seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Great Portlaoise Escape

Nineteen republican prisoners blast their way out of Portlaoise Prison in County Laois on August 18, 1974.

The escape is a timely reminder of the determination, tenacity and ingenuity with which Irish Republican Army (IRA) Volunteers throughout the country fight against British rule in Ireland. It is also a reminder to the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition Government in Leinster House that their collaboration with the British and their attempts to defeat republicanism will not be an easy task.

The determination of republicans to escape from Portlaoise is demonstrated by the escape. In May 1974, an underground escape was planned but the 80-foot tunnel was uncovered and the prisoners’ hopes were dashed. However, almost immediately plans swung into place for a more daring escape operation.

A member of the Escape Committee spots a weakness in the jail security in the area of the prison where the laundry house is situated. The laundry leads to an outside stairway and down into the courtyard, where the Governor’s House and Warders’ Mess are located.

The prisoners discover that they can gain access to the laundry area quite easily. It is a doorway at the top of the courtyard which leads out onto the streets of Portlaoise town itself that give the prisoners hope that their plan will work. However, the Escape Committee decides that they need explosives to get through this gate and send word outside to this effect. The IRA on the outside, agreeing that the plan is “viable,” send in the materials and the plan is on.

The date for the escape is set for August 18, 1974 and planning proceeds inside the prison. The prisoners set themselves to work making prison guard uniforms. The idea is that when the escapees are running through the courtyard, the troops on the roof of the jail will not be able to distinguish between the escapees and the real guards and so will not open fire. This pre-planning proves to be a brilliant ploy as it gives those escaping vital seconds to clear the courtyard and make good their escape.

On the Friday before the plan is to proceed, a number of republicans are arrested in Portlaoise. This seems a bad omen and raises questions as to whether the authorities are suspicious that an escape is planned. However, the Escape Committee and those involved in the operation decide to press ahead with the plan anyway.

Sunday, August 18 duly arrives. According to prisoners who are in Portlaoise Prison at the time, no one can eat anything that day as the tension is unbearable. At 12:30 p.m., the designated time to put the plan into action, arrives and Liam Brown approaches the guard at the gate of the lower landing and asks to be let in. This is the signal for the first team of escapees to rush forward and get the key to the laundry. The guard is quickly overpowered and gives up the key with little resistance.

With this first stage of the plan successfully completed, the escapees open the door to the stairwell and rush through to the courtyard, followed by up to 25 other prisoners. As the prisoners race to the top of the yard to place the bomb at the outside gate, the soldiers on the roof are confused by the uniforms and cannot open fire.

The bomb then explodes, blasting the door to pieces. As the prisoners make the final dash for freedom, the soldiers fire warning shots over the heads of the fleeing republicans. Some of the prisoners drop to the ground fearing the worst but as the guards race from their mess they call on the soldiers to stop firing.

Those who are captured are brought into the Wing again and the governor demands a head count. The prisoners, however, refuse to comply, adding to the confusion and thwarting the prison authorities’ attempts to identify the escapees. It is only after the guards threaten to send in the riot squad several hours later that the prisoners allow a head count to be taken. When they realise that 19 men had escaped, the joy the prisoner experience is immense as they thought only 14 had got away.

In an attempt to capture the escapees, the Dublin Government launches a statewide search operation. Every outhouse in County Wexford is searched. The Irish Naval Service is even called in and put on the alert. The searches go on for over a week but to no avail. The nineteen men had gotten clean away.

Those who escape are Liam Brown, Paddy Devenny and Micky Nolan from Belfast; Tom McFeely and Ian Milne from County Derry; Thomas McGinty and Eddie Gallagher from County Donegal; Patrick Thornberry, Kevin McAllister and Martin McAllister from County Armagh; Francis Hughes and Kevin Mallon from County Tyrone; Oliver McKiernan from County Fermanagh; Bernard Hegarty and Sam O’Hare from County Louth; Michael Kinsella and Seán Kinsella from County Monaghan; Seán Morris from County Meath; and Tony Weldon from Dublin.

(From: “30 years on: The Great Portlaoise Escape,” An Phoblacht, http://www.anphoblacht.com, August 26, 2004)


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Birth of James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster

Lieutenant-General James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, PC (Ire), Irish nobleman, soldier and politician, is born on May 29, 1722. He is styled Lord Offaly until 1744 and known as The Earl of Kildare between 1744 and 1761 and as The Marquess of Kildare between 1761 and 1766.

FitzGerald is the son of Robert FitzGerald, 19th Earl of Kildare, and Lady Mary, daughter of William O’Brien, 3rd Earl of Inchiquin.

FitzGerald is a member of the Irish House of Commons for Athy from 1741 before succeeding his father as 20th Earl of Kildare in 1744. He is sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1746 and in 1747, on the occasion of his marriage, he is created Viscount Leinster, of Taplow in the County of Buckingham, in the Peerage of Great Britain, and takes his seat in the British House of Lords that same year. From 1749 to 1755 he is one of the leaders of the Popular Party in Ireland, and serves as the country’s Master-General of the Ordnance between 1758 and 1766, becoming Colonel of the Royal Irish Artillery in 1760. He is promoted to Major-General in 1761 and to Lieutenant-General in 1770.

In 1761 FitzGerald is created Earl of Offaly and Marquess of Kildare in the Peerage of Ireland and in 1766 he is further honoured when he is made Duke of Leinster, becoming by this time the Premier Duke, Marquess and Earl in the Peerage of Ireland.

FitzGerald marries the 15-year-old Lady Emily Lennox, daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and one of the famous Lennox sisters, in London on February 7, 1747. She descends from King Charles II and is therefore a distant fifth cousin of King George III (both of them are descended from King James VI and I). The couple has nineteen children.

FitzGerald dies at the age of 51 at Leinster House, Dublin, on November 19, 1773, and is buried in the city’s Christ Church Cathedral. He is succeeded by his second (but eldest surviving) son, William, Marquess of Kildare. The Duchess of Leinster causes a minor sensation by marrying her lover William Ogilvie in 1774, but continues to be known as The Dowager Duchess of Leinster. She has a further three children by him. She dies in London at the age of 82 in March 1814.

In 1999, Irish Screen, BBC America and WGBH produce Aristocrats, a six-part limited television series based on the lives of Emily Lennox and her sisters. FitzGerald is portrayed by Ben Daniels.

(Pictured: James FitzGerald, 1st Duke of Leinster, by Joshua Reynolds, 1753)


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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 James McNeill, Second Governor-General of the Irish Free State

James McNeill, Irish politician and diplomat who serves as first High Commissioner to London and second Governor-General of the Irish Free State, dies on December 12, 1938.

One of five children born to Archibald McNeill, a Roman Catholic working class “baker, sailor and merchant,” and his wife, Rosetta (née McAuley) McNeill, McNeill is the brother of nationalist leader Eoin MacNeill. He serves as a high-ranking member of the Indian Civil Service in Calcutta.

Although unconnected with the Easter Rising in 1916, McNeill is arrested and jailed by the British Dublin Castle administration. On release, he is elected to Dublin County Council, becoming its chairman. He serves as a member of the committee under Michael Collins, the chairman of the Provisional Government, that drafts the Constitution of the Irish Free State. He is subsequently appointed as High Commissioner from Ireland to the United Kingdom.

When the first Governor-General of the Irish Free State, Tim Healy, retires in December 1927, McNeill is proposed as his replacement by the Irish government of W. T. Cosgrave and duly appointed by King George V as Governor-General of the Irish Free State.

In office, McNeill clashes with the King’s Private Secretary when he insists on following the constitutional advice of his Irish ministers, rather than that of the Palace, in procedures relating to the receipt of Letters of Credence accrediting ambassadors to the King in Ireland. He also refuses to attend ceremonies in Trinity College, Dublin, when some elements in the college try to ensure that the old British national anthem God Save the King is played, rather than the new Irish anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann.

When Éamon de Valera is nominated as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State in 1932, McNeill opts to travel to Leinster House, the parliament buildings, to appoint de Valera, rather than to require that he go to the Viceregal Lodge, the Governor-General’s residence and the former seat of British Lords Lieutenant, to avoid embarrassing de Valera, who is a republican.

However, McNeill’s tact is not reciprocated by de Valera’s government, and some of its ministers seek to humiliate him as the King’s representative by withdrawing the Irish Army‘s band from playing at functions he attends and demanding he withdraw invitations to visitors to meet him. In one notorious incident in April, two ministers, Seán T. O’Kelly (a future President of Ireland) and Frank Aiken, publicly walk out of a diplomatic function when McNeill, there as the guest of the French ambassador, arrives. In a fury, McNeill writes to de Valera demanding an apology for this treatment. When none is forthcoming, apart from an ambiguous message from de Valera that could be interpreted as partially blaming McNeill for attending functions at which ministers would be present, he publishes his correspondence with de Valera, even though de Valera had formally advised him not to do so. De Valera then demands that George V dismiss him.

The King engineers a compromise, whereby de Valera withdraws his dismissal request and McNeill, who is due to retire at the end of 1932, will push forward his retirement date by a month or so. McNeill, at the King’s request, resigns on November 1, 1932.

In June 1932 John Charles McQuaid, President of Blackrock College hosts an extravagant garden party to welcome Papal Legate Lorenzo Lauri, who had arrived in Ireland to represent Pope Pius XI at the 31st International Eucharistic Congress. While de Valera maintains a very high profile at the event, McQuaid, at de Valera’s request, goes to great lengths to avoid MacNeill to the extent possible.

McNeill dies on December 12, 1938 at the age of 69 in London. His widow Josephine is appointed Minister to the Hague by Seán MacBride, Minister for External Affairs in the coalition government of 1948.


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Death of Kieran Doherty, Irish Republican Hunger Striker

Kieran Doherty, Irish republican hunger striker and politician who serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency from June 1981 to August 1981, dies on August 2, 1981 in HM Prison Maze (known to republicans as Long Kesh) on the 73rd day of his hunger strike. He is a volunteer in the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Doherty is the third son in a family of six. He is born on October 16, 1955 in the Andersonstown area of Belfast and is educated at St. Theresa’s Primary School and Glen Road Christian Brothers School (CBS). The Doherty brothers are known cyclists and sportsmen in the Andersontown area. He wins an Antrim Gaelic football medal at minor level in 1971.

Doherty joins Fianna Éireann in 1971 and is interned by the British Government between February 1973 and November 1975. His brothers Michael and Terence are interned between 1972 and 1974.

Doherty works as an apprentice heating engineer. His girlfriend is Geraldine Scheiss and, although they never become formally engaged, they become very close toward the end of his life. Before his arrest, she had not known that he is in the IRA.

In August 1976, while he is out to set a bomb, the van in which he is riding is chased by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). During the chase Doherty manages to leave the van and hijack a car. He later ditches the car and is found one mile away from the car. He is convicted and sentenced to 18 years for possession of firearms and explosives, with another four years for the hijack.

Doherty starts his hunger strike on May 22, 1981. While on hunger strike he is elected as an Anti H-Block TD for the Cavan–Monaghan constituency at the 1981 Irish general election, which is held on June 11. He receives 9,121 (15.1%) first preference votes and is elected on the fourth count. The two seats gained by Anti H-Block candidates denies Taoiseach Charles Haughey the chance to form a government, and the 22nd Dáil Éireann sees a Fine GaelLabour Party coalition government come to office, with Garret FitzGerald as Taoiseach.

Doherty dies at the age of 25 on August 2, 1981. He lasts 73 days on hunger strike, the longest of the 1981 hunger strikers, and only one day short of Terence MacSwiney. He is the shortest-serving Dáil deputy ever, serving as a TD for only two months.

Doherty is commemorated on the Irish Martyrs Memorial at Waverley Cemetery in Sydney, Australia. In October 2016, a painting of him is unveiled in Leinster House by Sinn Féin.


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The 1987 Irish General Election

The 1987 Irish general election is held on Tuesday, February 17, 1987, four weeks after the dissolution of the Dáil. The general election takes place in 41 parliamentary constituencies throughout Ireland for 166 seats in the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.

The general election of 1987 is precipitated by the withdrawal of the Labour Party from the Fine Gael-led government on January 20, 1987. The reason is a disagreement over budget proposals. Rather than attempt to press on with the government’s agenda, the Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, Garret FitzGerald, decides to dissolve the Dáil. An unusually long period of four weeks is set for the campaign. It is hoped that the electorate will warm to Fine Gael’s budget proposals during the campaign.

Fianna Fáil‘s campaign involves a refusal to make any definite commitments. However, it attempts to convince the electorate that the country will be better under Fianna Fáil. Charles Haughey‘s attitudes toward Northern Ireland and the Anglo-Irish Agreement are both attacked. However, the campaign is mostly fought on economic issues.

The Labour Party decides against any pre-election pact, particularly with Fine Gael. The Progressive Democrats (PD), founded only two years earlier, surpass Labour as the third-biggest political party in the Dáil. Although the majority of the PD party consists of Fianna Fáil defectors, it mainly takes seats from Fine Gael. The Labour Party fails to make any impact with its leader, Dick Spring, almost losing his seat.

In spite of the opinion polls suggesting otherwise, Fianna Fáil once again fails to win an overall majority. However, it is able to form a minority government and Charles Haughey is back for his third and final term as Taoiseach. The Fianna Fáil government of 1987 to 1989 is the last time to date that a government composed only of members of one party has been formed in Ireland.

The newly elected 166 members of the 25th Dáil assemble at Leinster House on March 10, 1987 when a new Taoiseach and a Fianna Fáil minority government are appointed.


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The Hanging of Irish Republican Charlie Kerins

Charlie Kerins, a physical force Irish Republican and Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is hanged on December 1, 1944 at Mountjoy Prison in Dublin by the English hangman Albert Pierrepoint.

Kerins is born in Caherina, Tralee, County Kerry and attends Balloonagh Mercy Convent School and then the CBS, Edward Street. At the age of 13, he wins a Kerry County Council scholarship and completes his secondary education at the Green Christian Brothers and the Jeffers Institute. In 1930, he passes the Intermediate Certificate with honours and the matriculation examination to the National University of Ireland (NUI). He later does a commercial course and takes up employment in a radio business in Tralee.

In 1940, Kerins is sworn into the IRA and is appointed to the GHQ staff in May 1942. At the time, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera is determined to preserve Irish neutrality during World War II. Therefore, the IRA’s bombing campaign in England, its attacks against targets in Northern Ireland, and its ties to the intelligence services of Nazi Germany are regarded as severe threats to Ireland’s national security. IRA men who are captured by the Gardaí are interned for the duration of the war by the Irish Army in the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.

On the morning of September 9, 1942, Garda Detective Sergeant Denis O’Brien is leaving his home in Ballyboden, Dublin. He is between his front gate and his car when he is cut down with Thompson submachine guns. O’Brien, an Anti-Treaty veteran of the Irish Civil War, had enlisted in the Garda Síochána in 1933. He is one of the most effective Detectives of the Special Branch division, which has its headquarters at Dublin Castle. The shooting greatly increases public feeling against the IRA, particularly as the murder is carried out in full view of his wife.

Following the arrest of Hugh McAteer in October 1942, Kerins is named Chief of Staff of the IRA. Despite a massive manhunt by Gardaí, he remains at large for two years. He stays at a County Waterford home for two weeks while he is on the run, having given his name as Pat Carney. He is captured several months after he leaves the home.

Kerins had previously left papers and guns hidden at Kathleen Farrell’s house in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines. He telephones the house, as he intends to retrieve them. However, Farrell’s telephone had been tapped by the Gardaí. On June 15, 1944, he is arrested in an early morning raid. He is sleeping when the Gardaí enter his bedroom and does not have an opportunity to reach the Thompson submachine gun which is hidden under his bed.

At a trial before the Special Criminal Court in Collins Barracks, Dublin, Kerins is formally charged on October 2, 1944 for the “shooting at Rathfarnham of Detective Dinny O’Brien.” At the end of his trial, the president of the Military Court delays sentence until later in the day to allow Kerins, if he wishes, to make an application whereby he might avoid a capital sentence. When the court resumes, he says, “You could have adjourned it for six years as far as I am concerned, as my attitude towards this Court will always be the same.” He thus deprives himself of the right to give evidence, to face cross-examination, or to call witnesses.

Despite legal moves initiated by Seán MacBride, public protests, and parliamentary intervention by TDs from Clann na Talmhan, Labour, and Independent Oliver J. Flanagan in Leinster House, the Fianna Fáil government of Éamon de Valera refuses to issue a reprieve. On December 1, 1944 in Mountjoy Prison, Kerins is hanged by British chief executioner Albert Pierrepoint, who is employed by the Irish Government for such occasions.

Kerins is the last IRA member to be executed in the Republic of Ireland. He is buried in the prison yard. In September 1948, his remains are exhumed and released to his family. He is buried in the Republican plot at Rath Cemetery, Tralee, County Kerry.


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Birth of Neil Blaney, Fianna Fáil Politician

Neil Terence Columba Blaney, Irish politician first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1948 as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) representing Donegal East, is born on October 1, 1922 in Fanad, County Donegal. He serves as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (1957), Minister for Local Government (1957–1966) and Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (1966–1970). He is Father of the Dáil from 1987 until his death.

Blaney is the second eldest of a family of eleven. His father, from whom he got his strong republican views and his first introduction to politics, had been a commander in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Donegal during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. He is educated locally at Tamney on the rugged Fanad Peninsula and later attends St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny. He later works as an organiser with the Irish National Vintners and Grocers Association.

Blaney is first elected to Dáil Éireann for the Donegal East constituency in a by-election in December 1948, following the death of his father from cancer. He also becomes a member of the Donegal County Council. He remains on the backbenches for a number of years before he is one of a group of young party members handpicked by Seán Lemass to begin a re-organisation drive for the party following the defeat at the 1954 general election. Within the party he gains fame by running the party’s by-election campaigns throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His dedicated bands of supporters earn the sobriquet “the Donegal Mafia,” and succeed in getting Desmond O’Malley and Gerry Collins elected to the Dáil.

Following Fianna Fáil’s victory at the 1957 general election, Éamon de Valera, as Taoiseach, brings new blood into the Cabinet in the shape of Blaney, Jack Lynch, Kevin Boland and Mícheál Ó Móráin. Blaney is appointed Minister for Posts and Telegraphs however he moves to the position of Minister for Local Government at the end of 1957 following the death of Seán Moylan. He retains the post when Lemass succeeds de Valera as Taoiseach in 1959. During his tenure it becomes possible to pay rates by installment and he also introduces legislation which entitles non-nationals to vote in local elections.

In 1966 Lemass resigns as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. The subsequent leadership election sees Cork politician Jack Lynch become party leader and Taoiseach. In the subsequent cabinet reshuffle Blaney is appointed Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

In 1969, when conflict breaks out in Northern Ireland, Blaney is one of the first to express strong Irish republican views, views which contradict the policy of the Irish Government, in support of Northern nationalists. From around late 1968 onwards, he forms and presides over an unofficial Nationalist group in Leinster House popularly known as “the Letterkenny Table.” The group is dominated by Blaney up until his death.

There is general surprise when, in an incident known as the Arms Crisis, Blaney, along with Charles Haughey, is sacked from Lynch’s cabinet amid allegations of the use of the funds to import arms for use by the IRA. Lynch asked for their resignations but both men refuse, saying they did nothing illegal. Lynch then advises President de Valera to sack Haughey and Blaney from the government. Haughey and Blaney are subsequently tried in court but are acquitted. However, many of their critics refuse to recognise the verdict of the courts. Although Blaney is cleared of wrongdoing, his ministerial career is brought to an end.

Lynch subsequently moves against Blaney so as to isolate him in the party. When Blaney and his supporters try to organise the party’s national collection independently, Lynch acts and in 1972 Blaney is expelled from Fianna Fáil for “conduct unbecoming.”

Following his expulsion from Fianna Fáil, Kevin Boland tries to persuade Blaney to join the Aontacht Éireann party he is creating but Blaney declines. Instead, he contests all subsequent elections for Independent Fianna Fáil – The Republican Party, an organisation that he built up. Throughout the 1970s there are frequent calls for his re-admittance to Fianna Fáil but the most vocal opponents of this move are Fianna Fáil delegates from County Donegal.

At the 1979 European Parliament elections Blaney tops the poll in the Connacht–Ulster constituency to the annoyance of Fianna Fáil. He narrowly loses the seat at the 1984 election but is returned to serve as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) in the 1989 election where he sits with the regionalist Rainbow Group. He also canvasses for IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, in which Sands is elected to Westminster.

Blaney holds his Dáil seat until his death from cancer at the age of 73 on November 8, 1995 in Dublin.


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Birth of Sculptor John Hughes

john-hughesJohn Hughes, Irish sculptor, is born in Dublin on January 30, 1865.

Hughes is educated at North Richmond Street CBS. He enters the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin in 1878 and trains as a part-time student for ten years. In 1890 he wins a scholarship to the South Kensington School of Art in London, after which another scholarship takes him to Paris, France. He then studies further in Italy.

Hughes is appointed as teacher to the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin in 1894 and in 1902 becomes Professor of Sculpture in the Royal Hibernian Academy School. His last residence in Dublin is at 28 Lennox Street, Portobello.

From 1903 Hughes lives in Italy and in France, dying in Nice in 1941.

Hughes’s influences are mainly from the Italian Renaissance and include:


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Muhammad Ali Fights Al Lewis in Dublin

muhammad-ali-and-al-lewisMuhammad Ali fights Al “Blue” Lewis in Dublin on July 19, 1972 and defeats him via a technical knockout (TKO) in the eleventh round.

After losing to Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali goes on something of a world tour, fighting 13 times in six countries before defeating Frazier in a rematch in January 1974.

The promotion is the brainchild of a character from County Kerry named Butty Sugrue, known throughout Ireland as a circus strongman, whose alleged claim to fame is pulling double-decker buses by a rope in his teeth. Dublin journalists laugh at him when he first announces his intentions.

But despite the scepticism, the fight is arranged for July 19, 1972. As soon as he steps off the plane at Dublin Airport, Ali, ever the showman, immediately captures the heart of a nation by announcing that he has Irish roots. In the 1860s, Abe Grady left his native Ennis in County Clare and emigrated to the United States. In Kentucky, he met and married an emancipated slave. A century later Abe Grady’s great grandson Muhammad Ali touches down in Dublin.

In the week leading up to the fight Ali meets people from all walks of life in Dublin. He spends time with celebrities, including actor Peter O’Toole, and playfully spars with director John Huston, whose boxing movie, Fat City, is screened with both Ali and Lewis in attendance.

Ali also meets politicians, including Taoiseach Jack Lynch in Leinster House and political activist Bernadette Devlin. The Cork Examiner comments on how popular Ali has proven with politicians in Ireland. “Not since the late President John F. Kennedy was in Dublin in 1963 has a visitor from abroad been given as big a welcome at Leinster House as that accorded to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali is always about so much more than boxing, and that week in Dublin is another case in point, as the fight itself is not a classic. He has a cold and is wary of Lewis, who is a dangerous fighter and a man who had previously served time in prison for manslaughter. Ali who, prior to the bout predicts that his opponent’s chances of victory lay somewhere between “slim and none,” eventually wins with a TKO in the eleventh round.

In 2009, Ali returns to Ireland to visit Ennis in County Clare, the home town of his ancestor Abe Grady, where he is granted the freedom of the town. The huge crowds who come out to meet him are testament to his enduring appeal. But the magic of Muhammad Ali leaves an indelible impact on Ireland after his 1972 visit as the late Budd Schulberg, a legendary boxing writer, said, “Ali was like the Pied Piper. It was really kind of magical. He had enormous influence over there. He was a fellow Irishman.”

(From: “When Ali thrilled Ireland: How ‘the Greatest’ shook up Dublin” by Peter Crutchley, BBC NI Digital & Learning, June 6, 2016)