Today in Irish History – 21 January:

Ireland’s Independence Day – the date of the very first meeting of the first Dáil and the Declaration of Independence. The Dáil approved a Democratic Programme, based on the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, and read and adopted a Message to the Free Nations of the World in Irish, English and French.

1600 – Charles Blount, 8th Lord Mountjoy, becomes Lord Deputy of Ireland. Mountjoy went to Ireland as Lord Deputy and brought the Nine Years War to a ruthless end. His tactics were harsh on the Irish population. The Nine Years’ War, from 1594 to 1603, was fought between the forces of Gaelic Irish chieftains (Hugh O’Neill and Hugh Roe O’Donnell) against English rule in Ireland.

1684 – Chidley Coote, future MP for Kilmallock, is granted £500 for the upkeep of six lighthouses.

1793 – Louis XVI is executed in Paris; he is attended by an Irish priest, Fr. Edgeworth. Lord Edward FitzGerald is the only member of the Irish parliament not to appear in mourning following the execution.

1861 – Katherine Tynan, poet, novelist and journalist, is born.

1876 – James Larkin, organiser of Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and socialist politician, is born in Liverpool.

1903 – Birth of Róisín Madigan O’Reilly in Dublin. At aged 13, she became the youngest member of Cumann na mban.

1919 – Daíl Éireann, chaired by Sean T. O’Kelly meets for the very first time at Mansion House in Dublin. As part of this meeting, the adoption and the ritual of ‘the Turning of the Seal’ establishing the Sovereignty of the Irish Republic is begun. Cathal Brugha was elected Speaker (Ceann Comhairle). The membership was composed of elected to the Westminster parliament. Only 27 MPs were in attendance with a further 35 reported as “imprisoned by the foreign enemy.” Unionist MPs, primarily from the North of Ireland refused to attend.

1919 – Two members of Royal Irish Constabulary are shot dead by Irish Volunteers including Seán Treacy and Dan Breen in an ambush at Soloheadbeg, Co Tipperary: this is regarded as the first incident in the ‘War of Independence’. Attacks on policemen continue for the rest of the year.

1920 – RIC District Inspector William Redmond of “G” Division DMP is killed by Michael Collins’ Squad.

1921 – Abortive IRA ambush took place at Drumcondra, Dublin city. One IRA man, Michael Francis Magee aged 24, was wounded and died the next day at King George V Hospital, Dublin and five men were captured. Patrick Doyle 29, Francis X Flood 19, Thomas Bryan 24 and Bernard ‘Bertie’ Ryan 21 were later hanged at Mountjoy Prison on 14 March 1921. The fifth man, Dermot O’Sullivan said to be only 17 years old was imprisoned.

1923 – A ballast train had been engaged in repairs in the Durrow area and left for Waterford. It was intercepted by Republicans and sent back westwards towards Ballvoyle Viaduct, which had been blown up the previous August. The locomotive No. 189 and the Inchicore J15, ended up at the foot of the viaduct piers and the ballast carriages draped over the truncated embankment.

1933 – Death of novelist, short-story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist, George Moore. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family who lived at Moore Hall in Carra, Co Mayo. He originally wanted to be a painter, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s. There, he befriended many of the leading French artists and writers of the day. His writings influenced James Joyce, according to the literary critic and biographer Richard Ellmann, and, although Moore’s work is sometimes seen as outside the mainstream of both Irish and British literature, he is as often regarded as the first great modern Irish novelist.

1960 – Death of actor and director, Matt Moore. Born in Kells, Co Meath, he appeared in at least 221 motion pictures from 1912 to 1958. Moore played the role as Hector MacDonald in the MGM crime/drama The Unholy Three (1925) co-starring Lon Chaney and Mae Busch, which was a huge hit that year. He played the role as Stanley “Stan” Wentworth in Coquette (1929) opposite Mary Pickford and Johnny Mack Brown. Coquette was the first talkie of Pickford, ex-wife of his brother Owen.

1979 – Birth of former rugby player, Brian O’Driscoll, in Dublin. He captained Ireland from 2003 until 2012, he is regarded by critics as one of the greatest rugby players of all time. He won more than 100 caps for his country and was the captain for the victorious 2009 Six Nations campaign, in which Ireland won every game they played awarding them the Grand Slam as well.

1980 – Anne Maguire was found dead in what was believed to be a case of suicide. Anne Maguire was the mother of the three children who were killed in an incident on 10 August 1976 which led to the formation of the Peace People.

1981 – Norman Stronge and his son James Stronge (both former UUP MPs) were assassinated by the IRA at their home Tynan Abbey, which was then burnt down.

1995 – Birth of racing driver, Andrew Watson, in Belfast. He is currently competing in the British GT Championship driving for the Von Ryan Racing team. In 2014, he finished 4th overall in the Ginetta GT Supercup.

1997 – Death of Lily Kempson, aged 99, the last surviving participant in the Easter Rising.

1998 – A controversial deal is agreed by the British and Irish governments to transfer the IRA gang which carried out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings to Portlaoise prison.

1998 – The North is plunged into a new crisis after Benedict Hughes, a Catholic, is shot dead in south Belfast in the latest murder aimed at wrecking the peace process.

1998 – The IRA dramatically rejects the Anglo-Irish Stormont settlement plan.

2002 – Sinn Féin MPs will never sit in the British parliament, Gerry Adams vows as they move into Commons offices for the first time. Party policy is also changed to allow MPs to sit in the Dáil.

2002 – The Northern Ireland Assembly debated a motion tabled by Monica McWilliams, member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition (NIWC), and supported by the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland (APNI). The motion called on the British government to provide security documents on the Loyalist bombings in Dublin and Monaghan (on 17 May 1974) to the Commission of Inquiry taking place in the Republic of Ireland. The NIWC had been approached by the organisation Justice For the Forgotten seeking aid to secure the documents given an alleged slow response by the British government. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) opposed the motion but it was passed in a vote. Thirty-three people were killed in the bombs in Dublin and Monaghan. A letter dated 26 February 2002 was sent by John Reid, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to the Commission of Inquiry.

2002 – John Hume, former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), gave evidence to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. Hume was asked why he had not supported the anti-Internment march on 30 January 2002.

Photo: Gallarus Oratory, Dingle Peninsula, Co Kerry

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