July 8: TODAY in Irish History: _______________________________________________________________________ Today in Irish History: Curated by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks Chicago Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff. __________________________________________________________________________
1892: Mobster Dion (Dean) O’Banion is born to Irish Catholic parents in Maroa Illinois. O’Banion for a short period would become a major kingpin in Prohibition Chicago, controlling most of the bootlegging and gambling in the northside of Chicago.
O’Banion development through criminal ranks was not unusual. A poverty stricken teenager (with a beautiful tenor voice) who initially ran with The Market Street gang involved in theft and protection rackets.
On the introduction of Prohibition in 1920, he started importing Canadian beer and liquor, soon becoming a major player and working in relative harmony with Johnny Torio and his then lieutenant, Al Capone, a harmony that lasted for about two years. Disagreements over territory and enforcement erupted in gang warfare.
O’Banion was gunned down in his florist shop (where he supplied flowers to many Chicago gangster funerals) on November 10 1924 by Torio/Capone gunmen. One gunman greeted him with a handshake and held him while two others shot O’Banion six times. His death exploded the bloody Chicago Gang wars that would culminate in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.
O’Banion was one of a number of Irish-American gangsters who brought misery to Prohibition Chicago in the 1920s.
Documentary on Dean O’Banion from TG4 (Irish Language TV)
1838: Civil War Union officer John Burke is born in Dunmanway, Co. Cork. The Irish have a fine heritage and history in the US military including some like John King who is a two time recipient of the Medal of Honor. John Burke did not exactly fit that mould. He was courtmartialled following the Battle of Antietam for alleged cowardice. The facts are somewhat sketchy but the website Antietam on the web reports:
“It is not certain where Col Burke was during the battle on September 17th. LCol Fowler reported that “after the first advance [17 Sept] from the meadow upon the plowed field, the colonel not being present, as a necessity I, without orders, assumed command.”
Apparently, during the brigade’s charge on the Sunken Road, he “fell behind his troops, dismounted, and hid in a ‘fold’ in the ground, perhaps unable to face the enemy fire. Up to Antietam Burke had reportedly been a fine officer called, “a splendid tactician”. The outcome of Burke’s court martial was dismissal from the service”
“During the battle Gen Meagher was incapacitated and, as the senior colonel, Burke assumed command of the brigade for the remainder of September 17, and later was charged with abandoning his regiment during the fight.”
1921: Eamonn De Valera replies to Lloyd George’s request for negotiations to end the War of Independence
The desire you express on the part of the British Government to end the centuries of conflict between the peoples of these two islands, and to establish relations of neighbourly harmony, is the genuine desire of the people of Ireland.
I have consulted with my colleagues and secured the views of the representatives of the minority of our Nation in regard to the invitation you have sent me.
In reply, I desire to say that I am ready to meet and discuss with you on what bases such a Conference as that proposed can reasonably hope to achieve the object desired.
I am, Sir,
Eamon de Valera
A truce would be declared commencing July 11th. On December 6th 1921, Michael Collins would sign the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London and initiate the Irish Free State.
1981: IRA member Joe McDonnell is the fifth person to die on hunger strike in an effort to gain political status for Republican prisoners. Another five would die before the strike would be called off.
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