Today in Irish History – 17 April:

In the Liturgical calendar it is the Feast Day of Saint Donnán of Eigg, also known as Donan, a Gaelic priest, likely from Ireland, who died on this date in 617. He attempted to introduce Christianity to the Picts of northwestern Scotland during the Early Middle Ages. Donnán is the patron saint of Eigg, an island in the Inner Hebrides where he was martyred. The Martyrology of Donegal, compiled by Michael O’Clery in the 17th century, records the manner of his death: “Donnan, of Ega, Abbott. Ega [Eigg] is the name of an island in which he was, after his coming from Erin. And there came robbers of the sea on a certain time to the island when he was celebrating mass. He requested of them not to kill him until he should have the mass said, and they gave him this respite; and he was afterwards beheaded and fifty-two of his monks along with him. And all their names are in a certain old book of the old books of Erin, A.D.616.” Another tradition states that a pagan Pictish queen had him and 150 others burnt. He is thought to be buried at Kildonan, on the Isle of Arran.

1172 – Henry II returns to Britain on this date, having granted a charter to Dublin – the first granted to an Irish town.

1656 – William Molyneux, statesman, philosopher and scientist, is born in Dublin. Molyneux proposed the philosophical question that has since become known as Molyneux’s Problem, the problem of the blind man who gains sight, remains a topic that is discussed even in our day.

1783 – The British Renunciation Act acknowledges the exclusive right of the Irish parliament and courts to make and administer laws for Ireland.

1875 – Election of Charles Stewart Parnell as MP for Meath.

1912 – The first recovery vessel, the cable ship Mackay-Bennett leaves Halifax, Nova Scotia to search for bodies following the sinking of the Titanic.

1920 – The inquest into the death of Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork killed by policemen in disguise on 20 March, returns a verdict of wilful murder against the RIC, and indicts Lloyd George and the British government.

1923 – Death of Irish nationalist politician, lawyer, Laurence Ginnell. Born in Delvin, Co Westmeath, he was a Member of Parliament (MP) of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for Westmeath North at the 1906 UK general election. From 1910 he sat as an Independent Nationalist and at the 1918 general election he was elected for Sinn Féin. He was self-educated and was called to the Irish bar as well as the England bar. In his youth he was involved with the Land War and acted as private secretary to John Dillon.

1936 – Brendan Kennelly, poet, is born in Ballylongford, Co Kerry.

1944 – Michael ‘Babs Keating, Tipperary hurler, is born in Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary.

1947 – Birth of Linda Martin (born in Omagh, Co Tyrone) an Irish singer and television presenter. She is best known in Europe as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992, with the song “Why Me”, and in Ireland as a member of the 1970s/1980s band, Chips.

1961 – New Civic Arts Theatre building is opened on Botanic Avenue in Belfast; originally called the Mask Theatre it is renamed the Civic Arts Theatre in 1947. Eventually, it will close due to lack of funding.

1966 – A census shows the population of the Republic to be 2,884,002.

1969 – Bernadette Devlin is elected MP for Mid Ulster, standing as the Independent Unity candidate; at 21 years old, she is Britain’s youngest ever female MP and the third youngest MP ever.

1979 – Four RUC officers were killed by a PIRA van bomb in Bessbrook, County Armagh. The bomb was estimated at 1000 lb, believed to be the largest PIRA bomb used up to that point.

1984 – Death of lyricist and songwriter Jimmy Kennedy from Omagh; his songs include The Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Red Sails In The Sunset.

1997 – Belfast born Chaim Herzog dies. In 1983 was elected by the Knesset to serve as the sixth President of Israel. He served two five-year terms in what is mainly a ceremonial role.

1998 – The Black Pearl, Paul McGrath, decides to end a lengthy and honour-strewn career in football.

1999 – The Real IRA-linked 32 County Sovereignty Movement launches a major recruitment campaign in west Belfast.

2000 – It is reported that sporting hero, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, is seriously ill in hospital.

2000 – New licensing laws go into effect which give drinkers an extra half hour in the pub.

2003 – The country sizzles as the temperature soars to 24ºC/72ºF.

2003 – The Irish and British governments debate whether to continue efforts to reach agreement on the future of the Good Friday Agreement following Sinn Féin president Gerry Adam’s failure to make a watershed speech.

2003 – Sunset in Belfast port marks an historic occasion as the Tricolour and the Royal Navy’s White Ensign are lowered together. The Irish Naval Service’s LE Eithne and Britain’s HMS Tyne both exchange personnel for the ceremonial event as both fishery patrol vessels berth side-by-side at Queen’s Quay in the heart of the northern capital. The five-day Belfast engagement for the LE Eithne marks the first-ever visit to a Six Counties’ port by an Irish navy boat.

Photo: Cúchulainn’s Castle, Dundalk, Co Louth, Paul Connolly Photography

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