Today in Irish History – 21 June:

1650 – Cromwell’s New Model Army is victorious at Scarrifhollis, Co Donegal.

1691 – Godert de Ginkel, the commanding general of the William of Orange army, begins a ten-day siege of Athlone.

1782 – The Declaratory Act, which had given Britain the right to legislate for Ireland and had denied the appellate jurisdiction of the Irish House of Lords, is repealed.

1798 – United Irish Rebellion: The Battle of Vinegar Hill (Cath Chnoc Fhíodh na gCaor).

1826 – Frederick Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, diplomat and holder of estates at Clandeboye, Co Down, is born in Florence.

1854 – Charles Davis Lucas from Drumagole, Co Armagh, age 20 and a mate in the Royal Navy, hurls a Russian shell (its fuse still burning) from the deck of his ship during the Crimean War. For this action, he will become the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in 1857. Lucas later achieved the rank of rear-admiral.

1866 – Birth of tennis player, Lena Rice, in Co Tipperary. She won the singles title at the 1890 Wimbledon Championships. She is to date the only female player from Ireland to ever win a singles title at Wimbledon.

1877 – On a day that will long be remembered as Black Thursday, four members of the Molly Maguires – Alexander Campbell, John Donohue, Michael Doyle and Edward Kelly, shackled with chains, walk to the gallows specially constructed to accommodate four people; their lives are ended at the same split second.

1932 – The 31st International Eucharistic Congress starts in Dublin. The congress was the largest public event to happen in the new Irish Free State and reinforced the Free State’s image of being a devout Catholic nation.

1978 – The British Army shot dead three PIRA volunteers and a passing UVF volunteer at a postal depot on Ballysillan Road, Belfast. It is claimed that the PIRA volunteers were about to launch a bomb attack.

1990 – Ireland V Holland at the World Cup: Ireland’s final group was against the then current European champions, the Netherlands. The Dutch had beaten Ireland at Euro 88 on the way to winning that tournament. The match was a fascinating match-up between a team of talented aristocrats of football and the long ball Jack Charlton football style of the Irish team. The Irish started slowly and fell behind to an early goal from Ruud Gullit. The Irish struck back just after 70 minutes and equalise through the Mighty Niall Quinn who slid in and scooped the ball into the empty net that saw them progress to the knockout phase at their first ever appearance at a World Cup final tournament.

1995 – A mass rally of the entire Irish Press Newspaper workforce and their families and friends takes place through the centre of Dublin in a demonstration of unified protest against the planned closure of the newspaper group. The march, organised by the Dublin Printing Group of Unions, draws more than 1,000 Irish Press workers and their supporters. Led by a samba band, they march through the streets of Dublin, setting off from Parnell Square toward a rally outside the Dáil.

1997 – At the county prison, which was closed as a jail in 1995 and reopened as The Old Jail Museum, the four Molly Maguires executed on this date in 1877, were remembered in a Memorial Mass attended by 100 of their descendants and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

2003 – The Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted in Ireland. The opening ceremony was held in Croke Park featured an array of stars, including: U2, The Corrs and the largest Riverdance troupe ever assembled on one stage. Nelson Mandela officially opened the games. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jon Bon Jovi walked with the athletes, with Muhammad Ali as a special guest and Roy Keane taking the athletes oath with one of the Special Olympians. Events were held from 21–29 June 2003 at many venues including Morton Stadium, the Royal Dublin Society, the National Basketball Arena, all in Dublin. Croke Park served as the central stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, even though no competitions took place there. Belfast was the venue for roller skating events (at the Kings Hall), as well as the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium (held from 19–20 June).

2006 – Death of Monsignor Denis Faul. Born in Co Louth, he was a Roman Catholic priest and civil rights campaigner best known for his role in the 1981 IRA Hunger Strike. After internment was introduced in the north of Ireland in 1971, Faul gave the early warnings of the inadequacies of British army intelligence. For the British, his role was crucial in ending the 1981 IRA hunger strike (though after he persuaded families to take prisoners off the hunger strike, some H Block inmates refused to take mass from him). The IRA referred to him as ‘Dennis the Menace’ at this time. Even into the 1990s, when the Irish and British governments were talking directly to Sinn Féin and the IRA, Faul was used, particularly when the Taoiseach John Bruton was negotiating with John Major.

2014 – Author and activist, Gerry Conlon dies of cancer, aged 60. He was one of the Guildford Four, who spent 15 years in prison before their convictions were quashed in 1989. After his release, he campaigned for various miscarriages of justice in Ireland and around the world. Mr Conlon died at his home in the Falls Road area of west Belfast.

Photo: Ashford Castle, Co Mayo

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