Today in Irish History – 15 February:

1782 – The first Dungannon Convention of the Ulster Volunteers calls for an independent Irish parliament; Grattan continues to campaign for the same objective.

1793 – A third convention of Dungannon – a gathering of Volunteers from Ulster is held.

1794 – The United Irishmen publish a plan for parliamentary reform, advocating universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts and the secret ballot.

1850 – Sophie Bryant, Irish patriot and women’s rights advocate, is born.

1856 – The steamship Queen Victoria, on a voyage from Liverpool to Dublin, with 100 passengers and cargo on board hits the rocks near Howth, Co Dublin in the early hours of the morning. An estimated 60 lives are lost.

1874 – Birth in Kilkea, Co Kildare of Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton.

1896 – Birth of Arthur Shields (younger brother of Barry Fitzgerald). He was an Irish stage and film actor; born into an Irish Protestant family, he was also an Irish Nationalist and fought in the Easter Rising of 1916. He was captured and was incarcerated in an internment camp in North Wales. Some of his memorable roles were as the Reverend Playfair in Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’ opposite John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and his brother, Barry Fitzgerald and again with his brother and John Wayne in John Ford’s ‘Long Voyage Home’. Sean Dunphy sings The Lonely Woods of Upton:

1901 – Viscount Brendan Bracken, politician, publisher and British Minister of Information from 1941 to 1945 is born in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

1908 – Construction of the Pillar was started with the laying of the foundation stone.

1921 – Just twelve miles away from Upton two IRA volunteers – the Coffey brothers – are executed in their beds. It has never been clarified if it was a local loyalist group or the Black and Tans who were responsible.

1921 – The IRA ambush a train at Upton believing it is transporting an estimated fifteen British soldiers.

1946 – Clare Short, British Labour politician, is born in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.

1966 – Novelist John McGahern loses his job as a teacher at Clontarf National School because of ‘indecencies’ in his book “The Dark”.

1971 – Variously known as Decimal Day, Decimalisation Day and D-Day, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland decimalised their currencies.

1995 – Ireland v England Soccer International abandoned. A friendly international between the Republic of Ireland and England at Lansdowne Road Dublin is abandoned when a group of English Neo-Nazi supporters start a riot during the game.;

1998 – Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness hints of the danger of an end to the IRA ceasefire if, as expected, his party is expelled from the Northern Peace talks in Dublin.

1998 – Ireland has the second lowest number of workplace accidents in Europe, but employers face the highest rate of insurance claims, totalling £400m per year.

1998 – According to the Small Firms Association, as many as 1,000 jobs could be lost in Ireland, following the takeover of the HCR group of chemist shops by British superchain, Boots.

2000 – The National Bus and Rail union claim a high level of public support for its one day strike which forces 200,000 passengers to find alternative ways of getting to work.

2000 – The IRA delivers a shattering blow to the Northern Ireland peace process by pulling out of talks with the arms decommissioning body.

2000 – Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor succeeds the late Cardinal Basil Hume to become Archbishop of Westminster and the the new leader of 4.1 million Catholics in England and Wales.

2001 – In Belfast, more than 100 members of health service union Unison stage the first in a series of “shadow of the gun” protest rallies. The public demonstration follows threats from loyalist terror groups to staff at the Mater Hospital on the Crumlin Road.

2001 – Lena Hunt, a 78-year old pensioner from Limavady, Co Derry, turns down a £250,000 offer for part of her back garden, insisting that it means more to her than money. Without the key bit of land, developers of a multi-million pound supermarket project are unable to proceed.

2001 – One week after protesters call off their blockade of the ill-fated Mullaghmore interpretative centre and car park in the Burren, machinery moves in to demolish the buildings and associated facilities.

2002 – Popstars group 6 grab No 1 spot in the Irish charts with their debut single ‘There’s A Whole Lot of Loving Going On’.

2008 – The first ever students of a university course for people with intellectual disabilities graduate in a ceremony at Trinity College, Dublin. The pioneering two-year course aims to promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disability in college life. Nineteen students receive certificates in Contemporary Living.

Photo: Inch Abbey, Co Down, Captive Landscapes by Stephen Emerson

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