminster and to hold all but a handful of public offices. O’Connell had won a seat in a by-election for Clare in 1828 against an Anglican. Under the then extant penal law, O’Connell as a Catholic, is forbidden to take his seat in Parliament. Peel, the Home Secretary, until then is called “Orange Peel” because he always supports the Orange (anti-Catholic) position. Peel now concludes, “Though emancipation was a great danger, civil strife was a greater danger.” Fearing a revolution in Ireland, Peel draws up the Catholic Relief Bill and guides it through the House of Commons. To overcome the vehement opposition of both the House of Lords and King George IV, the Duke of Wellington works tirelessly to ensure passage in the House of Lords, and threatens to resign as Prime Minister if the King does not give Royal Assent.

With the Universities Tests Act 1871, which opens the universities to Roman Catholics, Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom is virtually complete.