seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Death of Patrick Hillery, Sixth President of Ireland

Patrick John Hillery, Irish politician and the sixth President of Ireland, dies in Glasnevin, Dublin, at the age of 84 on April 12, 2008, following a short illness. 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 Irish 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 the European Economic Community 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.”


Leave a comment

Tribunal of Inquiry Into Bloody Sunday 1972 Announced

On January 31, 1972, the day after Bloody Sunday, British Home Secretary Reginald Maudling announces a tribunal of inquiry “into the circumstances of the march and the incidents leading up to the casualties which resulted.”

The official British Army position, backed by Maudling in the House of Commons, is that the paratroopers reacted to gun and nail bomb attacks from suspected Irish Republican Army (IRA) members. Apart from the soldiers, all eyewitnesses — including marchers, local residents, and British and Irish journalists present — maintain that soldiers fired into an unarmed crowd, or were aiming at fleeing people and those tending the wounded, whereas the soldiers themselves were not fired upon. No British soldier is wounded by gunfire or reports any injuries, nor are any bullets or nail bombs recovered to back up their claims.

On February 2, 1972, the day that twelve of those killed are buried, there is a general strike in the Republic of Ireland, the biggest such strike in Europe since World War II relative to population. Memorial services are held in Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as synagogues, throughout the Republic. The same day, irate crowds burn down the British embassy in Merrion Square in Dublin. Anglo-Irish relations hit one of their lowest ebbs with the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Patrick Hillery, going to the United Nations Security Council to demand the involvement of a UN peacekeeping force in the Northern Ireland conflict.

In the days following Bloody Sunday, Bernadette Devlin, the independent Irish nationalist Member of Parliament (MP) for Mid Ulster, expresses anger at what she perceives as British government attempts to stifle accounts being reported about the shootings. Having witnessed the events firsthand, she is infuriated that the Speaker of the House of Commons, Selwyn Lloyd, consistently denies her the chance to speak in Parliament about the shootings, although parliamentary convention decrees that any MP witnessing an incident under discussion will be granted an opportunity to speak about it in Parliament. Devlin slaps Reginald Maudling and calls him a “murdering hypocrite” when he makes a statement to Parliament that the British Army had fired only in self-defence. She is temporarily suspended from Parliament as a result.

An inquest into the deaths is held in August 1973. The city’s coroner, Hubert O’Neill, a retired British Army major, issues a statement at the completion of the inquest. He declares:

“This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. It strikes me that the Army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. These people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder. It was murder.”

(Pictured: Home Secretary Reginald Maudling (left) and Member of Parliament for Mid Ulster Bernadette Devlin)


Leave a comment

Death of Kevin Boland, Fianna Fáil Politician

Kevin Boland, Fianna Fáil politician who serves as Leader of Aontacht Éireann from 1971 to 1976, Minister for Social Welfare from 1961 to 1966 and 1969 to 1970, Minister for Local Government from 1966 to 1970 and Minister for Defence from 1957 to 1961, dies in Dublin on September 23, 2001. He also serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1957 to 1970. He is one of six TDs appointed as a Minister on their first day in the Dáil Éireann.

Boland is born in Dublin on October 15, 1917. He attends St. Joseph’s, Fairview, leaving in 1933. He is the son of Gerald Boland, a founder-member of Fianna Fáil, and the nephew of Harry Boland. Despite this, he fails to get elected to Dáil Éireann on his first two attempts, standing in the Dublin County constituency at the 1951 Irish general election and again at the 1954 Irish general election. Double success follows at the 1957 Irish general election, when he is not only elected to the 16th Dáil but is appointed to the cabinet as Minister for Defence on his very first day in the Dáil. This is due to the retirement of his father who had served in every Fianna Fáil government since 1932.

The Defence portfolio is largely considered a safe and uncontroversial position, so Boland makes only a small impact. As a Minister, he proudly displays a fáinne (gold ring) on the lapel of his jacket, which indicates that he is able and willing to speak the Irish language. He frequently conducts his governmental business in Irish. In 1961, he is moved from Defence to become the Minister for Social Welfare. He remains there until the retirement in 1966 of the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass, when Fianna Fáil faces the first leadership contest in its history. He is then appointed Minister for Local Government which post he holds until he leaves government in 1970.

The leadership race immediately erupts as a two-horse battle between Charles Haughey and George Colley. Both of these men epitomise the new kind of professional politician of the 1960s. Things change when Neil Blaney indicates his interest in running. Boland supports him in his campaign, as both men hail from the republican and left wing of the party. There is talk at one point of Boland himself entering the leadership race. In the end Jack Lynch is chosen as a compromise, and he becomes the new Taoiseach. Boland is made Minister for Local Government in the new cabinet.

In 1969, events in Northern Ireland cause political chaos over the border in Ireland. It is the start of The Troubles in Northern Ireland and Fianna Fáil’s policy with regard to the North is coming into question. One crisis meeting is held after another, in which the possibility of decisive action is discussed. The “hawks” in the cabinet urge a symbolic invasion of Northern Ireland to protect nationalists near the border, and to draw international attention, while the “doves”, who ultimately prevail, urged caution. These cabinet meetings are heated events. On one occasion Boland is alleged to have been so angry that he resigns not only his cabinet position but also his Dáil seat and goes home to his farm in County Dublin to make hay. The resignations are rejected by Taoiseach Jack Lynch after a calming-down period. In what becomes known as the Arms Crisis, two ministers, Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney, are sacked from the government in May 1970, for allegedly being involved in a plot to import arms for Republicans in the North. Boland resigns in solidarity with them and in protest about the government’s position on the North. Later that year his criticism of the Taoiseach (whom Boland and many others within the Party maintain had authorized the arms importation) leads to his expulsion from the Fianna Fáil party.

One of Boland’s most famous incidents takes place at the Fianna Fáil Ardfheis in 1971. Just before Jack Lynch’s speech Boland storms a nearby podium, interrupting Patrick Hillery in the middle of his speech. He openly defies the party leadership and his opponents, holding his arms wide open and shouting to the crowd, “Come on up and put me down.” While there is a lot of booing and clapping in an effort to drown him out, many of his supporters start cheering and chanting “We want Boland.” An enraged Patrick Hillery grabs his microphone and famously replies, “If you want a fight you can have it…You can have Boland, but you can’t have Fianna Fáil.” At this point the government supporters are ecstatic with cheering and Boland is carried out of the hall.

After this episode Boland founds his own political party, Aontacht Éireann (Irish Unity). It wins very little support and he fails to be elected to the Dáil in 1973, which effectively ends his political career. He and his colleagues resign from the party in 1976 after it is taken over by a number of far-right individuals. He remains an outspoken critic of the Republic’s Northern Ireland policy, particularly the Sunningdale Agreement. He makes one last attempt to reclaim a Dáil seat, standing unsuccessfully in the Dublin South-West constituency at the 1981 Irish general election. He then retires from public life completely.

In 1996, Boland sues the Irish Independent for libel after a January 20, 1993 article incorrectly states that he had appeared before the court in the Arms Trial in 1970 and had been dismissed as a Minister by Taoiseach Jack Lynch. He is awarded £75,000 in damages.

Kevin Boland dies at the age of 83 in Dublin on September 23, 2001 following a short illness.


Leave a comment

Death of Valerie Hamilton, Hon. Lady Goulding

Valerie Hamilton, Hon. Lady Goulding, Irish senator and campaigner for disabled people, dies in a Dublin nursing home on July 28, 2003. She, alongside Kathleen O’Rourke, sets up the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) in 1951 which is now the largest organisation in Ireland looking after people with physical disabilities. She served as a member of Seanad Éireann from 1977 to 1981.

Born Valerie Hamilton Monckton at Ightham Mote in Ightham, Kent, England on September 12, 1918, she is the only daughter of Mary Adelaide Somes Colyer-Ferguson and Sir Walter Monckton (later 1st Viscount Monckton of Brenchley). Ightham Mote is owned by her maternal grandfather, Sir Thomas Colyer-Fergusson, until his death in 1951. Her only brother, Gilbert (1915–2006), becomes a major general in the British Army. She is educated at Downe House School, near Newbury. Both she and her brother eventually convert to Roman Catholicism.

Hamilton’s father is a British lawyer and politician, and becomes chief legal adviser to Edward VIII during the Abdication Crisis in 1936. She acts as her father’s secretary and courier during the crisis, carrying letters between the King and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.

In World War II, Hamilton joins the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry before switching to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In Dublin for a race meeting in 1939, she meets and soon marries Irish fertiliser manufacturer and art collector Sir Basil Goulding and moves to Ireland. However, her husband moves to England to join the Royal Air Force, ending the war as a wing commander. Meanwhile, she serves as a second lieutenant in the British Army. After the war, the couple returns to Ireland, where Sir Basil and his family manage Goulding Chemicals.

In 1951, Lady Goulding co-founds, with Kathleen O’Rourke, the Central Remedial Clinic located in a couple of rooms in central Dublin to provide non-residential care for disabled people. The Clinic later moves to a purpose building in Clontarf in 1968, where it is located today. The Clinic’s foundation initiates a revolution in the treatment of physical disability and rapidly grows to by far the largest centre dealing with the needs of disabled people. She remains chairman and managing director of the CRC until 1984.

On account of her widespread popularity, Lady Goulding is nominated by Taoiseach Jack Lynch to Seanad Éireann, where she works to raise awareness of disability issues in 1977. She seeks election to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil candidate at the November 1982 Irish general election for the Dún Laoghaire constituency but is unsuccessful. She is mentioned as a possible President of Ireland in 1983, should the president, Patrick Hillery, decline to seek a second term. Hillery ultimately is re-elected.

Lady Goulding dies at the age of 84 in a nursing home in Dublin on July 28, 2003. She is predeceased by her husband in 1982, but is survived by her sons, the eldest of whom, Sir William Goulding, known as Lingard Goulding, serves as Headmaster of Headfort School in County Meath. The other sons are Hamilton and Timothy, who is a founding member of the experimental Irish folk group Dr. Strangely Strange.


Leave a comment

Birth of Justice Catherine McGuinness

Catherine McGuinness (née Ellis), retired Irish judge, is born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on November 14, 1934. She serves as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Ireland from 2000 to 2006, a Judge of the High Court from 1996 to 2000, a Judge of the Circuit Court from 1994 to 1996 and a Senator for the University of Dublin from 1979 to 1981 and between 1983 and 1987. She is appointed by President Michael D. Higgins to the Council of State from 1988 to 1990 and 2012 to 2019.

McGuinness is President of the Law Reform Commission from 2007 to 2009. In May 2013, she is appointed Chair of the National University of Ireland Galway Governing Authority.

McGuinness is educated in Alexandra College, Trinity College Dublin and the King’s Inns. In the 1960s she works for the Labour Party. She is called to the Irish Bar in 1977 at age 42. In 1989, she is called to the Inner Bar.

In 1979, McGuinness is elected as an independent candidate to Seanad Éireann at a by-election on December 11, 1979 as a Senator for the University of Dublin constituency, following the resignation of Senator Conor Cruise O’Brien, taking her seat in the 14th Seanad. She is re-elected at the 1981 elections to the 15th Seanad, and in 1983 to the 17th Seanad, where she serves until 1987, losing her seat to David Norris. She is appointed to the Council of State on May 2, 1988 by President Patrick Hillery and serves until 1990.

McGuinness is appointed a judge of the Circuit Court in 1994, the first woman to hold that office in Ireland. In 1996, she is appointed to the High Court and remains there until her appointment to the Supreme Court in January 2000.

In November 2005, McGuinness is appointed Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway. She is also appointed President of the Law Reform Commission in 2005, and holds that position until 2011.

In April 2009, McGuinness is awarded a “Lord Mayor’s Award” by Lord Mayor of Dublin Eibhlin Byrne “for her contribution to the lives of children and families in the city through her pioneering work.” In September 2010, she is named as one of the “People of the Year” for “her pioneering, courageous and long-standing service to Irish society.” In November 2012, she wins the Irish Tatler Hall of Fame Award.

In addition to her judicial career, McGuinness serves on the Employment Equality Agency, Kilkenny Incest Investigation, the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, the National Council of the Forum on End of Life in Ireland and the Irish Universities Quality Board. In June 2011, she becomes patron of the Irish Refugee Council. In November 2011, she is appointed Chairperson of the “Campaign for Children.”

McGuinness has received honorary doctorates from the University of Ulster, the National University of Ireland, the University of Dublin, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. In February 2013, she accepts the Honorary Presidency of Trinity College, Dublin’s Free Legal Advice Centre.

In January 2014, McGuinness is appointed by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, to chair the expert panel to oversee the preparation of reports on the best underground route options to compare with the Grid Link and Grid West high voltage power lines in Ireland. In March 2015, McGuinness receives an Alumni Award from Trinity College Dublin.

McGuinness is married to broadcaster and writer Proinsias Mac Aonghusa from 1954 until his death in 2003 and has three children. She resides in Blackrock, Dublin.


Leave a comment

Second Inauguration of Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese is inaugurated as President of Ireland for a second term on November 11, 2004, becoming the fourth president up to that point to secure a second term, joining Sean T. O’Kelly, Éamon de Valera and Patrick Hillery. As of this writing in 2020, Michael D. Higgins is currently serving his second term as president.

McAleese’s initial seven-year term of office ends in November 2004, but she stands for a second term in the 2004 Irish presidential election. Following the failure of any other candidate to secure the necessary support for nomination, the incumbent president stands unopposed, with no political party affiliation, and is declared elected on October 1, 2004.

McAleese is re-inaugurated at the commencement of her second seven-year term on November 11, 2004. Her very high approval ratings are widely seen as the reason for her re-election, with no opposition party willing to bear the cost, financial or political, of competing in an election that would prove difficult to win.

Following the inauguration ceremony earlier in the day in Dublin Castle, McAleese attends a reception there hosted by the Government to mark the beginning of her second term of office. The 700 invited guests include members of the Government, the Oireachtas, the judiciary and dignitaries from Christian churches and other faiths.

McAleese identifies the need for strong and resilient communities as the theme of her second term in office. Speaking after her inauguration in the afternoon, she says, “The cushion of consumerism is no substitute for the comfort of community.” Speaking on the Northern Ireland peace process, she urges the hesitant to “muster the courage to complete the journey to a bright new landscape of hope.”

McAleese’s first term is distinguished by her work following the Omagh bombing and the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, as well as her behind-the-scenes work to open a dialogue with loyalists after the Good Friday Agreement.

Prevented by the Constitution of Ireland from running for a third term, McAleese leaves office in 2011 as one of Ireland’s most popular and respected presidents.

(Pictured: the second inauguration of Mary McAleese, November 11, 2004, President of Ireland website, http://www.president.ie)


Leave a comment

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)


Leave a comment

Birth of Ciaran Fitzgerald, Former Rugby Union Player

ciaran-fitzgeraldCiaran Fitzgerald, Irish former rugby union player, is born on June 4, 1952 in Loughrea, County Galway. He captains Ireland to the Triple Crown in 1982 and 1985, and the Five Nations Championship in 1983. He also captains the British and Irish Lions on their 1983 tour. After the conclusion of his playing career, he serves as coach of the national team.

Though most widely remembered for playing rugby union, Fitzgerald is an accomplished sportsman, winning two All-Ireland boxing championships. He also plays minor hurling for Galway GAA with his team reaching the minor final against Cork GAA in 1970.

Fitzgerald first plays rugby while at Garbally College, and is chosen to play the position of hooker by teacher and priest John Kirby. He studies at University College Galway, where he plays for University College Galway RFC and gains a Bachelor’s degree in 1973. He then goes on to play senior rugby for St. Mary’s College in Dublin.

Playing in the amateur era, Fitzgerald also maintains a career in the Irish Army. He also serves as the aide-de-camp to President Patrick Hillery during his career.

Fitzgerald rises to prominence in the game of rugby, making his test debut for Ireland against Australia on June 3, 1979, during an Irish tour of Australia. His last test comes against Scotland on March 15, 1986 in the 1986 Five Nations Championship. In total, Fitzgerald receives 22 competitive and three friendly caps for Ireland. He scores once, a try against Wales, in the 1980 Five Nations Championship. He also captains the British and Irish Lions team on their 1983 tour, when the team travels to New Zealand and is beaten in each test against the All Blacks.

Following his retirement from playing, Fitzgerald continues to be involved in the game. He serves as head coach of Ireland from 1990 to 1992, leading the team to the 1991 Rugby World Cup, where they reach the quarterfinals. He also had a career in media, appearing on Setanta Sports and RTÉ, the Irish national TV and radio service, as a rugby pundit.


1 Comment

Death of Harpist & Composer Turlough O’Carolan

turlough-ocarolanTurlough O’Carolan, a blind early Irish harper, composer and singer whose great fame is due to his gift for melodic composition, dies in Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon on March 25, 1738.

Although not a composer in the classical sense, O’Carolan is considered by many to be Ireland’s first great composer. Harpers in the old Irish tradition are still living as late as 1792, and ten, including Arthur O’Neill, Patrick Quin and Donnchadh Ó hAmhsaigh, attend the Belfast Harp Festival. Ó hAmhsaigh plays some of O’Carolan’s music but dislikes it for being too modern. Some of O’Carolan’s own compositions show influences of the style of continental classical music, whereas others such as O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music reflect a much older style of “Gaelic Harping.”

O’Carolan is born in 1670 in Nobber, County Meath, where his father is a blacksmith. The family moves from Meath to Ballyfarnon in 1684. In Roscommon, his father takes a job with the MacDermott Roe family of Alderford House. Mrs. MacDermott Roe gives Turlough an education, and he shows talent in poetry. After being blinded by smallpox at the age of eighteen O’Carolan is apprenticed by Mrs. MacDermott Roe to a good harper. At the age of twenty-one, being given a horse and a guide, he sets out to travel Ireland and compose songs for patrons.

For almost fifty years, O’Carolan journeys from one end of Ireland to the other, composing and performing his tunes. One of his earliest compositions is about Brigid Cruise, with whom he is infatuated. Brigid is the teenage daughter of the schoolmaster at the school for the blind attended by O’Carolan in Cruisetown. In 1720, at age 50, O’Carolan marries Mary Maguire. Their first family home is a cottage on a parcel of land near the town of Manachain, now Mohill, in County Leitrim, where they settle. They have seven children, six daughters and one son. Mary dies in 1733.

Turlough O’Carolan dies at Alderford House on March 25, 1738. He is buried in the MacDermott Roe family crypt in Kilronan Burial Ground near Ballyfarnon, County Roscommon. The annual O’Carolan Harp Festival and Summer School commemorates his life and work in Keadue, County Roscommon.

A bronze monument by sculptor Oisín Kelly depicting Turlough O’Carolan playing his harp is erected on a plinth at the Market Square, Mohill, on August 10, 1986, and is unveiled by Patrick Hillery, President of Ireland.

A statue is erected to him at his place of birth in 2002, during the Annual O’Carolan Harp Festival, the first of which is held in Nobber in 1988.


Leave a comment

Mary Robinson Elected First Woman President of the Republic

mary-robinson-1Mary Robinson becomes the first woman to be elected President of the Republic of Ireland on November 7, 1990. She becomes the first Labour Party candidate, the first woman, and the first non-Fianna Fáil candidate in the history of contested presidential elections to win the presidency.

Brian Lenihan, the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence is chosen by Fianna Fáil as their candidate, though he faces a late challenge for the party nomination from another senior minister, John P. Wilson, TD. Lenihan is popular and widely seen as humorous and intelligent. He has delivered liberal policy reform (relaxed censorship in the 1960s), and is seen as a near certainty to win the presidency.

Fine Gael, after trying and failing to get former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and former Tánaiste Peter Barry to run, ultimately nominate the former civil rights campaigner and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) member Austin Currie. Currie is elected to Dáil Éireann in the 1989 general election and has been a minister in Brian Faulkner‘s power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland from 1973–1974. However Currie has little experience in the politics of the Republic and is widely seen as the party’s last choice, nominated only when no one else is available.

The Labour Party lets it be known that it would for the first time run a candidate. Along with the Workers’ Party, Labour nominates the independent candidate Mary Robinson, SC, a former Labour Party member and senator, and liberal campaigner. Robinson is a former Reid Professor of Law in the Trinity College, Dublin. She is previously involved in the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform and the campaign to save Wood Quay.

Lenihan enters the race as odds-on favourite. No Fianna Fáil candidate has ever lost a presidential election. However, Lenihan is derailed when he confirms in an on-the-record interview with freelance journalist and academic researcher Jim Duffy that he has been involved in controversial attempts to pressurise the President, Patrick Hillery, over a controversial parliamentary dissolution in 1982. As a result of the contrast between his public denials during the campaign and his confirmation during an earlier interview recorded in May, he is dismissed from the Irish government.

At this point a cabinet colleague, Pádraig Flynn, launches a controversial personal attack on Mary Robinson “as a wife and mother,” an attack that is itself attacked in response as “disgraceful” on live radio by Michael McDowell, a senior member of the Progressive Democrats, then in coalition with Fianna Fáil and up to that point supporting Lenihan’s campaign. Flynn’s attack is a fatal blow to Lenihan’s campaign, causing many female supporters of Lenihan to vote for Robinson in a gesture of support.

Lenihan nonetheless receives a plurality of first-choice votes. Mary Robinson beats Austin Currie, forcing Fine Gael’s candidate into third place. Under Ireland’s system of single transferable vote, Robinson receives over 75% of the transfers when Austin Currie is eliminated, beating Lenihan into second place and becoming the seventh President of Ireland.

While the role of the presidency in day-to-day politics is a very limited one, the Robinson presidency is regarded by many observers as a watershed in Irish society, symbolising the shift away from the conservative ultra-Catholic male-dominated Ireland which existed up until the end of the 1980s to the more liberal society symbolised by Robinson.

Robinson is generally credited with raising the profile of the office of president, which has been considered little more than an honorary figurehead position under her predecessors. Prior to Mary Robinson’s presidency it was not unusual to hear commentators advocating the abolition of the office of president, a viewpoint that is almost never advanced nowadays.