#OTD in Irish History – 20 February:

1743 – James Gandon, possibly the most influential architect in Irish history is born in London.

1794 – Birth of William Carleton, near Clogher, Co Tyrone. He was one of the most graphic writers about An Gorta Mór. He is best known for his Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry.

1871 – Death of painter, Paul Kane. Born in Mallow, Co Cork, he emigrated to Canada and became famous for his paintings of First Nations peoples in the Canadian West and other Native Americans in the Columbia District.

1873 – Death of James Haughton, social reformer, anti-slavery campaigner and temperance activist, in Dublin.

1874 – Gladstone resigns; a Conservative administration under Disraeli takes over.

1874 – Irish painter, Frederic Burton, was appointed director of the National Gallery, London, and began an unprecedented programme of art collection. He bought over 500 works, many of them masterpieces by Botticelli, Canaletto, van Dyck and Leonardo da Vinci, creating possibly the finest art collection in the world. Burton’s painting, ‘Meeting on the Turret Stairs’ was voted by the Irish public as Ireland’s favourite painting in 2012 from among ten works shortlisted by critics

1882 – Birth of writer and poet, Padraic Ó Conaire, in Galway.

1892 – First performance of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan.

1914 – Fethard Lifeboat Disaster: the tragedy saw nine crewmen of the Fethard on Sea Helen Blake Lifeboat lose their lives while trying to rescue the crew of the Mexico that had gone aground at the treacherous islands. One of the Mexico crew – a Portuguese sailor – died of exposure on the Keeragh Islands on 21 February 1914, as relatives of the marooned men stood on the shore awaiting news, unaware that the bodies of some of the Fethard victims were being washed up at nearby Cullenstown.

1915 – Sir Roger Casement has made public a letter alleging that the British government has been engaged in a criminal conspiracy to have him captured and murdered.

1920 – Counties Dublin, Wicklow, Louth, Longford, Westmeath, Sligo and Waterford proclaimed as being in a state of disturbance.

1921 – The Clonmult Ambush: Twelve IRA volunteers were killed in Clonmult, near Midleton, Co Cork by British soldiers and Auxiliaries after being surrounded in a house. The British alleged a false IRA surrender and killed all the IRA volunteers in the house. Four more IRA volunteers were wounded and another four were captured unscathed. Only one got away. The IRA suspected that an informer was to blame and a spate of shootings of six suspected informers followed in the week after.

1921 – Pvt B. Tinehes of the Manchester Regiment went missing near Ballincollig.

1973 – Two members of the British Army are shot dead by IRA snipers in an attack on a British Army mobile patrol on Cupar Street, Belfast.

1975 – Hugh Ferguson, 19, chairman of the Whiterock IRSP and INLA Volunteer, is shot in Ballymurphy, Belfast by the OIRA. This incident kicks off a series of attacks by OIRA on the newly-formed Irish Republican Socialist Movement.

1975 – Gerald McKeown, a 20-year-old civilian, is killed by a loyalist bomb attack on the Railway Bar on Shore Road in Greencastle, Belfast.

1975 – Public Records: Released 1 January 2006: Telegram sent by James Callaghan, British Foreign Secretary, to the British Ambassador in Dublin. The telegram contained notes about matters related to Northern Ireland that Callaghan wanted the Ambassador to raise with Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave.

1975 – A feud began between the Official Irish Republican Army (OIRA) on one side and the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) on the other.

1979 – A group of 11 Loyalists known as the ‘Shankill butchers’ were sentenced to life imprisonment for 112 offences including 19 murders. The 11 men were given 42 life sentences and received 2,000 years imprisonment, in total, in the form of concurrent sentences. The Shankill Butchers had begun killing Catholics in July 1972 and were not arrested until May 1977. The Loyalist gang operated out of a number of Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) drinking dens in the Shankill Road area of Belfast. The gang was initially led by Lenny Murphy but it continued to operate following his imprisonment in 1976. The Shankill Butchers got their name because not only did they kill Catholics but they first abducted many of their victims, tortured them, mutilated them with butcher knives and axes, and then finally killed them.

1982 – Patrick Reynolds (24), an Officer in the Garda Síochána, was shot dead by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) when he went to a house in Avonbeg Gardens, Tallaght, Dublin.

1983 – An RUC man is shot and killed by the IRA outside Warrenpoint RUC base in Co Down.

1985 – In a highly controversial vote, the Irish government defies the powerful Catholic Church and approves the sale of contraceptives. Up until 1979, Irish law prohibited the importation and sale of contraceptives. In a 1973 case, McGee v. The Attorney General, the Irish Supreme Court found that a constitutional right to marital privacy covered the use of contraceptives. A coalition of the Fine Gael and Labour parties led by Dr. Garret FitzGerald defeated the opposition of the conservative Fianna Fail party by an 83-80 vote.

1985 – British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, travelled to the United States and addressed the US Congress. In her speech she called on Americans not to give money to organisations, such as NORAID (Irish Northern Aid Committee), that were believed to support Republican paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

1989 – The PIRA explode three bombs at the British Army barracks at Tern Hill, Shropshire, England. A sentry spots two men acting suspiciously and the barracks is evacuated shortly before the bombs detonate. The Volunteers flee amid gunfire from the sentry, steal a car, and escape.

1990 – John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke, met to discuss the possibility of political talks.

1994 – John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), called on the British government to provide Sinn Féin with clarification of the Downing Street Declaration. Tánaiste, Dick Spring, said that he believed clarification had already been provided.

1995 – There were clashes between Republicans and RUC officers at the Sinn Féin (SF) offices in Derry. Seven SF members were arrested.

1995 – James Molyneaux, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), and John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), held a meeting at Westminster, London.

1996 – British Prime Minister, John Major, held talks with David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), in Downing Street, London. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dick Spring, accepted the offer of talks (issued on 18 February 1996) with David Trimble.

1997 – The ‘Bloody Sunday’ Justice Campaign met with the leaders of the Irish government as well as the leader of Fianna Fáil.

1997 – Former British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, was criticised by Nationalists for comments he made about the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and his part in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Speaking on the BBC programme Newsnight Heath said that ‘we can criticise the massacre in exactly the same way as people criticise ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Northern Ireland, but that isn’t, by any means, the whole story.’

1998 – The (Continuity) IRA explode a large car bomb, estimated at 500 pounds, outside the RUC station in the centre of Moira, Co Down. Eleven people, mostly RUC officers, receive slight injuries in the explosion.

1998 – Sinn Féin were formally expelled from the multi-party talks by the British and Irish governments because of allegations of IRA involvement in two killings in Belfast on 9 and 10 February 1998. The deadline for the return of Sinn Féin was set as 9 March 1998. The British and Irish governments issued a statement setting out the reasons why they had taken the decision to exclude Sinn Féin from the talks. President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, described the expulsion as ‘disgraceful’. Unionists reacted angrily to the 17 day exclusion considering it too short. Sinn Féin, organised a number of street protests over the next few days to highlight its opposition to the decision. Sinn Féin rejoined the talks on 23 March 1998.

1998 – Taoiseach Bertie Ahern agrees to a demand from Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams for a crisis meeting next week, amid mounting fears that IRA ‘hawks’ will attempt to scupper any chance of Sinn Féin’s return to the talks.

2001 – Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne confirms that eighty publicans are to be prosecuted for serving drink to underage customers.

2002 – After intense speculation that the Abbey Theatre would move to the southside of the Liffey to a completely new location in the Dublin Docklands, Arts Minister Síle de Valera informs the board of the theatre that the government has decided it is to be redeveloped at its present location.

2002 – Groups representing those killed in the Omagh Bombing (15 August 1998) met in London to launch a fund-raising campaign to obtain the £2 million required to bring a civil action against those believed to be responsible for the bomb attack. The meeting was attended by Bob Geldof, musician and Live Aid founder, Barry McGuigan, former world boxing champion, and Peter Mandelson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The appeal was launched in August 2000 and had raised £800,000. Relatives of those killed in the Omagh Bomb wrote a letter to Ronnie Flanagan, Chief Constable of the PSNI, asking for ‘an independent senior investigation officer’ to lead the police investigation. Flanagan later stated that he had no intention of removing the current investigating officer.

2002 – There was traffic disruption when an explosive device was found on the Glenshane Road, Co Derry. The device had been left by Loyalist paramilitaries. This was one of a series of attacks over a four-day period. On 22 February 2002 the Assistant Chief Constable said he believed the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was responsible for the attacks.

2003 – New figures compiled by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) show that Ireland has the highest death rate from heart disease in Western Europe. Finland is second and Britain is third.

2003 – Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLoughlin claim claims that the deadlock in the Northern peace process will only be broken by St Patrick’s Day if the British Government delivers on the outstanding promises of the Good Friday Agreement.

2003 – The European Commission is accused of abusing private citizens’ right by conceding to American pressure on a data protection controversy. Transatlantic airlines such as Aer Lingus will be forced to provide US authorities with the names, addresses, phone numbers, itineraries and credit card details of all passengers flying to the United States.

2007 – Market hits record 10,000. Share values in Dublin surge to a new record with investors pushing the Irish stock market index above 10,000 for the first time.

2009 – Death of author, Chrisopher Nolan, aged 44. Despite suffering from cerebral palsy, Nolan authored a number of acclaimed books and won the Whitbread Award for book of the year for his 1987 memoir Under the Eye of the Clock.

2010 – The 7th Irish Film and Television Awards took place in the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. It was hosted by Victoria Smurfit.

Image | Cahersiveen, Co Kerry | Breaking Light Pictures

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