Today in Irish History – 17 December:

1165 – John, the son of Henry II, returns to England after touring parts of southern Ireland. John de Courcy is appointed justiciar.

1538 – Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII of England.

1785 – Birth of general and military historian, Sir William Napier, in Celbridge, Co Kildare.

1803 – Rebel leader Michael Dwyer, whose guerrilla attacks had maddened British colonial authorities since 1798, surrenders.

1823 – Death of Oliver Pollock. Born in Bready, Co Tyrone, he was a merchant and financier of the American Revolutionary War, of which he has long been considered a historically undervalued figure. He is often attributed with the creation of the U.S. Dollar sign in 1778.

1834 – The Dublin and Kingstown Railway (D&KR), was Ireland’s first railway. It linked Westland Row in Dublin with Kingstown Harbour in Co Dublin. The Dublin and Kingstown Railway Company was founded in 1831 by businessmen in the city to look into building a railway. Within two years, they had a contractor and a parliamentary act.

1857 – Death of hydrographer, Francis Beaufort. Beaufort was the creator of the Beaufort Scale for indicating wind force. The Beaufort scale, which is used in Met Office marine forecasts, is an empirical measure for describing wind intensity based on observed sea conditions.

1867 – Birth of Protestant nationalist, politician and writer, Henry Harrison, in Holywood, Co Down. Harrison strongly supported Charles Stewart Parnell, acted as his bodyguard and aide-de-camp, and after Parnell’s death devoted himself to the service of his widow Katharine. From her he heard a completely different version of the events surrounding the divorce case from that which had appeared in the press, and this was to form the seed of his later books.

1885 – The results of newspaper reports of Gladstone’s conversion to Home Rule, following the general election, gives Parnellites the balance of power.

1894 – Birth of athlete, Olympic Silver medalist and war veteran, Patrick Flynn, in Co Cork.

1920 – The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kilmore, Patrick Finnegan, stated that ‘Any war… To be just and lawful must be backed by a well-grounded hope of success… What hope of success have you against the mighty forces of the British Empire? None, none whatever… and if it unlawful as it is, every life taken in pursuance of it is murder’.

1920 – The IRA kill a twenty-three year old RIC Inspector, Phillip O’Sullivan, in Dublin while he is walking with his fiancée. O’Sullivan was from Co Cork. In his book The Squad: and the Intelligence Operations of Michael Collins, historian T. Ryle Dwyer states that O’Sullivan’s fiancée was warned prior to the incident, ‘You are walking out with a Black and Tan. Beware.’

1921 – In Belfast, four people were shot dead. Meanwhile, six IRA volunteers were captured in an attempted raid at Balmoral military base, also in Belfast.

1922 – The last British troops leave the Free State. They are the remnants of a 5,000 strong garrison maintained up to that point in Dublin, commanded by Nevil Macready.

1922 – Two National Army soldiers (a Sergeant and an officer) are killed. Lt. John Keogh is killed in an ambush on his patrol in Naas, Kildare, Sgt Thomas Walsh is killed when his armoured car crashed in Phoenix Park, Dublin.

1977 – Birth of Ruairí McKiernan in Cootehill, Co Cavan. He is a social entrepreneur and campaigner on youth, community, health and social issues. In 2012 he was appointed to the Irish Council of State by President Michael D. Higgins.

1980 – Tomás Ó Fiaich, then Catholic Primate of Ireland, called on the hunger strikers to call off their strike. He also appealed to Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, to intervene personally in the protest.

1982 – The Michelin company announced that it was to close its factory at Mallusk, Co Antrim, with the loss of over 2,000 jobs.

1983 – Harrods Bombing: a PIRA car bomb killed six and injured ninety outside a department store in London. The PIRA Army Council claimed that it had not authorised the attack.

1984 – First Soldier Convicted of Murder Ian Thain, a Private in the British Army, was convicted of murdering a civilian. He was the first British soldier to be convicted of murder during the course of the conflict. Thain was released in January 1987 and allowed to rejoin his regiment and resume active service.

1985 – Death of singer, songwriter, and radio broadcaster, Leo Maguire. Born in Dublin’s inner city, Maguire trained as a baritone under Vincent O’Brien, John McCormack’s voice teacher. For many years he performed with the Dublin Operatic Society. Parallel with his musical career, Maguire worked as a broadcaster on Radio Éireann. The programme with which he is most closely associated is the Walton’s Programme. This was a weekly sponsored show during which Maguire played recordings of popular Irish ballads. The programme was broadcast for almost 30 years until its cancellation in January 1981.

1996 – John Major, then British Prime Minister, began a two day visit to Northern Ireland. Michael Howard, then British Home Secretary, refused to allow the cases of 14 people convicted on IRA related offences to be reopened. This was despite indications that forensic evidence used against those convicted could have been contaminated.

1997 – New regulations are unveiled which confer sweeping discretionary powers on Departmental officials responsible for processing asylum applications, including the authority to summarily deport foreigners.

1997 – British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a fleeting visit to Belfast in a bid to boost the faltering peace process.

1998 – Danny McNamee won an appeal against his conviction for the Hyde Park bombing in July 1982. McNamee’s conviction was overturned when it was discovered that there were more prominent fingerprints on the electrical circuits in question, and this fact had not been revealed to the court. Those fingerprints belonged to Dessie Ellis, a known IRA bomb maker and already in prison.

1999 – The State announces the purchase of the 550 acre Battle of the Boyne site for about £9 million. The seller is an unidentified businessman.

Photo: Trinity College, Dublin by Sigita JP

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