#OTD in Irish History | 17 April:

In the Liturgical calendar, today is the Feast Day of Saint Donnán of Eigg, a Gaelic priest, likely from Ireland, who died on this date in 617. He attempted to introduce Christianity to the Picts of northwestern Scotland during the Early Middle Ages. Donnán is the patron saint of Eigg, an island in the Inner Hebrides where he was martyred. The Martyrology of Donegal, compiled by Michael O’Clery in the 17th century, records the manner of his death: ‘Donnan, of Ega, Abbott.

1172 – Henry II returns to Britain on this date, having granted a charter to Dublin – the first granted to an Irish town.

1656 – William Molyneux, statesman, philosopher and scientist, is born in Dublin. Molyneux proposed the philosophical question that has since become known as Molyneux’s Problem, the problem of the blind man who gains sight, remains a topic that is discussed even in our day.

1783 – The British Renunciation Act acknowledges the exclusive right of the Irish parliament and courts to make and administer laws for Ireland.

1875 – Election of Charles Stewart Parnell as MP for Meath.

1912 – The first recovery vessel, the cable ship Mackay-Bennett leaves Halifax, Nova Scotia to search for bodies following the sinking of the Titanic.

1920 – The inquest into the death of Tomás Mac Curtain, Lord Mayor of Cork killed by policemen in disguise on 20 March, returns a verdict of wilful murder against the RIC, and indicts Lloyd George and the British government.

1923 – Death of Irish nationalist politician, lawyer, Laurence Ginnell. Born in Delvin, Co Westmeath, he was a Member of Parliament (MP) of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland as member of the Irish Parliamentary Party for Westmeath North at the 1906 UK general election. From 1910 he sat as an Independent Nationalist and at the 1918 general election he was elected for Sinn Féin. He was self-educated and was called to the Irish bar as well as the England bar. In his youth he was involved with the Land War and acted as private secretary to John Dillon.

1936 – Birth of poet and writer, Brendan Kennelly, in Ballylongford, Co Kerry.

1944 – Birth of hurler, Michael ‘Babs Keating, in Ardfinnan, Co Tipperary.

1947 – Birth of singer and television presenter, Linda Martin, in Omagh, Co Tyrone. She is best known in Europe as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1992, with the song ‘Why Me’, and in Ireland as a member of the 1970s/1980s band, Chips.

1949 – At midnight 26 counties officially leave the British Commonwealth. A 21-gun salute on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, ushers in the Republic of Ireland.

1961 – New Civic Arts Theatre building was opened on Botanic Avenue in Belfast; originally called the Mask Theatre it was renamed the Civic Arts Theatre in 1947. Eventually, it would close due to lack of funding.

1966 – A census shows the population of the Republic to be 2,884,002.

1969 – Bernadette Devlin was elected MP for Mid Ulster, standing as the Independent Unity candidate; at 21 years old, she was Britain’s youngest ever female MP and the third youngest MP ever.

1977 – Death of Catholic Primate of Ireland, Cardinal Willian Conway, in Armagh.

1979 – Four RUC officers were killed by a PIRA van bomb in Bessbrook, Co Armagh. The bomb was estimated at 1000 lbs, believed to be the largest PIRA bomb used up to that point.

1982 – A British soldier driving an armoured personnel carrier rammed the vehicle into the gable wall that formed ‘Free Derry Corner’. The soldier was later taken into military custody.

1984 – Death of lyricist and songwriter, Jimmy Kennedy. Born in Omagh, Co Tyrone, his songs include The Teddy Bears’ Picnic and Red Sails In The Sunset.

1991 – The Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC), acting on behalf of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), and the Red Hand Commandos (RHC), announced that there would be a ceasefire beginning on 30 April 1991. The ceasefire was to facilitate the proposed political talks and would last as long as the talks. Attacks by all three organisations continued in the period before the ceasefire.

1993 – Tánaiste  and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dick Spring, addressed a meeting of the British-Irish Association in Oxford, England. Spring stated that a possible solution to the conflict in Northern Ireland lay in a ‘Europe of the regions’.

1993 – British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, said that the Republic of Ireland had a ‘crucial role’ in any new talks. He also stated that the Republic’s willingness to consider changes to the Irish Constitution provided a ‘positive context’.

1995 – The RUC rerouted an Apprentice Boys of Derry parade away from the lower Ormeau Road area of Belfast. Approximately 200 people had joined a protest against loyal order parades passing through the area. There was a further protest on 23 April 1995.


1997 – Belfast born Chaim Herzog died. In 1983 he was elected by the Knesset to serve as the sixth President of Israel. He served two five-year terms in what was mainly a ceremonial role.

1997 – Of the seven men who were arrested on 11 April 1997, three were released, three charged with various offences, and one man was flown to London for questioning about the Docklands bomb on 9 February 1996. All seven men alleged that they had been beaten while in custody in Gough Barracks in Armagh.

1997 – The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools objected to a statement by Julia Neuberger, then Chancellor of the University of Ulster and a Rabbi, in which she criticised the sectarian nature of primary and secondary education in Northern Ireland. Neuberger denied that her statement referred solely to Catholic schools. The University initially defended the remarks but later apologised to the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools

1998 – The Black Pearl, Paul McGrath, decided to end a lengthy and honour-strewn career in football.

1999 – Chief Constable of the RUC, Ronnie Flanagan, announced that John Stevens would conduct a fresh inquiry into the killing of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane, killed on 12 February 1989.

1999 – The Real IRA-linked 32 County Sovereignty Movement launched a major recruitment campaign in west Belfast.

2000 – It was reported that sporting hero, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins, was seriously ill in hospital.

2000 – New licensing laws went into effect which gave drinkers an extra half hour in the pub.

2003 – The country sizzled as the temperature soared to 24ºC/72ºF.

2003 – The Irish and British governments debated whether to continue efforts to reach an agreement on the future of the Good Friday Agreement following Sinn Féin president Gerry Adam’s failure to make a watershed speech.

2003 – Sunset in Belfast port marked an historic occasion as the Tricolour and the Royal Navy’s White Ensign were lowered together. The Irish Naval Service’s LE Eithne and Britain’s HMS Tyne both exchanged personnel for the ceremonial event as both fishery patrol vessels berth side-by-side at Queen’s Quay in the heart of the northern capital. The five-day Belfast engagement for the LE Eithne marked the first-ever visit to a Six Counties’ port by an Irish navy boat.

2011 – The Paint Hall at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast shipyard is one of Europe’s biggest film studios. Some major films have come to life here, including the 2008 sci-fi adventure film ‘City of Ember’ and the medieval comedy ‘Your Highness’. It’s also famously the home of the tremendously popular TV series  ‘Game of Thrones’, the highly anticipated venture into sci-fi, which made its debut on HBO on this date. Many of the show’s exterior scenes are also shot in Ireland.

Image | Glenmalure, Co Wicklow | Fiachra Mangan Photography

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