Today in Irish History – 11 May:

1745 – At the Battle of Fontenoy, near Tourney in modern Belgium, the Irish Brigade of the French army under Lieutenant Charles O’Brien repulses the British and wins the day.

1788 – Presbyterian minister, Henry Cooke, is born at Grillagh, near Maghera, Co Derry. Cooke is famous for leading Ulster Presbyterianism away from the free-thinking radicalism which had spawned the United Irishmen’s rising during his childhood.

1916 – During the House of Commons debate on the Irish crises, John Dillon urges the cessation of executions.

1920 – IRA volunteers destroyed the RIC barracks at Hollyford, Co Tipperary.

1921 – A party of Black and Tans shoot dead Christopher Folan, Woodquay, Galway, and injure Joseph Folan, while searching the family home for James Folan, Battalion-Quartermaster of the Galway Brigade, who had just been released from prison for republican activities. They then went to another house and shoot dead Hubert Tully, a republican suspect and contact of Sean Broderick, a Galway Republican leader.

1937 – Debate on new Constitution commences.

1967 – The Republic of Ireland applies again to join the Common Market.

1971 – Death of former Taoiseach Seán Francis Lemass in Dublin.

1979 – The Riordans, a drama about life in a rural Irish village and the most successful serial in the history of RTÉ (running for 15 years) comes to an end.

1996 – Bill Graham, Irish rock journalist, dies at his home in Howth.

1999 – Gay Byrne, legendary host of the Late Late Show, becomes the 64th Freeman of the City of Dublin.

1999 – Death of Birdy Sweeney in Dublin. Born Edmund Francis Sweeney in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, he was an actor and comedian. He garnered his nickname “Birdy” from his childhood ability to imitate bird calls which he demonstrated on BBC Radio Ulster.

2000 – Figures released on this date show that tourist visitors to Ireland in 1999 exceed six million for the first time.

2001 – Visually-impaired adventurer Caroline Casey arrives back in Dublin after a four-month elephant ride across India during which she raises $250,000 for charity.

2003 – Murder victim, Gareth O’Connor goes missing on this day. O’Connor disappeared after driving through Newtownhamilton. On 11 June 2005, his badly decomposed body was discovered in his car in Newry Canal, Co Down. His father, Mark, believes that the IRA were responsible for the murder, as they had threatened father and son. Mark O’Connor said: “I gave those names [of the killers] to Sinn Féin. But nothing has been done. They ignores us and ignore all the families of the Disappeared.”

Photo: Dunguaire Castle, Kinvara, Co Galway, Tommy Hannon Landscape Photography

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