seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams

Gerard “Gerry” Adams, Irish republican politician who is the president of the Sinn Féin political party and a Teachta Dála (TD) for Louth since the 2011 general election, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on October 6, 1948.

Adams attends St. Finian’s Primary School on the Falls Road, where he is taught by La Salle brothers. Having passed the eleven-plus exam in 1960, he attends St. Mary’s Christian Brothers Grammar School. He leaves St. Mary’s with six O-levels and becomes a barman. He is increasingly involved in the Irish republican movement, joining Sinn Féin and Fianna Éireann in 1964, after being radicalised by the Divis Street riots during that year’s general election campaign.

In the late 1960s, a civil rights campaign develops in Northern Ireland. Adams is an active supporter and joins the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967. However, the civil rights movement is met with violence from loyalist counter-demonstrations and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In August 1969, Northern Ireland cities like Belfast and Derry erupt in major rioting.

During the 1981 hunger strike, which sees the emergence of Sinn Féin as a political force, Adams plays an important policy-making role. In 1983, he is elected president of Sinn Féin and becomes the first Sinn Féin MP elected to the British House of Commons since Philip Clarke and Tom Mitchell in the mid-1950s. From 1983 to 1992 and from 1997 to 2011, he is an abstentionist Member of Parliament (MP) of the British Parliament for the Belfast West constituency.

Adams has been the president of Sinn Féin since 1983. Since that time the party has become the third-largest party in the Republic of Ireland, the second-largest political party in Northern Ireland and the largest Irish nationalist party in that region. In 1984, Adams is seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by several gunmen from the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), including John Gregg. From the late 1980s onwards, Adams is an important figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, initially following contact by the then-Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume and then subsequently with the Irish and British governments.

In 1986, Sinn Féin, under Adams, changes its traditional policy of abstentionism towards the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, and later takes seats in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly. In 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) states that its armed campaign is over and that it is exclusively committed to democratic politics.

In 2014, Adams is held for four days by the Police Service of Northern Ireland for questioning in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972. He is freed without charge and a file is sent to the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, which later states there is insufficient evidence to charge him.

In September 2017, Adams says Sinn Féin will begin a “planned process of generational change” after its November ardfheis and will allow his name to go forward for a one year term as Uachtaran Shinn Fein (President Sinn Fein).

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Assassination of Máire Drumm, VP of Sinn Féin

maire-drummMáire Drumm, vice president of Sinn Féin and a commander in Cumann na mBan, is shot dead on October 28, 1976, by Ulster loyalists dressed as doctors while recovering from an eye operation in Belfast‘s Mater Hospital.

Drumm is born in Newry, County Down to a staunchly Irish republican family. Drumm’s mother has been active in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Drumm grows up in the village of Killean, County Armagh, where she plays camogie. She is active in the republican movement after meeting her husband, a republican prisoner. She begins to speak at many rallies and protest meetings and is soon elected as Vice President of Sinn Fein. She becomes involved in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the 1960s and works to rehouse Catholics forced from their homes by loyalist intimidation.

Drumm is jailed twice for seditious speeches. After she is released from HM Prison Armagh, raids on her house by the security forces escalate. She is widely demonised in the British media and is already a target for assassination when she is admitted to Belfast’s Mater Hospital for eye treatment in October 1976.

While recovering from the operation, Drumm is shot at point blank range in a joint operation by the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association who are able to enter and leave the hospital undisturbed. No one has ever been convicted of her murder.

Drumm’s speeches and quotations can be found on murals across Northern Ireland, including:

“The only people worthy of freedom are those who are prepared to go out and fight for it every day, and die if necessary.”

“We must take no steps backward, our steps must be onward, for if we don’t, the martyrs that died for you, for me, for this country will haunt us forever.”


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Bloody Sunday in Derry, Northern Ireland

bogside-muralBloody Sunday, sometimes referred to as the Bogside Massacre, occurs on January 30, 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. Twenty-six unarmed civilians are shot by British soldiers of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, as they march in protest of internment (imprisonment without trial). Thirteen people are killed on the spot and another dies over four months later as a result of his injuries.

The march, organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and the Northern Resistance Movement, begins at about 2:45 PM at Bishop’s Field and is to conclude at the Guildhall, in the city centre, where a rally is to take place. There are as many as 15,000 people in the march, with many joining along the route.

As the march makes its way along William Street and nears the city centre, its path is blocked by British Army barricades. The organisers then redirect the march down Rossville Street with the intention of holding the rally at Free Derry Corner instead. Some of the marchers, however, break away from the march and begin throwing stones at soldiers manning the barricades. The soldiers fire rubber bullets, CS gas, and water cannon to try and disperse the rioters and observers report that this rioting is not intense.

Some of the marchers spot British paratroopers hiding in a derelict three-story building overlooking William Street and begin throwing stones at the windows. At about 3:55 PM, the first shots are fired as these paratroopers open fire with real bullets. Civilians Damien Donaghy and John Johnston are shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building. The soldiers claim Donaghy is holding a black cylindrical object.

At 4:07 PM, the paratroopers are ordered to go through the barricades and arrest rioters. On foot and in armoured vehicles, the paratroopers chase people down Rossville Street and into the Bogside. Two people are knocked down by the vehicles. Although Brigadier Pat MacLellan orders that only one company of paratroopers be sent on foot through the barricades and that they should not chase people down Rossville Street, Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford disobeys this order. This results in no separation between the rioters and the peaceful marchers.

There are many claims of paratroopers beating people, clubbing them with rifle butts, firing rubber bullets at them from close range, making threats to kill, and hurling abuse. One group of paratroopers take up position at a low wall about 80 yards in front of a rubble barricade that stretches across Rossville Street. Some of the people near the barricade throw stones at the soldiers but they are not close enough to hit the soldiers. The soldiers then open fire on the people at the barricade, killing six and wounding another.

A large group of people flee or are chased into the car park of Rossville Flats, which is like a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by high-rise flats. The soldiers open fire, killing one civilian, Jackie Duddy, who is shot in the back, and wounding six others.

Other people flee into the car park of Glenfada Park, which is also a courtyard-like area surrounded by flats. From a distance of approximately 50 yards, the soldiers shoot at people across the car park. Two civilians are killed and at least four others wounded. The soldiers pass through the car park and out the other side. Some soldiers exit the southwest corner, where they shoot and kill two civilians. The remainder exit the southeast corner and shoot four more civilians, killing two.

Only about ten minutes elapse between the time soldiers first drive into the Bogside and the time the last of the civilians is shot. Under the command of Major Ted Loden, more than 100 rounds are fired by the soldiers.

Some of those shot are given first aid by civilian volunteers, either on the scene or after being carried into nearby homes. The first ambulances arrive at 4:28 PM. The injured are then driven to the hospital, either in civilian cars or in ambulances. The three boys killed at the rubble barricade are driven to hospital by the paratroopers after, as witnesses claim, they lifted the bodies by the hands and feet and dumped them in the back of their vehicle as if they were “pieces of meat.”

In April 1972, the British government releases a report exonerating British troops from any illegal actions during the protest. The shootings act as a rallying call for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) as their numbers swell and Irish indignation over Britain’s Northern Ireland policies grow. As a result, Britain increases its military presence in the North while removing any vestige of Northern self-rule. On July 21, 1972, the IRA explode 20 bombs simultaneously in Belfast, killing British military personnel and a number of civilians. Britain responds by instituting a new court system composed of trial without jury for terrorism suspects and conviction rates exceed 90 percent. No criminal charges have ever been brought against the participating members of the British military.