January 2014

History Selection

Siege of Duncannon
Siege of Duncannon
 January 1645
Richard Crosbie's balloon flight
Balloon flight
 January 1785
Big wind of 1839
Big wind
 January 1839
Soloheadbeg ambush begins the War of Independence
Soloheadbeg
 January 1919
Bloody Sunday 1972
Bloody Sunday
 January 1972
Betelgeuse tanker disaster
Betelgeuse tanker disaster
 January 1979


Ireland in 1988

January 7th: The actor Robert Sheehan was born.

January 11th: John Hume the SDLP meeting and Gerry Adams met in Belfast.

January 19th: Disabled writer Christopher Nolan won the Whitbread award.

January 28th: The Birmingham Six failed in an appeal against their conviction.

February 5th: John Stalker, who initially investigated the 'shoot to kill' inquiry, alleged that he was removed from the inquiry because his investigations would have caused political embarrassment.

February 15th: British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher met Taoiseach Charles Haughey for talks.

John Stalker
John Stalker in 1988
Michael Stone's attack on Milltown Cemetery in 1988
Attack on Milltown Cemetery in 1988
March 6th: Operation Falvius, in which the members of an ASU - Danny McCann, Seán Savage and Mairéad Farrell - were shot dead in Gibraltar by the SAS.

March 7th: A millenium fountain, 'Anna Livia Fountain' - later known as 'the Floozy in the Jaccuzi' - was agreed for Dublin.

March 13th: Sean Kelly won the Paris-Nice cycle race for the seventh year in a row.

March 16th: Milltown Cemetery attack, in which loyalist paramilitary Michael Stone killed three men.

March 19th: Two British Army corporals were abducted and killed by republicans after driving into the funeral funeral cortège of IRA members killed in the Milltown Cemetery attack.

March 19th: Large anti-apartheid rally in Dublin.

March 22nd: The funeral of Aran Islands-born poet Máirtín Ó Direáin took place in Dublin.

April 16th: The Irish National Lottery launched its national live draw.

April 30th: Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest.

May 15th: Sean Kelly won the Vuelta a España cycle race.

May 25th: The British Government issued a white paper suggesting the compulsory monitoring of the religious composition of workforces in companies in Northern Ireland.

June 13th: A statue of Molly Malone was unveiled in Grafton Street to mark the city's millennium.

June 15th: The IRA killed six British soldiers in a bomb attack in Lisburn.

June 19th: The Royal Canal re-opened between Leixlip and Maynooth.

Eurovision 1988
Eurovision, 1988
Dublin Millennium Stamp
Dublin Millennium Stamp
July 10th: Dublin celebrated its millennium.

July 18th: Nelson Mandela was awarded the freedom of the City of Dublin.

August 11th: The Department of Health launched an information booklet, as the number of AIDS cases had increased dramatically.

August 28th: Leopardstown Racecourse celebrated its centenary.

September 12th: Archbishop Thomas Morris resigned as Archbishop of Cashel.

October 8th: A tax amnesty brought in over £500 million.

October 17th: The Independent Radio and Television Commission was established to regulate radio and television services outside the RTÉ umbrella.

October 26th: The case of Norris v. Ireland was decided by the European Court of Human Rights, ruling the existence of laws in the Republic of Ireland criminalising consensual gay sex to be illegal.

Ireland in the European Cup 1988
Ireland in the European Cup 1988
Ray MacSharry
Ray MacSharry
November 16th: Spain beat Ireland in a World Cup Qualifier.

November 16th: The Minister for Finance Ray MacSharry was appointed Ireland's new EC Commissioner.

December 8th: Republican politician John Moe McGirl died.

December 13th: The Taoiseach Charles Haughey announced that charges against Father Patrick Ryan would be investigated in a court in Ireland because Father Ryan could not expect a fair trial in Britain.

December 21st: Spain beat Northern Ireland in a World Cup Qualifier.



Cartoons from the Sunday Independent, January 4th 1914

Is that John Bull?

Is that Pat?

1914: The year when Home Rule was promised

The Government of Ireland Act 1914 was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom with the intention of provinding Home Rule for Ireland. It was the first law passed by the Parliament which would have established devolved government for any part of the United Kingdom. It allowed for a bicameral Irish Parliament in Dublin with a Senate and House of Commons; 43 Irish MPs remaining in the Imperial Parliament; and the abolition of Dublin Castle. The Lord Lieutenant would have been retained. However, the outbreak of the Great War in July 1914 led to the Act being formally postponed for at least twelve months. It was never enacted. Instead, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 partitioned Ireland, creating the Free State and Northern Ireland.

Book Review

War and an Irish Town

Author:     Eamonn McCann

Publisher: Pluto Press

Date published: 1993 (3rd edition)

War and an Irish Town

Eamonn McCann was a young man when conflict flared in the North. As an ardent socialist, he joined those in Derry who fanned the flames of protest, although he never took up arms. The first part of this book is an account of those days in the late sixties and early seventies: the civil rights marches and the elements of both sides who sought to provoke trouble; the helplessness of more peaceful, bourgeois activists; the intervention of British troops and the souring of relations that came to a devastating climax in the January of 1972. Writing a year after Bloody Sunday, McCann goes on to analyse the development of Irish republicanism, the reasons behind Partition and the events of the twentieth century. In his view, sectarian hatred was encouraged by the ruling capitalists and the church who did not want to see the working class unite. Protestant workers in the North rejected conservative nationalism, both before and after Partition, not only because the Orange Order was so deeply ingrained in their community but because it had strong associations with Catholicism and an economic nationalism that could have damaged industry and lost jobs.

This version of the book begins with an introduction written with twenty years of hindsight. By 1993, thousands had died and peace was on the horizon. McCann writes that 'some of the [earlier] judgements [now seem] wrong-headed... But it's an accurate account of how things seemed to me and I think most of it stands the test of time well enough'.


Life of St Columba


Book 3

Adomnán of Iona

Penguin Classics, 1995

St Columba

St Columba

[III 1]

An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to St. Columba's mother one night after his conception but before his birth. He seemed to stand beside her and to give her a robe of marvellous beauty, decorated with what looked like the colours of every flower. After a little time, he asked for it back and took it from her hands. Then he raised the robe and spread it out, letting go of it on the empty air. She was disappointed that it was taken away from her and spoke to the man of holy appearance:

'Why do you take away from me so quickly this delightful mantle?' she said.

'Because,' he said, 'this is a cloak of such glorious honour that you will no longer be able to keep it with you.

Then the woman saw the robe moving further and further from her as if in flight, growing greater and greater so that it seemed to be broader than the plains and the exceed in measure to mountains and the forests. Then she heard a voice which said:

St Columba
St Columba

'Woman, do not be distressed, for you shall bear to the man to whom you are joined in marriage a son of such flower that he shall be reckoned as one of the prophets. He is destined by God to lead innumerable souls to the heavenly kingdom.'

As she heard these words, his mother woke up.

[III 2] On a ray of light seen over the face of the sleeping boy

One night Columba's foster-father, a priest of admirable life, whose name was Cruithnechán, was returning from his house to the church after the office, when he saw the whole house bathed in a bright light, and poised over the face of the sleeping child was a fiery ball of light. He began to tremble, and bowed his face to the ground for he recognised that the grace of the Holy Ghost was poured from heaven upon his foster-son, and he stood in awe.

[III 3] How St Brendan saw an apparition of holy angels walking with St Columba over the plain

Many years after this, St Columba was excommunicated for some trivial and quite excusable offences by a synod that, as eventually became known, had acted wrongly. The saint himself came to the assembly that had been invoked against him.

When St Brendan, the founder of the monastery of Birr, saw St Columba approaching though still a little distance away, he rose quickly to meet him, bowed his face and kissed him with reverence. Some of the elders of that synod, moving the others to one side, berated him, saying:

'Why do you not shrink from rising before an ex-communicate and kissing him?'

'If you,' replied Brendan, 'had seen what the Lord deigned to disclose to me today, concerning this chosen one who you refuse to honour, you would never have excommunicated him. For in no sense does God excommunicate him in accordance with your wrong judgement, but rather glorifies him more and more.

'How, we should like to know,' said the elders, bridling, 'does God glorify him, as you say, whom we have excommunicated for a good reason?'

'I saw a very bright column of fiery light going in front of the man of God whom you despise, and holy angels as his companions travelling over the plain. Therefore I do not dare to spurn this man whom God, as I have had visible proof, is predestined to lead the nations to life.'

After this statement, the elders dropped their charge, for they dared not continued with the excommunication. Instead, they honoured him with great reverence.

This statement was made at Teltown.

[III 4] How St Uinniau saw that the saint's travelling companion was an angel of the Lord

Once, in his youth, St Columba went to his master, the holy bishop Uinniau, who was an old man. When St Uinniau saw him approach, he noticed also that the companion walking by his side was an angel of the Lord. St Uinniau, so the story is handed down to us by learned men, drew this to the notice of those monks who were near by, saying:

'Look. Do you see now, St Columba is coming here, who has deserved to have as the companion of his journey an angel out of heaven.'

[III 5] Of the angel of the Lord who was sent to St Columba to bid him ordain Áedán as king, and who appeared to him in a vision while he was living in the island of Hinba

Once, when the praiseworthy man was living in the island of Hinba, he saw one night in a mental trance an angel of the Lord sent to him. He had in his hand a glass book of the ordination of kings, which St Columba received from him, and which at his bidding he began to read. In the book the command was given him that he should ordain Áedán as king, which St Columba refused to do because he held Áedán's brother Eoganán in higher regard. Whereupon the angel reached out and struck the saint with a whip, the scar from which remained with him for the rest of his life. Then the angel addressed him sternly:

Know then as a certain truth, I am sent to you by God with the glass book in order that you should ordain Áedán to the kingship according to the words you have read in it. But if you refuse to obey this command, I shall strike you again.

In this way the angel of the Lord appeared to St Columba on three successive nights, each time having the same glass book, and each time making the same demand that he should ordain Áedán as king. The holy man obeyed the word of the Lord and sailed from Hinba to Iona, where Áedán had arrived at this time, and he ordained him king in accordance with the Lord's command. As he was performing the ordination, St Columba also prophesied the future of Áedán's sons and grandsons and great-grandsons, then he laid his hand on Áedán's head in ordination and blessed him.

[III 6] How angels were seen carrying the soul of a saintly Briton to heaven

Once when St Columba was living in Iona, one of his monks, a Briton, dedicated to good works, was taken ill with a bodily affliction and came close to death. The holy man came to visit him in his last hour, standing for a time beside his bed and blessing him. But he soon left the monk, for he wished not to see the man die. The end came as soon as the saint had left the house.

Then St Columba, as he walked across the open area of his monastery stopped and looked up to heaven, standing awestruck for some time. One of the brethren, Áedán mac Libir, a devout man of natural goodness, was the only person with him at that moment. He knelt down and began to ask the saint to share with him the reason for his wonder.

'I have just now seen holy angels fighting in the air against the powers of the Adversary. I give thanks to Christ, who watches over the contest, for the angels are victorious and they have carried to the joys of the heavenly kingdom the soul of this pilgrim who is the first of us to die here in this island. But I beg you, do not reveal this mystery to anyone while I am living.

St Columba and the horse by John Duncan

[III 7] Concerning a vision revealed to St Columba in which angels led the soul of a man called Diarmait to heaven

There was once an Irish pilgrim who came to visit St Columba and stayed several months with him in Iona. One day the saint said to him:

'Now a man from your own territory, a cleric, is being carried to heaven by angels, although I do not yet know his name.'

When the brother heard this, he began to search his memory about his territory, that of the Easteners or in Irish the Airthir, looking for the name of this blessed man.

'I know a soldier of Christ,' he said, 'who built a little monastery for himself in the district where he and I used to live. His name was Diarmait.'

'That is the man,' said St Columba, 'who is now brought to paradise by the angels of God.'

I mention here something that should not be overlooked. God revealed to this holy man many sacred mysteries that are hidden from others, but St Columba would not allow them to come to public notice. This was for two reasons, as he disclosed one time to a few of the brethren. First, he wanted to avoid boasting, and, second, so that widespread reports of these revelations would not attract unmanageable crowds of people, wanting to put their questions to him.

[III 8] Of a fierce fight with demons in which St Columba received timely help from the angels

One day, when St Columba was living on Iona, he set off into the wilder parts of the island to find a place secluded from other people where he could pray alone. There, soon after he had begun his prayers – as he later disclosed to a few of his brethren – he saw a line of foul, black devils armed with iron spikes and drawn up ready for battle. The holy man realised in the spirit that they wanted to attack his monastery and slaughter many of the brethren with their stakes. Though he was alone against such an army of countless opponents, he was protected by the armour of St Paul and flung himself into a great conflict. The battle continued most of the day, and the hosts were unable to vanquish him while he could not drive them away from Iona on his own. Then the angels of God came to his aid, as he afterwards told a few of the brethren, and the devils were terrified of them and left the place.

That same day, after the demons had been driven off the island, St Columba returned to the monastery, and gave this account of those hosts of the enemy, saying:

'Those deadly opponents which have today by God's favour and with the help of angels, been banished from this island have gone to Tiree. They will invade the monastery there, and attack the monks cruelly and bring deadly plagues. Many of those afflicted will die.'

That is what happened at the time, as St Columba had foreknown. But two days later, the spirit revealed to him the outcome, and he said:

'With God's help, Baithéne has managed everything well, so that the community in that church over which he presides in Mag Luigne has been saved by prayer and fasting from the attack of the demons. One man has died, on this occasion he has been the only one.'

This prophecy was fulfilled. For although many died of the same disease in the other monasteries of Tiree, no one but the man mentioned by St Columba had died in Baithéne's community.