Today in Irish History – 29 December:

Constitution Day (Ireland)

1766 – Richard Dawson, MP for Monaghan Borough, dies on this date. Before his death, his bank – Wilcox and Dawson of Dublin, which was established in 1747 – closes with debts thought to amount to £192,000.

1808 – Andrew Johnson, successor to Abraham Lincoln and 17th President of the United States is born in abject poverty in Tennessee. Johnson’s grandfather hailed from Co Antrim.

1829 – Fr John B. Bannon, Confederate Army Chaplain, is born in Co Leitrim.

1864 – The National Association of Ireland is founded in Dublin, backed by the Catholic hierarchy and intended to foster cooperation with English radicals to promote disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

1876 – The Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language is formed in Dublin.

1902 – Birth of Edward Pakenham, 6th Earl of Longford; theatrical producer and dramatist.

1920 – British generals attended a meeting of the Cabinet and predicted victory in Ireland by the spring. Dublin Castle’s Chief of Police agreed. ‘General Tudor said he thought that, in this area, in four months’ time the terror would be broken if there was no truce. The great hope of the extremists was a change of policy.’

1920 – British government sanctioned “official reprisals”. They were begun with the burning of seven houses in Midleton, Co Cork in reprisal for IRA ambush earlier in the day.

1922 – Two Anti-Treaty men are executed by the Free State in Kilkenny.

1922 – A Free State foot patrol is ambushed by an IRA column near Castlegregory, Co Kerry. Two soldiers are killed and two wounded. Their post in the village is burned. The National Army in Tralee threaten to execute four Republican prisoners in reprisal but after a legal appeal their sentence is commuted to penal servitude.

1922 – There is a bomb planted at CID headquarters at Oriel House, Dublin. One Free State soldier is killed and two wounded in the explosion. Two civilians are also wounded.

1932 – Eileen Desmond, Labour politician, is born in Kinsale, Co Cork.

1937 – The new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) repealed the 1922 Constitution, and came into effect on this date, after having been passed by a national plebiscite the previous July.

1972 – Ruairi O Bradaigh, then President of Sinn Féin, arrested and held under new legislation in Republic of Ireland.

1974 – IRA prisoners at Portlaoise Prison held a number of prison officers hostage and caused considerable damage in protests for better conditions. Troops were used to regain control and the prison officers were freed unharmed.

1991 – Death of Irish chess Master, writer and magazine editor, Brian Reilly. Reilly represented Ireland in nine Chess Olympiads in 1935, and 1954–1968 (three times at first board). He was ‘exceedingly chuffed’ with a win against super-class U.S. Grandmaster Reuben Fine during the 6th Olympiad. He won the Irish Championship in 1959 and 1960.

1993 – Death of Marie Kean. Born in Dublin, she was a stage and screen actress, whose career spanned over 40 years. Arguably her most memorable film role was as Barry’s scheming mother in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. She also played a bigoted Irish shopkeeper in David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter. Her final movie appearance was in John Huston’s The Dead (1987), in which she played the part of Mrs. Malins.

1997 – Secretary of State Mo Mowlam holds day-long crisis talks with security chiefs and prison officials amid renewed calls for her resignation and fears that breakaway loyalist and republican terror bosses will ruthlessly exploit any political vacuum.

1997 – Three men, all Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) prisoners at Long Kesh Prison, appeared in court charged with the murder of Billy Wright, who had been leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). Adam Ingram, then Security Minister, announced that the inquiry into the escape of Liam Averill from the Prison would be extended to include the killing of Billy Wright.

1998 – Battered by gale-force winds and torrential rain, The Isle of Man ferry runs aground in Dublin Bay.

1998 – More than 12,000 families across the country face their fifth day of candle-light and cold meals as the painstaking process of repairing storm-damaged electricity lines drags on.

2000 – One of the coldest spells to grip the country in decades continues.

2001 – Singer Daniel O’Donnell is awarded an honorary MBE in the Queen’s honours list for his decades of service to the music industry. Fashion designer John Rocha is awarded a CBE.

Photo: Clogher Head, Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry, Barbara Walsh Photography

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