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


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Birth of British Labour Politician Kevin McNamara

Joseph Kevin McNamara KSG, British Labour Party politician who serves as a Member of Parliament (MP) for almost 40 years, is born on September 5, 1934.

McNamara is educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at St. Mary’s College, Crosby and he studies for an LLB at the University of Hull. He is head of department in History at St. Mary’s Grammar School (now called St. Mary’s College) in Kingston upon Hull from 1958–64 and a law lecturer at Hull College of Commerce from 1964–66.

After unsuccessfully contesting Bridlington in 1964, McNamara is elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament (MP) for Kingston upon Hull North, in a by-election in January 1966 following the death of sitting Labour MP Henry Solomons. Labour’s hold of a former marginal seat with a significantly increased majority is widely considered to have helped to convince Prime Minister Harold Wilson to call the 1966 election to seek a larger majority.

McNamara retains his seat at the 1966 general election, and at subsequent elections until the constituency is abolished for the February 1974 general election, when he transfers to the new Kingston upon Hull Central constituency. When that constituency is abolished for the 1983 election, he is re-elected for the re-created Kingston upon Hull North constituency.

McNamara campaigns in his last years in parliament on many issues, protesting against the Act of Succession which prohibits a Roman Catholic or the spouse of a Roman Catholic to be the British monarch. He steps down at the 2005 general election, with the local Constituency Labour Party choosing Diana Johnson to stand in his place.

During the 2005 general election campaign McNamara claims some of the policies regarding illegal travelers’ sites of the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, had a “whiff of the gas chambers” about them. Howard’s grandmother died at Auschwitz.

McNamara is known throughout his parliamentary career as a supporter of Irish nationalism and favours a United Ireland. After entering parliament, he soon becomes interested in reports of discrimination against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland and supports the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster (CDU). He serves as a frontbench spokesman for the Labour Party, including Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland under Neil Kinnock, 1987–94, an appointment that is widely criticised by Unionists.

After Tony Blair becomes Labour leader, he replaces McNamara as Northern Ireland spokesman with Mo Mowlam. In 1997, he helps persuade the newly elected Labour government to donate £5,000 (thereby matching the contribution of the Irish government) for the erection of a memorial in Liverpool to the victims of the Great Irish Famine. He also supports Republicanism in the United Kingdom and joins the All-Party Parliamentary Republic Group.

McNamara is a Roman Catholic and a Knight of the Pontifical Order of Saint Gregory the Great. He is married to Nora McNamara, and is the father of four sons and a daughter.

In 2006, McNamara receives the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Hull in recognition of his long service in politics. He graduates with a Ph.D from the University of Liverpool in 2007 having completed a thesis on the MacBride Principles at the Institute of Irish Studies, where he gives the 2008 John Kennedy Lecture in Irish Studies, Perhaps It Will All Go Away – an Examination of the British Response to the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland.

In 2017, McNamara is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while on holiday in Spain. He dies on August 6, 2017 at Formby, England, at the age of 82.


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The Deal Barracks Bombing

deal-barracks-bombingThe Deal barracks bombing, an attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on the Royal Marines School of Music building at the Royal Marine Depot in Deal, England, takes place on September 22, 1989. The building collapses, killing eleven marines from the Royal Marines Band Service and wounds 21 others.

Throughout the 1980s, the IRA has been waging a paramilitary campaign against targets in Britain and Northern Ireland with the stated aim of achieving the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. These operations have included an attempt to kill British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and a similar attack on a military band in London in 1982.

At 8:22 AM on September 22, 1989, a 15 lb. time bomb detonates in the recreational centre changing room at the Royal Marines School of Music. The blast destroys the recreational centre, levels the three-story accommodation building next to it, and causes extensive damage to the rest of the base and nearby civilian homes. The blast is heard several kilometres away, shaking windows in the centre of Deal, and creating a large pall of smoke over the town. Most of the personnel who use the building as a barracks have already risen and are practising marching on the parade ground when the blast occurs. These marines witness the buildings collapse and many of the personnel are in a state of shock for days afterwards.

Some marines remain behind in the building and thus receive the full force of the explosion. Many are trapped in the rubble for hours and military heavy lifting equipment is needed to clear much of it. Kent Ambulance Service voluntarily agrees to end its industrial strike action to aid those wounded by the blast. Ten marines die at the scene with most trapped in the collapsed building, although one body is later found on the roof of a nearby house. Another 21 are seriously injured and receive treatment at hospitals in Dover, Deal, and Canterbury. One of these men, 21-year-old Christopher Nolan, dies of his wounds on October 18, 1989. Three of those killed are buried nearby at the Hamilton Road Cemetery in Deal.

The IRA claims responsibility for the bombing, saying it is a continuation of their campaign to rid Northern Ireland of all British troops who have been deployed there since 1969. Many British people are shocked at the attack, carried out on a ceremonial military band whose only military training is geared towards saving lives.

The British Government also condemns the IRA’s attack. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher makes a statement from Moscow, where she is on an official visit, saying that she is “shocked and extremely sad.” Leader of the Official Opposition, Neil Kinnock, describes the attack as an “awful atrocity” and says, “Even the people who say they support what the IRA calls its cause must be sickened by the way in which such death and injury is mercilessly inflicted.”

One week after the bombing, the staff and students of the School of Music march through the town of Deal, watched and applauded by thousands of spectators. They maintain gaps in their ranks to mark the positions of those unable to march through death or serious injury.