#OTD in Irish History – 16 October:

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the Feast Day of St. Gall (Gallen, or Gallus, c. 550 – c. 646). He was an Irish disciple and one of the traditionally twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent.

1558 – Birth of Franciscan friar and historian, Luke Wadding, in Co Waterford. Wadding founded the Pontifical Irish College for Irish secular clergy in Rome. In 1900, Wadding’s portrait and part of his library were in the Franciscan friary on Merchant’s Quay, Dublin. Through Wadding’s efforts, St Patrick’s Day became a feast day.

1678 – Proclamations against Catholic clergy and schools in Ireland are issued.

1827 – Cavan-born Thomas Baron von Brady, general in the Austrian army, dies in Vienna.

1854 – Birth of playwright, novelist, essayist, and poet, Oscar Wilde, in Dublin. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of the most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. He is remembered for his epigrams, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, his plays, as well as the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.

1861 – Birth of historian and scholar, J. B. (John Bagnell) Bury, in Clontibret, Co Monaghan. He was an eminent Irish historian, classical scholar, Medieval Roman historian and philologist. He objected to the label “Byzantinist” explicitly in the preface to the 1889 edition of his Later Roman Empire.

1890 – Birth of Irish Revolutionary leader, Michael Collins (The Big Fella) in Sam’s Cross, near Clonakilty, Co Cork. He was Minister for Finance in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently he was both Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-chief of the National Army. He was shot and killed in an ambush in Béal na mBláth in August 1922, during the Irish Civil War.

1920 – Peter O’Carroll (actor, Brendan O’Carroll’s grandfather) was shot dead in Manor Street, Dublin. The killer was identified by David Neligan as Jocelyn Lee Hardy.

1924 – Birth of actor, Gerry Parkes, in Dublin. He moved to Toronto, Canada in 1956 and is best known for playing “Doc” on the television series Fraggle Rock.

1929 – Birth in Bailieborough, Co Cavan of Captain James Kelly, Irish army intelligence officer who would later be involved in the 1970 arms trial.

1939 – Birth of composite, entertainer, recorder and singer of easy listening songs, Joe Dolan in Mullingar, Co Meath.

1961 – RTÉ reports on the closure of the West Clare Railway.

1961 – Cork International Airport opened.

1968 – The People’s Democracy organised a march of 1,300 students from the Queen’s University of Belfast to the City Hall in the centre of the city.

1974 – Secretary of Sate for Northern Ireland, Merlyn Rees, announced that nine Republican prisoners from Long Kesh Prison had been hospitalised following disturbances at the prison the previous day. Fifteen prison officers and sixteen soldiers were also hurt during the disturbances. The unrest spread to Magilligan Prison where a number of huts were destroyed. Damage at Magilligan Prison on 16 October 1974 was estimated at £200,000. In Armagh Women’s Prison the governor and three women prison officers were held captive before being released following mediation by clergymen.

1976 – Michael Clerkin (24), then a member of the Garda, was killed by a booby-trap bomb near Portlaoise, Co Laois. The bomb was planted by the IRA.

1976 – Three members of the IRA were killed when a bomb they were planting exploded prematurely at Belfast Gas Works, Ormeau Road, Belfast.

1978 – Karol Wojtyla is elected Pope John Paul II after the October 1978 Papal conclave, the first non-Italian pontiff since 1523.

1981 – Ben Dunne, joint managing director of Dunnes Stores, is kidnapped by the IRA.

1984 – British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, said that she was not in favour of any “sudden new initiative” on Northern Ireland.

1994 – The broadcasting ban was lifted. During the Troubles in Northern Ireland, 1968-1994, censorship was used principally to prevent RTÉ interviews with spokespersons for Sinn Féin and for the IRA. Under Section 31 of the Broadcasting Authority Act (1960), the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs could issue a Ministerial Order to the government appointed RTÉ Authority not to broadcast material specified in the written order. In 1971 the first ever Order under the section was issued by Fianna Fáil Minister for Posts and Telegraphs Gerry Collins. It instructed RTÉ not to broadcast, any matter that could be calculated to promote the aims or activities of any organisation which engages in, promotes, encourages or advocates the attaining of any particular objectives by violent means.

1997 – A bomb was delivered by post to the constituency office of David Trimble, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP). The device was diffused by the British Army. A group called the Revolutionary Republican Strike Force (RRSF) later claimed responsibility for the bomb and a number of previous similar devices.

1998 – Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, leads the applause for Nobel Peace Prize winners John Hume and David Trimble, describing it as a deserved tribute to two of the principal architects of the Good Friday Agreement.

1999 – Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, addressed the annual Fianna Fáil Wolfe Tone commemoration in Bodenstown, Co Kildare. Ahern praised Sinn Féinand Loyalist parties for their courageous political leadership in recent years and called for their efforts to be recognised.

1999 – The Guardian carried a story claiming that Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, had authorised secret talks between government officials (and MI5 officers) and the IRA. Thatcher’s approval for the reopening of the ‘back channel’ (the name given to the system of contact which involved a go-between called the ‘mountain climber’) was given in late 1990. The story of Thatcher’s involvement was at odds with her often publicly stated assertion that she never talked to terrorists.

2001 – There was continuing media speculation that the IRA was considering another step on the issue of decommissioning. In an interview on the BBC David Trimble, Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), said that he would be willing to accept the determination of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) with regard to any IRA move on weapons. If the IICD accepted and verified that a start had begun to decommissioning Trimble said he would seek re-election as First Minister.

Photo: Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare

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