Today in Irish History – 7 January:

1878 – Death of John O’Neill. Born in Co Monaghan, he was an officer in the American Civil War and member of the Fenian Brotherhood. O’Neill is best known for his activities leading the Fenian raids on Canada in 1866 and 1871. He had won the only success the Fenians ever achieved in their numerous enterprises against Canada. He had handled his force well, and it should be added that he had kept his men under strict control and that there was little looting or disorder. The episode shortly led to the William Randall Roberts party of the Fenian Brotherhood appointing him “inspector general of the Irish Republican Army.” He took Roberts’ place as president at the end of 1867.

1899 – Birth of novelist and short story writer, Elizabeth Bowen, in Dublin.

1921 – A British Army patrol was ambushed by a combined Waterford force at Pickardstown following a feint attack on the Tramore RIC Barracks. Present were W. Waterford O/C Pax Whelan, E. Waterford O/C Paddy Paul and Flying Column O/C George Lennon. Two IRA volunteers (Thomas O’Brien and Michael McGrath) were reportedly taken away and shot by members of the Devon Regiment.

1921 – The RIC raided a cottage near Ballinalee, Co Longford, looking for Sean MacEoin. MacEoin opened fire from the cottage, killed District Inspector Thomas McGrath, wounded a constable, and escaped.

1922 – Dáil Éireann votes 64 to 57 to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty, creating the Irish Free State, setting the scene for the Irish Civil War.

1939 – Birth of rugby player Tom Kiernan in Co Cork. He won 54 caps for Ireland as a full-back between 1960 and 1973 and captained his country 24 times. At the time of his retirement he was Ireland’s most-capped player, most experienced captain and record scorer in international with 158 points. He captained the 1968 British Lions tour to South Africa, playing in all four internationals against South Africa. His nephew, Mike Kiernan, also played for Ireland and the Lions. Tom was also the Munster team coach for their famous victory over the All Blacks in 1978.

1974 – Brian Faulkner, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Executive, resigned as leader of Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) after it rejected the Sunningdale Agreement on 4 January 1974.

1976 – In response to demands for a tougher security response, a unit of the Special Air Service (SAS) was moved into the South Armagh area. This was the first occasion when the deployment of SAS troops was officially acknowledged.

1994 – The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) called again for a bill of rights for Northern Ireland.

1998 – Marjorie (Mo) Mowlam, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced that she would go into the Long Kesh Prison to meet Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) prisoners in an attempt to change their decision to end their support for the peace process. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) described the decision by Mowlam as “madness”. The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) welcomed the decision.

2000 – Experts underline the important heritage value of a 19th Century relic that stands on the site of a disused copper mine. A conservation appeal is to be launched to safeguard a unique engine house at a mountain mine in the Beara peninsula. A rare surviving symbol of Cornish type mining technology, the structure is the primary surviving embodiment of a once thriving coppermining industry in Allihies, Co Cork.

2001 – Irish soil is sprinkled over the casket of Sister Theresa Egan as more than 2,000 mourners attend her funeral in St Lucia. She was a victim of a brutal attack on a church on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, in which two men stormed in during a mass. The men attacked the congregation with machetes, before dousing them in flammable liquid and setting the church on fire.

2003 – Gardaí adopt a zero tolerance-type approach to speeding after it emerges almost half of motorists in Dublin are still breaking the law in built-up areas.

Photo: Ballintoy Harbour, Co Antrim, Justin McLean Photography

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