#OTD in Irish History – 11 March:

1605 – A proclamation declares all persons in the realm to be free, natural and immediate subjects of the king and not subjects of any lord or chief.

1722 – Death of philosopher and theorist, John Toland. He was an occasional satirist, who wrote numerous books and pamphlets on political philosophy and philosophy of religion, which are early expressions of the philosophy of the Age of Enlightenment. Born in Ardagh, Co Donegal, he was educated at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leiden and Oxford and was influenced by the philosophy of John Locke.

1812 – Birth of composer, William Vincent Wallace, best known for his opera, Maritana, in Co Waterford.

1856 – Death of railway engineer, James Beatty. Born in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, Beatty was first employed in 1842 at the age of 22 by Peto and Betts on building the Norwich and Lowestoft line. In 1853 he was in Nova Scotia surveying the European and North American Railway and despite adverse weather conditions, the line was staked out in good time. Towards the end of 1854 he was appointed by Peto, Brassey and Betts as Chief Engineer of the Grand Crimean Central Railway, built to convey supplies to the Allied forces in the Crimean War. He arrived in Balaklava in January 1855 to join Donald Campbell and his team who had already started to survey the line. Beatty’s energy and enthusiasm ensured that the line, which included a stretch at a gradient of 1 in 14, was laid in a very short time.

1858 – Birth of Irish revolutionary, Thomas Clarke, to Irish parents on the Isle of Wight and arguably the person most responsible for the 1916 Easter Rising.

1880 – On the last day of his tour of the United States, Charles Stewart Parnell launched the Irish National Land League of the USA.

1920 – After an RIC officer was shot dead, RIC officers attacked many houses in Cork city.

1921 – Dáil Éireann debated, resolved and finally on 11 March declared war on the British administration.

1921 – The North Longford IRA officer Sean Connolly and five other IRA volunteers were killed by British troops at the Selton Hill ambush, near Mohill, Co Leitrim when their ambush position was betrayed by a local Orangeman.

1921 – Three RIC men were attacked by the IRA near the corner of Victoria Square and Church Street in Belfast resulting in the death of all three. Two civilians were also injured in the attack and one of them later died in the hospital.

1923 – A civilian suspected of Republican sympathies was shot dead on Donore Avenue, Dublin by Free State Intelligence officers.

1923 – In Co Kerry, another Republican prisoner, Seamus Taylor was taken from Kenmare jail to Ballyseedy woods by National Army troops and shot dead.

1926 – Éamon de Valera resigns as head of Sinn Féin after failing to gather support for his political approach to achieve an Irish republic state.

1929 – Birth of diplomat, Erskine B. Childers, in Dublin.

1936 – Irish soccer player, Jimmy Kelly, played international soccer for Northern Ireland (v Wales) and one week later for what was then the Irish Free State soccer team in an international game against Switzerland.

1951 – Ian Paisley co-founded the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.

1953 – Birth of former racing driver, Derek Daly, in Ballinteer, Co Dublin. He won the 1977 British Formula 3 Championship, and competed as a professional racing driver for 17 years participating in 64 World Championship Formula One Grands Prix, debuting on 2 April 1978. He scored a total of 15 championship points. He also participated in several non-Championship Formula One races. Daly later became a US citizen and resides in Noblesville, Indiana with his third wife, Rhonda, and three children from his second marriage.

1953 – Birth in Ballinasloe, Co Galway of Mary Harney, politician, leader of the Progressive Democrats and Tánaiste.

1954 – Birth of women’s rights activist, Margaret (Gretta) Cousins, in Boyle, Co Roscommon.

1964 – Shane Richie, actor and game-show host, is born Shane Roche to Irish parents in London.

1969 – Death of runner, John Joseph Daly. He won a silver medal in the steeplechase at the 1904 Summer Olympics and competed for Ireland at the International Cross Country Championships of 1903–1906 and 1911 and won three silver team medals; individually he won a bronze in 1903 and finished fourth in 1904 and 1906. When not competing for Ireland as a member of the Gaelic Athletic Association, Daly entered races as a member of the Irish American Athletic Club.

1969 – The Parliamentary Commissioner Bill was introduced which would allow for the appointment of an Ombudsman to investigate complaints against Stormont government departments.

1974 – Brothers Kenneth and Keith Littlejohn break out of Mountjoy Prison. Jailed in 1973 for a £67,000 heist at a Dublin bank – the biggest to date in Irish history – during their trial they claimed to be M16 spies working for the British Government against the IRA.

1977 – Twenty-six members of the UVF were sentenced in a Belfast court to a total of 700 years in prison. The imprisonment of so many members of the UVF is believed to have helped curtailed paramilitary activities by this group.

1980 – The body of Thomas Niedermayer, a West German industrialist who had disappeared in December 1973, was found at Colinglen Road, west Belfast.

1981 – Bobby Sands recorded his diary for the first seventeen days of his hunger strike in which he detailed his thoughts and feelings on the momentous task that lay ahead of him. In order to secure his status as Irish political prisoner he was willing to fast til death, an event that would earn him a place in the annals of Irish history and in the hearts and minds of Irish republicans world-wide. See Bobby Sands Trust for today’s entry: http://www.bobbysandstrust.com/writings/prison-diary

1983 – The Irish government announced that it was establishing a forum which became known as the New Ireland Forum. The Forum was proposed by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). Many commentators considered the Forum to be a response to the perceived threat that was presented by Sinn Féin (SF) to the electoral position of the SDLP as the main Nationalist party in Northern Ireland. All the constitutional Nationalist parties in Ireland, with the exception of SF, were invited to attend the Forum. The first meeting of the Forum took place on 30 May 1983 and the final report was published on 2 May 1984.

1983 – Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Prior, said that the British government would not cooperate with the inquiry on the conflict that had been set up by the Political Committee of the European Parliament. The Rapporteur was Mr N.J. Haagerup. The report was drawn up and passed by the European Parliament on 29 March 1984.

1986 – The RUC arrested three Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Assembly Members when they tried to enter Stormont Castle where the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference was in session. The DUP members were attempting to cut through a wire fence when they were arrested.

1986 – The House of Representatives in the USA unanimously voted to approve a $250 million aid package, over a five-year period, to Northern Ireland to support the Anglo-Irish Agreement (AIA).

1987 – Dr. Garret FitzGerald resigned as leader of Fine Gael and was succeeded by Alan Dukes on 21 March 1987.

1988 – Andy Tyrie, chairman of the Ulster Defense Association (UDA), resigned his post after losing a vote of confidence. A bomb had been planted under his car several days earlier and it was widely assumed to have been planted by Loyalists.

1992 – British Prime Minister, John Major, announced that there would be a general election on 9 April 1992.

1994 – In a second attack on Heathrow Airport the IRA launched four mortars over the perimeter fence. None of the mortars exploded. A Royal Air Force plane with the Queen on board landed at the airport while the security forces were conducting a search of the terminal. There had been a previous attack on 9 March 1994. The mortars were fired from a wooded area close to the perimeter fence. The police carried out a further search of wooded areas but discovered no further mortars. However, there was another attack on the airport on 13 March 1994.

1995 – Gerry Adams arrived in New York.

1999 – Lee Clegg, a soldier in the Parachute Regiment, was cleared in a Belfast court of murdering teenager Karen Reilly during an incident involving a stolen car in west Belfast on 30 September 1990. Justice Kerr ruled that it was not certain that Clegg had fired the fatal shot. The judge upheld Clegg’s conviction for attempting to wound Martin Peake with intent. The judge described Clegg’s version of events as ‘untruthful and incapable of belief’. Clegg had been released from prison in 1995.

2000 – Emigrant Francis O’Neill, an American police chief who carried a Chicago gangster’s bullet to the grave was honoured in his native West Cork where Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne unveiled a life-sized memorial sculpture.

2001 – Over 1,300 people packed the Cathedral of the Assumption to pay their last respects to the former Archbishop of Tuam, Most Reverend Joseph Cunnane, at his funeral Mass.

2001 – Mr. Tony Luff, founder of the Galway Swan Rescue, coordinated a rescue operation involving dozens of volunteers in Galway city to save the lives of over 60 of the famous Claddagh swans after yet another oil slick surrounds the birds – just a fortnight after four are killed in a previous spill.

2002 – Limerick-born Michael Collins, author of The Keepers of Truth, was named as one of seven writers competing for the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2002, worth €100,000.

2002 – The Garda Síochána arrested Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin candidate for Kerry North, and questioned him about an alleged vigilante abduction in early December 2001. A total of six Sinn Féin members had been questioned about the incident.

2002 – George Bush, President of the USA, decreed March as Irish-American Heritage Month with a proclamation that paid tribute to the role of the Irish in the history of the US.

2002 – Customs officers smash the biggest illegal oil laundering operation ever discovered in the State. The plant, near Dundalk, Co Louth, had the capacity to launder up to 300,000 litres of oil a week.

2002 – There was further reaction to a speech made by David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), on 9 March 2002. Trimble said that he stood by his description of the Republic of Ireland as ‘pathetic, sectarian State’, and he accused nationalists of over-reacting. Vice-President of Sinn Féin, Martin McGuinness, described Trimble as ‘a twit’ and said it was not the behaviour expected of a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Walton Empey (Dr), Archbishop of Dublin, said Trimble’s comments were totally uncalled for. Ruairí Quinn, Labour leader, said the comments were ill-considered and ill-informed.

2002 – The Garda Síochána arrested Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin candidate for Kerry North, and questioned him about an alleged vigilante abduction in early December 2001. A total of six Sinn Féin members had been questioned about the incident.

2005 – It has been growing in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens for 23 years without blooming, but the exotic Globe Spear Lily is finally beginning to show its true colours. The globe spear lily has grown to about 11 metres tall. Sadly, the Australian plant dies after flowering. It has been a fixture in the Palm House since 1982, the same year that the 19th century building was renovated.

2015 – Death of DJ, Tony Fenton. Not many people can persuade U2 to play at their funeral, but not many people are Tony Fenton. The Dude, as he was affectionately known to his friends, planned his funeral from start to finish, beginning when he realised the prostate cancer he was first diagnosed with in 2011, was terminal.

Photo: Church of the Sacred Heart, Dunlewey, Co Donegal, Brian Maguire Photography

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