seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

“The Irish Times” Is Launched In Dublin

The Irish Times is launched at 4 Lower Abbey Street in Dublin on March 29, 1859. The first appearance of a newspaper using the name occurs in 1823 but it closes in 1825. The title is revived as a thrice weekly publication by Major Lawrence E. Knox. It is originally founded as a moderate Protestant newspaper, reflecting the politics of Knox, who stands unsuccessfully as a parliamentary candidate for Isaac Butt’s Home Rule League. In its early days, its main competitor is the Dublin Daily Express.

After Knox’s death in 1873, the paper is sold to the widow of Sir John Arnott, MP, a former Lord Mayor of Cork and owner of Arnotts, one of Dublin’s major department stores. The sale, for £35,000, leads to two major changes. Its headquarters is shifted to 31 Westmoreland Street, remaining in buildings on or near that site until 2005. Its politics also shifts dramatically, becoming predominantly Unionist in outlook, and it is closely associated with the Irish Unionist Alliance. The paper, along with the Irish Independent and various regional papers, calls for the execution of the leaders of the failed 1916 Easter Rising.

Though the paper becomes a publicly listed company in 1900, the family continues to hold a majority shareholding until the 1960s. The last member of the Arnott family to sit on the paper’s board is Sir Lauriston Arnott, who dies in 1958.

The editor during the 1930s, R. M. “Bertie” Smyllie, has strong anti-fascist views: he angers the Irish Catholic hierarchy by opposing General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Later, The Irish Times, like other national newspapers, has problems with Irish Government censorship during World War II. The newspaper is largely pro-Allied and is opposed to the Éamon de Valera government’s policy of neutrality.

In 1974, ownership is transferred to a non-charitable trust, The Irish Times Trust. The Trust is set up as “a company limited by guarantee” to purchase The Irish Times Limited and to ensure that The Irish Times will be published as an independent newspaper with specific editorial objectives. The former owner, Major Thomas Bleakley McDowell, is made “president for life” of the trust which runs the paper and is paid a large dividend. However several years later the articles of the Trust are adjusted, giving Major McDowell ten preference shares and one more vote than the combined votes of all the other directors should any move be made to remove him. Major McDowell dies in 2009.

The Trust is regulated by a legal document, the Memorandum and Articles of Association, and controlled by a maximum of eleven Governors under company law. It is not a charity and does not have charitable status. It has no beneficial shareholders and it cannot pay dividends. Any profits made by The Irish Times cannot be distributed to the Trust but must be used to strengthen the newspaper, directly or indirectly.

In 1994, The Irish Times establishes a website called Irish-times.ie, the first newspaper in Ireland and one of the first 30 newspapers in the world to do so. The company acquires the domain name Ireland.com in 1997, and from 1999 to 2008, uses it to publish its online edition. On June 30, 2008, the company relaunches Ireland.com as a separate lifestyle portal and the online edition of the newspaper is now published at irishtimes.com. It is supplied free of charge, but a subscription is charged to view its archives.

On October 15, 2012, John O’Shea, Head of Online, The Irish Times, announces that the ireland.com domain name has been sold to Tourism Ireland, and that the ireland.com email service will end on November 7, 2012, affecting about 15,000 subscribers. The newspaper announces on February 17, 2015 the reintroduction of a paywall for its website, irishtimes.com, beginning on February 23.

In December 2017, it is reported that The Irish Times has reached an agreement to purchase the newspaper, radio and website interests of Landmark Media Investments which include the Irish Examiner. Initially subject to regulatory approval, this sale is completed in July 2018. In September 2018, following the Landmark Media Investments acquisition, The Irish Times starts a voluntary redundancy scheme.

Average print circulation is approximately 100,000 copies per issue in 2011, dropping to approximately 62,000 by 2017. The circulation of the newspaper is no longer audited.


Leave a comment

Birth of Sir James Comyn, Irish-born English High Court Judge

Sir James Peter Comyn, Irish-born barrister and English High Court judge, is born at Beaufield House, Stillorgan, County Dublin on March 8, 1921. Considered by many to be “the finest all-round advocate at the English bar”, he is appointed to the High Court of Justice in 1978, serving on the bench until his retirement in 1985.

Comyn is the son of Nationalist barrister James Comyn KC and of Mary Comyn. Through his father he is the nephew of the barrister Michael Comyn KC. Both his father and uncle had been political and legal advisers to Éamon de Valera, who at one point uses Beaufield House as a safe house. However, the Comyn brothers have a falling out with de Valera shortly before he comes to power in 1932, and Michael Comyn is passed over as Attorney General of the Irish Free State. As a result, James Comyn, who is then attending Belvedere College in Dublin, is sent by his father to attend The Oratory School in England. He spends six months as a trainee at The Irish Times under the editor R. M. “Bertie” Smyllie, but abandons journalism after a joke he added to an obituary is printed in the paper, leading to his demotion to the racing department.

Comyn then matriculates at New College, Oxford, where he reads law, graduating with Second Class Honours. In 1940, he defeats Roy Jenkins for the presidency of the Oxford Union, winning by four votes. After suffering the first of several breakdowns through his life, he briefly works for the BBC‘s Empire Service during World War II.

Comyn is called to the English bar by the Inner Temple in 1942, the Irish bar in 1947, and the Hong Kong bar in 1969. In 1944, he begins his pupillage with Edward Holroyd Pearce KC, later a law lord, and joins his chambers at Fountain Court. He practises in London and on the Western circuit, supplementing his earnings by teaching banking, a subject of which he knows nothing. On one occasion, he rises in Lambeth County court to cross-examine a female defendant in an eviction case. Just as he begins by saying “Madam,” the defendant opens her bag, takes out a dead cat, and throws it at him. The judge’s reaction is to tell the defendant, “Madam, if you do that again, I’ll commit you.” Comyn wins the case.

Comyn takes silk in 1961, and acquires a large practice as a senior, appearing in many high-profile cases. In 1964, he wins damages for libel for the former safe-breaker Alfred George Hinds against a Scotland Yard inspector by convincing the jury that Hinds is in fact innocent. In 1970, he successfully defends the Labour MP Will Owen, who is accused of providing information to the Czechoslovak intelligence services. In 1975, he defeats the government’s attempt to obtain an injunction against the publication of the diaries of former minister Richard Crossman.

Comyn is Recorder of Andover between 1964 and 1971 (honorary life recorder from 1972), commissioner of assize for the Western Circuit in 1971, and a Recorder of the Crown Court between 1972 and 1977. He is elected a bencher of the Inner Temple in 1968, and serves as chairman of the Bar council from 1973 to 1974.

Having refused a previous invitation by Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St. Marylebone to join the bench, Comyn is again nominated by Elwyn Jones, Baron Elwyn-Jones, in 1977, and is appointed a High Court judge in 1978, receiving the customary knighthood upon his appointment. Initially assigned to the Family Division, he does not take to the work and is reassigned to the Queen’s Bench Division in 1979. He has a reputation for leniency in sentencing, first acquired as Recorder of Andover. In 1980–81, he presides over an unsuccessful libel action by a member of the Unification Church, colloquially known as the Moonies, against the Daily Mail, the longest libel trial in England up to that time. His Irish background makes him the target of Irish Republican Army (IRA) action, and in 1981 the Provisional IRA burns his house in Tara.

Recurring bouts of depression lead to Comyn’s early retirement, on grounds of ill health, in 1985. In retirement, he divides his time between England and Ireland, whose citizenship he has retained. He writes a number of books, including memoirs, light verse, and books on famous trials. He also breeds Friesian cattle. He dies in Navan, County Meath on January 5, 1997 at age 75.