Today in Irish History – 31 March:

1711 – Seven women from Island Magee, Co Antrim are imprisoned and pilloried for ‘bewitching’ a woman named Mary Dunbar, who has experienced strange fits and visions.

1790 – A quarrel between John Philpot Curran (MP for Kilbeggan) and Robert Hobart (MP for Portarlington) results in a duel in which Hobart allows Curran to fire and then refuses to return fire.

1855 – Charlotte Brontë, daughter of an Irish-born father (Patrick) and eldest of the Brontë sisters, dies during pregnancy.

1859 – The independent Irish party splits and the Tenant League breaks up.

1872 – Birth in Dublin of Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Féin and co-signatory of Anglo-Irish treaty.

1896 – Women become qualified for election as poor law guardians (welfare administrators) under the Poor Law Guardians Act.

1901 – A census on this date shows the population of Ireland to be 4,458,775; this is the last census to be taken on the basis of baronies.

1920 – There was an unsuccessful IRA attack on the RIC barracks at Durrus, west Cork.

1920 – British parliament accepts Irish “Home Rule” law.

1922 – Birth of actor Patrick MaGee in Co Armagh.

1922 – In Newry and South Armagh, the IRA killed three USC men and injured at least five.

1922 – In Belfast, the IRA killed one USC man and injured another. In retaliation, the USC killed four Catholic civilians in the surrounding area.

1926 – Jeremiah Newman, Bishop of Limerick and writer, is born in Dromcolliher, Co Limerick.

1952 – Birth of Dermot John Morgan in Dublin. He was a comedian, actor and previously a schoolteacher, who achieved international renown for his role as Father Ted Crilly in the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

1959 – Birth of Alistair Jardine “Ali” McMordie in Belfast. He is a bass guitarist, who made his name with, and was a founding member of, Stiff Little Fingers. He was with them from their inception in 1977 until they broke up in 1983, and joined them on the first few years worth of reunion tours five years later.

1966 – Contingents from Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish and Scottish liberation movements march behind IRA at 50th anniversary of Easter Rising.

1976 – The “Sallins Train Robbery” occurred on 31 March 1976 when the Cork to Dublin mail train was robbed near Sallins in Co Kildare. Approximately IR£ 200,000 was stolen. Four members of the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party), Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Brian McNally and John Fitzpatrick were arrested in connection with the robbery.

1998 – At the Stormont peace, politicians fail to pass the first hurdle set for them by negotiations chairman Senator George Mitchell.

1998 – According to a poll released on this date, almost four-fifths of people in the North will vote “yes” for compromise in a referendum if the political parties at Stormont agree to a deal.

1998 – After a four-year hiatus, MTV returns to the screens of Irish Multichannel subscribers.

1999 – Ireland is selected as the location for the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. It will be the first time the event has been staged outside the US.

Photo: Ben Crom Reservoir, Mourne Mountains, Co Down, Captive Landscapes by Stephen Emerson

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