Today in Irish History – 16 August:

1793 – The Convention Act bans representative bodies set up to campaign for a change in the law, i.e. putative rivals to the parliament. The Convention Act (1793) was aimed at preventing the recurrence of events like the Convention of the Volunteers in 1782 where armed groups (of Protestants) from various parts of Ireland assembled in Dublin and were able to overawe the Government at a time when there were few troops in the country. Contrary to what has been sometimes stated, this Act was not aimed at delegates to the Catholic Committee in 1793 but at delegates to meetings of the newly formed United Irishmen, in particular a proposed National Assembly of United Irishmen at Athlone.

1824 – Death of Charles Thomson. Born in Co Derry, he was a Patriot leader in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and the secretary of the Continental Congress (1774-1789) throughout its existence.

1832 – An Act is passed which allows for tithe payments to be commuted.

1878 – The Intermediate Education Act grants female students the right to participate in public examinations and to enter into careers and professions.

1879 – National Land League of Mayo is founded.

1882 – Charles Stewart Parnell becomes a Freeman of the city of Dublin.

1892 – National Literary Society is founded.

1917 – Death of Military Chaplin Father Willie Doyle who was killed in action during the First World War. Born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, he was respected by not just the Catholic troops he served with but also the Protestant Northern Irish soldiers many of whom despised anything to do with the Catholic faith.

1920 – Court-martial of Terence MacSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork for possession of seditious articles and documents. Sentenced to two years imprisonment in Brixton Prison, England, he started a hunger strike. He would die on 25 October after efforts to forcibly feed him went wrong.

1920 – British forces burned buildings in Templemore as a reprisal for IRA actions.

1921 – The first Dáil Éireann is dissolved and the second Dáil convenes.

1922 – Three-hundred men of the Anti-Treaty IRA 4th Northern Division under Frank Aiken attack Dundalk. They use two mines to breach the walls of the barracks and temporarily take over the town. Five Free State private soldiers and one Commandant, Byrne in the attack on the barracks and another soldier is killed in the town centre. There are fifteen wounded Free State troops. Two Republicans are killed, accidentally by one of their own mines and thirty wounded. About 240 Republican prisoners are freed from the prison and 400 rifles are taken. However, Aiken does not try to hold the town and, while in possession of it, calls for a truce in a meeting in the town square.

1939 – Birth of Seán Brady in Co Cavan. He was a cardinal of the Catholic Church. He was Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland from 1996 until 2014, being elevated to the cardinalate in 2007. He faced repeated calls to resign over his role in the cover-up of child abuse (paedophiles) by priests in his jurisdiction. Brady confirmed that he had tendered his resignation in July 2014, a month before his seventy-fifth birthday. On 8 September 2014, it was announced that Pope Francis had accepted Cardinal Brady’s resignation.

1955 – Birth of James Reilly in Dublin. He is a Fine Gael politician and medical doctor. Between the February 2016 general election and the 6 May 2016 formation of a new government, he was the Acting Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, having held that ministry since July 2014 in the previous government, and has also been deputy leader of Fine Gael since 2010. He was the Minister for Health from March 2011 to July 2014. Reilly was a TD for the Dublin North constituency since the 2007 general election until he lost his seat in the 2016 general election. Reilly was nominated by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to Seanad Éireann in May 2016. James Reilly was re-appointed as deputy leader of Fine Gael on 4 July 2016.

1981 – U2 plays its first show ever at Slane Castle outside Dublin, and its only Irish show of the year.

1982 – Attorney General Patrick Connolly resigns after Malcolm McArthur, wanted for (and later convicted of) murder is found to be his house guest. Connolly was completely unaware of McArthur’s activities. The fallout from the incident led to one of the most famous acronyms in Irish politics. The much reviled (and correspondingly much-loved) Taoiseach Charles Haughey described the incident as “a bizarre happening, an unprecedented situation, a grotesque situation, an almost unbelievable mischance.” Conor Cruise O’Brien, one of Haughey’s political opponents who despised the most corrupt Taoiseach in Irish history (this is not to suggest any others who held the office were corrupt) coined the phrase GUBU – Grotesque, Unprecedented, Bizarre, Unbelievable to describe not just what happened but Haughey’s overall carry on.

1995 – More than 100 people are evacuated from The Kitchen, the basement nightclub below the Clarence Hotel in Dublin after a fire is spotted on the roof. No injuries or fatalities are reported.

1997 – Death of playwright and actor, Gerard McLarnon. His plays have been performed throughout the world, and he collaborated with, amongst others, John Tavener, Laurence Olivier and Tyrone Guthrie. Some plays he wrote: ” Victory Morning” – ” Brothers Karamazov” – ” The Idiot” – ” The Wrestler’s Honeymoon” – ” Unhallowed” – ” The Bonefire” – ” The Rise and Fall of Sammy Posnett” – ” The Saviour” – ” The Trial of Joan of Arc”.

1997 – On the 20th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, U2’s PopMart show in Vienna, Austria is filled with tributes and references to the King.

2001 – Dozens of wild birds, including swans, mallard and moorhens are rounded up by animal welfare workers after a major oil spill in the River Liffey at Palmerstown in Co Dublin.

2008 – Death of singer and folk musician, Ronnie Drew. Born in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin, he achieved international fame during a fifty year career recording with The Dubliners. He was best known for his long beard and his voice, which was once described by Nathan Joseph as “like the sound of coke being crushed under a door”.

2012 – Death of James Philip Vincent Kelly. Born in Dublin, he was a footballer who played at both professional and international levels as a full back.

Photo: Ferns Castle, Ferns, Co Wexford, Copter View Photography

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