seamus dubhghaill

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


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The Assassination of Christopher Ewart-Biggs

christopher-ewart-biggs-assassinationChristopher Thomas Ewart Ewart-Biggs, British Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, author and senior Foreign Office liaison officer with MI6, is killed in Sandyford, Dublin on July 21, 1976 by a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) land mine.

Ewart-Biggs is born in the Thanet district of Kent, South East England to Captain Henry Ewart-Biggs of the Royal Engineers and his wife Mollie Brice. He is educated at Wellington College and University College, Oxford and serves in the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment of the British Army during World War II. At the Second Battle of El Alamein in 1942 he loses his right eye and as a result he wears a smoked-glass monocle over an artificial eye.

Ewart-Biggs joins the Foreign Service in 1949, serving in Lebanon, Qatar and Algiers, as well as Manila, Brussels and Paris.

Ewart-Biggs is 55 when he is killed by a land mine planted by the IRA on July 21, 1976. He had been taking precautions to avoid such an incident since coming to Dublin only two weeks earlier. Among the measures he employs is to vary his route many times a week however, at a vulnerable spot on the road connecting his residence to the main road, there is only a choice between left or right. He chooses right and approximately 150 yards from the residence he hits a land mine that is later judged to contain hundreds of pounds of explosives. Ewart-Biggs and fellow passenger and civil servant Judith Cooke (aged 26) are killed. Driver Brian O’Driscoll and third passenger Brian Cubbon (aged 57) are injured. Cubbon is the highest-ranking civil servant in Northern Ireland at the time.

The Irish government launches a manhunt involving 4,000 Gardaí and 2,000 soldiers. Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave declares that “this atrocity fills all decent Irish people with a sense of shame.” In London, Prime Minister James Callaghan condemns the assassins as a “common enemy whom we must destroy or be destroyed by.” Thirteen suspected members of the IRA are arrested during raids as the British and Irish governments attempt to apprehend the criminals, but no one is ever convicted of the killings. In 2006, released Foreign and Commonwealth Office files reveal that the Gardaí had matched a partial fingerprint at the scene to Martin Taylor, an IRA member suspected of gun running from the United States.

Ewart-Biggs’s widow, Jane Ewart-Biggs, becomes a Life Peer in the House of Lords, campaigns to improve Anglo-Irish relations and establishes the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize for literature.

(Pictured: The twisted remains of the car lie upended beside a huge crater after the explosion that killed Christopher Ewart-Biggs and civil servant Judith Cooke)


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Establishment of the Central Bank of Ireland

central-bank-of-irelandThe Central Bank of Ireland is established on February 1, 1943, when the Central Bank Act 1942 comes into effect which renames the Currency Commission.

The Central Bank of Ireland is Ireland’s central bank, and as such part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). It is also the country’s financial services regulator for most categories of financial firms. It is the issuer of Irish pound banknotes and coinage until the introduction of the euro currency, and now provides this service for the European Central Bank.

The Central Bank, however, does not initially acquire many of the characteristics of a central bank:

  • It is not given custody of the cash reserves of the commercial banks
  • It has no statutory power to restrict credit, though it can promote it
  • The Bank of Ireland remains the government’s banker
  • The conditions for influencing credit through open-market operations does not yet exist
  • Ireland’s external monetary reserves are largely held as external assets of the commercial banks

The mid-1960s see the Bank take over the normal day-to-day operations of exchange control from the Department of Finance. The Central Bank broadens its activities over the decades, but it remains in effect a currency board until the 1970s.

Since January 1, 1972 the Central Bank has been the banker of the Government of Ireland in accordance with the Central Bank Act 1971, which can be seen in legislative terms as completing the long transition from a currency board to a fully functional central bank.

Its head office is located on Dame Street, Dublin, where the public may exchange non-current Irish coinage and currency, both pre- and post-decimalization, for euros. It also operates from premises in Spencer Dock, Iveagh Court, and College Green. The Currency Centre at Sandyford is the currency manufacture, warehouse, and distribution site of the bank.

By March 2017 its city centre staff will move to a new building at North Wall Quay.