seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Birth of Ronan Tynan, Singer & Former Paralympic Athlete

Ronan Tynan, Irish tenor singer and former Paralympic athlete, is born in Dublin on May 14, 1960. He is a member of The Irish Tenors re-joining in 2011 while continuing to pursue his solo career since May 2004. In the United States, audiences know him for his involvement with that vocal group and for his renditions of “God Bless America.” He is also known for participating in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Paralympics.

Although born in Dublin, Tynan’s family home is in Johnstown, County Kilkenny. He is born with phocomelia, causing both of his lower legs to be underdeveloped. Although now 6’4″ tall, his legs are unusually short, his feet are splayed outward, and he has three toes on each foot.  He is one of a set of twins, his twin brother Edmond dying at 11 months old. At age 20, he has his legs amputated below the knee following a back injury in a car accident. The injury to his back makes it impossible for him to continue using prosthetic legs without the amputation.  Within weeks of the accident, he is climbing stairs at his college dormitory on artificial legs. Within a year, he is winning in international competitions in track and field athletics. He represents Ireland in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Paralympics, winning four golds, two silvers, and one bronze medal. Between 1981 and 1984, he wins 18 gold medals from various competitions and sets 14 world records.

In the following years, Tynan becomes the first person with a disability to be admitted to the National College of Physical Education in Limerick. He works for about two years in the prosthetics industry, then goes to Trinity College, Dublin, becomes a physician specialising in Orthopedic Sports Injuries, and graduates in 1993. Encouraged to also study voice by his father Edmund, Tynan wins a series of voice competition awards and joins The Irish Tenors.

A devout Roman Catholic, Tynan has appeared on Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). At the invitation of the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, he sings at the Archbishop’s installation Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on April 15, 2009.

Tynan performs in several events attended by President George W. Bush, including Ronald Reagan’s state funeral, George H. W. Bush‘s 80th birthday, the prayer service marking George W. Bush’s second inauguration, the St. Patrick’s Day reception with Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the 2008 President’s Dinner, and George H. W. Bush’s state funeral.

Tynan sings “God Bless America” at sporting event venues, such as Yankee Stadium and on several occasions prior to games involving the National Hockey League‘s Buffalo Sabres including a performance before 71,217 fans at the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic along with Sabres anthem singer Doug Allen, who performs the Canadian national anthem, on January 1, 2008, when the Sabres play the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has not performed for the Sabres since Terry Pegula purchased the team in 2011. Most recently, he sings “On Eagle’s Wings” at the 2017 Memorial Day Concert.

In 2004 Tynan sings the “Theme from New York, New York” at the Belmont Stakes where Smarty Jones fails in his attempt to win the Triple Crown. Less than a week later he is at the Washington National Cathedral for former United States President Ronald Reagan’s state funeral, where he sings “Amazing Grace” and Franz Schubert‘s “Ave Maria.”

Tynan sings for George H. W. Bush at Bush’s Houston home on the day of the president’s death on November 30, 2018. The first song is “Silent Night,” while the second is a Gaelic song. Bush’s friend and former aide James Baker says that while Tynan is singing “Silent Night,” “believe it or not, the president was mouthing the words.”

While a real estate agent and prospective buyer Dr. Gabrielle Gold-von Simson are looking at an apartment in Tynan’s building on Manhattan‘s East Side, Tynan makes what is construed to be an anti-semitic remark. Shortly after this, the New York Yankees cancel Tynan’s performance of “God Bless America” for Game 1 of the 2009 American League Championship Series on October 16, 2009 because of the incident.

According to Tynan’s version of the event, two Jewish women came to view an apartment in his building. Some time afterwards, another real estate agent shows up with a potential client. The agent jokes to Tynan “at least they’re not (Boston) Red Sox fans.” Tynan replies, “As long as they’re not Jewish,” referring to the exacting women he had met earlier. The prospective client, Jewish pediatrician Dr. Gabrielle Gold-Von Simson, takes umbrage and says, “Why would you say that?” Tynan replies, “That would be scary,” and laughs, referring to the previous incident. He subsequently apologises for his remark. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accepts his apology. He performs at an ADL event in Manhattan soon thereafter.

Only July 4, 2010 Tynan performs “God Bless America” for the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park with the support of some in the local Jewish community.


Leave a comment

Birth of Monsignor James Horan

James Horan is born in Partry, County Mayo, on May 5, 1911. He is a parish priest of Knock, County Mayo. He is most widely known for his successful campaign to bring an airport to Knock, his work on Knock basilica, and is also credited for inviting Pope John Paul II to visit Knock Shrine in 1979.

Educated at St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, Horan trains for the priesthood in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He is ordained in 1936, and his first post is in Glasgow, where he remains for three years. Having served as chaplain on an ocean liner and briefly in Ballyglunin, County Galway, he becomes curate in Tooreen, a small townland close to Ballyhaunis, County Mayo. While there, he organises the construction of a dance hall, which becomes a popular local amenity. He secures financing for the project by collecting £8,000 on a tour of American cities. After also serving in Cloonfad, County Roscommon, he is transferred to Knock in 1963, where he becomes parish priest in 1967. He is troubled by the struggles of daily life and mass emigration in the west of Ireland and he works to improve the living standards of the local community.

While stationed at Knock, Horan oversees the building of a new church for Knock Shrine, which is dedicated in 1976. The shrine is the stated goal of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979. The pope travels to Knock as part of a state visit to Ireland, marking the centenary of the famous Knock apparitions. Horan works with Judy Coyne to organise the papal visit. He is responsible for the refurbishment of the church grounds, along with the construction of a huge church, with a capacity of 15,000. This newly constructed church is given the status of basilica by the pope. The day after the papal visit, Horan begins his campaign to build an international airport in Barnacuige, a small village near Charlestown, County Mayo.

Critics regard the idea of an airport on a “foggy, boggy site” in Mayo as unrealistic, but funding is approved by then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, who performs the official opening in May 1986, five years after work commenced. Although Horan had secured IR£10,000,000 in funding from Haughey, following the Fianna Fáil party’s defeat in the general election of 1982, his funding is cut, with the airport unfinished. He raises the IR£4,000,000 shortfall by holding a “Jumbo Draw.” This large lottery succeeds in raising the required revenue, but only after a painstaking tour of several countries, including Australia and the United States. This takes its toll on the ageing Horan and leads to his death shortly after the completion of the airport. The airport is originally known as Horan International Airport, but is now officially referred to as Ireland West Airport Knock.

Horan dies on August 1, 1986 while on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, just a few months after the official opening of the airport. His remains are flown into Knock, the first funeral to fly into the airport he had campaigned for. He is buried in the grounds of the Knock Basilica. His life and work are chronicled in a musical written by Terry Reilly and local broadcaster Tommy Marren, entitled A Wing and a Prayer. It premières in The Royal Theatre in Castlebar, County Mayo, on November 25, 2010.


Leave a comment

The Downpatrick Land Mine Attack

On April 9, 1990, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) detonates a massive improvised land mine under a British Army convoy outside Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. Four soldiers of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) are killed, the regiment’s greatest loss of life since 1983.

The Provisional IRA had been attacking British Army patrols and convoys with land mines and roadside bombs since the beginning of its campaign in the early 1970s. The deadliest attack was the Warrenpoint ambush of August 1979, when 18 soldiers were killed by two large roadside bombs near Warrenpoint, County Down. In July 1983, four soldiers of the local Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were killed when their vehicle struck an IRA land mine near Ballygawley, County Tyrone. It was the UDR’s biggest loss of life up until then.

On the morning of April 9, 1990, two UDR armoured landrovers are traveling from Abercorn Barracks to Downpatrick. An IRA unit has planted a 1,000-pound improvised land mine in a culvert under the Ballydugan Road, just outside the town. The unit waits in woodland overlooking the road, about 350 feet away. As the landrovers drive over the culvert, the IRA detonates the bomb by command wire. The huge blast blows the vehicle into a field and gouges a large crater in the road, 50 feet wide and 15 feet deep. A witness describes “a scene of utter carnage.” Four soldiers are killed: Michael Adams (23), John Birch (28), John Bradley (25), and Steven Smart (23). It is the biggest loss of life suffered by the UDR since the 1983 Ballygawley land mine attack. The soldiers in the other landrover suffer severe shock and are airlifted to hospital. According to police, a civilian driver also suffers shock and another receives cuts and bruises.

The bombers escape on a motorcycle which had been stolen in Newry a week earlier, and is later found abandoned in Downpatrick. The IRA issues a statement saying the attack was carried out by members of its South Down Brigade.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says on BBC Radio, “You take these murders of these four people today alongside those decisions in the Supreme Court of the Republic not to extradite those accused of violent crime – and one is very, very depressed.” Charles Haughey, the Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, condemns the attack as an “atrocity.”

A 23 year-old man is later sentenced to 15 years in prison for the attack. He had driven a scout car for the bombers when it was planted the day before the attack.


Leave a comment

Birth of Oscar Traynor, Fianna Fáil Politician & Republican

Oscar Traynor, Fianna Fáil politician and republican, is born in Dublin on March 21, 1886. He serves as Minister for Justice from 1957 to 1961, Minister for Defence from 1939 to 1948 and 1951 to 1954, Minister for Posts and Telegraphs from 1936 to 1939 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence from June 1936 to November 1936. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) from 1925 to 1927 and 1932 to 1961. He is also involved with association football, being the President of the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) from 1948 until 1963.

Traynor is born into a strongly nationalist family in Dublin. He is educated by the Christian Brothers. In 1899, he is apprenticed to John Long, a famous wood-carver. As a young man he is a noted footballer and tours Europe as a goalkeeper with Belfast Celtic F.C. whom he plays with from 1910 to 1912. He rejects claims soccer is a foreign sport calling it “a Celtic game, pure and simple, having its roots in the Highlands of Scotland.”

Traynor joins the Irish Volunteers and takes part in the Easter Rising in 1916, being the leader of the Hotel Metropole garrison. Following this he is interned in Wales. During the Irish War of Independence, he is brigadier of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army and leads the disastrous attack on the Custom House in 1921 and an ambush on the West Kent Regiment at Claude Road, Drumcondra on June 16, 1921 when the Thompson submachine gun is fired for the first time in action.

When the Irish Civil War breaks out in June 1922, Traynor takes the Anti-Treaty IRA side. The Dublin Brigade is split, however, with many of its members following Michael Collins in taking the pro-Treaty side. During the Battle of Dublin he is in charge of the Barry’s Hotel garrison, before making their escape. He organises guerilla activity in south Dublin and County Wicklow, before being captured by Free State troops in September. He is then imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

On March 11, 1925, Traynor is elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election as a Sinn Féin TD for the Dublin North constituency, though he does not take his seat due to the abstentionist policy of Sinn Féin. He is re-elected as one of eight members for Dublin North in the June 1927 Irish general election but just one of six Sinn Féin TDs. Once again, he does not take his seat. He does not contest the September 1927 Irish general election but declares his support for Fianna Fáil. He stands again in the 1932 Irish general election and is elected as a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North.

In 1936, Traynor is first appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. In September 1939, he is appointed Minister for Defence and holds the portfolio to February 1948. In 1948, he becomes President of the Football Association of Ireland, a position he holds until his death. He serves as Minister for Defence in several Fianna Fáil governments and as Minister for Justice, where he is undermined by his junior minister, and later Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, before he retires in 1961.

Traynor dies in Dublin at the age of 77 on December 15, 1963. He has a road named in his memory, running from the Malahide Road through Coolock to Santry in Dublin’s northern suburbs.

(Pictured: Minister for Defence Oscar Traynor at his desk, June 1940)


Leave a comment

1985 Newry Mortar Attack

On February 28, 1985, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) launches a heavy mortar attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) base at Corry Square in Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland. The attack kills nine RUC officers and injures almost 40 others, the highest death toll ever suffered by the RUC. Afterwards, a major building scheme is begun to give police and military bases better protection from such attacks.

In the early 1970s, after the onset of the Troubles, the Provisional IRA launches a campaign aimed at forcing the British to withdraw from Northern Ireland.

The IRA, particularly its South Armagh Brigade, has repeatedly attacked the British Army and RUC with home-made mortars, but with limited success. Between 1973 and early 1978 a total of 71 mortar attacks are recorded, but none cause direct British Army or RUC deaths. There are only two deadly mortar attacks before 1985. The first is on March 19, 1979, when Private Peter Woolmore of the Queen’s Regiment is killed in a mortar attack on Newtownhamilton British Army base. The second is on November 12, 1983, when a RUC officer is killed and several hurt in a mortar attack on Carrickmore RUC base.

The attack is jointly planned by members of the South Armagh Brigade and an IRA unit in Newry. The homemade mortar launcher, dubbed the ‘Mark 10,’ is bolted onto the back of a Ford lorry that had been hijacked in Crossmaglen.

Shortly after 6:30 PM on February 28, nine shells are launched from the lorry, which had been parked on Monaghan Street, about 250 yards from the base. At least one 50-lb. shell lands on a portacabin containing a canteen, where many officers are having their evening tea break. Nine police officers are killed and 37 people are hurt, including 25 civilian police employees, the highest death toll inflicted on the RUC in its history. The nine dead officers range in age from 19 to 41, seven male and two female, seven Protestants and two Catholics. Another shell hits the observation tower, while the rest land inside and outside the perimeter of the base.

The day is dubbed “Bloody Thursday” by the British press. British prime minister Margaret Thatcher calls the attack “barbaric,” while Ireland’s Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, says it is “cruel and cynical,” and pledges the help of the Irish security forces to catch those responsible. Although not involved in the attack, Newry IRA member Eamon Collins is arrested shortly afterwards and interrogated. After five days of questioning, Collins breaks under interrogation and turns supergrass, leading to more than a dozen arrests of other IRA members. The attack prompts calls from unionist politicians to “increase security,” and the British government launches a multi-million pound programme of construction to protect bases from similar attacks. This involves installing reinforced roofs and building blast-deflecting walls around the base of buildings.

After the successful attack in Newry, the IRA carries out a further nine mortar attacks in 1985. On September 4, an RUC training centre in Enniskillen is attacked. Thirty cadets narrowly escape death due to poor intelligence-gathering by the IRA unit responsible. The cadets are expected to be in bed sleeping, but are instead eating breakfast when the bombs land. In November 1986, the IRA launches another attack on the RUC base in Newry, but the bombs fall short of their target and land on houses. A four-year-old Catholic girl is badly wounded and another 38 people are hurt, prompting the IRA to admit that “this incident left us open to justified criticism.”

Beginning in the 1990s, operations at the Corry Square base are progressively shifted to a new facility on the outskirts of Newry. The base is closed in 2002, and a park occupies the site today.

(Pictured: Destroyed cars and remains of the Newry RUC Corry Square police Station in Catherine Street taken the day after the attack by the Provisional IRA using homemade mortar bombs)


Leave a comment

Birth of Pádraic Ó Máille, Founder Member of Sinn Féin

Pádraic Ó Máille, Irish politician, is born in Kilmilkin, in the Maam Valley (Irish: Gleann an Mháma) of County Galway on February 23, 1878. He is a founder member of Sinn Féin and of the Conradh na Gaeilge in Galway. He is a member of the Irish Volunteers from 1917 to 1921.

Before entering politics Ó Máille is a farmer. He is elected as a Sinn Féin Member of Parliament (MP) for Galway Connemara at the 1918 Irish general election.

In January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refuse to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assemble at the Mansion House in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament called Dáil Éireann. Ó Máille is re-elected as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the Galway constituency at the 1921 Irish elections.

Ó Máille supports the Anglo-Irish Treaty and votes in favour of it. He is re-elected as a pro-Treaty Sinn Féin TD for Galway at the 1922 Irish general election, and is elected as a Cumann na nGaedheal TD for Galway at the 1923 Irish general election. In the subsequent Irish Civil War, he is targeted for assassination by anti-Treaty forces and is shot and badly wounded in Dublin in December 1922.

Ó Máille is critical of the proposed Irish Boundary Commission and resigns from Cumann na nGaedheal and founds a new political party called Clann Éireann in 1926.

Ó Máille loses his seat at the June 1927 Irish general election and is unsuccessful at the September 1927 Irish general election. He later joins Fianna Fáil, the party which emerges from the anti-Treaty side in the civil war, and contests the 1932 Irish general election for that party in the Dublin County constituency but is not elected.

On each of these occasions Ó Máille is subjected to a smear campaign by his former party colleagues who his pro-Treaty stance during the civil war against him. It is alleged that he had personally selected his fellow county man Liam Mellows for execution. These smears persist despite denials from the Mellows family and from Ó Máille himself. In fact, Mellows is executed in reprisal for the attack on Ó Máille and Sean Hales on December 8, 1922.

Ó Máille serves as a Fianna Fáil Senator in Seanad Éireann from 1934 to 1936. He is re-elected to the new Seanad in 1938 on the Agricultural Panel. From 1939 until his death in 1946 he is re-appointed to the Seanad as a nominee of the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera. He is Leas-Chathaoirleach (Deputy chairman) of the Seanad from May to November 1938.

Ó Máille dies on January 19, 1946. Accorded a guard of honour by the Dublin brigade, he is buried at Glencullen Cemetery, County Dublin.


Leave a comment

Birth of Richard Boyd Barrett, People Before Profit/Solidarity Politician

Richard Boyd Barrett, Irish People Before Profit/Solidarity politician, is born in Dublin on February 6, 1967. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since the 2011 Irish general election.

Boyd Barrett is adopted as a baby and is raised as a Roman Catholic in Glenageary, County Dublin, by his parents, David Boyd Barrett, an accountant, and his wife, Valerie. He attends St. Michael’s College in Dublin. He holds a master’s degree in English literature from University College Dublin (UCD). His birth mother is Sinéad Cusack, with whom he is later reunited in public. Since their reunion, he has had a good relationship with Cusack, her husband Jeremy Irons, and his half-brothers, Sam and Max. In May 2013, he reveals that theatre director Vincent Dowling is his biological father.

Boyd Barrett contests the 2004 Irish local elections for Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council but is not elected. In 2009, he is elected to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, winning 22.8% of the vote and topping the poll.

Boyd Barrett stands in the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 2002 Irish general election for the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and at the 2007 Irish general election for the People Before Profit. This switch of identification is intended to increase his support from non-socialist voters. He loses to Ciarán Cuffe of the Green Party, by 9,910 votes to 7,890 votes on the 10th count.

Boyd Barrett again contests the Dún Laoghaire constituency at the 2011 Irish general election as part of the United Left Alliance. On the ballot paper, he is named a member of People Before Profit, because the United Left Alliance had not yet been registered as a political party. Following a “nail-biting two days” of counting and recounting votes, he is elected on the 10th count without reaching the quota.

As a TD, Boyd Barrett, supports protests against cuts to Dublin Bus services. In Dáil Éireann, he condemns the 2011 murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr as “an utterly brutal action, which leads back down a road which has failed.” Marie O’Halloran in The Irish Times describes his “consistently passionate outrage and opposition to the Government’s handling of the financial and banking crisis.”

Boyd Barrett speaks at the Dublin location of the October 15, 2011 global protests, inspired by the Spanish “Indignants” and the Occupy Wall Street movements. The same month he says Enda Kenny‘s government is engaging in “spin and disingenuity” to cover up its austerity policies, decrying the closure of hospital emergency departments around the country for “health and safety” reasons.

On November 2, 2011, Boyd Barrett leads the United Left Alliance TDs out of the Dáil, in protest against the government’s decision not to hold a debate on the payment of more than €700 million to Anglo Irish Bank bondholders. On December 15, 2011, he helps launch a nationwide campaign against a proposed household charge being brought in as part of the 2012 Irish budget. He is part of an Oireachtas delegation that meets the Bundestag‘s Budgetary and European Affairs committees in Berlin in late January 2012.

On March 10, 2016, at the first sitting of the 32nd Dáil, Boyd Barrett is one of four candidates nominated for the position of Taoiseach, all of whom fail to reach a majority. Ruth Coppinger nominates Boyd Barrett for the role but the nomination is defeated by 9 votes to 111. As well as the six other AAA–PBP TDs, he also has the support of Séamus Healy of the Workers and Unemployed Action, Tommy Broughan of Independents 4 Change, and Independent TD Catherine Connolly.

At the 2020 Irish general election in February 2020, Boyd Barrett is again re-elected, having topped the poll.


Leave a comment

Death of Seán Flanagan, Irish Footballer & Fianna Fáil Politician

Seán Flanagan, Irish Fianna Fáil politician, dies in Dublin on February 5, 1993. He serves as Minister for Health from 1966 to 1969, Minister for Lands from 1969 to 1973 and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1965 to 1966. He serves as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Connacht–Ulster constituency from 1979 to 1989. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Mayo South constituency from 1951 to 1969 and for the Mayo East constituency from 1969 to 1977.

Flanagan is born in Coolnaha, Aghamore, Ballyhaunis, County Mayo on January 26, 1922. He is educated locally, then later at St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam, County Galway, where he shows enthusiasm for sport. He wins two Connacht championship medals with the college in 1939 and 1940. He later studies at Clonliffe College in Dublin, and then enrolls at University College Dublin, where he studies law and qualifies as a solicitor.

Flanagan also plays senior Gaelic football for Mayo. He captains the All-Ireland final-winning sides of 1950 and 1951, and wins five Connacht senior championship medals in all. He also wins two National Football League titles in 1949 and 1954. While still a footballer, he enters into a career in politics.

In recognition of his skills and long-running contribution to the sport, Flanagan is awarded the 1992 All-Time All Star Award as no Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) All Stars Awards were being issued at the time of his playing career. In 1984, the Gaelic Athletic Association centenary year, he is honoured by being named on their Football Team of the Century. In 1999, he is again honoured by the GAA by being named on their Gaelic Football Team of the Millennium.

Flanagan comes from a Fianna Fáil family, and is recruited into the party in east Mayo. He is elected a Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo South at the 1951 Irish general election, and then wins a seat from 1969 in Mayo East at each subsequent election until he loses his seat at the 1977 Irish general election.

Flanagan rises rapidly through the party ranks, and is appointed a Parliamentary Secretary under Taoiseach Seán Lemass in 1959. In the 1966 Fianna Fáil leadership election he supports Jack Lynch. When Lynch becomes Taoiseach, he is promoted to the Cabinet as Minister for Health. Three years later in 1969, he becomes Minister for Lands. He loses his seat at the 1977 Irish general election, and effectively retires from domestic politics. However, he is elected to the European Parliament in the first direct elections in 1979. He is re-elected in 1984, and retires from politics in 1989.

Flanagan marries Mary Patricia Doherty in 1950. They have two sons and five daughters, including Dermot, who also plays All-Ireland senior football for Mayo.

Flanagan dies at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin on February 5, 1993, at the age of 71. Following his death, a Mayo sports journalist comments, “Above all, we’ll miss that noble link with an era when, as children, Seán Flanagan was our second God.”


Leave a comment

Death of Bernard Cowen, Fianna Fáil Politician

Bernard Francis Cowen, Irish Fianna Fáil politician who serves as Minister of State for Disadvantaged Areas from March 1982 to December 1982, dies on January 24, 1984 at Donnybrook, Dublin. He serves as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Laois–Offaly constituency from 1969 to 1973 and 1977 to 1984. He is a Senator for the Agricultural Panel from 1973 to 1977.

Born on January 29, 1932, in Clara, County Offaly, Cowen is the son of Christy Cowen, a cattle dealer and a Fianna Fáil member who served as a member of Offaly County Council from 1932 until his death in 1967. He is educated at Clara National School and subsequently attends Tullamore CBS. After completion of his secondary schooling he works in the family business which includes a public house and a butcher shop. He later becomes an auctioneer.

Cowen first becomes involved in politics in 1967, when he is co-opted onto Offaly County Council, following the death of his father. Later that year he heads the poll in the Tullamore area and retains his seat until his death.

Cowen is first elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil TD for Laois–Offaly constituency at the 1969 Irish general election. Fianna Fáil returns to government for the fourth successive time following a general election, however, as a new TD, he remains on the backbenches. He loses his seat at the 1973 Irish general election as a Fine GaelLabour coalition government is formed. However, he is subsequently elected to the 13th Seanad for the Agricultural Panel.

Cowen returns to the Dáil following the 1977 Irish general election, when Fianna Fáil returns to power in a landslide. Once again he remains on the backbenches.

In 1979, Jack Lynch resigns as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil. Cowen supports the bid of Charles Haughey for the leadership. Haughey wins the subsequent leadership election. In spite of offering his support, Cowen fails to secure promotion to ministerial office.

A period of political instability follows with three general elections being held throughout 1981 and 1982. Cowen retains his seat in all of these elections. In March 1982, he is finally promoted to junior ministerial level, when he is appointed Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with special responsibility for disadvantaged areas. He holds that position until December of the same year, when Fianna Fáil loses power.

While attending a meeting of Offaly County Council in January 1984, Cowen is taken ill. He is taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin where he dies several days later on January 24, 1984. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and three sons. The consequent by-election for his seat in the 24th Dáil, is won by his second son, Brian, who goes on to serve as Taoiseach from 2008 to 2011. In 2011, Cowen’s youngest son, Barry, is elected to the seat previously held by his father and brother, having previously been an Offaly County Councillor for the Tullamore electoral area.


Leave a comment

Birth of William John Conway, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church

William John Cardinal Conway, Irish cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who serves as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from 1963 until his death, is born on January 22, 1913 in Belfast.

Conway is the eldest of four sons and five daughters of Patrick Joseph Conway and Annie Conway (née Donnelly). His father, a self-employed house-painter, also has a paint shop in Kent Street off Royal Avenue. His mother, who survives her son, is born in Carlingford, County Louth. He attends Boundary Street Primary School, St. Mary’s CBS (now St. Mary’s CBGS Belfast). His academic successes are crowned by a scholarship to Queen’s University Belfast. He decides to study for the diocesan priesthood. In 1933 he is conferred with an honours BA in English literature, and goes on to read a distinguished course in theology at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Conway is ordained on June 20, 1937 and awarded a DD (1938). On November 12, 1938 he enters the Pontifical Irish College in Rome, and in 1941 he receives the DCL degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University. When Italy enters World War II in June 1940 he returns to Belfast to take up duty in the Diocese of Down and Connor. He is appointed to teach English and Latin in St. Malachy’s College in Belfast, but after one year he is named professor of moral theology and canon law in Maynooth. He contributes regular ‘Canon law replies’ to the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, which are later collected as Problems in canon law (1950), the only book published by him.

In 1957 Conway becomes vice-president of Maynooth, and in 1958, he is named Ireland’s youngest bishop, Titular Bishop of Neve, and auxiliary bishop to Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He is consecrated in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh on July 27, 1958. He serves as administrator of St. Patrick’s Church, Dundalk, for the next five years, gaining valuable pastoral experience, and also uses these years to familiarise himself with his new diocese, especially its geography. On the death of D’Alton, he is chosen to succeed him in September 1963, and is enthroned on September 25 in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh by the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Sensi. At the end of 1964, Pope Paul VI chooses him as Ireland’s seventh residential cardinal, and he receives the red hat in the public consistory of February 22, 1965.

The thirteen-odd years of Conway’s ministry as primate are dominated firstly by the Second Vatican Council and secondly by the Troubles in Northern Ireland. His primary concern is the church, to steer it through testing times. He is a very active bishop in a diocese of 160,000 Catholics, with fifty-seven parishes and some 167 priests. He carries the burden alone until 1974 when he is given an auxiliary in the person of his secretary, Fr. Francis Lenny (1928–78). Two new parishes are created, five new churches are built, and many others are renovated to meet the requirements of liturgical reform. Twenty new schools are also provided. He attends all four sessions of the Vatican council (1962–65), as auxiliary bishop and as primate. On October 9, 1963 he addresses the assembly, making a plea that the council might not be so concerned with weightier matters as to neglect to speak about priests. He also makes contributions on the topics of mixed marriages, Catholic schools, and the laity. On the topic of education, he is convinced that integrated schools will not solve Northern Ireland’s problems.

Conway represents the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference at each assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, at first with Bishop Michael Browne of the Diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh, his former professor in Maynooth, and later with the Archbishop of Dublin, Dermot Ryan. With Cardinals Jean-Marie Villot and Pericle Felici, he is chairman of the first synod in 1969, a signal honour conferred on him by Pope Paul VI. He addresses the assembly, opposing the ordination of married men as a move that would release a flood of applications from around the world for dispensations from priestly celibacy. His experience of violence in Northern Ireland is reflected in contributions he makes to later synod assemblies, especially in 1971 and 1974.

Apart from the synod, Conway travels a few times each year to Rome for meetings of the three Roman congregations on which he is called to serve (those of bishops, catholic education, and the evangelisation of peoples) and the commission for the revision of the code of canon law. He also travels further afield in a representative capacity to the International Eucharistic Congress at Bogotá, also attended by Pope Paul VI, and to Madras (1972), where he acts as papal legate for the centenary celebrations in honour of St. Thomas. In 1966 he is invited by the bishops of Poland to join in celebrations for the millennium of Catholicism in that country, but is refused an entry visa by the Polish government. In January 1973 he feels obliged to forgo participation in the Melbourne eucharistic congress because of the troubled situation at home. Within Ireland he accepts invitations to become a freeman of Cork and Galway (1965) and of Wexford (1966). In 1976 the National University of Ireland (NUI) confers on him an honorary LL.D.

Conway is acknowledged as an able and diligent chairman of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. The core problem in the early years is how to lead the Irish church into the difficult new era that follows the council. He shows exceptional leadership qualities in the manner in which he promotes firm but gentle progress, avoiding sudden trauma and divisions. A major event in his term as Archbishop of Armagh, and one that gives him much satisfaction, is the canonization of Oliver Plunkett, his martyred predecessor, in the holy year 1975. He follows with great interest the final stages of the cause from 1968, and is greatly disappointed when grounded by his doctors six weeks before the event. He does however take part, concelebrating with Pope Paul VI at the ceremony on October 12, 1975. He also presides the following evening at the first mass of thanksgiving in the Lateran Basilica, receiving a tumultuous applause from the thousands of Irish present.

More than anything else, the Troubles in Northern Ireland occupy Conway during the second half of his term as archbishop and primate. He is the leading spokesman of the Catholic cause, but never fails to condemn atrocities wherever the responsibility lay. He brands as ‘monsters’ the terrorist bombers on both sides. In 1971 he denounces internment without trial, and the following year he is mainly responsible for highlighting the ill-treatment and even torture of prisoners in Northern Ireland. He repudiates the idea that the conflict is religious in nature, emphasising its social and political dimensions, and is openly critical of the British government over conditions in Long Kesh Detention Centre, and of ‘the cloak of almost total silence’ surrounding violence against the Catholic community.

In January 1977 Conway undergoes surgery in a Dublin hospital, and almost immediately comes to know that he is terminally ill. It is the best-kept secret in Ireland until close to the end. On March 29, he writes to his fellow bishops informing them that the prognosis regarding his health is ‘not good, in fact . . . very bad,’ and that he is perfectly reconciled to God’s will. He is still able to work at his desk until Good Friday, April 8, 1977.

Conway dies in Armagh on Low Sunday night, April 17, 1977. Seven countries are represented at his funeral by six cardinals and many bishops. The apostolic nuncio, the bishops of Ireland, the president and Taoiseach, six Irish government ministers, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are also among the mourners. The cardinal is laid to rest in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Cemetery, Armagh. The red hat received from Pope Paul VI is suspended from the ceiling of the Lady chapel, joining those of his four immediate predecessors.

(From: “Conway, John William,” Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie, contributed by J. J. Hanley)