Today in Irish History – 5 May:

1795 – House of Commons rejects Grattan’s Catholic relief bill.

1864 – Birth in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford of Sir Henry Wilson, soldier; chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1918 to 1922; establishes British Intelligence ‘Cairo Gang’ in Dublin.

1881 – Richard Downey (youngest ever Catholic archbishop in 1928, who reduces his weight from 18 stone to 9 stone in the 1930s) is born in Kilkenny.

1889 – Death of Isaac Butt. Born in Donegal, he was a barrister, politician, Member of Parliament (MP), known for his opposition to the Irish nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell’s campaign for the repeal of the Act of Union. Butt was the founder and first leader of a number of Irish nationalist parties and organisations, including the Irish Metropolitan Conservative Society in 1836, the Home Government Association in 1870 and in 1873 the Home Rule League.

1911 – Birth of Monsignor James Horan, born in Partry, Co Mayo, a parish priest of Knock, Co Mayo. He is most widely known for his successful campaign to bring an airport to Knock, his work on Knock Basilica, and is also credited for inviting Pope John Paul II to visit Knock Shrine in 1979.

1916 – Irish patriot and a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, John MacBride, is executed by firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol.

1923 – A civilian Michael Reynolds is shot dead by republicans in Leitrim, who were looking for his son, an ex RIC officer.

1923 – Republicans blow up the Grand Central Cinema in Dublin.

1938 – In a House of Commons speech, Winston Churchill rails against the agreement that returns Irish ports “the sentinel towers of the western approaches” back to Ireland. Churchill appreciated the potential benefit to Britain of the ports in the event of war. The fact that Britain did not have access to the ports during WWII played a major role in Ireland’s effort to remain neutral.

1939 – Death of Mick the Miller, the greatest greyhound in the history of the sport.

1941 – Kate O’Brien’s novel The Land of Spices is banned by the Free State Board of Censors; protests will eventually lead to the setting up of an appeals procedure.

1949 – Ireland one of ten founder members of Council of Europe with HQ in Strasbourg.

1956 – Birth of Mary Coughlan in Co Galway. She is an Irish jazz and folk singer and actress. She has received great acclamation in Ireland for her emotional and heartfelt jazzy musical renditions.

1965 – Birth in Belfast of Norman Whiteside, Manchester United, Everton and Northern Ireland footballer.

1981 – Bobby Sands dies at Long Kesh prison on the 66th day of his hunger strike.

1999 – The remains of celebrated British actor Oliver Reed arrive in Ireland and are taken by hearse to a funeral home in the North Cork town of Buttevant, not far from his Castle McCarthy home in nearby Churchtown.

1999 – Prince Charles visits Omagh and meets with relatives of those killed in the 1998 bombing and some of the young people who were injured.

1999 – A team of security personnel from the White House arrive in Galway to prepare the city’s National University for the visit of First Lady Hillary Clinton.

1999 – Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams suggests that full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement could mean the end of the IRA.

2000 – Hopes for a breakthrough in the peace process grow as high level talks at Hillsborough Castle overrun their expected timeframe by several hours.

2003 – It is announced that almost a year after his death, two unpublished plays by John B Keane have been discovered in his study and will be staged when his widow, Mary, decides the time is right.

2015 – Death of Former IRA leader, Gerard Davison. Davison, who was shot dead in the Belfast markets, was one of the most senior republicans who supported the peace process to have been killed since the IRA ceasefire. He backed Sinn Féin’s peace strategy and was also a community worker for the Markets Development Association. He had been an IRA commanding officer in Belfast.

2015 – Death of Michael Burns. He was a footballer who played as a midfielder for the Cork senior team. Born in Castlehaven, Co Cork, Burns first excelled at football in his youth. He arrived on the inter-county scene at the age of seventeen when he first linked up with the Cork minor team before later joining the under-21 side. He made his senior debut during the 1981-82 league. Burns later became a regular member of the team and won one All-Ireland medal, two Munster medals and one National Football League medal as a non-playing substitute.

Photo: Benbulben, Co Sligo, Gary McParland Photography

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