#OTD in Irish History | 23 December:

1686 – Birth of writer, economist and philanthropist, Samuel Madden, in Dublin.

1688 – James II of flees from England to France. William had married James’ daughter Mary, and they had overthrown him as monarch of Britain and Ireland. James was supported by much of the Irish population because of his Catholic religion. James was denounced as King of England for abdicating his throne. However, the Irish still considered him to be King of Ireland and he returned a year later to try and regain his throne.

1770 – The Steelboys or Hearts of Steel, a Protestant agrarian protest movement, is involved in conflict in Ulster – 500 Steelboys release a prisoner in Belfast. Throughout the eighteenth century in Ireland, local secret societies such as the “Hearts of Steel” and the “Hearts of Oak” had sprung up, dedicated to defending their members, generally the poorest tenants. This tradition, along with the influence of the French and American Revolutions, provided the background for the United Irishmen, an organisation dedicated to republican ideals and incorporating Catholic, Presbyterian and Anglo-Irish radicals.

1864 – Death of James Bronterre O’Brien, Longford-born leader of the British Chartist movement.

1878 – Birth of writer and radical activist, Francis Sheehy Skeffington in Dublin. Known publicly by the nickname ‘Skeffy’, he is now principally remembered as the victim of a British war crime during the Easter 1916 rising. He was also the real-life model for a character in James Joyce’s novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. He was a friend and schoolmate of Joyce, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Tom Kettle, and Frank O’Brien. He married Hanna Sheehy in 1903, whose own surname he adopted as part of his name.

1900 – Birth of actor, Noel Purcell, in Dublin.

1916 – Death of medical practitioner, Dr. James Little. Born in Newry, after spending an early part of his career as a ship’s surgeon, surviving a shipwreck, he became chief physician at the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin and Regius Professor of Physic at the University of Dublin.

1920 – The Government of Ireland Act enforces the secession of the six Northern Irish counties from the rest of Ireland.

1920 – Éamon de Valera returns from America.

1922 – There are gun and grenade attacks on National Army troops in Dublin, one Free State soldier is killed, Paddy Ftizgerald, shot at close range on Granby Row another soldier and two civilians are wounded.

1922 – The Free State releases 300 republican prisoners who are no longer considered a threat to national security.

1922 – An IRA column, 60 strong from the Arigna mountains raids the town of Blacklion, Cavan, looting shops and homes and taking a Free State supporter, Doctor Hamilton captive before they return to the mountains.

1922 – Free State troops in Clones shoot dead a civilian, James Murphy, who failed to stop at roadblock.

1922 – A Free State soldier, Volunteer Fergusson from Cavan, is killed in action in Kerry.

1939 – Christmas Raid: The Irish Republican Army raided the Phoenix Park Magazine Fort.

1950 – A bank strike that will last eight weeks begins on this date.

1950 – Death of sportsman, Dickie Lloyd. Born in Co Tyrone, at cricket, he was a right-handed batsman and right-arm medium pace bowler who played two first-class matches for the Ireland cricket team, also playing for Lancashire. In rugby, he was a fly-half who played 19 times for the Ireland national rugby team, scoring 72 points, and was regarded as one of the best goal kickers of the time. He is rated by his school, Portora Royal School, as one of their most famous pupils, alongside Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde.

1971 – British Prime Minister, Edward Heath, visited Northern Ireland and expressed his determination to end the violence.

1982 – Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister, paid a one day visit to Northern Ireland. She mainly spent the time visiting members of the security forces.

1984 – Catholic Primate of Ireland, Tomás Ó Fiaich, said that Catholics in Northern Ireland felt an ‘unprecedented level’ of alienation.

1983 – Death of artist and surrealist, Colin Middleton, who was born in Belfast. He trained at Belfast College of Art, and was heavily influenced by the work of Vincent van Gogh, who on this date in 1888, cut off the lower part of his left ear, took it to a brothel, and gave it to a prostitute named Rachel. Middleton regarded himself as the only surrealist working in Ireland in the 1930s.

1986 – British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, paid a visit to Northern Ireland. During the visit she stated her government’s commitment to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. She also said that she did not believe a change in government in the Republic of Ireland would affect the Agreement.

1986 – The Court of Appeal in Belfast quashed the convictions of 24 men jailed on the evidence of ‘supergrass’ informer Harry Kirkpatirck. The men were freed.

1990 – The IRA announce a three-day ceasefire over the Christmas period. This was the first Christmas ceasefire for 15 years.

1991 – The IRA planted a series of incendiary devices at train stations in London and caused disruption to rails services. The IRA later announced that it would be observing a three-day ceasefire over the Christmas period.

1993 – Two British Army marines were acquitted of the murder of Fergal Caraher (20) on 30 December 1990. Caraher was a member of Sinn Féin at the time he was was shot dead while travelling in a car in Cullyhanna, Co Armagh. The marines were acquitted on the grounds of “reasonable doubt”.

1993 – The IRA announced that there would be a three-day ceasefire beginning at midnight.

1997 – The multi-party talks at Stormont broke up for the Christmas holiday without real progress. Parties blamed each other for the lack of progress. George Mitchell, Chairman of the multi-party talks, said that he remained optimistic that progress would be made in the new year.

1997 – Despite the booming economy in Ireland the Punt fell to its lowest level against sterling for almost 10 years when it was traded at 86.7p.

1998 – As part of a regular Christmas parole programme, 170 paramilitary prisoners were released on a temporary basis for the holiday period. All the prisoners returned on schedule when the parole was over.

2001 – Death of Mark Clinton who was born to a farming family at Moynalty, Kells, Co Meath. He was a senior Irish Fine Gael politician. He was known as an accomplished Gaelic footballer in his youth and played on the Meath GAA team defeated in the 1939 All Ireland by Kerry. He served as a member of Dublin County Council from 1955 and represented various County Dublin constituencies as a Fine Gael Teachta Dála (TD) from 1961 until his retirement from Dáil Eireann in 1981.

2002 – The second 55 foot section on the Spire was lifted into its position on O’Connell Street. The monument stretches 121 metres into the sky; seven times the height of the GPO.

Image | Hezlett Cottage, Castlerock, Co Derry | Amanda Killen Photography

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