seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Tony Ward, Former Rugby Union & Association Football Player

Anthony Joseph Patrick Ward, Irish former rugby union and association football player during the 1970s and 1980s commonly referred to as Tony Ward, is born in Dublin on October 8, 1954. He plays rugby as a fly-half for, among others, Munster, Leinster, Ireland, the British & Irish Lions and the Barbarians. He is selected 1979 European rugby player of the year.

Ward wins 19 caps for Ireland between 1978 and 1987. He makes his international debut against Scotland at Lansdowne Road on January 21, 1978 at the age of 23. He helps Ireland win 12–9 and during the 1978 Five Nations Championship he scores 38 points, a record for a debutant. He makes one major tour with Ireland, to Australia in 1979. During his career as an Ireland international he scores 113 points, including 29 penalties, 7 conversions and 4 drop goals. He plays his last game for Ireland on June 3, 1987 in a 32–9 win over Tonga during the 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Leinsterman Ward also inspires Munster to a legendary win over New Zealand, scoring two drop goals and a conversion in a 12–0 victory at Thomond Park on October 31, 1978. To date Munster are the only Irish provincial men’s team ever to beat the All-Blacks, although having played them far more frequently than any other province and joining dozens of smaller Welsh clubs and English regions who defeated mid-week All Black teams over the same period.

Ward also plays one Test game for the British & Irish Lions during the 1980 South Africa tour. He sets a Lions Test record by scoring 18 points, including 5 penalties and a drop goal. It is also a record for any player against South Africa.

Ward is the first ever recipient of a European Rugby Player of the Year award for his performances in the 1979 Five Nations Championship.

Ward also plays association football for both Shamrock Rovers and Limerick United. In his last season with Rovers, 1974–75, he scores 6 league goals. He plays for Limerick United in the 1981–82 UEFA Cup and in 1982 he helps them win the FAI Cup.

While playing rugby Ward is a geography and PE teacher at St. Andrews School in Booterstown, Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown. During the 1990s, he is a highly valued and well respected coach for St. Andrews.

Since retiring as a sportsman, Ward has worked as a sports journalist, most notably with the Irish Independent, and as a rugby commentator for Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ). He starts as a co-commentator for the 1988 Five Nations Championship, and remains in that role for many years.

Ward is currently involved in St. Gerard’s School in Bray, County Wicklow, where he is coaching the Senior Rugby team and has been doing so for a number of years. He constantly downplays his fame and success and does not even want to be in the room if another coach plays video footage of his legendary tries.


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Death of Kevin Boland, Fianna Fáil Politician

Kevin Boland, Fianna Fáil politician who serves as Leader of Aontacht Éireann from 1971 to 1976, Minister for Social Welfare from 1961 to 1966 and 1969 to 1970, Minister for Local Government from 1966 to 1970 and Minister for Defence from 1957 to 1961, dies in Dublin on September 23, 2001. He also serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1957 to 1970. He is one of six TDs appointed as a Minister on their first day in the Dáil Éireann.

Boland is born in Dublin on October 15, 1917. He attends St. Joseph’s, Fairview, leaving in 1933. He is the son of Gerald Boland, a founder-member of Fianna Fáil, and the nephew of Harry Boland. Despite this, he fails to get elected to Dáil Éireann on his first two attempts, standing in the Dublin County constituency at the 1951 Irish general election and again at the 1954 Irish general election. Double success follows at the 1957 Irish general election, when he is not only elected to the 16th Dáil but is appointed to the cabinet as Minister for Defence on his very first day in the Dáil. This is due to the retirement of his father who had served in every Fianna Fáil government since 1932.

The Defence portfolio is largely considered a safe and uncontroversial position, so Boland makes only a small impact. As a Minister, he proudly displays a fáinne (gold ring) on the lapel of his jacket, which indicates that he is able and willing to speak the Irish language. He frequently conducts his governmental business in Irish. In 1961, he is moved from Defence to become the Minister for Social Welfare. He remains there until the retirement in 1966 of the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, when Fianna Fáil faces the first leadership contest in its history. He is then appointed Minister for Local Government which post he holds until he leaves government in 1970.

The leadership race immediately erupts as a two-horse battle between Charles Haughey and George Colley. Both of these men epitomise the new kind of professional politician of the 1960s. Things change when Neil Blaney indicates his interest in running. Boland supports him in his campaign, as both men hail from the republican and left wing of the party. There is talk at one point of Boland himself entering the leadership race. In the end Jack Lynch is chosen as a compromise, and he becomes the new Taoiseach. Boland is made Minister for Local Government in the new cabinet.

In 1969, events in Northern Ireland cause political chaos over the border in Ireland. It is the start of The Troubles in Northern Ireland and Fianna Fáil’s policy with regard to the North is coming into question. One crisis meeting is held after another, in which the possibility of decisive action is discussed. The “hawks” in the cabinet urge a symbolic invasion of Northern Ireland to protect nationalists near the border, and to draw international attention, while the “doves”, who ultimately prevail, urged caution. These cabinet meetings are heated events. On one occasion Boland is alleged to have been so angry that he resigns not only his cabinet position but also his Dáil seat and goes home to his farm in County Dublin to make hay. The resignations are rejected by Taoiseach Jack Lynch after a calming-down period. In what becomes known as the Arms Crisis, two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, are sacked from the government in May 1970, for allegedly being involved in a plot to import arms for Republicans in the North. Boland resigns in solidarity with them and in protest about the government’s position on the North. Later that year his criticism of the Taoiseach (whom Boland and many others within the Party maintain had authorized the arms importation) leads to his expulsion from the Fianna Fáil party.

One of Boland’s most famous incidents takes place at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis in 1971. Just before Jack Lynch’s speech Boland storms a nearby podium, interrupting Patrick Hillery in the middle of his speech. He openly defies the party leadership and his opponents, holding his arms wide open and shouting to the crowd, “Come on up and put me down.” While there is a lot of booing and clapping in an effort to drown him out, many of his supporters start cheering and chanting “We want Boland.” An enraged Patrick Hillery grabs his microphone and famously replies, “If you want a fight you can have it…You can have Boland, but you can’t have Fianna Fáil.” At this point the government supporters are ecstatic with cheering and Boland is carried out of the hall.

After this episode Boland founds his own political party, Aontacht Éireann (Irish Unity). It wins very little support and he fails to be elected to the Dáil in 1973, which effectively ends his political career. He and his colleagues resign from the party in 1976 after it is taken over by a number of far-right individuals. He remains an outspoken critic of the Republic’s Northern Ireland policy, particularly the Sunningdale Agreement. He makes one last attempt to reclaim a Dáil seat, standing unsuccessfully in the Dublin South-West constituency at the 1981 Irish general election. He then retires from public life completely.

In 1996, Boland sues the Irish Independent for libel after a January 20, 1993 article incorrectly states that he had appeared before the court in the Arms Trial in 1970 and had been dismissed as a Minister by Taoiseach Jack Lynch. He is awarded £75,000 in damages.

Kevin Boland dies at the age of 83 in Dublin on September 23, 2001 following a short illness.


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Birth of Gaelic Footballer Matt Connor

Matt Connor, one of the most legendary Gaelic footballers of all time, is born in Walsh Island, County Offaly, on July 9, 1960. He plays with his local club Walsh Island and is a member of the Offaly senior inter-county team from 1978 until 1984 when he is seriously injured in a car crash, resulting in his needed use of a wheelchair.

In a six-year career with Offaly Connor scores a massive 13-142 and his performance in the 1980 All Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final against Kerry when he scores 2-9 is regarded as one of the great individual performances.

Connor is a key player on the Offaly side that famously denies Kerry five-in-a-row in 1982 when he is joined by his brother Richie, who captains the side, and by his cousins Liam and Tomas, all from the small Walsh Island club just a couple of miles beyond Portarlington.

Connor is cruelly paralysed from the waist down following a car accident on Christmas Day 1984. He is only 24 years old at the time. Despite having his career cut short by injury, he remains heavily involved in Offaly GAA and serves as minor manager, senior selector and is also involved with the Irish international rules football team.

The Walsh Island native serves in Tullamore Garda station for many years and is remembered as one of the classiest forwards to ever have played the game. He retires following a 40-year career as a member of An Garda Síochána.

The Connor family has a long association with Laois through school, work and football. Connor is a regular in the press box in O’Connor Park which shares a facility with the wheelchair section and the VIP area. His older brother Richie is currently principal of Shanahoe National School and previously served as manager of the Laois and Offaly senior football teams.

In May 2020, the Irish Independent names Connor at number six in its “Top 20 footballers in Ireland over the past 50 years.”


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Murder of Journalist Eugene Moloney

Eugene Moloney, an Irish journalist renowned for his coverage of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, is found dead on Camden Street in Dublin after being attacked and struck on the head while walking in the early morning of June 24, 2012. He had worked for The Irish News in Belfast and later the Evening Herald and Irish Independent in Dublin among other newspapers.

Moloney, aged 55, who lives alone at Portobello Place on the south side of Dublin, is on his way home when he is attacked. He is punched in the side of the head and falls to the ground as the two men in their 20s attack him. The incident is caught on CCTV and police make quick arrests just hours after the murder. Officers believe Moloney may have been robbed as he lay unconscious on the ground, as his wallet and identification are missing.

A murder investigation is launched after a post mortem examination confirms that Moloney had died from serious head injuries as a result of the assault.

Formerly with The Irish News in Belfast and the Irish Independent in Dublin, Moloney had been freelancing on his return from a spell teaching in Vietnam. His final article, on the Ulster Bank IT crisis, appears in the Irish edition of the Daily Mail just hours before his death.

Group Managing Editor of Independent Papers Ireland Ltd. Michael Denieffe pays tribute to Moloney in telling the Irish Independent, “On behalf of Independent Newspapers, I want to express our shock at the untimely death of our former colleague, Eugene Moloney. He was a resourceful and fearless journalist. It is a tragic irony that Eugene has died in an incident similar to many he would have recorded in his years working for the Evening Herald and the Irish Independent. Our sympathies go to his family and friends.”

The Irish News editor Noel Doran tells the paper he is deeply shocked by the death of his good friend Eugene Moloney. “Eugene and I studied journalism together at the former College of Business Studies in Belfast in the late 1970s, and went on to share flats over a number of years. Eugene was a talented and respected reporter with The Irish News during the height of the Troubles and was also the paper’s music columnist for a lengthy period.”

(From: “Journalist Eugene Moloney murdered as attempted robbery goes wrong in Dublin” by Patrick Counihan, IrishCentral, http://www.irishcentral.com, June 25, 2012)


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Birth of John O’Keeffe, Gaelic Footballer

John O’Keeffe, former Gaelic footballer, is born on April 15, 1951 in Tralee, County Kerry. He plays with the local Austin Stacks GAA sports club and is a member of the Kerry GAA senior inter-county team from 1969 until 1984. He is a highly talented midfielder, and one of the most stylish and accomplished full-backs in Gaelic football history. He later becomes the Ireland international rules football team manager.

O’Keeffe’s father, Frank (1923-2014), is also a Gaelic footballer who plays as a left corner-forward for the Kerry senior team.

O’Keeffe wins seven All-Ireland Senior Football Championship medals and twelve Munster Senior Club Football Championship medals. Other honours won include seven National Football League medals and eight GAA Interprovincial Championship (Railway Cup) medals between Munster GAA and Combined Universities GAA. He also wins a Munster Junior Championship medal in 1969.

O’Keeffe is among the leading recipients of GAA GPA All Stars Awards, with five awards from 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, and 1979. He is also named the Texaco Footballer of the Year in 1975.

O’Keeffe retires reluctantly on medical advice after the 1984 Munster Final with a serious hip complaint, having played relatively few games in the previous eighteen months. He has hip replacement surgery some twenty years later. His last game for Kerry is in the full back position against Tipperary in the 1984 Munster Senior Club Football Championship semi-final. He always maintains that his most dangerous opponent is likely Dublin‘s Jimmy Keaveney, with whom he enjoys several battles. His performance against Offaly‘s Matt Connor in the 1982 All-Ireland final is all the more remarkable considering he has little or no training preparation owing to injury. He is consistently named as full back in various GAA players/managers best ever team selections, particularly in the years leading up to the GAA’s Centenary and beyond.

O’Keeffe is captain of the Austin Stacks team that wins the 1976 County Senior Football Championship. He also wins medals in 1973, 1974, 1979 and 1986 (following a brief comeback), as well as a Munster Club Championship in 1976 and an All-Ireland in 1977. He also wins a County Minor Hurling Championship with the club in 1967. He also captains the St. Brendan’s College, Killarney side to the school’s first Hogan Cup title in 1969.

With the University College Dublin GAA team, O’Keeffe wins a Dublin County Championship in 1974, and the Leinster Club Championships and All-Ireland Club Championships in 1973-74 and 1974-75. He also wins Sigerson Cup medals in 1973, 1974, and 1975.

O’Keeffe teaches history, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), and Physical Education at Tralee Christian Brothers School before retiring after forty years in 2011.

In May 2020, the Irish Independent places O’Keeffe at number ten in its “Top 20 footballers in Ireland over the past 50 years.”


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“The Irish Times” Is Launched In Dublin

The Irish Times is launched at 4 Lower Abbey Street in Dublin on March 29, 1859. The first appearance of a newspaper using the name occurs in 1823 but it closes in 1825. The title is revived as a thrice weekly publication by Major Lawrence E. Knox. It is originally founded as a moderate Protestant newspaper, reflecting the politics of Knox, who stands unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Isaac Butt’s Home Rule League. In its early days, its main competitor is the Dublin Daily Express.

After Knox’s death in 1873, the paper is sold to the widow of Sir John Arnott, MP, a former Lord Mayor of Cork and owner of Arnotts, one of Dublin’s major department stores. The sale, for £35,000, leads to two major changes. Its headquarters is shifted to 31 Westmoreland Street, remaining in buildings on or near that site until 2005. Its politics also shifts dramatically, becoming predominantly Unionist in outlook, and it is closely associated with the Irish Unionist Alliance. The paper, along with the Irish Independent and various regional papers, calls for the execution of the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising.

Though the paper becomes a publicly listed company in 1900, the family continues to hold a majority shareholding until the 1960s. The last member of the Arnott family to sit on the paper’s board is Sir Lauriston Arnott, who dies in 1958.

The editor during the 1930s, R. M. “Bertie” Smyllie, has strong anti-fascist views: he angers the Irish Catholic hierarchy by opposing General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Later, The Irish Times, like other national newspapers, has problems with Irish Government censorship during World War II. The newspaper is largely pro-Allied and is opposed to the Éamon de Valera government’s policy of neutrality.

In 1974, ownership is transferred to a non-charitable trust, The Irish Times Trust. The Trust is set up as “a company limited by guarantee” to purchase The Irish Times Limited and to ensure that The Irish Times will be published as an independent newspaper with specific editorial objectives. The former owner, Major Thomas Bleakley McDowell, is made “president for life” of the trust which runs the paper and is paid a large dividend. However several years later the articles of the Trust are adjusted, giving Major McDowell ten preference shares and one more vote than the combined votes of all the other directors should any move be made to remove him. Major McDowell dies in 2009.

The Trust is regulated by a legal document, the Memorandum and Articles of Association, and controlled by a maximum of eleven Governors under company law. It is not a charity and does not have charitable status. It has no beneficial shareholders and it cannot pay dividends. Any profits made by The Irish Times cannot be distributed to the Trust but must be used to strengthen the newspaper, directly or indirectly.

In 1994, The Irish Times establishes a website called Irish-times.ie, the first newspaper in Ireland and one of the first 30 newspapers in the world to do so. The company acquires the domain name Ireland.com in 1997, and from 1999 to 2008, uses it to publish its online edition. On June 30, 2008, the company relaunches Ireland.com as a separate lifestyle portal and the online edition of the newspaper is now published at irishtimes.com. It is supplied free of charge, but a subscription is charged to view its archives.

On October 15, 2012, John O’Shea, Head of Online, The Irish Times, announces that the ireland.com domain name has been sold to Tourism Ireland, and that the ireland.com email service will end on November 7, 2012, affecting about 15,000 subscribers. The newspaper announces on February 17, 2015 the reintroduction of a paywall for its website, irishtimes.com, beginning on February 23.

In December 2017, it is reported that The Irish Times has reached an agreement to purchase the newspaper, radio and website interests of Landmark Media Investments which include the Irish Examiner. Initially subject to regulatory approval, this sale is completed in July 2018. In September 2018, following the Landmark Media Investments acquisition, The Irish Times starts a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Average print circulation is approximately 100,000 copies per issue in 2011, dropping to approximately 62,000 by 2017. The circulation of the newspaper is no longer audited.


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Death of Author Benedict “Ben” Kiely

Benedict “Ben” Kiely, Irish writer and broadcaster, dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.

Kiely is born in Dromore, County Tyrone on August 15, 1919, the youngest of six children. In 1920, the family moves from Dromore to Omagh. After living for a short time in Castle Street and Drumragh, the family finally settles in St. Patrick’s Terrace in the Gallows Hill area of Omagh. This area is to be a lasting inspiration for Kiely.

Kiely begins to feel the urge to become a writer during his teenage years. He has a keen interest in the work of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Jonathan Swift. In 1936, after completing his education at Mount St. Columba Christian Brothers School in Omagh, he goes to work as a sorting clerk in the Omagh Post Office.

However, Kiely soon realises that the post office will not provide him with the life of the scholar which he so desires. In the spring of 1937, he leaves Omagh and begins a new life in Emo Park, Portarlington, County Laois, where he decides to train as a Jesuit priest. His life as a Jesuit is not meant to be for, exactly a year later, in the spring of 1938, he suffers a serious spinal injury, which results in a lengthy stay in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital in Finglas, Dublin. During his hospitalisation, he is given plenty of time to think about the course his life has already taken, and about a course it might take. He also realises that he lacks a vocation to the priesthood and abandons his training as a Jesuit.

When Kiely gets out of hospital in 1939, he returns to Omagh to recover from his back problem. The following year, he begins working as a part-time journalist in the weekly Catholic Standard newspaper. In 1943, he graduates from National University of Ireland with a B.A. in History and Letters.

In 1945, Kiely begins working for the Irish Independent, where he is employed as a journalist and critic. In 1950, he joins The Irish Press as a literary editor. In 1964, he moves to the United States where, over a period of four years, he is a Writer-in-Residence at Emory University, visiting professor at the University of Oregon, and Writer-in-Residence at Hollins College (Virginia). In 1968, he returns to Ireland. In the spring of 1976, he is Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware. He continues to receive acclaim for his writing and journalism, a career which spans over six decades, receiving the Award for Literature from the Irish Academy of Letters. By now, he is one of Ireland’s best known writers. In 1996, he is named Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour given by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Kiely visits Omagh in 2001 which is marked by the unveiling of a plaque outside his childhood home on Gallows Hill by Omagh’s Plain Speaking Community Arts group. Every September an event is held in Omagh called The Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend to celebrate his many achievements.

Benedict Kiely dies in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin on February 9, 2007.


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Death of Jim Larkin, Union Leader & Socialist Activist

James (Jim) Larkin, Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, dies in his sleep in Dublin on January 30, 1947. He is one of the founders of the Irish Labour Party, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), the Workers’ Union of Ireland and the Irish Citizen Army (ICA).

Larkin is born to Irish parents in Liverpool, England, on January 21, 1876. He and his family later move to a small cottage in Burren, County Down. Growing up in poverty, he receives little formal education and begins working in a variety of jobs while still a child.

In 1905, Larkin is one of the few foremen to take part in a strike on the Liverpool docks. He is elected to the strike committee, and although he loses his foreman’s job as a result, his performance so impresses the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) that he is appointed a temporary organiser.

Larkin moves to Belfast in 1907 to organise the city’s dock workers for the NUDL. He succeeds in unionising the workforce, and as employers refuse to meet the wage demands, he calls the dockers out on strike in June. Carters and coal men soon join in, the latter settling their dispute after a month.

In 1908, Larkin moves south and organises workers in Dublin, Cork, and Waterford, with considerable success. His involvement, against union instructions, in a dispute in Dublin results in his expulsion from the NUDL. The union later prosecutes him for diverting union funds to give strike pay to Cork workers engaged in an unofficial dispute. After trial and conviction for embezzlement in 1910, he is sentenced to prison for a year. This is widely regarded as unjust, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Aberdeen, pardons him after he has served three months in prison.

After his expulsion from the NUDL, Larkin founds the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) at the end of December 1908. The organisation exists today as the Services Industrial Professional & Technical Union (SIPTU). In early 1909, Larkin moves to Dublin, which becomes the main base of the ITGWU and the focus of all his future union activity in Ireland.

In June 1911, Larkin establishes a newspaper, The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate, as a pro-labour alternative to the capitalist-owned press. In 1912, in partnership with James Connolly, Larkin helps form the Irish Labour Party.

In early 1913, Larkin achieves some successes in industrial disputes in Dublin. Two major employers, Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company, are the main targets of Larkin’s organising ambitions. The chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company, industrialist and newspaper proprietor William Martin Murphy, is determined not to allow the ITGWU to unionise his workforce. On August 15, he dismisses 40 workers he suspects of ITGWU membership, followed by another 300 over the next week. On August 26, 1913 the tramway workers officially go on strike.

The resulting industrial dispute is the most severe in Ireland’s history. Employers in Dublin engage in a sympathetic lockout of their workers when the latter refuses to sign the pledge, employing blackleg labour from Britain and from elsewhere in Ireland. Guinness, the largest employer in Dublin, refuses the employers’ call to lock out its workers but it sacks 15 workers who struck in sympathy.

For seven months the lockout affects tens of thousands of Dublin workers and employers, with Larkin portrayed as the villain by Murphy’s three main newspapers, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, and the Evening Herald, and by other bourgeois publications in Ireland. The lockout eventually concludes in early 1914 when calls by James Connolly and Larkin for a sympathetic strike in Britain are rejected by the British Trades Union Congress (TUC). Larkin’s attacks on the TUC leadership for this stance also lead to the cessation of financial aid to the ITGWU.

Some months after the lockout ends, Larkin leaves for the United States. He intends to recuperate from the strain of the lockout and raise funds for the union. Once there he becomes a member of the Socialist Party of America, and is involved in the Industrial Workers of the World union (the Wobblies). He becomes an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet Union and is expelled from the Socialist Party of America in 1919 along with numerous other sympathisers of the Bolsheviks during the Red Scare of that year.

Upon his return to Ireland in April 1923, Larkin receives a hero’s welcome, and immediately sets about touring the country meeting trade union members and appealing for an end to the Irish Civil War. In September 1923, Larkin forms the Irish Worker League (IWL), which is soon afterwards recognised by the Communist International as the Irish section of the world communist movement.

James Larkin dies in his sleep on January 30, 1947 in the Meath Hospital in Dublin. Fr. Aloysius Travers, OFM, who had administered last rites to James Connolly in 1916, also administers extreme unction to Larkin. His funeral mass is celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who had visited him in hospital before he died, and thousands line the streets of the city as the hearse passes through on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery.

Today a statue of “Big Jim” stands on O’Connell Street in Dublin, completed by Oisín Kelly and unveiled in 1979.


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Matt Cooper Resigns as Editor of the “Sunday Tribune”

Matt Cooper resigns as editor of the Sunday Tribune on November 5, 2002 to replace Eamon Dunphy as presenter of The Last Word on Today FM. He edits his final issue of the Sunday Tribune in early November before joining The Last Word on January 6, 2003.

Today FM offers the job to Cooper a week earlier but he delays his acceptance in the interim. Dunphy describes Cooper as “a great choice and a heavyweight journalist.”

“I have enjoyed my time at the Sunday Tribune enormously and this is the only job that I would have left the paper for,” Cooper says.

When Cooper joins the Sunday Tribune in 1996 he becomes the youngest national newspaper editor in the country. Under his guidance, the paper’s circulation rises from 76,000 to 90,000 in 2001. However, sales fall to 85,000 copies in 2002.

Cooper is noted for his prolific writing output as well as regular stints as a stand-in presenter on The Last Word. He wins National Journalist of the Year in 1993 and in 2001. The Sunday Tribune says he will continue as a writer with the newspaper.

“We are sorry to see Matt leave. He made a significant contribution to the newspaper during his six years in the editor’s chair,” managing director Jim Farrelly says.

Speculation grows about who will succeed Cooper. “The appointment process will begin immediately and the job will be advertised. It will be similar to the selection process for The Irish Times editor’s job,” said Tribune spokesperson Martin Larkin.

Candidates interested in the job include Irish Independent business editor Richard Curran as well as in-house candidates Martin Wall, Diarmuid Doyle, Jim Farrelly, and Paddy Murray, who takes over as acting editor.

Much depends on the attitude of Independent News & Media, which has a 29.9% stake in Tribune Publications. It may be unwilling to grant a new editor significant funds since this would threaten the market of its flagship newspaper, the Sunday Independent. When asked about this in an interview in 2001, Farrelly says, “To grow your company, you must be financially independent.”

Acting editor Paddy Murray ultimately succeeds Cooper as full-time editor.

(From: “Last Word as Cooper quits Tribune” by Michael Brennan, Irish Examiner, November 6, 2002)


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President Mary Robinson Meets Queen Elizabeth II

robinson-elizabeth-visit-1993Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, becomes the first Irish head of state to meet with a British monarch when she visits Queen Elizabeth II on May 27, 1993.

For much of the 20th century, relations between Ireland and its nearest neighbour are cool. Temperatures drop significantly over the economic war in the 1930s and Ireland’s neutrality in World War II. The sense of unfinished business permeates diplomacy during the Troubles, but by 1990 there is significant warmth in trade, tourism, business and even politics.

The newly elected Robinson makes a big play of reaching out to Irish emigrants and sees the opportunity to help Anglo-Irish relations. And so, on her 49th birthday, she pops in for tea with the British head of state.

None of Robinson’s predecessors had set foot in Britain, other than to change planes. Even when President Patrick Hillery is invited to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, he is advised by the Government of Ireland to decline the invitation.

But Robinson decides she will not be pushed around, and successfully insists she be allowed to join other heads of state at the opening of a European bank in London. Next she asks the government if she might be able to travel to the University of Cambridge to deliver a speech and receive an honorary degree. It is only after he reluctantly agrees that Taoiseach Charlie Haughey realises that the Chancellor of the University is the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip.

Robinson meets the royal, the world remains on its axis, and a precedent is set. “Partly because I’ve never been fazed by royalty of any kind, least of all the British royal family, I felt entirely relaxed,” she recalls in her authorised biography.

Robinson next meets the prince at a memorial service for the victims of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombing in Warrington, where she is applauded as she leaves the church. Soon, she is meeting royals all over the place, at rugby matches and memorial ceremonies, and in a television interview says that she would like to meet the Queen.

By February 1993, Haughey has been replaced by Albert Reynolds and he grants permission for Robinson to travel for a strictly personal visit. The visit does not happen in a vacuum – Reynolds is in secret discussions with Republicans that would end in the IRA ceasefire – and the Taoiseach is keen not to give any suggestion that this is a State visit, which would require a reciprocal visit.

Robinson’s party arrives at Buckingham Palace at 4:55 PM on May 27 where they are greeted by the Queen’s private secretary, Sir Robert Fellowes. Robinson’s staff pushes the Palace to allow press photographers, reckoning that a historic moment should be captured.

Robinson, in an Ib Jorgensen fuchsia suit, later donated to Madame Tussauds waxworks, and her husband Nick are brought up to the first floor to meet the Queen for a friendly and informal tea party that lasts 30 minutes. They sip a blend of Chinese and India tea in Minton cups, exchange signed photographs of themselves, and discuss the prospects for peace. The President also hands over an extra present of a hand-turned wooden cup from Spiddal.

Afterwards, the ground-breaking photographs are taken and published all over the world, including the front page of the Irish Independent. “Palace Talks Prepare Way for State Visit” runs the lead headline over a piece by Bernard Purcell and Gene McKenna. They go on, reporting the President as saying the visit is “symbolic of the maturing relationship between Ireland and Britain.”

In 1996 President Robinson’s 15th visit to Britain is upgraded to an Official Visit, and she leaves office the following year.

Robinson’s successor, Mary McAleese, takes things further, and meets Queen Elizabeth II several times in London and at World War I commemorations on the continent. In May 2011 McAleese welcomes Queen Elizabeth II on her four-day State Visit to Ireland and in April 2014 President Michael D. Higgins makes the first State Visit to the UK.

(Pictured: President Mary Robinson with the Queen outside Buckingham Palace in 1993. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland | “Flashback 1993: The first Irish head of state meeting with a British monarch” by Ger Siggins, Independent.ie, May 22, 2016)