seamus dubhghaill

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


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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.


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Birth of Brian Cowen, Former Taoiseach & Leader of Fianna Fáil

Brian Cowen, Irish former politician who is Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil from 2008 to 2011, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly, on January 10, 1960.

Cowen is exposed to politics at a young age. His grandfather was a councillor in the Fianna Fáil party, and his father, Bernard Cowen, held a seat in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (Irish parliament). He is an exemplary debater in school and often speaks at his father’s election rallies. He studies at University College Dublin and at the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, where he is trained as a solicitor. His father’s death in 1984 prompts a by-election for the seat he had held in the Dáil. At the age of 24, he captures the seat, becoming one of the youngest members ever to sit in the Dáil.

Cowen’s political mentor is Albert Reynolds, who becomes Taoiseach in 1992 when Fianna Fáil is in a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. He is an outspoken critic of the coalition, famously stating about the Progressive Democrats, “When in doubt, leave them out!” He serves as Minister for Labour (1992–93), and in 1993, after the breakup of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government, he helps to negotiate the short-lived coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party. He then serves as Minister for Transport, Energy, and Communications (1993–94), leaving office after Fianna Fáil is forced into opposition by the formation of a Fine Gael–Labour–Democratic Left coalition.

During Fianna Fáil’s years out of government, Cowen serves successively as opposition Spokesperson for Agriculture, Food, and Forestry (1994–97) and Spokesperson for Health (1997). Following elections in 1997, Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern forms a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, and the party once again returns to power. Cowen serves as Minister for Health and Children (1997–2000), Minister for Foreign Affairs (2000–04), and Minister for Finance (2004–08). In June 2007 he was appointed Tánaiste.

Cowen is known for his sharp tongue and sometimes rough-hewn manner, but he is also recognized for his fierce intelligence, wit, and jovial demeanour. A combative politician and loyal party member, he is for many years seen as an obvious successor to Ahern. In April 2008, amid an investigation into possible past financial misconduct, Ahern announces that he will resign as Taoiseach and Leader of Fianna Fáil the following month. Cowen, who had remained supportive of Ahern throughout, is elected Leader of Fianna Fáil in April 2008. He becomes Taoiseach the following month and is faced with leading the country amid the global financial crisis that creates Ireland’s worst economy since the 1930s.

Cowen’s government oversees the bailout of Ireland’s banking system, which had been thrown into crisis by the collapse of the housing market, but the rescue comes at the cost of a skyrocketing deficit. As the country’s economic difficulties deepen, he seeks a cure that he hopes would obviate the need of foreign intervention, proposing an increase in income taxes and cuts in services. In November 2010, however, as concern for Ireland’s financial stability grows among its eurozone partners, he agrees to accept a bailout of more than $100 million from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. There is concern in Ireland that one condition for foreign aid might be an increase in Ireland’s comparatively low corporate taxes. The Green Party, Fianna Fáil’s junior partner in the governing coalition, responds to the situation by calling for early elections.

In mid-January 2011 Cowen’s leadership of Fianna Fáil is challenged by Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, partly in response to rumours that had swirled of a golf course meeting that had taken place between the Taoiseach and the former head of the Anglo Irish Bank before the government’s bailout of the Irish banking industry. He survives a leadership vote, but about one-third of the party’s parliamentary bloc votes against him. In a rapid succession of events that occur over the course of a few days, an unsuccessful reshuffle of the cabinet follows the resignation of six cabinet ministers, after which Cowen calls for an election to be held on March 11 and then announces that he will step down as party leader but continue as caretaker Taoiseach until the election. The Green Party then withdraws from the ruling coalition, forcing an even earlier election. Waiting until the parliament passes a finance bill that is necessary to meet the conditions of an International Monetary Fund–European Union loan but which imposes austerity measures that had proved very unpopular with much of the Irish public, he officially calls the election for February 25. Martin takes over as the Leader of Fianna Fáil, which suffers a crushing defeat in the election at the hands of Fine Gael.

In May 2014, Cowen becomes part of the board of Topaz Energy. He is appointed to the board of Beacon Hospital in February 2015. In July 2017, he is conferred with an honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland. During his 50-minute acceptance speech he criticises the EU for its behaviour towards Ireland during the financial crisis and expresses regret that so many jobs were lost during the recession. Following the conferring ceremony, the NUI faces considerable public criticism for deciding to make the award to Cowen. Former (and founding) President of the University of Limerick, Edward M. Walsh, announces that he will hand back his own honorary doctorate in protest, and does so on November 14, 2018.

On July 5, 2019, Cowen is admitted to Beacon Hospital after suffering a major brain hemorrhage. He is then transferred to St. Vincent’s University Hospital where he spends five months before transferring to a physical rehabilitation facility. As of late 2020, while he is still in hospital following a stroke the previous year, he has been making steady progress.


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Death of Sister Catherine McAuley, Founder of the Sisters of Mercy

Catherine Elizabeth McAuley, Irish religious sister who founds the Sisters of Mercy in 1831, dies in Dublin on November 11, 1841. The Sisters of Mercy has always been associated with teaching, especially in Ireland, where the sisters teach Catholics, and at times Protestants, at a time when education is mainly reserved for members of the established Church of Ireland.

McAuley is born on September 29, 1778, at Stormestown House in Dublin to James and Elinor (née Conway) McAuley. Her father dies in 1783 when she is five and her mother dies in 1798. She first goes to live with a maternal uncle, Owen Conway, and later joins her brother James and sister Mary at the home of William Armstrong, a Protestant relative on her mother’s side. In 1803, she becomes the household manager and companion of William and Catherine Callaghan, an elderly, childless, and wealthy Protestant couple and friends of the Armstrongs, at their estate in Coolock, a village northeast of Dublin. For 20 years she gives catechetical instruction to the household servants and the poor village children. Catherine Callaghan, who is raised in the Quaker tradition, dies in 1819. When William Callaghan dies in 1822, McAuley becomes the sole residuary legatee of their estate.

McAuley inherits a considerable fortune and chooses to use it to build a house where she and other compassionate women can take in homeless women and children to provide care and education for them. A location is selected at the junction of Lower Baggot Street and Herbert Street in Dublin, and in June 1824, the cornerstone is laid by the Rev. Dr Blake. As it is being refurbished, she studies current educational methods in preparation for her new endeavour. On the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, September 24, 1827, the new institution for destitute women, orphans, and schools for the poor is opened and McAuley, with two companions, undertake its management.

For three years, McAuley and her companions continue their work as lay women. She never intends to found a community of religious women. Her initial intention is to assemble a lay corps of Catholic social workers. In 1828 Archbishop of Dublin Daniel Murray permits the staff of the institute to assume a distinctive dress and to publicly visit the sick. The uniform adopted is a black dress and cape of the same material reaching to the belt, a white collar and a lace cap and veil – such a costume as is now worn by the postulants of the congregation. In the same year the archbishop desires McAuley to choose some name by which the little community might be known, and she chooses that of “Sisters of Mercy,” having the design of making the works of mercy the distinctive feature of the institute.

McAuley is desirous that the members should combine with the silence and prayer of the Carmelites, with the active labours of a Sister of Charity. The position of the institute is anomalous, its members are not bound by vows nor are they restrained by rules. The clergy and people of the church of the time, however, are not supportive of groups of laywomen working independently of church structures. The main concern is for the stability and continuity of the works of mercy which the women had taken on. Should any of them get married or lose interest, the poor and the orphans whom they are caring for would then be at a loss.

McAuley’s clerical mentor urges her to form a religious institute. Along with two other women, Mary Ann Doyle and Mary Elizabeth Harley, she enters the novitiate of the Presentation Sisters to formally prepare for life as women religious in September 1830. On December 12, 1831 they profess vows and return to the House of Mercy. The Sisters of Mercy consider December 12, 1831 as the day of their founding as a religious community. Archbishop Murray assists McAuley in founding the Sisters of Mercy, and professes the first three members. He then appoints her Mother Superior.

Between 1831 and 1841 McAuley founds additional Convents in Tullamore, Charleville, Cork, Carlow, Galway, Limerick, Birr, Bermondsey and Birmingham and branch houses in Kingstown and Booterstown. A cholera epidemic hits Dublin in 1832, and she agrees to staff a cholera hospital on Townsend Street.

The rule of the Sisters of Mercy is formally confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI on June 6, 1841. McAuley lives only ten years as a Sister of Mercy, Sister Mary Catherine.

McAuley dies of tuberculosis at the age of sixty-three on November 11, 1841 at Baggot Street. She is buried at Baggot Street Cemetery. At the time of her death, there are 100 Sisters of Mercy in ten foundations. Shortly thereafter, small groups of sisters leave Ireland to establish new foundations on the east and west coasts of the United States, in Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina.

Total worldwide membership consists of about 5,500 Sisters of Mercy, 5,000 Associates, and close to half a million partners in ministry. The Mercy International Centre in Dublin is the international “home” of Mercy worldwide and the mercyworld.org website is the virtual home.

In 1978, the cause for the beatification of the Servant of God Catherine McAuley is opened by Pope Paul VI. In 1990, upon recognition of her heroic virtues, Pope John Paul II declares her Venerable.


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Birth of Gaelic Footballer Matt Connor

Matt Connor, one of the most legendary Gaelic footballers of all time, is born in Walsh Island, County Offaly, on July 9, 1960. He plays with his local club Walsh Island and is a member of the Offaly senior inter-county team from 1978 until 1984 when he is seriously injured in a car crash, resulting in his needed use of a wheelchair.

In a six-year career with Offaly Connor scores a massive 13-142 and his performance in the 1980 All Ireland Senior Football Championship semi-final against Kerry when he scores 2-9 is regarded as one of the great individual performances.

Connor is a key player on the Offaly side that famously denies Kerry five-in-a-row in 1982 when he is joined by his brother Richie, who captains the side, and by his cousins Liam and Tomas, all from the small Walsh Island club just a couple of miles beyond Portarlington.

Connor is cruelly paralysed from the waist down following a car accident on Christmas Day 1984. He is only 24 years old at the time. Despite having his career cut short by injury, he remains heavily involved in Offaly GAA and serves as minor manager, senior selector and is also involved with the Irish international rules football team.

The Walsh Island native serves in Tullamore Garda station for many years and is remembered as one of the classiest forwards to ever have played the game. He retires following a 40-year career as a member of An Garda Síochána.

The Connor family has a long association with Laois through school, work and football. Connor is a regular in the press box in O’Connor Park which shares a facility with the wheelchair section and the VIP area. His older brother Richie is currently principal of Shanahoe National School and previously served as manager of the Laois and Offaly senior football teams.

In May 2020, the Irish Independent names Connor at number six in its “Top 20 footballers in Ireland over the past 50 years.”


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Birth of Architect Benjamin Woodward

Benjamin Woodward, Irish architect who, in partnership with Sir Thomas Newenham Deane, designs a number of buildings in Dublin, Cork and Oxford, is born in Tullamore, County Offaly on November 16, 1816.

Woodward is trained as an engineer but develops an interest in medieval architecture, producing measured drawings of Holy Cross Abbey in County Tipperary. These drawings are exhibited at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London in 1846.

The same year Woodward joins the office of Sir Thomas Deane and becomes a partner in 1851 along with Deane’s son, Thomas Newenham Deane. It seems that Deane looks after business matters and leaves the design work to Woodward.

Woodward’s two most important buildings are the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin (1854-1857) and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford, (1854-1860). He is also responsible for the Kildare Street Club in Dublin (1858-1861) and Queen’s College Cork, now University College Cork (1845-1849).

The work of Deane and Woodward is characterised by naturalistic decoration with foliage and animals carved into capitals and plinths around windows and doors. It is extolled by John Ruskin in particular when he visits the Museum at Trinity College, Dublin. Woodward collaborates in particular with the O’Shea brothers, James and John, who are stone carvers from County Cork. They, along with London sculptors, carve the abundant decorative stonework at Trinity, showing owls, lizards, cats and monkeys, as well as other flora and fauna. Later the O’Sheas carve stonework at the Kildare Street Club, including the famous window piece showing the club members as monkeys playing billiards. Some stories tell of the O’Sheas getting into trouble and possibly even being sacked for carving cats or monkeys at the Oxford University Museum.

Benjamin Woodward dies on May 16, 1861.

(Pictured: Benjamin Woodward attributed to Lewis Carroll, albumen print, late 1850s, © National Portrait Gallery, London)


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Birth of Dónal Lunny, Irish Folk Musician & Producer

donal-lunnyDónal Lunny, Irish folk musician and producer, is born on March 10, 1947 in Tullamore, County Offaly. He plays left-handed guitar and bouzouki, as well as keyboards and bodhrán. As a founding member of popular bands Planxty, The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Coolfin, Mozaik, LAPD, and Usher’s Island, he has been at the forefront of the renaissance of Irish traditional music for over five decades.

Lunny attends secondary school at Newbridge College and, in 1963, joins the Patrician Brothers’ school for the Intermediate Certificate year. As a teenager, he joins an occasional trio called Rakes of Kildare, with his elder brother Frank and Christy Moore. They play mostly in pubs and are also booked for a couple of gigs, one at Hugh Neeson’s pub in Newbridge for Easter Monday in 1966.

In 1965, Lunny enrolls at Dublin‘s National College of Art & Design where he studies Basic Design and Graphic Design. He also develops an interest in metalwork leading him to become a skilled gold-and-silversmith, although he only practises the craft for a short time before devoting his energies fully to music. During his time in Dublin, he plays in a band called The Parnell Folk, with Mick Moloney, Sean Corcoran, Johnny Morrissey and Dan Maher.

When Moving Hearts breaks up in 1985, Lunny diversifies and becomes a producer. He is closely involved in the establishment of a new Irish record label, Mulligan Records (acquired in 2008 by Compass Records), and produces and plays on many of its early releases.

Lunny is the producer and music director of the soundtrack of Bringing It All Back Home, a BBC Television documentary series charting the influence of Irish music throughout the world. He produces albums for Paul Brady, Elvis Costello, Indigo Girls, Sinéad O’Connor, Clannad, Maurice Lennon, Baaba Maal, and Five Guys Named Moe. He appears on the compilation albums The Gathering (1981) and Common Ground (1996). In 1994, he produces Irish Australian singer/songwriter Mairéid Sullivan’s first recording, Dancer.

Lunny pushes new boundaries with his band Coolfin (1998) which includes uilleann piper John McSherry. He appears at the 2000 Cambridge Folk Festival, and the album that commemorates it. In 2001 he collaborates with Frank Harte on the album My Name is Napoleon Bonaparte. He produces the album Human Child (2007) by Faeroese Eivør Pálsdóttir, which is published in two versions, one English and one Faeroese.

As an arranger, Lunny works for The Waterboys, Fairground Attraction and Eddi Reader. Journey (2000) is a retrospective album. During 2003–2005, he is part of the reunited Planxty concert tour. He also produces Jimmy MacCarthy‘s album entitled Hey-Ho Believe, which is released on November 12, 2010.

Lunny is the brother of musician and producer Manus Lunny. He has a son, Shane, whose mother is singer Sinéad O’Connor.

(Pictured: Dónal Lunny at the Craiceann Bodhrán Festival 2016, Inis Oirr)