seamus dubhghaill

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


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Patrick J. Hillery Inaugurated Sixth President of Ireland

Patrick John Hillery, Irish politician, is inaugurated as the sixth President of Ireland on December 3, 1976. He serves two terms in the presidency and, though widely seen as a somewhat lacklustre President, is credited with bringing stability and dignity to the office. He also wins widespread admiration when it emerges that he has withstood political pressure from his own Fianna Fáil party during a political crisis in 1982.

Hillery is born in Spanish Point, County Clare on May 2, 1923. He is educated locally at Milltown Malbay national school before later attending Rockwell College. At third level he attends University College Dublin where he qualifies with a degree in medicine. Upon his conferral in 1947 he returns to his native town where he follows in his father’s footsteps as a doctor.

Hillery is first elected at the 1951 general election as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for Clare, and remains in Dáil Éireann until 1973. During this time he serves as Minister for Education (1959–1965), Minister for Industry and Commerce (1965–1966), Minister for Labour (1966–1969) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1969–1973).

Following Ireland’s successful entry into Europe in 1973, Hillery is rewarded by becoming the first Irishman to serve on the European Commission, serving until 1976 when he becomes President. In 1976 the Fine GaelLabour Party National Coalition under Liam Cosgrave informs him that he is not being re-appointed to the Commission. He considers returning to medicine, however fate takes a turn when Minister for Defence Paddy Donegan launches a ferocious verbal attack on President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh, calling him “a thundering disgrace” for referring anti-terrorist legislation to the courts to test its constitutionality. When a furious President Ó Dálaigh resigns, a deeply reluctant Hillery agrees to become the Fianna Fáil candidate for the presidency. Fine Gael and Labour decide it is unwise to put up a candidate in light of the row over Ó Dálaigh’s resignation. As a result, Hillery is elected unopposed, becoming President of Ireland on December 3, 1976.

When Hillery’s term of office ends in September 1983, he indicates that he does not intend to seek a second term, but he changes his mind when all three political parties plead with him to reconsider. He is returned for a further seven years without an electoral contest. After leaving office in 1990, he retires from politics.

Hillery’s two terms as president, from 1976 to 1990, end before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which sets terms for an end to violence in Northern Ireland. But he acts at crucial moments as an emollient influence on the republic’s policies toward the north, and sets a tone that helps pave the way for eventual peace.

Patrick Hillery dies on April 12, 2008 in his Dublin home following a short illness. His family agrees to a full state funeral for the former president. He is buried at St. Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, near Dublin. In the graveside oration, Tánaiste Brian Cowen says Hillery was “A humble man of simple tastes, he has been variously described as honourable, decent, intelligent, courteous, warm and engaging. He was all of those things and more.”

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The Remembrance Day Bombing

remembrance-day-bombingThe Remembrance Day bombing, also known as the Enniskillen bombing or Poppy Day massacre, takes place on November 8, 1987 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. A Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb explodes near the town’s war memorial during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony, which is being held to commemorate British military war dead. Eleven people, many of them old age pensioners, are killed and 63 are injured.

The bomb explodes as a parade of Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldiers is making its way to the memorial and as people wait for the ceremony to begin. It blows out the wall of the Reading Rooms, where many of the victims are standing, burying them under rubble and hurling masonry towards the gathered crowd. Bystanders rush to free those trapped in the rubble.

Eleven people, all Protestant, are killed by the Provisional IRA that day, including three married couples. The dead are Wesley and Bertha Armstrong, Kitchener and Jessie Johnston, William and Agnes Mullan, John Megaw, Georgina Quinton, Marie Wilson, Samuel Gault, and Edward Armstrong. Armstrong is a serving Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer and Gault has recently left the force. Gordon Wilson, whose daughter Marie dies in the blast and who is himself injured, goes on to become a peace campaigner and member of Seanad Éireann. The twelfth fatality, Ronnie Hill, dies after spending 13 years in a coma. Sixty-three people are injured, including thirteen children. Ulster Unionist politicians Sam Foster and Jim Dixon are among the crowd. Dixon receives extensive head injuries but recovers. A local businessman captures the immediate aftermath of the bombing on video camera. His footage, showing the effects of the bombing, is broadcast on international television.

A few hours after the blast, the IRA calls a radio station and says it has abandoned a 150-pound bomb in Tullyhommon, twenty miles away, after it failed to detonate. That morning, a Remembrance Sunday parade, which includes many members of the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, has unwittingly gathered near the Tullyhommon bomb. Soldiers and RUC officers were also there, and the IRA says it attempted to trigger the bomb when soldiers were standing beside it. The bomb is defused by security forces and is found to have a command wire leading to a “firing point” across the border.

The IRA apologises, saying it had made a mistake and that the target had been the UDR soldiers who were parading to the memorial. The bombing leads to an outcry among politicians in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says, “It’s really desecrating the dead and a blot on mankind.” The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tom King, denounces the “outrage” in the House of Commons, as does the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Lenihan, in Dáil Éireann. Seanad Éireann Senator Maurice Manning speaks of people’s “total revulsion.” It also facilitates the passing of the Extradition Act, which makes it easier to extradite IRA suspects from the Republic of Ireland to the United Kingdom.

The bombing is seen by many Northern Irish Protestants as an attack on them, and loyalist paramilitaries ″retaliate″ with attacks on Catholic civilians. The day after the bombing, five Catholic teenagers are wounded in a shooting in Belfast, and a Protestant teenager is killed by the Ulster Defence Association after being mistaken for a Catholic. In the week after the bombing, there are fourteen gun and bomb attacks on Catholics in Belfast.

The Remembrance Day bombing has been described as a turning point in the Troubles and an incident that shook the IRA “to its core.”


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Birth of Fianna Fáil Politician Ray Burke

ray-burkeRaphael Patrick “Ray” Burke, disgraced former Fianna Fáil politician, is born on September 30, 1943, in Dublin. He is a former Teachta Dála and government minister who is convicted and imprisoned on charges arising from political corruption in office. Burke is also highly influential in decisions made by Dublin County Council.

Burke’s political career commences when he is elected to Dublin County Council for Fianna Fáil in 1967. He serves as chairman of the council from 1985 to 1987.

Burke is elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election for the Dublin County North constituency, succeeding his father Patrick J. Burke, who has held the seat for 29 years. Ray Burke represents this constituency and its successor Dublin North until his resignation almost twenty-five years later.

After Fianna Fáil’s landslide victory at the 1977 general election, Burke is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. In October 1980 Burke is promoted to Minister for the Environment, a position he holds until June 1981 and again in the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982. After Fianna Fáil returns to power at the 1987 general election, Burke serves as Minister for Energy, where he makes controversial changes to the legislation governing oil and gas exploration. In 1988, he is appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Communications.

Following the formation of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats Coalition in 1989, he becomes Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. When Albert Reynolds comes to power in 1992, he does not re-appoint Burke to the Cabinet. Following the 1997 general election, Fianna Fáil is back in power and Burke is appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Within months of his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, allegations resurface that Burke has received IR£80,000 from a property developer regarding the former Dublin County Council. Burke denies the allegations but resigns from the Cabinet and from the Dáil on October 7, 1997, after just four months in office.

Having claimed since 1989 that Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) is biased against him, Burke is responsible for controversial legislation that severely limits RTÉ’s ability to collect advertising revenue and allows for the establishment of a series of local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio. RTÉ is ordered to provide a national transmission service for Century Radio at a price that RTÉ complains is far below the economic cost of providing such a service. Nevertheless, Century Radio fails to gain significant audience share and closes in 1991.

In July 2004 Burke pleads guilty to making false tax returns. The charges arise from his failure to declare for tax purposes the payments that he has received from the backers of Century Radio. On January 24, 2005 he is sentenced to six months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior Irish politicians to serve time in prison. He is released in June 2005 after four and a half months, earning a 25% remission of sentence because of good behaviour. He serves his time in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.