In the Julian calendar before the Gregorian reform, this was the shortest day and longest night, and widely celebrated as such.
1779 – The demand for the removal of restrictions on Irish free trade through out the colonies is satisfied on this day. After boycotting British goods and parading on College Green, Dublin in November, the Irish Volunteers, who had been armed and marched under a slogan of ‘free trade or else’ are granted their demands by the British government.
1862 – One of the bloodiest days in Irish military history as Irish fought Irish at Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg. The Union’s Irish Brigade (the Fighting 69th) is decimated by Confederate forces during multiple efforts to take Marye’s Heights. In his official report Meagher wrote: “Of the one thousand and two hundred I led into action, only two hundred and eighty appeared on parade next morning.”
1867 – A bomb was planted at Clerkenwell gaol, in London, in an attempt to free Irish Fenian prisoners, notably Richard Burke. The bombing killed 12 bystanders and severely injured over 120 others. The bomb was positioned in a wheelbarrow outside the external wall of the gaol in the belief that it would bring down the wall and allow the prisoners to escape. The bombing was later described as the most infamous action carried out by the Fenians in Great Britain in the 19th century.
1891 – Death of dramatist, novelist and painter, W. G. Wills. Born in Kilmurry, Co Kilkenny, He wrote several novels, including Notice to Quit (1863) The Love That Kills (1867), both of which dealt with the aftermath of The Great Hunger, with mixed reviews. He found his true vein in drama, and produced over 30 plays, after having his first major success with the The Man of Airlie, which was shown in London and New York.
1904 – Birth of mathematician and astronomer, Sir William McCrea, in Dublin.
1905 – Birth of writer and promoter of the Irish language, Críostóir Mac Aonghusa, in Blackwater, Co Offaly.
1913 – Birth of J.B. Malone. He was a hill-walking enthusiast who popularised the pastime through his television programmes and books. He was responsible for the establishment of the Wicklow Way as a recognised walking trail, having first proposed it in 1966. Following his death, Malone’s contribution to hill-walking in Ireland was marked by the erection of a stone plaque in his honour on a section of the Wicklow Way overlooking Lough Tay.
1920 – Two IRA officers, Michael McNamara and William Shanahan, were abducted and shot by British forces in Co Clare. Their bodies were found near Kilkee on 19 December.
1922 – One hundred Republican fighters under Tom Barry take Carrick-on-Suir in a surprise attack, capturing 107 rifles, two Lewis Guns and two armoured cars. They do not attempt to hold the town however.
1922 – An Anti-Treaty column of ten men at Moore’s Bridge, Co Kildare is surprised by a National Army raid and captured. One of the Anti-Treaty men is killed, allegedly due to a beating with rifle butts, though the troops claim he was shot trying to escape. Seven of the others are executed in Dublin on 19 December. They had ambushed a Free State patrol on 25 November and derailed two trains on 11 December.
1955 – Death of Irish Patriot, Grace Gifford Plunkett, in her apartment in South Richmond Street, Portobello, Dublin. She was buried with full military honours close to the republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.
1971 – Birth of politician, Naomi Rachel Long, in Belfast. She has been leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland since 2016. A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Belfast East since 2016, she previously held the same seat in the Northern Ireland Assembly from 2003 to 2010 until her election to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom from 2010 to 2015 as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Westminster constituency of Belfast East. She served as the second elected female Lord Mayor of Belfast from 2009 to 2010.
1978 – Death of boxer, Jack Doyle. Born in Cobh, Co Cork, he was known as ‘The Gorgeous Gael’ and was at one time or another a contender for the British Boxing Championship, a Hollywood actor and a tenor. He was born Joseph Doyle and known to his friends as Joe but changed it to Jack when starting his professional career. https://youtu.be/u8uQWCz0_mk
1988 – Attorney-General, John Murray, refused an extradition request from Britain for Catholic priest, Fr Partick Ryan, alleged by British intelligence of being an IRA volunteer and accused of involvement in IRA activities.
1989 – Attack on Derryard Checkpoint: using machine guns, grenades and a flamethrower, the PIRA launched an assault on a British Army checkpoint near Rosslea, Co Fermanagh. Two British soldiers were killed and two wounded.
1992 – An unidentified Loyalist paramilitary group launched a rocket attack at an area of Crumlin Road Prison that was believed to be occupied by Republic prisoners. There were no injuries in the attack. The attack was believed to be in retaliation for the killing of two Loyalist inmates on 24 November 1991 when the IRA planted a bomb inside the prison.
1994 – A two-day investment conference began in Belfast. The 300 delegates were addressed by British Prime Minister, John Major, and United States Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown. The event was picketed by Republicans in protest at the exclusion of Sinn Féin representatives.
1996 – Tony Blair, leader of the British Labour Party, paid a visit to Northern Ireland where he met representatives of the main political parties, with the exception of Sinn Féin.
1996 – An application for bail on behalf of Róisin McAliskey, whose extradition was being sought by the German government, was rejected despite being pregnant and in poor health.
1997 – Over a thousand people take to the streets of Dublin in a theatrical spectacle called ‘Féile Fáilte’ to protest racism, particularly against refugees.
1999 – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern addresses the historic inaugural plenary meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh.
2000 – Crowds roaring their approval greet Bill and Hillary Clinton on stage at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast, confirming the first couple’s enduring popularity in Northern Ireland.
2001 – Queen’s University honours Manchester United legend, George Best, with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his services to football.
2002 – For the eighth year, the only live Christmas crib in Ireland opens in the forecourt of the Mansion House on Dawson Street in Dublin. The year’s nativity scene features two llamas as well as the usual donkeys, calves, goats and sheep.
2002 – Release of the film ‘Evelyn’, in the US, later followed by the UK release on 21 March 2003. A drama loosely based on the true story of Desmond Doyle and his fight in the Irish courts (December 1955) to be reunited with his children. The film stars Sophie Vavasseur in the title role, Pierce Brosnan as her father, Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates as supporters to Doyle’s case. It opened to positive reviews.
2002 – Rugby legend, Mick Galwey, receives an honorary degree from Trinity College in recognition of his services to Ireland, Munster and Shannon clubs.
2003 – After spending nine months on the run, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is captured. The commander of the US forces responsible for the capture is Army Col. James Hickey whose parents hail from Co Sligo.
2007 – Ireland’s government announced it would organise new non-religious primary schools in the capital, a move that reflected growing immigration and declining church power in a traditionally Roman Catholic nation.
Photo: West Facing Peak Of Benbulben, Co Sligo, David O’Gorman Photography
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