seamus dubhghaill

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


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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By February 1993, Haughey has been replaced by Albert Reynolds and he grants permission for Robinson to travel for a strictly personal visit.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)


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Birth of Pádraig Flynn, Fianna Fáil Politician

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Death of Dermot Morgan, Comedian & Actor

dermot-john-morganDermot John Morgan, Irish comedian and actor who achieves international renown for his role as Father Ted Crilly in the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted, dies of a heart attack on February 28, 1998 in Hounslow, London, England.

Morgan is born in Dublin on March 31, 1952. Educated at Oatlands College, Stillorgan, and University College, Dublin (UCD), Morgan comes to prominence as part of the team behind the highly successful RTÉ television show The Live Mike. Morgan makes his debut in the media on the Morning Ireland radio show produced by Gene Martin. Between 1979 and 1982 Morgan, who has been a teacher at St. Michael’s College, Ailesbury Road, plays a range of comic characters who appear between segments of the show, including Father Trendy, an unctuous trying-to-be-cool Catholic priest given to drawing ludicrous parallels with non-religious life in two-minute ‘chats’ to camera.

Morgan’s success as Father Trendy and other characters leads him to leave teaching and become a full-time comedian.

Morgan’s biggest Irish broadcasting success occurs in the late 1980s on the Saturday morning radio comedy show Scrap Saturday, which mocks Ireland’s political, business, and media establishment. The show’s treatment of the relationship between the ever-controversial Taoiseach Charles Haughey and his press secretary P.J. Mara prove particularly popular. When RTÉ axes the show in the early 1990s a national outcry ensues. Morgan lashes the decision, calling it “a shameless act of broadcasting cowardice and political subservience.”

Already a celebrity in Ireland, Morgan’s big break comes in Channel 4‘s Irish sitcom Father Ted, which runs for three series from April 21, 1995 until May 1, 1998. Writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews audition many actors for the title role, but Morgan’s enthusiasm wins him the part.

Father Ted centres on three disparate characters. Father Ted Crilly, played by Morgan, lives a frustrated life trapped on the fictional Craggy Island. Irish TV comedy actor Frank Kelly plays Father Jack Hackett, a foul-mouthed and apparently brain-damaged alcoholic, while child-minded Father Dougal McGuire is played by comedian Ardal O’Hanlon. The three priests are looked after by their housekeeper, Mrs. Doyle, played by Pauline McLynn, with whom Morgan had worked on Scrap Saturday. Father Ted enjoys widespread popularity and critical acclaim. In 1998, the show wins a BAFTA award for the best comedy, Morgan wins a BAFTA for best actor, and McLynn is named best actress.

On February 28, 1998, one day after recording the last episode of Father Ted, Morgan has a heart attack while hosting a dinner party at his home in southwest London. He is rushed to hospital but dies soon afterwards. Morgan’s Requiem Mass in St. Therese’s Church in Mount Merrion, south Dublin, is attended by the President of Ireland Mary McAleese, her predecessor, Mary Robinson, and by political and church leaders, many of whom had been the targets of his humour in Scrap Saturday. He is cremated at Glasnevin Cemetery and his ashes are buried in the family plot in Deansgrange Cemetery.


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Birth of Poet & Linguist Michael O’Siadhail

michael-o-siadhailMicheal O’Siadhail, poet and linguist, is born in Dublin on January 12, 1947. Among his awards are The Marten Toonder Prize and The Irish American Culture Institute Prize for Literature.

O’Siadhail is born into a middle-class Dublin family. His father, a chartered accountant, is born in County Monaghan and works most of his life in Dublin, and his mother is a Dubliner with roots in County Tipperary. Both of them are portrayed in his work in several poems such as “Kinsmen” and “Promise”. From the age of twelve, he is educated at the Jesuit boarding school Clongowes Wood College, an experience he is later to describe in a sequence of poems “Departure” (The Chosen Garden).

At Clongowes O’Siadhail is influenced by his English teacher, the writer Tom MacIntyre, who introduces him to contemporary poetry. At thirteen he first visits the Aran Islands. This pre-industrial society with its large-scale emigration has a profound impact on him. His earlier work reflects this tension between his love of his native Dublin and his emotional involvement with those outlying communities and which features in the sequence “Fists of Stone” (The Chosen Garden).

O’Siadhail studies at Trinity College Dublin (1964–68) where his teachers include David H. Greene and Máirtín Ó Cadhain. He is elected a Scholar of the College and takes a First Class Honours Degree. His circle at Trinity includes David McConnell (later professor of genetics), Mary Robinson and David F. Ford (later Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge). He subsequently embarks on a government exchange scholarship studying folklore and the Icelandic language at the University of Oslo. He retains lifelong contacts with Norwegian friends and sees Scandinavian literature as a major influence.

In 1970 O’Siadhail marries Bríd Ní Chearbhaill, who is born in Gweedore, County Donegal. She is for most of her life a teacher and later head mistress in an inner-city Dublin primary school until her retirement in 1995 due to Parkinson’s disease. She is a central figure in his oeuvre celebrated in the sequence “Rerooting” in The Chosen Garden and in Love Life, which is a meditation on their lifelong relationship. One Crimson Thread travels with the progression of her Parkinson’s Disease. She dies on June, 17, 2013.

For seventeen years, O’Siadhail earns his living as an academic; firstly as a lecturer at Trinity College (1969–73) where he is awarded a Master of Letters degree in 1971 and then as a research professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. During these years he gives named lectures in Dublin and at Harvard University and Yale University and is a visiting professor at the University of Iceland in 1982. In 1987 he resigns his professorship to devote himself to writing poetry which he describes as “a quantum leap.”

During his years as an academic, O’Siadhail, writing under the Irish spelling of his name, published works on the linguistics of Irish and a textbook for learners of Irish.

O’Siadhail serves as a member of the Arts Council of the Republic of Ireland (1987–93), of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations (1989–97) and is editor of Poetry Ireland Review. He is the founding chairman of ILE (Ireland Literature Exchange). As a founder member of Aosdána (Academy of Distinguished Irish Artists) he is part of a circle of artists and works with his friend the composer Seóirse Bodley, the painters Cecil King and Mick O’Dea and in 2008 gives a reading as part of Brian Friel‘s eightieth birthday celebration.

O’Siadhail represents Ireland at the Poetry Society‘s European Poetry Festival in London in 1981 and at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1997. He is writer-in-residence at the Yeats Summer School in 1991 and writer in residence at the University of British Columbia in 2002.

O’Siadhail is now married to Christina Weltz, who is a native of New York, and Assistant Professor of surgical oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital. They reside in New York.


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Mary Robinson Elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin

File written by Adobe Photoshop? 4.0United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, is elected Chancellor of the University of Dublin by the Trinity College Dublin senate on November 19, 1998. The University is the degree awarding body for Trinity College.

Robinson becomes the first woman in the university’s 406-year history to be elected to the position, making her the titular head of the University of Dublin of which Trinity College is the sole constituent, and represents it on ceremonial occasions. She is installed as Chancellor on December 17, 1998, replacing Dr. Francis Joseph Charles O’Reilly.

Born Mary Bourke in Ballina, County Mayo in 1944, the daughter of two physicians, she is educated at the University of Dublin (Trinity College), King’s Inns in Dublin and Harvard Law School to which she wins a fellowship in 1967. She graduates with a first class TCD law degree in 1967. She is Reid Professor of Constitutional and Criminal Law from 1969 to 1975, and lectures in European law from 1972 to 1990. She represents the university in Seanad Éireann from 1969 to 1989. She serves as the seventh (and first female) President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997.

The recipient of numerous honours and awards throughout the world including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from United States President Barack Obama, Robinson is a member of The Elders, former Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders and a member of the Club of Madrid. She is chair of the GAVI Alliance Board and President of the International Commission of Jurists.

She serves on several boards including the United Nations Global Compact, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and the American Philosophical Society and serves as President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice.


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Inauguration of Mary McAleese as 8th President of Ireland

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 100Mary Patricia McAleese (née Leneghan) is inaugurated as the eighth President of Ireland on November 11, 1997. She succeeds Mary Robinson, making her the second female president of Ireland and the first woman in the world to succeed another woman as president. She is the first president to come from Northern Ireland.

Leneghan is born into a Roman Catholic family on June 27, 1951 in Ardoyne, north Belfast. The eldest of nine children, she grows up in Northern Ireland through the violent times that have come to be known as “The Troubles.” She is educated at St. Dominic’s High School, Queen’s University Belfast, from which she graduates in 1973, and Trinity College Dublin. She is called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1974, and remains a member of the Bar Council of Ireland. In 1975, she is appointed Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin.

Leneghan marries Martin McAleese, an accountant and dentist in 1976. They have three children, Emma, born 1982, and twins Justin and SaraMai, born in 1985.

In 1987, McAleese returns to her Alma Mater, Queen’s University Belfast, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she becomes the first female Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the university.

McAleese defeats former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in an internal party election in 1997, held to determine the Fianna Fáil nomination for the Irish presidency. Her opponents in the 1997 presidential election are Mary Banotti of Fine Gael, Adi Roche of the Labour Party and two Independents, Dana Rosemary Scallon and Derek Nally.

McAleese wins the presidency with 45.2% of first preference votes. In the second and final count against Banotti, McAleese wins 55.6% of preferences. Within weeks of her November 1997 inauguration she makes her first official overseas trip to Lebanon.

McAleese describes the theme of her presidency as “building bridges.” The first individual born in Northern Ireland to become President of Ireland, McAleese is a regular visitor to Northern Ireland throughout her presidency, where she is on the whole warmly welcomed by both communities, confounding critics who had believed she would be a divisive figure. While on an official visit to the United States in 1998, Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Bernard Francis Law tells her he is “sorry for Catholic Ireland to have you as President.” She tells the cardinal that she is the “President of Ireland and not just of Catholic Ireland.”

McAleese’s initial seven-year term of office ends in November 2004, but she stands for a second term in the 2004 presidential election. She is re-elected on October 1, 2004, being the only validly-nominated candidate.

McAleese is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation.


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Mo Mowlam Presented International Woman of the Year Award

mo-mowlanMarjorie “Mo” Mowlam, English Labour Party politician, is presented with the International Woman of the Year Award at a ceremony in Dublin on October 23, 2001. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson wins the Overall Award at the Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards.

Mowlam is born on September 18, 1949 in Watford, Hertfordshire, England but grows up in Coventry. She starts her education at Chiswick Girls’ grammar school in West London, then moves to Coundon Court school in Coventry which, at the time, is one of the first comprehensive schools in the country. She then studies at Trevelyan College, Durham University, reading sociology and anthropology. She joins the Labour Party in her first year.

Mowlam becomes the Secretary of the Durham Union Society in 1969 and later goes on to become the Vice-President of the Durham Student’s Union. She works for then-MP Tony Benn in London and American writer Alvin Toffler in New York, moving to the United States with her then-boyfriend and studying for a PhD in political science at the University of Iowa.

Mowlam is a lecturer in the Political Science Department at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1977 and at Florida State University in Tallahassee from 1977 to 1979. During her time in Tallahassee, someone breaks into her apartment. She suspects that it is Ted Bundy, the serial killer and rapist who is thought to have murdered at least 35 young women and attacked several others. She returns to England in 1979 to take up an appointment at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Having failed to win selection for the 1983 general election, Mowlam is selected as Labour candidate for the safe seat of Redcar after James Tinn stands down. She takes the seat in the 1987 general election, becoming the Labour spokesperson on Northern Ireland later that year. Together with Shadow Chancellor John Smith, she is one of the architects of Labour’s “Prawn Cocktail Offensive” dedicated to reassuring the UK’s financial sector about Labour’s financial rectitude.

Mowlam joins the Shadow Cabinet when John Smith becomes leader of the Labour Party in 1992, holding the title of Shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage. During this time, she antagonises both monarchists and republicans by calling for Buckingham Palace to be demolished and replaced by a “modern” palace built at public expense. Later, her willingness to speak her mind, often without regard to the consequences, is seen as her greatest strength by her supporters.

Following Smith’s death in 1994, Mowlam, alongside Peter Kilfoyle, becomes a principal organiser of Tony Blair‘s campaign for the Labour leadership. After his victory, Blair makes her Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She initially resists being appointed to the position, preferring an economic portfolio, but, after accepting it, she throws her weight into the job.

Mowlam oversees the negotiations which lead to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. She is successful in helping to restore an Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire and including Sinn Féin in multi-party talks about the future of Northern Ireland. In an attempt to persuade the Ulster loyalists to participate in the peace process, she pays an unprecedented and potentially dangerous visit to loyalist prisoners in HM Prison Maze, meeting convicted murderers face-to-face and unaccompanied.

Mowlam witnesses the Good Friday Agreement signing in 1998, which leads to the temporary establishment of a devolved power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly. However, an increasingly difficult relationship with Unionist parties means her role in the talks is ultimately taken over by Tony Blair and his staff.

Mowlam’s deteriorating relationship with Unionists is the key reason she is replaced by Peter Mandelson as Northern Ireland Secretary in October 1999. Her move to the relatively lowly position of Minister for the Cabinet Office possibly involves other factors, notably her health and her popularity. On September 4, 2000, she announces her intention to retire from Parliament and relinquishes her seat at the 2001 general election.

Five months before the 1997 general election, Mowlam is diagnosed with a brain tumor, a fact that she tries to keep private. She appears to suffer from balance problems as a result of her radiotherapy. According to her husband, she falls on July 30, 2005, receiving head injuries and never regaining consciousness. Her living will, in which she asks not to be resuscitated, is honoured. On August 12, 2005, Mowlan is moved to Pilgrims Hospice in Canterbury, Kent, where she dies seven days later, on August 19, 2005, aged 55.

Mowlam is an atheist and is cremated in Sittingbourne on September 1, 2005 at a non-religious service conducted by Reverend Richard Coles, formerly of the 1980s band The Communards. Half of her ashes were scattered at Hillsborough Castle, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s official residence, and the other half in her former parliamentary constituency of Redcar.


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OHCHR Mary Robinson Criticises U.S. for Violating Human Rights

mary-robinsonOn August 30, 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, criticises the United States for violating human rights in its war on terrorism and of trying to scale back plans to save the world’s poorest people.

Robinson becomes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on September 12, 1997, following her nomination to the post by Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and the endorsement of the General Assembly.

She assumes responsibility for the UN human rights programme at the time when the Office of the High Commissioner and the Centre for Human Rights are consolidated into a single Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

As High Commissioner, Robinson gives priority to implementing the Secretary-General’s reform proposal to integrate human rights into all the activities of the United Nations. During her first year as High Commissioner, she travels to Rwanda, South Africa, Colombia and Cambodia, among other countries. In September 1998, she becomes the first High Commissioner to visit China and signs an agreement with the Government for OHCHR to undertake a wide-ranging technical-cooperation programme to improve human rights in that country. She also strengthens human rights monitoring in such conflict areas as Kosovo in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Her term of office expires in 2002 after sustained pressure from the United States leads her to declare she is no longer able to continue her work.

Robinson comes to the United Nations after a distinguished, seven-year tenure as President of Ireland. She is the first Head of State to visit Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide there. She is also the first Head of State to visit Somalia following the crisis there in 1992, and receives the CARE Humanitarian Award in recognition of her efforts for that country.

Before she is elected President of Ireland in 1990, Robinson serves as Senator for 20 years. Born on May 21, 1944 in Ballina, County Mayo, she is called to the bar in 1967 and two years later becomes the youngest Reid Professor of Constitutional Law at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1973, she becomes a member of the English Bar (Middle Temple). She becomes a Senior Counsel in 1980, and serves as a member of the Advisory Commission of Inter-Rights (1984-1990) and as a member of the International Commission of Jurists (1987-1990).

Educated at Trinity College, Robinson holds law degrees from the King’s Inns in Dublin and from Harvard University. She has been awarded numerous honorary degrees, medals and prizes from universities and humanitarian organizations around the world. In July 2009, she is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour awarded by the United States, by U.S. President Barack Obama.


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Birth of Edna O’Brien, Novelist, Playwright & Poet

edna-o-brienEdna O’Brien, novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer, is born in Tuamgraney, County Clare on December 15, 1930. Philip Roth describes her as “the most gifted woman now writing in English,” while the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson cites her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation.” Her works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole.

O’Brien is the youngest child of “a strict, religious family.” From 1941 to 1946 she is educated by the Sisters of Mercy, a circumstance that contributes to a “suffocating” childhood. “I rebelled against the coercive and stifling religion into which I was born and bred. It was very frightening and all pervasive. I’m glad it has gone.” She is fond of a nun as she deeply misses her mum and tries to identify the nun with her mother.

In 1950, O’Brien is awarded a licence as a pharmacist. In Ireland, she reads such writers as Leo Tolstoy, William Makepeace Thackeray, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 1954, she marries, against her parents’ wishes, the Irish writer Ernest Gébler and the couple moves to London. They have two sons but the marriage is dissolved in 1964. Gébler dies in 1998.

In London, O’Brien purchases Introducing James Joyce, with an introduction written by T. S. Eliot. When she learns that James Joyce‘s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is autobiographical, it makes her realise where she might turn, should she decide to write herself. In London she starts work as a reader for Hutchinson, where on the basis of her reports she is commissioned, for £50, to write a novel. Her first novel, The Country Girls (1960), is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II.

This novel is the first part of a trilogy of novels which includes The Lonely Girl (1962) and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). Shortly after their publication, these books are banned and, in some cases burned, in her native country due to their frank portrayals of the sex lives of their characters. Her novel A Pagan Place (1970) is about her repressive childhood. Her parents are vehemently against all things related to literature and her mother strongly disapproves of her daughter’s career as a writer.

O’Brien is a panel member for the first edition of the BBC‘s Question Time in 1979. In 2017, she becomes the sole surviving member.

In 1980, she writes a play, Virginia, about Virginia Woolf, and it is staged originally in June 1980 at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, Canada and subsequently in the West End of London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Maggie Smith and directed by Robin Phillips. It is staged at The Public Theater in New York City in 1985.

Other works include a biography of James Joyce, published in 1999, and one of the poet Lord Byron, Byron in Love (2009). House of Splendid Isolation (1994), her novel about a terrorist who goes on the run, marks a new phase in her writing career. Down by the River (1996) concerns an under-age rape victim who seeks an abortion in England, the “Miss X case.” In the Forest (2002) deals with the real-life case of Brendan O’Donnell, who abducts and murders a woman, her three-year-old son, and a priest, in rural Ireland.

O’Brien now lives in London. She receives the Irish PEN Award in 2001. Saints and Sinners wins the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the world’s richest prize for a short story collection. Faber and Faber publishes her memoir, Country Girl, in 2012. In 2015, she is bestowed Saoi by the Aosdána.


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Birth of Dolores Keane, Folk Singer & Actress

dolores-keaneDolores Keane, folk singer and occasional actress, is born on September 26, 1953 in the small village of Sylane, near Tuam, in rural County Galway. She is a founding member of the successful group De Dannan, and has since embarked on a very successful solo career, establishing herself as one of the most loved interpreters of Irish song.

Keane is raised from the age of four by her aunts Rita and Sarah Keane, who are also well-known sean-nós singers. She starts her singing at a very young age, due to the influence of her musical aunts. She makes her first recording for Radio Éireann in 1958 at the age of five. This early start sets her on the path to a career in music. Her brother, Seán, also goes on to enjoy a successful music career.

In 1975, Keane co-founds the traditional Irish band De Dannan, and they release their debut album Dé Danann in that same year. The group gains international recognition and enjoys major success in the late 1970s in the United States. She tours with the band and their single “The Rambling Irishman” is a big hit in Ireland. In early 1976, after a short two-year spell, she leaves De Dannan and is replaced by Andy Irvine, who records live with the band on April 30, 1976, during the 3rd Irish Folk Festival in Germany. Soon thereafter, she marries multi-instrumentalist John Faulkner, with whom she subsequently records three albums of folk music.

Keane lives and works in London for several years with Faulkner before they move to Ireland in the early 1980s. They work on a series of film scores and programmes for the BBC and form two successful bands, The Reel Union and Kinvara. During this period she records her first solo album, There Was a Maid in 1978. This is followed by two other releases, Broken Hearted I’ll Wander (1979) and Farewell to Eirinn (1980), which gives credit to Faulkner. In the mid-1980s she rejoins De Dannan and records the albums Anthem and Ballroom with them.

Keane turns her attention, once again, to her solo career in 1988. It sees the release of the eponymous Dolores Keane album. Her follow-up album, A Lion in a Cage (1989), features a song written by Faulkner called “Lion in a Cage” protesting the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. It serves as Keane’s second Irish number one and she performs the hit at the celebration of his release. This exposure expands her reputation and popularity worldwide. A new facet is added to her career when she plays the female lead in the Dublin production of Brendan Behan‘s The Hostage. The opening night is attended by Mary Robinson, the President of Ireland at the time.

In 1992, Keane is among the many female Irish singers to lend their music to the record-smashing anthology A Woman’s Heart. The album goes on to become the biggest-selling album in Irish history. A Woman’s Heart Vol.2 is released in late 1994 and emulates its predecessor in album charts the world over. Also in 1994, a solo album, Solid Ground, is released on the Shanachie Records label and receives critical acclaim in Europe and America.

In August 1995, Keane is awarded the prestigious Fiddler’s Green Hall of Fame award in Rostrevor, County Down, for her “significant contribution to the cause of Irish music and culture.” In that same year, she takes to the stage in the Dublin production of John Millington Synge‘s The Playboy of the Western World. She contributes to the RTÉ/BBC television production “Bringing It All Back Home,” a series of programmes illustrating the movement of Irish music to America.

In August 1997, Keane goes to number one again in the Irish album charts with a compilation album with her most loved songs. And another studio album, Night Owl, is released in 1998. It sees her returning to her traditional Irish roots and it does well in Europe and America. Despite a healthy solo career, she goes on tour with De Dannan again in the late 1990s, where she plays to packed audiences in venues such as Birmingham, Alabama and New York City.

Keane puts an end to recording and touring in the late 1990s, due to depression and alcoholism, for which she receives extensive treatment. As of June 2014, she is given the all clear after suffering from cancer.