May 5: TODAY in Irish History:
Today in Irish History: Curated by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks
ON THIS DAY
1864: Birth in County Longford of Sir Henry Hughes Wilson.
Wilson was deputy chief of staff of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front at the outbreak of World War I and was appointed Imperial Chief of Staff in 1918, a position he held until he retired in 1922 to become MP for North Down.
Wilson was shot by two Irish volunteers in London in June 1922 one of whom Joseph O’Sullivan (1897-1922) had lost a leg fighting with the British Army at Ypres. The killing of Wilson after the Treaty had been signed has never been satisfactorily explained with some sources suggesting Michael Collins order the killing in retaliation for ongoing anti-Catholic violence in Northern Ireland.
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1916: Execution of 1916 rebel John MacBride
Born in Mayo in 1865. He travelled to America in 1896 to further the aims of the I. R. B., thereafter travelling to South Africa where he raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade during the Second Boer War where as happened too often in history, Irish fought Irish. He married the Irish nationalist and one time W.B. Yeats lover Maude Gonne in 1903. During the Rising, he fought at the Jabob’s factory. MacBride was father of Irish Nobel Peace prizewinner and one time militant Republican Sean MacBride
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1938: Churchill Decries Handing Over of Irish Ports
In a House of Commons speech, Winston Churchill rails against the agreement that returns Irish ports “the sentinel towers of the western approaches”back to Ireland. Churchill appreciated the potential benefit to Britain of the ports in the event of war. The fact that Britain did not have access to the ports during WWII played a major role in Ireland’s effort to remain neutral.
“If we are denied the use of Lough Swilly and have to work from Lamlash, we should strike 200 miles from the effective radius of our flotillas, out and home; and if we are denied Berehaven and Queenstown, and have to work from Pembroke Dock, we should strike 400 miles from their effective radius out and home. These ports are, in fact, the sentinel towers of the western approaches, by which the 45,000,000 people in this Island so enormously depend on foreign food for their daily bread, and by which they can carry on their trade, which is equally important to their existence.”
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1981: IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands dies in prison following a 66 day hunger strike. Sands would be the first of ten IRA men to die in an effort to gain political status in a very public battle with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In the House of Commons Thatcher commented on Sands death “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims”.
Thatcher’s view of the prisoners and the IRA was that they were murderous thug. Nationalist Ireland’s view the complete opposite.
The IRA played a very astute international campaign during the hunger strikes gaining widespread support and attention for their cause. The deaths of Sands and his colleagues once again boosted IRA recruitment. The support for the strike was evidenced by Sands winning the vacant House of Commons seat for MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in a by-election necessitated by the death of sitting MP Frank Maguire. In a hugely emotional campaign, Sands defeated Unionist candidate Harry West.
The demands of the prisoners included:
1.The right not to wear a prison uniform;
2.The right not to do prison work;
3.The right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
4.The right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
5.Full restoration of remission lost through the protest.
Britain never formally acceded to the strikers’ demands but three days after the hunger strikes finally came to an end on October 3, Ulster Secretary James Prior announced a number of concessions including the right to wear civilian clothes and the restoration of partial remission for those who obeyed prison rules for three months.
Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish
For the Love of Being Irish written by Chicago based Corkman Conor Cunneen and illustrated by Mark Anderson which is an A-Z of all things Irish. This is a book that contains History, Horror, Humor, Passion, Pathos and Lyrical Limericks that will have you giving thanks (or wishing you were) For the Love of Being Irish
This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humoristIrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.
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