seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Daunt Rock Rescue

daunt-rock-rescueThe Ballycotton lifeboat Mary Stanford returns to its home port in East Cork on February 11, 1936 following what is likely the most famous sea rescue in Irish maritime history.

Riding at anchor, the Daunt Rock lightship Comet, with a crew of eight, breaks from her mooring off Roberts Head on the southern coast of Ireland on the morning of February 8, 1936 during a three-day gale. The seas are so mountainous that spray is flying over the lantern of the 196-foot tall lighthouse.

In one of the most exhausting and gallant services in the history of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI), Patrick Sliney, Coxswain of the Mary Stanford, and a crew of six take to the sea in response to an SOS call from the Comet.

The Mary Stanford makes several attempts to get a steel cable aboard the Comet, but on every attempt, a terrible wave crashes the ships further apart and the cable snaps. When darkness falls, the Mary Stanford heads for Cobh to get stronger cables. Early the following morning, the Mary Stanford returns to Daunt rock. The sea is just as stormy and a thick fog has set in, making it impossible to effect a rescue. The Mary Stanford remains in the storm all day and all night.

That evening, as the storm increases, the Comet drifts dangerously close to Daunt rock. When she is just 60 yards from the rock, Sliney decides the only option, albeit a dangerous one, is to try and get alongside the Comet so the crew can jump for the lifeboat. On the first attempt, one man jumps to safety aboard the Mary Stanford. No one is able to jump on the second attempt but on the third attempt five men are successfully rescued. A fourth and fifth attempt are unsuccessful as no one is able to jump to the Mary Stanford. Two men remain on board the Comet, clinging to the rails and too exhausted to jump. As the Mary Stanford comes alongside on the sixth attempt, the two are seized by the lifeboat crew and dragged aboard.

The Mary Stanford is away from its Ballycotton station for 79 hours and at sea for 49 hours. The crew has no food for 25 hours and they only have three hours sleep. All suffer from colds, saltwater burns, and hunger.

A Gold Medal is awarded by the RNLI to Sliney, Silver Medals to Second Coxswain John Lane Walsh and Motor Mechanic Thomas Sliney, and Bronze Medals to Crew Members Michael Coffey Walsh, John Shea Sliney, William Sliney, and Thomas Walsh for their service.


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The 1996 Docklands Bombing

docklands-bombingThe Docklands bombing, also known as the Canary Wharf bombing or the South Quay bombing, occurs on February 9, 1996, marking the end of the Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) seventeen-month ceasefire.

At about 7:01 PM on February 9, the Provisional Irish Republican Army detonates a large bomb in a small lorry about 80 yards from South Quay Station on the Docklands Light Railway in the Canary Wharf financial district of London. The bomb, containing 500 kg of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and sugar and a detonating cord made of semtex, PETN, and RDX high explosives, is placed directly under the point where the tracks cross Marsh Wall.

The IRA sends telephone warnings 90 minutes prior to the detonation and the area is evacuated. However, two men working in the newsagents shop directly opposite the explosion, Inam Bashir and John Jeffries, are not evacuated in time and are killed in the explosion. Thirty-nine people require hospital treatment as a result of the blast and falling glass. A portion of the South Quay Plaza is destroyed and the explosion leaves a crater ten metres wide and three metres deep. The shockwave from the blast causes windows to rattle five miles away.

Approximately £100 million worth of damage is done by the blast. The Midland Bank building is damaged beyond economic repair and is demolished. South Quay Plaza I and II are severely damaged and require complete rebuilding. The station itself is extensively damaged, but both it and the bridge under which the bomb is exploded are reopened within weeks.

The bombing marks the end of a 17-month IRA ceasefire during which Irish, British, and American leaders work for a political solution to the troubles in Northern Ireland. IRA member James McArdle is convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but murder charges are dropped. McArdle is released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in June 2000 with a royal prerogative of mercy from Queen Elizabeth II.

dockland-bombing-damageThe IRA describes the deaths and injuries as a result of the bomb as “regrettable,” but says that they could have been avoided if police had responded promptly to “clear and specific warnings.” Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Paul Condon says, “It would be unfair to describe this as a failure of security. It was a failure of humanity.”

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA, speaks of the need to continue the peace process. British Prime Minister John Major says there is now “a dark shadow of doubt” where optimism has existed.

On February 28, Prime Minister Major and Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland John Bruton, announce that all-party talks will be resumed in June. Major’s decision to drop the demand for IRA decommissioning of weapons before Sinn Fein is allowed into talks leads to criticism from the press, which accuse him of being “bombed to the table.”


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Éamon de Valera Escapes from Lincoln Gaol

boland-collins-devaleraÉamon de Valera, along with Seán McGarry and Seán Milroy, escape from Lincoln Gaol in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England on February 3, 1919.  The escape plot is engineered by fellow Sinn Féin members Harry Boland and Michael Collins (pictured to the left of de Valera).

After his participation as a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916, de Valera is arrested and sentenced to death for his role in the uprising, but the sentence is later commuted due to his American citizenship. Following his release from prison in 1916, he quickly gains fame on the Irish political scene, ultimately becoming the leader of Sinn Féin. He also gains notoriety amongst the British political elites, which ensures his eventual re-arrest and imprisonment in Lincoln Gaol.

De Valera is sent to Lincoln Gaol presumably for his participation in a “German Plot” against the British. Once incarcerated at Lincoln, de Valera, wanting to embarrass the English, quickly begins to plan his escape with the assistance of Milroy and McGarry. Irish Republicans on the outside, including Boland and Collins, also assist in the planning.

Open fields surrounded by barbed wire are to the rear and east of the prison. The Republicans hope to use this to their advantage by sneaking de Valera through a rear door. The plans are sung in Gaelic to de Valera through a window in his cell by a fellow Irish inmate in order to confuse the guards. The first song tells him of the escape route and the second gives him instructions to obtain a copy of the master-key for the prison.

De Valera, being a deeply religious man, is active in the prison’s chapel from the beginning his internment. Using his connections within the chapel, over time he manages to steal candles from the altar. While Mass is being read, he “borrows” the master-key of the chaplain and makes an impression of it in the candle wax. The mould is then wrapped in paper and tossed over the prison wall so a duplicate can be made.

The key is duplicated and smuggled back into the prison concealed in a cake and the escape begins on the evening of February 3, 1919. While Collins and other members of Sinn Féin cut through the barbed wire, a group of Irish girls are sent to flirt with the prison guards to ensure they are preoccupied. With the guards’ attention diverted, de Valera, wrapped in a fur coat, McGarry, and Milroy are able to walk to the back door of the prison and, after some difficulty with the key, walk away from the prison.

They stroll down Wragby Road to the Adam & Eve Pub where a taxi driver, unaware of who his passengers are, awaits them. De Valera is swiftly moved to the railway station where they split up. Collins and Boland catch a train to London from St. Mark’s while the rest drive to Worksop where another innocent taxi driver drives them to Sheffield. De Valera then returns to Ireland briefly before traveling on to the United States. The prison officials, realizing that the men will be virtually impossible to locate, concede defeat after a one day search of the city.

The escape from Lincoln Gaol is major news and is covered in all the national papers. Prison officials blame the escape on the ability of special prisoners to interact with the general prison population. The escape proves to be an important moment in Irish history – when a cake, a wax key, and some pretty Irish girls help spring the future Irish president from Lincoln Gaol.


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Hillary Clinton Announced for Induction into Irish America Hall of Fame

hillary-clintonOn February 2, 2015, Irish America magazine announces that Hillary Rodham Clinton will be inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame in March, in recognition of her work on the Irish peace process.

Clinton travels frequently to Ireland as First Lady and as U.S. Secretary of State, and often talks about the end of the civil strife, known as The Troubles, as a crowning foreign policy achievement of her husband’s administration. On her visit to Belfast in 2012, she pledges to continue to support peace in Ireland in whatever way possible.

“Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the unsung heroes of the success of the Irish peace process,” says Niall O’Dowd, publisher of Irish America magazine. “As First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State she always gave the issue top priority to help ensure it remained at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. During that historic first trip to Northern Ireland with Bill Clinton in 1995, which I was privileged to be on, she galvanized women’s groups on both sides by meeting with them, shaping their agenda, and making sure they always had a friend in the U.S. administration. More than that, she constantly stayed involved, never giving up her focus on bringing an end to Europe’s longest conflict at the time.”

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Clinton delivers the keynote address at the luncheon in Manhattan of high profile Irish-Americans who each year honor elected officials and others. She describes sitting at a table in Belfast, over cups of tea, with women from both sides of the conflict and watching as they discover how much they share.

She does not portray herself as instrumental to the Good Friday Agreement that President Clinton brokered in 1998, but says her outreach to women in Belfast on multiple visits during that period had played a critical role.

“You cannot bring peace and security to people just by signing an agreement,” she says. “In fact, most peace agreements don’t last.” She says that when “the work of peace permeates down to the kitchen table, to the backyard, to the neighborhood, around cups of tea, there’s a much greater chance the agreement will hold.”

Previous inductees into the Irish America Hall of Fame include former President John F. Kennedy, former President Bill Clinton, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who addressed the luncheon in 2014 in a mix of English and Irish.


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U2 Fights to Save Hanover Quay Recording Studio

u2On January 29, 2002, at a public hearing at the Gresham Hotel, rock superstars U2 battle to save their recording studios at Hanover Quay in the Grand Canal Dock area of Ringsend, a southside inner suburb of Dublin, from being pulled to the ground.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority wants to clear the way for a major new leisure development on a Hanover Quay site which contains a number of buildings including the band’s one-story recording studio. Talks between the band and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority fail to result in a compromise.

Citing the multi-million-pound records sales and musical heritage that have resulted from their use of the Hanover Street site since 1994, the band members submit to An Bord Pleanála (Irish Planning Appeals Board) a formal, nine page objection to the proposed plan. The band recorded their All That You Can’t Leave Behind album and a portion of their Pop album at the studio.

In addition to U2’s complaint, three other parties raise formal objections, including businessman Harrie Crosbie, millionaire businessman and Point Depot owner, who also owns small business premises at the Hanover Quay site.

In a statement released in the evening, the band says that while they love the docklands and are very happy with their present studio, they “appreciate that change is inevitable and often for the best.” They disclose that they are continuing discussions with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority but would consider moving to another location in the vicinity should a suitable property be offered.

The hearing continues into a second day.

Ultimately, on June 17, 2002, U2 loses the battle to save the Hanover Quay recording studio from demolition when An Bord Pleanála gives the go-ahead for the redevelopment of the Hanover Quay site. The band later reaches an agreement with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority for a replacement studio building which allows them to remain in the docklands area.


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Creation of The Honourable The Irish Society

irish-society-coat-of-armsOn January 28, 1613, The Honourable The Irish Society, a consortium of livery companies of the City of London, is created by Royal Charter of James I of England to undertake the Plantation in the North West of Ulster that is then being driven by the English Crown.

Following the Gaelic defeat in the Nine Years’ War in 1603 and the Flight of the Earls in 1607, northwest Ulster is left open to colonisation. James I sets out to defend against a future attack from within or without. He finds that the town of Derry can become either a great asset as a control over the River Foyle and Lough Swilly, or it can become an inviting back door should the people of the area turn against him. He pressures the guilds of the City of London to fund the resettlement of the area, including the building of a new walled city. This results in the creation of the Society.

The city of Derry is renamed Londonderry in recognition of the London origin of the Irish Society. County Coleraine is enlarged and renamed County Londonderry after its new county town. The rural area of the county is subdivided between the Great Twelve livery companies, while the towns and environs of Londonderry and Coleraine are retained by the Irish Society.

In January 1635, the Irish Society, as well as the City of London, are found guilty of mismanagement and neglect of Derry plantation. They are sentenced to a fine of £70,000 and forfeiture of Derry property. The Society is suppressed in 1637 but is revived by Oliver Cromwell in 1650 and again after the Restoration by Londonderry’s 1662 royal charter.

The Society is involved in several controversies over the years including a dispute over fishing rights with the Church of Ireland and Bishop of Derry and a lawsuit brought by The Skinners’ Company in 1832 over the distribution of profits. The Society also has some disputes with the corporations over ownership and development of property. During the 17th and 18th centuries, four of the twelve livery companies sell their estates, with the Irish Society requiring a bond of indemnity in each case. Leases to middlemen granted by the remaining companies expire at various times during the nineteenth century, after which the companies “enormously increased the rental.”

The Society finances the building of the Guildhall in Derry. Construction begins in 1887 and it is opened in July 1890, at a cost of £19,000.

The Society remains in existence today as a relatively small grant-giving charitable body. Its educational grants are funded by its remaining property, including the Walls of Derry, a tourist attraction and heritage site, and fisheries on the River Bann. The Society is based in London, but maintains a “representative” resident in County Londonderry.


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Birth of Former IRA Chief of Staff Seán McBride

sean-macbrideSeán McBride, Irish government minister, prominent international politician, and a former Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is born in Paris on January 26, 1904. He is the son of Major John MacBride and Maud Gonne.

After his father’s execution for his participation in the Easter Rising of 1916, Seán is sent to school at Mount St. Benedict’s, Gorey, County Wexford in Ireland. In 1919, at the age of 15, he joins the Irish Volunteers, which fights as part of the Irish Republican Army, and takes part in the Irish War of Independence. He is imprisoned by the Irish Free State but is released in 1924 and resumes his IRA activities. He returns to Dublin in 1927 and becomes the Director of Intelligence of the IRA.

Toward the end of the 1920s, after many supporters have left the IRA to join Fianna Fáil, some members start pushing for a more left-wing agenda. After the IRA Army Council votes down the idea, MacBride launches a new movement, Saor Éire (“Free Ireland”), in 1931. Although it is a non-military organisation, Saor Éire is declared unlawful along with the IRA, Cumann na mBan, and nine other organizations.

In 1936, MacBride becomes Chief of Staff of the IRA after Moss Twomey is sent to prison for three years. At the time, the movement is in a state of disarray, with conflicts between several factions and personalities. In 1937, MacBride is called to the bar and then resigns from the IRA when the Constitution of Ireland is enacted later that year. As a barrister, MacBride frequently defends IRA political prisoners, but is not unsuccessful in stopping the execution of Charlie Kerins in 1944 who is convicted of killing Garda Detective Dennis O’Brien in 1942. In 1946, during the inquest into the death of Seán McCaughey, MacBride embarrasses the authorities by forcing them to admit that the conditions in Portlaoise Prison are inhumane.

In 1946, MacBride founds the republican/socialist party Clann na Poblachta, hoping it would replace Fianna Fáil as Ireland’s major political party. In October 1947, he wins a seat in Dáil Éireann at a by-election in the Dublin County constituency. However, at the 1948 general election Clann na Poblachta wins only ten seats.

MacBride is serving as Minister of External Affairs when the Council of Europe drafts the European Convention on Human Rights. He serves as President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 1949 to 1950 and is credited with being a key force in securing the acceptance of this convention, which is finally signed in Rome on November 4, 1950. He is instrumental in the implementation of the Repeal of the External Relations Act and the Declaration of the Republic of Ireland in 1949.

In 1951, Clann na Poblachta is reduced to only two seats after the general election. MacBride keeps his seat and is re-elected again in 1954. Opposing the internment of IRA suspects during the Border Campaign (1956–62), he contests both the 1957 and 1961 general elections but fails to be elected both times. He then retires from politics but continues practicing as a barrister. He expresses interest in running as an independent candidate in the 1983 Irish presidential election, but does not receive sufficient backing and ultimately does not enter the contest.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, MacBride works tirelessly for human rights worldwide. He is a founding member of Amnesty International and serves as its International chairman from 1961 until 1975. During the 1980s, he initiates the Appeal by Lawyers against Nuclear War which is jointly sponsored by the International Peace Bureau and the International Progress Organization.

MacBride is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 as a man who “mobilised the conscience of the world in the fight against injustice.” He later receives the Lenin Peace Prize (1975–76) and the UNESCO Silver Medal for Service (1980).

Seán MacBride dies in Dublin on January 15, 1988, just eleven days shy of his 84th birthday. He is buried in a simple grave in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.