seamus dubhghaill

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


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Assassination of Norman and James Stronge

Sir Charles Norman Lockhart Stronge and his son James, both former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Members of Parliament, are assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) at their home, Tynan Abbey, on January 21, 1981. The home is then burned to the ground.

Before his involvement in politics Stronge fights in World War I as a junior officer in the British Army. He fights in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and is awarded the Military Cross. His positions after the war include Speaker of the House of Commons of Northern Ireland for twenty-three years.

Stronge (86) and his son, James (48), are watching television in the library of Tynan Abbey when members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, armed with machine guns, use grenades to break down the locked heavy doors to the home.

The Stronge family home is then burned to the ground as a result of two bomb explosions. On seeing the explosions at the house, as well as a flare Stronge lit in an attempt to alert the authorities, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British Army troops arrive at the scene and establish a roadblock at the gate lodge. They encounter at least eight fleeing gunmen. A twenty-minute gunfight ensues in which at least two hundred shots are fired. There are no casualties among the security forces but the gunmen escape. The bodies of the father and son are later discovered in the library of their burning home, each with gunshot wounds in the head. It is not known who died first, Norman or James. Under the legal fiction known as the doctrine of survival, James is still listed as succeeding to the baronetcy.

The village of Tynan is crowded for the joint funeral of Stronge and his son. Mourners come from throughout the province and from England, including lords, politicians, policemen, judges and church leaders. The coffin is carried by the 5th Battalion the Royal Irish Rangers, the successors to his old regiment. The sword and cap of the Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone, Major John Hamilton-Stubber, are placed on his coffin in lieu of his own, which had been destroyed with his other possessions in the fire. During the service, a telegram sent from Queen Elizabeth II to one of Sir Norman’s daughters, is read. After the service, the chief mourners move out into the churchyard where the “Last Post” is sounded and a Royal British Legion farewell is given. The two coffins are laid in the family plot, where Lady Stronge, Sir Norman’s wife and mother of James, was buried a year previously.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Humphrey Atkins, is informed by friends of the Stronge family that he would not be welcome at the funeral because of government policy on Irish border security. Atkins leaves the Northern Ireland Office later that year, to be replaced by Jim Prior. Stronge is commemorated with a tablet in the Northern Ireland Assembly Chamber in Parliament Buildings on the Stormont Estate.

The IRA releases a statement in Belfast, quoted in The Times, claiming that “This deliberate attack on the symbols of hated unionism was a direct reprisal for a whole series of loyalist assassinations and murder attacks on nationalist peoples and nationalist activities.” This follows the loyalist attempted murder of Bernadette McAliskey and her husband Michael McAliskey on January 16, and the loyalist assassinations of four republican activists (Miriam Daly, John Turnley, Noel Lyttle and Ronnie Bunting) which had taken place since May 1980.

The killings are referred to as murder by multiple media sources including The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The New York Times and Time magazine, by the Reverend Ian Paisley in the House of Commons and by Alec Cooke, Baron Cooke of Islandreagh in the House of Lords.

Stronge is described at the time of his death by Social Democratic and Labour Party politician Austin Currie as having been “even at 86 years of age … still incomparably more of a man than the cowardly dregs of humanity who ended his life in this barbaric way.”

The ruins of Tynan Abbey are demolished in 1998, having stood for 249 years.


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St. Patrick’s Cathedral Designated National Cathedral

st-patricks-cathedral-dublinSt. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, is designated the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland on May 2, 1872. Chapter members at St. Patrick’s are drawn from each of the twelve dioceses of the Church of Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is dedicated on March 17, 1191. With its 141-foot spire, it is the tallest church (not cathedral) in Ireland and the largest.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral is founded on the spot where St. Patrick himself is believed to have baptized the first Irish believers into the Christian faith. The sacred well which St. Patrick used has been lost, but the Cathedral is built in the area where the conversions are believed to have taken place.

The first church is constructed here in the 5th century but St. Patrick’s as it stands now is built between 1191 and 1270. In 1311, the Medieval University of Dublin is founded here and the church begins a place of higher education as well as a place of worship.

By the 16th century, however, St. Patrick’s falls into disrepair following the English Reformation, a time when the Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church. In 1537, St. Patrick’s becomes designated as an Anglican Church of Ireland and it remains a part of the Church of Ireland to this day.

Repairs to the cathedral begin in the 1660s and continued in phases over the following decades to save it from falling into complete ruin.

As its status grows, St. Patrick’s begins to rival Christ Church Cathedral in importance. This is where the history of St. Patrick’s Cathedral takes a bit of a complicated turn in term of church definitions. The current cathedral building is often hailed as one of the best examples of medieval architecture in Dublin, however, it is only fair to point out that the structure went through a massive rebuild in the 1860s, mainly financed by money from Benjamin Guinness.

As one of Dublin’s two Church of Ireland cathedrals, St. Patrick’s is actually designated as the “National Cathedral of Ireland.” However, it lacks the one thing that usually makes a church a cathedral – a bishop. The Archbishop of Dublin actually has his seat at Christ Church Cathedral, which is designated as the local cathedral of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough. St. Patrick’s is instead headed by a dean who is the ordinary for the cathedral. This office has existed since 1219 with its most famous office holder being Jonathan Swift.

Today St. Patrick’s Cathedral plays host to a number of public national ceremonies. Ireland’s Remembrance Day ceremonies, hosted by the Royal British Legion and attended by the President of Ireland, take place there every November. Its carol service (the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols), celebrated twice in December, including every December 24, is a colourful feature of Dublin life. On Saturdays in autumn the cathedral hosts the graduation ceremonies of Technological University Dublin.

The funerals of two Irish presidents, Douglas Hyde and Erskine Childers, take place in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1949 and 1974 respectively. In 2006, the cathedral’s national prominence is used by a group of 18 Afghan migrants seeking asylum, who occupied it for several days before being persuaded to leave without trouble.[