#OTD in Irish History – 31 March:

1711 – Seven women from Island Magee, Co Antrim were imprisoned and pilloried for ‘bewitching’ a woman named Mary Dunbar, who had experienced strange fits and visions.

1790 – A quarrel between John Philpot Curran (MP for Kilbeggan) and Robert Hobart (MP for Portarlington) resulted in a duel in which Hobart allowed Curran to fire and then refused to return fire.

1855 – Charlotte Brontë, daughter of an Irish-born father (Patrick) and eldest of the Brontë sisters, died during pregnancy.

1859 – The Independent Irish Party split and the Tenant League broke up.

1872 – Birth of founder of Sinn Féin and co-signatory of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Arthur Griffith, in Dublin.

1896 – Women became qualified for election as poor-law guardians (welfare administrators) under the Poor Law Guardians Act.

1901 – A census on this date shows the population of Ireland to be 4,458,775; this is the last census to be taken on the basis of baronies.

1909 – Construction of the RMS Titanic began when designer James Andrews laid the first keel plate in the Harland & Wolff Shipyard, Belfast.

1911 – The Titanic was launched in Belfast.

1920 – There was an unsuccessful IRA attack on the RIC barracks at Durrus, West Cork.

1920 – The British parliament accepted Irish ‘Home Rule’ law.

1922 – Birth of actor, Patrick MaGee, in Co Armagh.

1922 – In Newry and South Armagh, the IRA killed three USC men and injured at least five.

1922 – In Belfast, the IRA killed one USC man and injured another. In retaliation, the USC killed four Catholic civilians in the surrounding area.

1926 – Birth of Bishop of Limerick and writer, Jeremiah Newman, in Dromcolliher, Co Limerick.

1952 – Birth of Dermot John Morgan in Dublin. He was a comedian, actor and previously a schoolteacher, who achieved international renown for his role as Father Ted Crilly in the Channel 4 sitcom Father Ted.

1959 – Birth of Alistair Jardine ‘Ali’ McMordie in Belfast. He is a bass guitarist, who made his name with, and was a founding member of, Stiff Little Fingers. He was with them from their inception in 1977 until they broke up in 1983, and joined them on the first few years worth of reunion tours five years later.

1966 – Contingents from Welsh, Breton, Manx, Cornish and Scottish liberation movements marched behind the IRA at a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Easter Rising.

1970 – There were riots in the Springfield Road area of Belfast following an Orange parade. The British Army used ‘snatch squads’ to make arrests of Catholic youths. The confrontations were intense with 38 soldiers injured together with an unknown number of civilians. The Army used CS gas for the first time in large quantities.

1976 – Three British soldiers were killed in a land mine attack carried out by the IRA near Belleek, Co Armagh.

1976 – The ‘Sallins Train Robbery’ occurred on 31 March 1976 when the Cork to Dublin mail train was robbed near Sallins in Co Kildare. Approximately IR£ 200,000 was stolen. Four members of the IRSP (Irish Republican Socialist Party), Osgur Breatnach, Nicky Kelly, Brian McNally and John Fitzpatrick were arrested in connection with the robbery.

1977 – Birth of pianist, Finghin Collins, in Dublin. He won first prize at the Clara Haskil International Piano Competition in Vevey, Switzerland, in 1999, and has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors.

1986 – The RUC announced a ban on a planned Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABD) march in Portadown, Co Armagh. The decision sparked serious rioting between Loyalists and the police that was to continue off and on over the following weeks. Loyalist gangs carried out petrol bomb attacks on 11 Catholic homes in Lisburn, Co Antrim. RUC officers were also the subject of intimidation from Loyalists.

1988 – The Human Rights organisation, Amnesty International, announced that it was to investigate the deaths of the three IRA members (Seán Savage, Daniel McCann, and Mairéad Farrell) in Gilbraltar on 6 March 1988.

1991 – Republicans held commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.

1994 – Cardinal Cahal Daly, said that the announcement of an IRA ceasefire was an indication that Republicans were sincere in their desire for peace.

1995 – Statistics were released on the level of paramilitary ‘punishment’ attacks since the ceasefires on 31 August and 13 October 1994. Republican paramilitaries had been responsible for 51 ‘punishment’ beatings while Loyalist paramilitaries had carried out 39 such attacks.

1997 – The Belfast Walkers Club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABD) voluntarily rerouted their parade to avoid the lower part of the Ormeau Road.

1998 – A report by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights accused the RUC of engaging in widespread intimidation of lawyers involved in defending Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries. The report also called for an independent investigation into the death (on 12 February 1989) of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane, to determine whether any of the security forces had colluded with the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), a cover name (pseudonym) used by the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), in his killing.

1998 – In the multi-party talks at Stormont the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) confirmed that it would like to see an Executive to head up the proposed Northern Ireland Assembly. This was in contrast to the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) position of arguing for a series of committees to deal with the major government departments. It was reported that British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, had drawn up a working paper on the structure and powers of planned cross-border bodies and presented the paper to the UUP for consideration.

1998 – According to a poll released on this date, almost four-fifths of people in the North voted ‘yes’ for compromise in a referendum if the political parties at Stormont agreed to a deal.

1998 – After a four-year hiatus, MTV returned to the screens of Irish Multichannel subscribers.

1999 – Participants in the talks at Hillsborough Castle reported some progress following the issuing of the IRA’s Easter statement which read: ‘we wholeheartedly support efforts to secure a lasting resolution to the conflict’. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), accused David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), of taking part in ‘surrender negotiations’. A group of anti-Agreement Loyalists staged a protest outside Hillsborough Castle.

1999 – Visitors to the Republic of Ireland were discovering ‘an atmosphere which is almost rude, brusque and indifferent’, a senior tourism executive warned.

1999 – Ireland is selected as the location for the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games. It will be the first time the event has been staged outside the US.

Image | Ben Crom Reservoir, Mourne Mountains, Co Down | Captive Landscapes by Stephen Emerson

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