Today in Irish History – 12 February:

1722 – Thomas Burgh, MP for Naas, and Richard Stewart, MP for Strabane, receive the first £2,000 of £8,000 from the Irish parliament for operating their colliery at Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

1782 – The right of habeas corpus is introduced in Ireland.

1818 – Bernardo O’Higgins formally approves the Chilean Declaration of Independence near Concepción, Chile. Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme was a Chilean independence leader who, together with José de San Martín, freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. Although he was the second Supreme Director of Chile (1817-1823), he is considered one of Chile’s founding fathers, as he was the first holder of this title to head a fully independent Chilean state. O’Higgins was of Spanish and Irish ancestry.

1820 – The ships East Indian and Fanny, with about 350 Irish emigrants aboard, leave Cork for Cape Colony, carrying some of the ‘1820 settlers’.

1831 – Birth of John Morrissey (born in Templemore, Co Tipperary), also known as Old Smoke, was a bare-knuckle boxer and a gang member in New York in the 1850s and later became a Democratic State Senator and U.S. Congressman from New York, backed by Tammany Hall. Morrissey began his bare knuckle boxing career after a confrontation with a man known only as “Chroel” who was notorious for troubling his fellow townsmen. Although Morrissey was on the bitter end of his first bare knuckle bout, his display of bravery and fortitude earned himself the respect and historical acknowledgment of his peers.

1847 – Eyewitness report on the famine by James Mahoney in The Illustrated London News.

1848 – John Mitchel publishes first United Irishmen.

1920 – The Cork IRA members commanded by Tom Hales and Sean Hales attacked four RIC barracks in West Cork, but the attacks were unsuccessful.

1922 – Sectarian riots erupt in Belfast over a three-day period causing the deaths of at least 30 people. 1922 was an especially violent year in the capital of the new Northern Ireland. An estimated 200 people died in a cycle of violence between February and June. The Belfast Telegraph provides excellent photo library of 1922 riots.

1923 – Birth in Castledawson, Co Derry of James Chichester-Clark, Northern Ireland Prime Minister from 1969 to 1971.

1930 – The first Free State Censorship Board is appointed.

1930 – Birth of John Doyle. He was an Irish hurler who played as a left corner-back for the Tipperary senior team. He won eight All-Ireland medals, ten Munster medals and ten National Hurling League medals. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game and is one of only a handful of players to have won All-Ireland medals in three separate decades.

1945 – Jimmy Keaveney, Dublin Gaelic footballer, is born in Dublin.

1949 – Fergus Slattery, rugby player, is born in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

1971 – Delia Murphy, ballad singer, dies.

1976 – Frank Stagg, Irish political prisoner, dies on hunger strike in English prison.

1989 – Patrick Finucane is murdered by Unionist assassins; Finucane, who acted as solicitor for republican hunger striker Bobby Sands was shot dead at his north Belfast home in front of his wife and children.

1998 – The IRA insists that their ceasefire is still in place — despite ‘speculation surrounding recent killings in Belfast’.

1998 – It is confirmed that Ireland has one of Europe’s top economies and our ability to compete globally outstrips Germany and France.

1999 – President Mary McAleese says Pope John Paul has told her, in their private meeting at the Vatican, he is considering a return visit to Ireland.

1999 – Literary legend John B. Keane discloses that he is back writing again after a four-year break due to illness.

1999 – A new political storm rages after Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams predicts that the North would be moving toward a united Ireland in 15 years time.

2002 – Health Minister Micheál Martin vows to press ahead with further restrictions on smoking in pubs, despite opposition from publicans.

2002 – Two Dublin film companies are nominated for Oscars in the Best Animated Short Film category and Donegal singer/songwriter Enya is nominated for best song with May It Be, from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack.

2003 – Irish musicians are hoping their plea to stop US military aircraft refuelling at Shannon will strike the right chord with the Government. More than 50 top acts have signed an open letter which will be sent to the Taoiseach asking him to end the refuelling stopover at the airport.

2003 – Mystery surrounds the identity of an artist as 24 of his paintings are launched at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). Known only as ‘John the Painter’, he has been in psychiatric care in Cork city for more than 30 years.

2003 – Talks between the Taoiseach, the British Prime Minister and Northern politicians conclude in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down.

2009 – The famous Abbey Theatre turned down an early play of his under his real name of John Byrne, featuring a character named Hughie Leonard. As a joke or otherwise his next play, ‘The Big Birthday,’ was submitted by ‘Hugh Leonard.’ Thus was the name born. Just to confuse things further, he was known to his friends as ‘Jack.’ His most famous plays are ‘Da and A Life.’ Leonard was a fine raconteur but also a notoriously prickly character who took easy offense. Some of his own biting wit ranks with the best of acerbic Irish authors including labelling theater critic Michael Ross of the Sunday Times as a ‘diarrhoeal horse’s backside’!

2012 – Death of Irish actor David Kelly, who played everything from Beckett to Shakespeare but is best known for his roles in light comedy works.

Photo: Rathgall Hillfort, located at the Wicklow/Carlow border, photo credit: Copter View

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