#OTD in Irish History – 15 February:

1782 – The first Dungannon Convention of the Ulster Volunteers calls for an independent Irish parliament; Grattan continues to campaign for the same objective.

1793 – A third convention of Dungannon – a gathering of Volunteers from Ulster is held.

1794 – The United Irishmen published a plan for parliamentary reform, advocating universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts and the secret ballot. The British parliament dismissed the United Irishmen’s requests, ultimately, leading to the 1798 Rebellion.

1845 – William Parsons, Third Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle, built the world’s largest telescope, known as the ‘Rosses’ or ‘Leviathan’. The most powerful instrument of its time, it magnified the moon roughly 6500x and was used to map its surface. With it, Parsons discovered that many nebulae were actually spiral galaxies containing many millions of stars. He discovered a total of 16 spiral galaxies and he named the Crab Nebula. Scientists came from around the world to marvel at this feat of engineering in the middle of the Irish countryside and it even featured in a Jules Verne novel. The reflecting telescope, the world’s largest for 70 years until it was metled down to be used in WWI.

1850 – Birth of patriot and women’s rights advocate, Sophie Bryant, in Sandymount, Co Dublin.

1856 – The steamship Queen Victoria, on a voyage from Liverpool to Dublin, with 100 passengers and cargo on board hits the rocks near Howth, Co Dublin in the early hours of the morning. An estimated 60 lives are lost.

1874 – Birth of Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, in Kilkea, Co Kildare.

1896 – Birth of stage and film actor, Arthur Shields (younger brother of Barry Fitzgerald), in Portobello, Co Dublin. Born into a Protestant family, he was also a Nationalist and fought in the Easter Rising of 1916. He was captured and incarcerated in Frongoch internment camp. Some of his memorable roles were as the Reverend Playfair in Ford’s ‘The Quiet Man’ opposite John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and his brother, Barry Fitzgerald and again with his brother and John Wayne in John Ford’s ‘Long Voyage Home’.

1901 – Birth of Viscount Brendan Bracken, politician, publisher and British Minister of Information from 1941 to 1945, in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

1908 – Construction of the Pillar was started with the laying of the foundation stone.

1921 – The IRA ambush a train at Upton believing it is transporting an estimated fifteen British soldiers. Sean Dunphy sings The Lonely Woods of Upton: http://youtu.be/YcTw639-DrY

1946 – Clare Short, British Labour politician, is born in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.

1953 – Birth of film and theatrical producer, Tony Adams, in Co Kildare. He produced numerous films for writer/director Blake Edwards, including six Pink Panther films and 10. He produced Victor/Victoria as a film and a Broadway musical. Off-Broadway, he produced The Immigrant and Minor Demons. He passed away in New York on 22 October 2005, after suffering a stroke.

1966 – Novelist John McGahern loses his job as a teacher at Clontarf National School because of ‘indecencies’ in his book ‘The Dark’.

1971 – A British soldier died seven days after being mortally wounded in an IRA attack.

1971 – Variously known as Decimal Day, Decimalisation Day and D-Day, the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland decimalised their currencies.

1973 – Albert Browne, a member of the Ulster Defence Association, was found guilty of killing a member of the RUC in October 1972. Initially Browne was sentenced to death but this was later commuted to life imprisonment. The death penalty was later abolished as part of the Emergency Provisions Act.

1976 – Two Catholic civilians, and a Protestant friend, were shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries at Wolfhill Drive, Ligoniel, Belfast. Another member of the family was shot but survived.

1976 – IRA member, James McGrillen, was killed by the British Army in Belfast.

1977 – Ian Smith, leader of Rhodesia, thanked the Portadown branch of the Democratic Unionist Party for its message of support to him.

1978 – John Hume, deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said that the British government should consider a third option in its search for a political solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland. The first option, of maintaining the status quo or further integration with Britain, was one which Nationalists believed the government had been following, and the second option was withdrawal from Northern Ireland which was being advocated by many Nationalists. The third option was an ‘agreed Ireland’ where the British government would declare that its objective was to bring the two main traditions in Ireland together in reconciliation and agreement.

1982 – The shipyard Harland and Wolff in Belfast announced that it would lay off 1,000 workers from its workforce of 7,000.

1988 – British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, met Taoiseach Charles Haughey, following a European Community summit in Brussels.

1992 – A bomb, estimated at 250 lbs, exploded in the centre of Belfast.

1995 – Ireland v England Soccer International abandoned. A friendly international between the Republic of Ireland and England at Lansdowne Road Dublin is abandoned when a group of English Neo-Nazi supporters start a riot during the game. http://youtu.be/YOhQp8ENmzs; http://youtu.be/a1qcovE7uck

1996 – The IRA left a five lb Semtex bomb in a telephone kiosk in the Charing Cross Road, London. Additional troops were flown into Northern Ireland to be deployed in the border areas.

1997 – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Patrick Mayhew, said that there would be no official apology or no new inquiry into the killings on ‘Bloody Sunday’. The relatives of those killed on 30 January 1972 expressed outrage and disappointment.

1998 – Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness hints of the danger of an end to the IRA ceasefire if, as expected, his party is expelled from the Northern Peace talks in Dublin.

1998 – Ireland has the second lowest number of workplace accidents in Europe, but employers face the highest rate of insurance claims, totalling £400m per year.

1998 – According to the Small Firms Association, as many as 1,000 jobs could be lost in Ireland, following the takeover of the HCR group of chemist shops by British superchain, Boots.

2000 – The IRA announced that it was withdrawing from talks with the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).

2000 – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, agreed and published the terms of reference for the Commission of Inquiry into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings in 1974. The Commission of Inquiry began its work in February 2000, with a minimal staff consisting of the Sole Member, Liam Hamilton, the former Chief Justice, a legal assistant, and a secretary. Subsequently, the Commission of Inquiry was asked to conduct similar Inquiries into the bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk, on 19 December 1975, and the shooting of Seamus Ludlow on 2 May 1976. The Inquiry was also asked to look into the shooting of Brid Carr in 1971; bombings in Dublin on 1 December 1972 and 20 January 1973; and other bombings within the State. These inquiries were to be dealt with separately.

2000 – The National Bus and Rail union claim a high level of public support for its one day strike which forces 200,000 passengers to find alternative ways of getting to work.

2000 – The IRA delivers a shattering blow to the Northern Ireland peace process by pulling out of talks with the arms decommissioning body.

2000 – Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor succeeds the late Cardinal Basil Hume to become Archbishop of Westminster and the new leader of 4.1 million Catholics in England and Wales.

2001 – In Belfast, more than 100 members of health service union Unison stage the first in a series of ‘shadow of the gun’ protest rallies. The public demonstration follows threats from loyalist terror groups to staff at the Mater Hospital on the Crumlin Road.

2001 – Lena Hunt, a 78-year old pensioner from Limavady, Co Derry, turns down a £250,000 offer for part of her back garden, insisting that it means more to her than money. Without the key bit of land, developers of a multi-million pound supermarket project are unable to proceed.

2001 – One week after protesters call off their blockade of the ill-fated Mullaghmore interpretative centre and car park in the Burren, machinery moves in to demolish the buildings and associated facilities.

2002 – Popstars group 6 grab No 1 spot in the Irish charts with their debut single ‘There’s A Whole Lot of Loving Going On’.

2002 – The National Audit Office published a report that suggested that over half of the petrol stations in Northern Ireland were selling illegal (smuggled) fuel. It was estimated that of the 700 filling stations in the region as many as 450 were dealing in illicit supplies. This illegal trade plus the loss incurred by drivers crossing the border to fill their cars with cheaper fuel resulted in a loss to the Exchequer of £380 million during 2000.

2008 – The first ever students of a university course for people with intellectual disabilities graduate in a ceremony at Trinity College, Dublin. The pioneering two-year course aims to promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disability in college life. Nineteen students receive certificates in Contemporary Living.

Image | Causeway Coast, Co Antrim | Alistair Hamill Photography

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