Today in Irish History – 20 February:

1743 – James Gandon, possibly the most influential architect in Irish history is born in London.

1794 – Birth near Clogher, Co Tyrone of William Carleton, one of the most graphic writers about the Án Gorta Mór. He is best known for his Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry.

1873 – James Haughton, Irish social reformer, anti-slavery campaigner and temperance activist dies.

1874 – Gladstone resigns; a Conservative administration under Disraeli takes over.

1882 – Birth of Padraic Ó Conaire, writer and poet, in Galway.

1892 – First performance of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.

1920 – Counties Dublin, Wicklow, Louth, Longford, Westmeath, Sligo and Waterford proclaimed as being in a state of disturbance.

1921 – The Clonmult Ambush: Twelve IRA volunteers were killed in Clonmult, near Midleton, Co Cork by British soldiers and Auxiliaries after being surrounded in a house. The British alleged a false IRA surrender and killed all the IRA volunteers in the house. Four more IRA volunteers were wounded and another four were captured unscathed. Only one got away. The IRA suspected that an informer was to blame and a spate of shootings of six suspected informers followed in the week after.

1921 – Pvt B. Tinehes of the Manchester Regiment went missing near Ballincollig, Co Cork.

1973 – Two members of the British Army are shot dead by IRA snipers in an attack on a British Army mobile patrol on Cupar Street, Belfast.

1975 – Hugh Ferguson, 19, chairman of the Whiterock IRSP and INLA Volunteer, is shot in Ballymurphy, Belfast by the OIRA. This incident kicks off a series of attacks by OIRA on the newly-formed Irish Republican Socialist Movement.

1975 – Gerald McKeown, a 20 year old civilian, is killed by a loyalist bomb attack on Railway Bar on Shore Road in Greencastle, Belfast.

1979 – A group of 11 Loyalists known as the ‘Shankill Butchers’ were sentenced to life imprisonment for 112 offences including 19 murders. The 11 men are given 42 life sentences and receive 2,000 years imprisonment in total, in the form of concurrent sentences. The Shankill Butchers had begun killing Catholics in July 1972 and were not arrested until May 1977. The sectarian Loyalist gang operated out of a number of Ulster Volunteer Force drinking dens in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. The gang was initially led by Lenny Murphy but it continued to operate following his imprisonment in 1976. The Shankill Butchers got their name because not only did they kill Catholics but they first abducted many of their victims, tortured them, mutilated them with butcher knives and axes, and then finally killed them.

1983 – An RUC man is shot and killed by the IRA outside Warrenpoint RUC base in Co Down.

1985 – In a highly controversial vote, the Irish government defies the powerful Catholic Church and approves the sale of contraceptives.

1989 – The PIRA explode three bombs at the British Army barracks at Tern Hill, Shropshire, England. A sentry spots two men acting suspiciously and the barracks is evacuated shortly before the bombs detonate. The Volunteers flee amid gunfire from the sentry, steal a car, and escape.

1990 – A van and a car driven by an IRA unit carrying light machine guns were spotted by a British Wessex helicopter near Newtownhamilton, South Armagh. The IRA unit split up in several vehicles, but one of the cars was pinpointed by the aircraft, and three IRA volunteers were arrested by a party of three soldiers and two RUC officers after landing from their helicopter in Silverbridge. Afterwards, a crowd of 40 civilians attacked the security forces, allowing the escape of the three IRA men. A number of automatic weapons were confiscated in the aftermath by the RUC, among them two light machine guns.

1998 – In a face-to-face meeting with Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam and Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews at Stormont, Gerry Adams is told that Sinn Féin is suspended from the peace talks for just under three weeks.

1998 – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern agrees to a demand from Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams for a crisis meeting next week, amid mounting fears that IRA ‘hawks’ will attempt to scupper any chance of Sinn Féin’s return to the talks.

2001 – Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne confirms that eighty publicans are to be prosecuted for serving drink to underage customers.

2002 – After intense speculation that the Abbey Theatre would move to the southside of the Liffey to a completely new location in the Dublin Docklands, Arts Minister Síle de Valera informs the board of the theatre that the government has decided it is to be redeveloped at its present location.

2003 – New figures compiled by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) show that Ireland has the highest death rate from heart disease in Western Europe. Finland is second and Britain is third.

2003 – Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLoughlin claim claims that the deadlock in the Northern peace process will only be broken by St Patrick’s Day if the British Government delivers on the outstanding promises of the Good Friday Agreement.

2003 – The European Commission is accused of abusing private citizens’ right by conceding to American pressure on a data protection controversy. Transatlantic airlines such as Aer Lingus will be forced to provide US authorities with the names, addresses, phone numbers, itineraries and credit card details of all passengers flying to the United States.

2005 – The Irish government identified three top Sinn Fein figures – including Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris – as members of the IRA command. The government’s blunt declaration indicated it no longer would tolerate Adams’s protestations that his party should not be held accountable for the actions of the outlawed IRA. The shift is intended to force the IRA to disarm fully and disband or risk the marginalisation of the legal Sinn Féin.

2007 – Market hits record 10,000. Share values in Dublin surge to a new record with investors pushing the Irish stock market index above 10,000 for the first time.

2009 – Irish author Chrisopher Nolan dies at age 44. Despite suffering from cerebral palsy, Nolan authored a number of acclaimed books and won the Whitbread Award for book of the year for his 1987 memoir Under the Eye of the Clock.

Photo: Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare, George Karbus Photography

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