#OTD in Irish History – 8 December:

In the Liturgical Calendar, today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. If it falls on a week day, Roman Catholic schoolchildren are given a holiday, marking the beginning of the Christmas season.

1757 – The Rotunda Hospital opened in Dublin. Initially located in George’s Lane on the site of a recently closed theatre, the hospital was later moved to its present location where it became known as ‘The New Lying-In Hospital’, referred to today as ‘The Rotunda’.

1831 – Death of James Hoban, the Kilkenny architect who designed the White House.

1860 – Birth of novelist, Amanda McKittrick Ros, in Drumaness, Co Down. She published her first novel ‘Irene Iddesleigh’ at her own expense in 1897. She wrote poetry and a number of novels. Her works were not read widely, and her eccentric, over-written, circumlocutory writing style is alleged by some critics to be some of the worst prose and poetry ever written.

1881 – Birth of playwright, poet, musician and novelist, Padraig Colum, in Co Longford.

1891 – The electric tattooing machine was officially patented by a New York Irish-American, tattoo artist, named Samuel O’Reilly. O’Reilly’s machine was based on the rotary technology of Thomas Edison’s autographic printing pen.

1896 – Death of women’s rights activist, Isabella Tod, in Belfast. Born in Edinburgh and educated at home by her mother, Maria Isabella Waddell, from Co Monaghan. In the 1850s she moved with her mother to Belfast. She contributed to several newspapers, including the Northern Whig and the Dublin University Magazine. She founded the North of Ireland Women’s Suffrage Society which later became the Irish Women’s Suffrage Society.

1922 – Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Joseph McKelvey and Richard Barrett, Irish patriots – one from each of the four provinces – are executed by the Free State forces.

1921 – Contentious Cabinet Discussion on Treaty. Seven members of Dáil Cabinet meet to discuss the Treaty. Minutes of the discussion state that: “(T)he following members declared in favour of recommending it to the Dáil: – A. Griffith, M. Collins, R. Barton, W. Cosgrave, K O’Higgins (no vote). Mr Griffith would recommend document on basis of its merits – the remaining members on basis of signature. The following declared against recommending Treaty to Dáil: President De Valera, Cathal Brugha and A. Stack.” The stage was being set for a vicious Irish Civil War.

1922 – Death of Rory O’Connor. He was an Irish republican activist. He is best remembered for his role in the Irish Civil War 1922-1923, which led to his execution. O’Connor was born in Dublin in 1883 and in his youth he worked as a railway engineer in Canada. After his return to Ireland, he became involved in Irish nationalist politics, joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians and was interned after the Easter Rising in 1916.

1922 – Death of Liam (William Joseph) Mellows, often spelled ‘Liam Mellowes’. He was an Irish Nationalist and Sinn Féin politician. Born in England, Mellows grew up in Co Wexford. He was active with the IRB and Irish Volunteers, and participated in the Easter Rising in Co Galway, and the War of Independence. Elected as a TD to the First Dáil, he rejected the Anglo-Irish Treaty and was captured by pro-Treaty forces during the Irish Civil War. Mellows was executed by Free State forces in 1922.

1922 – Death of Richard Barrett (Dick Barrett). He was a prominent Irish Republican Army volunteer who was executed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. Barrett was born in Hollyhill, Cork in 1899. He was educated at a local national school and went on to become a teacher. He was an IRA brigade staff officer and occasionally acted as brigade commandant of the West Cork Brigade during the War of Independence. Dick also managed to organise fund-raising activities for comrades ‘on the run’. In 1920 he was appointed quartermaster of the West Cork Brigade: after the Crossbarry Ambush. Dick was arrested March 1921 and imprisoned in Cork jail, later being sent to Spike Island, Co Cork. He escaped during the truce of 1921 by row boat alongside Moss (Maurice) Twomey, Tom Crofts and Bill Quirke.

1922 – Death of Joe McKelvey. He was an Irish Republican Army officer who was executed during the Irish Civil War. He participated in the Anti-Treaty IRA’s repudiation of the authority of the Dáil (civil government of the Irish Republic declared in 1919) in March 1922 and was elected to the IRA Army Executive. In April 1922 he helped command the occupation of the Four Courts in defiance of the new Irish Free State. This action helped to spark the Irish Civil War, between pro and anti Treaty factions. McKelvey was among the most hardline of the anti-Treaty republicans and briefly, in June 1922, became IRA Chief of Staff.

1933 – Death of physicist, John Joly. Born in Bracknagh, Co Offaly, Joly is famous for his development of radiotherapy in the treatment of cancer. He is also known for developing techniques to accurately estimate the age of a geological period, based on radioactive elements present in minerals.

1939 – Birth of ‘The Man With the Golden Flute’ – James Galway in Belfast. Sir James publicly stated on several occasions that he played the flute – not the flaut. He was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award from the National Concert Hall in 2013.

1944 – Córas Iompair Éireann (CIÉ) set up. It is a statutory corporation of the Irish state, answerable to the Irish Government and responsible for most public transport in the Republic of Ireland and, jointly with its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The company is headquartered at Heuston Station, Dublin. It is a statutory corporation whose members (the Board) are appointed by the Minister for Transport.

1945 – Birth of novelist, John Banville, in Wexford. Banville has published a number of crime novels as Benjamin Black, most featuring Quirke, an Irish pathologist based in Dublin.

1966 – Birth of singer-songwriter, Sinéad O’Connor, in Glenageary, Co Dublin. She rose to fame in the late 1980s with her debut album The Lion and the Cobra and achieved worldwide success in 1990 with a cover of the song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Since then, she has regularly courted controversy with her outspokenness, shorn head, and views on religion, women’s rights, war and her own sexuality, and recent social media posts, while still maintaining a singing career.

1970 – Cardinal William Conway, then head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, published a pamphlet on the topic of segregation in education in Northern Ireland.

1971 – Sean Russell (30), an off duty member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), was shot dead by members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in his home in Ballymurphy, west Belfast. Russell was the first Catholic member of the UDR to be killed in the conflict.

1974 – The Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) was formed following a split within the Official Sinn Féin (OSF). Among its leading members were Séamus Costello, leader of the IRSP, and Bernadette McAliskey, Member of Parliament (MP).

1975 – The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) was formed and many people viewed it as the military wing of the IRSP.

1980 – Haughey and Thatcher meet in Dublin and agree to consider ‘the totality of relationships within these islands’. This represented the first visit to Dublin by a British Prime Minster since partition in 1921. The phrase ‘totality of relationships’ was first used at this meeting. However it was later revealed that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland had not been discussed at the meeting.

1980 – Singer, John Lennon, is shot and killed by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building in New York City.

1982 – British Home Secretary, William Whitelaw, imposed a banning order on Gerry Adams, Vice-President of Sinn Féin, and Danny Morrison, a leading member of SF. The order was imposed under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and meant that Adams and Morrison could not enter Britain. The two men had received an invitation from the Greater London Council (GLC) to go to London for a series of meetings.

1983 – The Fair Employment Agency (FEA) found that Catholics were under-represented in the higher levels of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.

1997 – A group of Republicans launched a new organisation called the 32 County Sovereignty Committee in Dublin. One of the most prominent members was Bernadette Sands McKevitt, sister of Bobby Sands who died on hunger strike on 5 May 1981. The new Committee opposed the stance of Gerry Adams on the peace process. Later a number of commentators were to associate the Committee with the dissident Irish Republican Army (IRA) members who formed the ‘Real’ IRA.

1998 – A leaked Northern Ireland Office (NIO) report shows that the number of families being forced to leave their homes because of intimidation is at its highest level since 1973.

1999 – President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, called a press conference to reveal that a car he used during the review of the Good Friday Agreement had been bugged. He said: “I feel shafted by the discovery of this”. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, declined to comment on the matter.

1999 – The Government implements a 32-year old law banning the sale of turkeys, ducks and geese at livestock marts.

2001 – The Civic Forum held its 8th plenary meeting in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. The meeting called for additional funding to be made available to tackled sectarian tensions across Northern Ireland.

2001 – The American government announced that it would resume training officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) following the suspension of the arrangements in 1999. The training had been suspended over concerns about the human rights record of officers in the RUC. Any PSNI officers involved will have to be vetted to ensure they have not abused human rights in the past. The training will also include a component on human rights.

2001 – Brendan O’Leary, a Professor at the London School of Economics, said that partition was no longer “an internationally approved instrument” in attempting to resolve territorial disputes. O’Leary was speaking at a conference convened by the Keough Institute for Irish Studies in the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. He said that Northern Ireland had been persistently unstable and the United Kingdom had suffered the highest level of internal political violence of any established European democracy.

2002 – Gardaí recover €100,000 in coins stolen from the Pennies from Heaven charity.

2002 – Hundreds of anti-war demonstrators march on Shannon airport in protest at the continued use of the airport by the US Air Force in preparation for possible war in the Gulf.

Image | Ballybunion Beach, Co Kerry | Deirdre Lyons Photography via Wild Atlantic Way

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