Posts Tagged ‘ History ’

A Year in Brief: Part One


What a year it’s been; Hitler birthday cakes, mutant rats, and Bob Geldof off to space! To celebrate the end of another 365 days here are some of NIB’s favourite stories of the year.

Kicking off the year in festive spirit a man in Derry was fined after stealing a CCTV camera which “became his friend”. Police found Peter Morrison, 24, drunk and “petting” the camera as they arrived to arrest him. CCTV pets are for life not just for Christmas. Continue reading

News in Brief – Nuns Robbed While Keating Lands Postman Pat Gig


In the week that’s seen ’Danny Boy’ reach 100 and Cork 10,000, well, not much else has been going on.

There has been some “interesting” research into office party politics answering one of life’s greatest questions, when is the optimum time to take pictures at the office Christmas party? Well that would be 10.02 (with the average party beginning at 7pm, so 182 minutes in, fact) though they can be a bone of contention for some. Women complained the party picture didn’t show them at their best, with twenty percent citing their make-up coming off had crushed their hopes of looking like *insert name of celebrity* in *insert name of film*. One in one hundred men complained of the same dilemma and similarly one in one hundred claimed seeing snaps of the office do caused them to look for a new job, the same one in one hundred perhaps? Continue reading

News in Brief : Backhanders And Blackouts


NIB is sure we’ve covered this before, but hey, Irish women are the best looking in the world and that’s cause for celebration (drink based traditionally). The ranks made up by a dating site, aptly called weren’t so positive about Irish men though, ranking them third ugliest on the planet. It’s a small positive though as a few years ago they were ranked the ugliest. Sorry lads.

Talking of beautiful Irish things, we’re going to start selling off our heritage sites to the highest bidder. In yet another example of the Government trying to claw back the cash they splurged on champagne and caviar, they are now going to lease out sites like Dublin and Kilkenny Castles, Derrynane House and Doneraile Wildlife Park to the most persuasive tender. Apparently the rules are that any new commercial usage plans must be in check with the historical heritage of the site so no casinos or hotels will be permitted, unless the brown envelope’s thick enough. Minister for Public Service Reform Brian Hayes said: ‘I don’t know how successful it’s going to be, I have to be very frank.’ Continue reading

First Flight Fest Now History Fest (26 Sept – 9 Oct)


Despite the summer having slipped quietly away, there’s still plenty of festival and cultural activity to be had around the city. Coming up at the end of September is Dublin’s first history festival which promises to be a worthy member of the cultural scene. This is an exciting new initiative from Dublin City Council so any history buffs out there would be advised to check out what’s on offer.

Much of the programme is free of charge but booking will be necessary for most events. Some are simply ‘first come first served’ but it’s as well to check the details. Events have been scheduled for Dublin City Libraries, Dublin Castle (Printworks Venue), City Hall and the Irish Film Institute so check the web site for further information. I’ve certainly got my eye on booking a few events, though deciding which ones to choose will be a tricky task. It’s not often that you get to see the likes of Jung Chang and Simon Schama for free. Continue reading

Death Of The First Republic

The first Republic of Ireland is dead; this is a sensationalist statement to many but we are now in denial at its funeral. We crowd around its coffin, backs turned to the corpse and draw hope and nostalgia from those that brought her to birth, but those ghosts will teach us little more and if they could we would not listen. The lessons, valuable irreplaceable lessons, will only be found in its autopsy and in the investigation of its demise.

The first republic was born from a theatrical passion for cultural fulfilment, ownership and historic tribalism. Born as a hippy child it was raised by conservative parents backed by a regimental religion, hands shackled from liberalist choice in case it cut its knee in self discovery. Through its adolescence in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it made friends in the European playground, picking up its fashionable taste for fast and loose capitalism. Of course young Ireland was not educated to the level of those who had dabbled for so long, but it would posture and be allowed do so. The reigns that had harboured young Ireland so close to its moral centre were quickly being rebelled, mistaking peer pressure of internal financial aesthetics, with the freedom of choice it had for so long wished to be its own. Continue reading

Blast from the Past – Snippets From History

In 1981 Sean McBratney wrote a book called “Lagan Valley Details”. What is it about Northern story-tellers that make their tales so endearing? Simple plots, human observances, a little humour and an unfussy narration perhaps. Sean McBratney has a beautiful tendency to jog the reader along with fun and then slap home a tragic twist in his last paragraph. There is the hilarious story of ‘Patsy Quigley’s jump off the Viaduct near Dromore’. Making a pair of wings, Patsy was to perform the deed. Bets being laid in the local pub. The church unable to persuade him to change his mind. When McHenry heard the proposition: ‘……..the sort of easy-going man who would often save up his words until his pipe went out …..- looked very pensive…..’, and Patsy’s wife: ‘…..had a vision of herself left  a widow and young Pat left without a father ……(and) phoned a solicitor and asked him if she could take out one of these injunctions to stop a man jumping off a great height in an attempt to fly ….’.  Humpy Davis tells an ‘unbelievable tale’ of a talking tree in which he observes: ‘….Leprechauns are diminutive Irish Nationalists. Proper fairies…..have no interest in politics at all and have no nationality….’.

In 2001 RTE had a new series called “Ireland’s Greatest Hits” which answered some interesting questions. Did you know for example that Andrea Corr likes to bathe to help her write sexy lyrics? Or that Gloria’s smash hit One Day at a Time was recorded in Nashville in just ten minutes? Did you know that King of the Culchies, Aon Focal Eile star Richie Kavanagh was booked to play at a party in the jet-set South of France resort of St Tropez every summer ? RTE 1’s new series looked at the stories behind the songs, talked to the singers, the writers and the  producers and uncovered all the tricks,  magic, coincidences, luck and success that are part of every hit.

Also in 2001 the film “Merlin: the Return” was released. Rik Mayall as Merlin and Patrick Bergin as King Arthur – magically  transported to 21st century Stonehenge, where they run for their lives from an evil scientist played by Tia Carrera from Wayne’s World. Someone. Please. Tell me I’m hallucinating.

In olden times beards grew more out of necessity. The fashion of the beard varied in different countries at particular times. Surprisingly enough the Egyptians were clean shaven and also the young Greeks. It is believed that the Romans didn’t start shaving until about 454 AD. The first day of shaving was regarded as entering manhood. It was celebrated with a festival where the newly-shaven wined and dined. Ceaser tells us that the ancient Britons let the hair grow long only on the upper lip corresponding to a  moustache, although they didn’t have a name for it. The Saxons are said to have grown beards but the Normans shaved the entire face. Until about the 17th century the beard was in fashion and was accepted as part and parcel of human apparel. It was now the hey-day of the razor and the familiar ‘cut-throat’  bared men’s faces throughout England and America. With the Crimean War and its subsequent hardships the beard came into vogue once again and many took a soldier’s licence. The long beard adorned the face until the 19th century. In the early 20th century it again disappeared from fashion but the Second World War brought the hair back on the faces of Europeans, but Americans were  reluctant to do so.

Back to 1981 again and in this year Uilick O’Connor wrote a biography of Oliver St John Gogarty. Biographies of famous literary people are seldom uninteresting. A biography ‘of one of the great lyric poets of his age’ who was also a wit, a surgeon, a senator, a playwright, an aviator, athlete and Irishman is most interesting. Passages of Gogarty’s own writings adorn the manuscript. Brilliant –  like his description of a Dublin Madam, Mrs Mack of Nightown: “A brick-red face, on which avarice was written like a hieroglyphic, and a laugh like a guffaw in hell ….”. He gives information on a number of people -Arthur Griffith, George Moore, architect Michael Scott, Gabriel Fallon, Eamon de Valera, James Stephens and many others. As a surgeon Gogarty was something of a Robin Hood. He refused to charge Gabriel Fallon for his professional attendance remarking: ‘I have a Duchess coming from London  and I’ll settle her snout for a century’. A touch of M.A.S.H in the operating theatre too: “Jesus Christ”, cried a young assistant in dismay when a lesion burst during an operation. “Cease calling on your unqualified assistant”, Gogarty hissed. Dublin’s great institutions come alive for us here:  The Bailey, TrinityCollege, Joyce’s Tower, the better classes (‘born concussed’) or the larger than life Dubliner ‘six feet three in height with a head like the Kaiser’ reading Shakespeare while other people slept. Visits to the country too – to Renvyl and further south for a sarcastic diatribe on Eamon de Valera: “….they say in Clare that the blacksmiths are shoeing the cattle so that they may gallop round the fairs on the look out for a purchaser….”

Also in 1981 Peter Haining wrote “The Leprechauns Kingdom”. The subject may be open to ridicule in our twenty first century but anybody with even a big toe still in the past will be pleased to ponder again on the Tuatha de Dannan and their contemporaries. There is no mention of the famous O’Grady banshee in the section on that lady whose comb (rack) so  many of us picked from a ditch with mock bravery. The song of O’Neill’s banshee is given – treble clef key of E (those O’Neills were always snobs – we always deemed the banshee to wail not sing an aria!). The Kildare Luricheen does not  figure in this book either but its pages bulge with other Lullachans, merrows, pookas, water sheerie – even were wolves and vampires.

Many years ago Kathleen Clarke wrote “Revolutionary Women”. There is adequate factual  (and fictitious) material available for the historian or general reader. Which makes Kathleen Clarke’s autobiography all the more  welcome. Wife of Tom Clarke, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 rebellion, she was a Daly from Limerick and her story gives fascinating background information on the whole struggle. For example she tells how a Dublin festooned with Union Jacks annoyed her so much that she began making up tricolours from yards of ribbon and soon had the tide of colour in Dublin streets changed. Her memoirs tell of her time in the United States, her part in the rising and its aftermath including imprisonment with Countess Markievicz. IRB and Cumann na mBan activity is outlined. The German Plot, the Black and Tans, Collins advising her to go on the run and she refusing because of her 3 children. The story goes on until we reach  the amusing take-over of Lord Mayor of Dublin from Alfie Byrne in 1939. Not for Kathleen portraits of Queen Victoria and others that had survived in the Mansion House. She ordered removal men to arrive at 6am and sat up all night to make sure they were admitted.

In 1991 a man called Teddy Delaney wrote “Where we Sported and Played”. At the time on radio,  one channel chat-show was discussing the availability of condoms to young people, the other featured a couple (husband unemployed) with nineteen children who spoke of their happy family. Books like Where we Sported and Played provide a soothing read in such times. They tell of less complicated times when simple sporting and playing went alongside hard work and when life seemed to be happier. Teddy Delaney slots in snatches of history as he describes the life of a Cork youth in the early 1950s and   1960s. Raza and queen  cakes, holidays in Youghal, hanging around the quays in the hope of getting some chocolate crumb from a docker uploading Cadbury’s merchandise, verses of street rhymes and loftier verse, including Goldsmith – here is  a mix as strong as drisheen that would make you ‘wax a gaza in Pana ‘.   And if you don’ know what that means you should never dare sing ‘De Banks’. Nice one, Mercier and Teddy Delaney.

In 1999 Gene Kerrigan and Pat Brennan wrote a book called “This Great Little Nation”. It’s ‘the A-Z of Irish scandals and controversies’ and covers everything from the Fethard boycott of the 1950s to the tribunals of the 1990s and such  issues as the Ann Lovett case and the downfall of Albert Reynolds government. And did you know that one of the first tribunals of inquiry was held  in 1947, the subject of which was Locke’s Distillery in Kilbeggan? The sale of the distillery by the two remaining members of the Locke family in 1947 attracted the attention of a group of international chancers. These were Englishman Horace Henry – Smith, Austrian Herbert Saschell and Georges  Eindiguer from Switzerland, who made up Trans-World Trust based in Lausanne, Switzerland. They quickly got the support of the Department of Industry and Commerce in their plan to buy Locke’s Distillery. The intention they claimed was that they would manufacture whiskey for export but they would also develop the home market. They would revive the great and ancient little distillery. However after the trio had tea with the President Sean T O’Ceallaigh at the Aras, it was discovered that the lads were crooks and Smith was really a Russian with a false passport wanted by the British police while the Austrian had been given a month to leave the country by Gardai three months earlier. It eventually transpired that the boys were after the 60,000 gallons of matured and maturing whiskey at Kilbeggan and that they had no intention of getting the company up and running at all! Three judges oversaw a tribunal of inquiry but found that there had been no political collaboration in Transworld’s scheme. And you remember that famous necklace that Maureen Haughey received from the Arab about 25 years ago- well the allegation at the time of Locke’s Distillery was that Eindiguer had presented a gold watch to a son of the Taoiseach Eamon De Valera or had been advised to, to smooth his way towards the distillery purchase!

In 1971 a Dublin journalist wrote a book called “How to read between the clichés”. How usually reliable is “the usually reliable source”? How expert “the leading expert”? How uncomfortable are you likely to be in a hospital ward when a newspaper blithely describes you as “comfortable”? The answers to all these questions and many more will be found in this definitive if somewhat satirical work. If a newspaper report describes you as being “comfortable” in hospital following an accident it can be taken for granted that you are uncomfortable. If you are described as having had “a good night” it can be taken for granted that you had a bad one. “Slightly improved” means you are about to be discharged; “no change” means that the hospital staff didn’t bother to check for the reporter when he telephones. “Seriously ill” means that you are in the operating theatre and they’re working on you. “Critical” means that you have just come back from the operating theatre. ”Very critical” means that it is time to send for the shroud. “A raging inferno” is any fire which causes loss of life even the life of the semi-detached budgie. “The girl was not however criminally assaulted” can usually be taken as meaning that although she was beaten up she was not raped. “Frantic efforts” in general are often normal activities of people the firemen, police and doctors. “Heroic efforts” are civilians attempting to perform the normal activities of firemen, police and doctors. “Trojan efforts” means that both the “frantic efforts” and the “heroic efforts” failed in the face of the emergency. The Gardai “are anxious to interview” is a full scale manhunt.

Welcome to West Belfast 2012

The Infamous Black Taxi Tour

Northern Irish tourism has been going from strength to strength every year with overseas visitors spending an estimated £368million during 2011. As the summer of 2012 winds down, local events have attractined people from all walks of life, as West Belfast offered a range of exciting, creative and cultural experiences that were not to be missed.

Visit West Belfast Tourism Development Officer, Seán Quinn believes, “Our role involves lobbying Statutory bodies on investment and PR for West Belfast especially on tourism. We work with local businesses trying to enhance their tourism products and in developing new ideas. We also attend trade shows where we sell the West as a tourism destination.”

Many locals see West Belfast as an area where once conflict and political issues flooded the streets but in recent years this deep history has helped West Belfast in becoming a tourist hotspot. Huge numbers flock each year to Belfast to hear the stories of cultural differences and historical debates. Popular attractions include, the famous Black Taxi Tour, a walking tour organised by a political ex-prisoner and catching an open top bus to view the political murals.

Though, if politics is not your thing then start your day with a thrilling trek up Divis mountain and take in the breathtaking view of Belfast’s landscape. Then head into the heart of the West for a variety of restaurants, bars and cafés, where you can experience at first hand a warm Belfast welcome, hearty home-cooked food and traditional Irish Music.

One of West Belfast’s most captivating tours is the Gaeltacht Experience, where visitors can hear some traditional Irish music, dance and listen to locals talking about the history. This tour will surely not disappoint.

August 2012 seen the communities in West Belfast come together for a festival which firmly put the West on the map as a tourist hotspot, Féile an Phobail. The festival has gained resounding praise and has grown into one of the largest community festivals in Europe. The carnival parade brought together over 20,000 participants for a colourful, musical procession with specially-designed floats representing a chosen theme, dancers and children in costume and face-masks.It has grown from a one-week festival to a year-round programme. Kevin Gamble, Director of Féile an Phobail believes that, “festivals in West Belfast help in showcasing the West to the World.”

Mary Black, the popular Irish singer performed at Clonard Monastery and Alabama 3, a blues band known worldwide, performed at Falls Park which saw people from all areas come together, enjoy music and food and see the West in a different way. Minister of Tourism, Arlene Foster described the work put into making this all happen, “Our huge investment in tourism during 2012 and beyond is designed to help drive our economy forward faster, encouraging private sector enterprise and creating new jobs.”

The West Belfast Arts Society, which has been running for 25 years and now has a membership of over 60 people has just wrapped up a series of different weekly classes and work in different mediums. The exhibition showcased recent work of the Society’s members and featured a wide range of both medium and subject matter.

Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich in partnership with Shankill Women’s Centre celebrated International Peace Day on Friday 21st September at Townsend Street where a variety of fun filled activities such as circus performers, musicians, theatrical performances and storytelling made a great day for all to see.

Leinster Final Preview: Meath v Dublin

It is hard to recall when there has been more than a kick of a ball between the steely resolve of the men from the Royal County and the swagger of the men from the capital.

Murmurings within Meath have suggested that this year’s campaign has many similarities to the one of 1996. That year Seán Boylan unleashed his young guns in Croke Park and Meath caught Dublin on the hop in the Leinster final.

They went on to win the All Ireland final, resulting in Dublin relinquishing their All Ireland crown. Combining that with their last encounter where Meath surprised Dublin with a clinical display beating them 5-09 to 0-13 points, there can be no doubt Dublin will be wary of their opponents.

A Meath/Dublin affair is a war of attrition and when the Delaney Cup and the bragging rights in Leinster are on offer, it adds a certain element of spice to the occasion.

Dublin have blown hot and cold this summer with a comprehensive dismantling of a poor Louth outfit and a display against Wexford that left many questions about their resolve. Come Sunday, any kind of form from both sides this year will go out the window.

Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney has endured in the face of adversity within Meath to assemble a team capable of pulling off a shock against any team, based on their performance against Kildare in the last round. After a shaky start to the championship against Wicklow and a dubious draw against Carlow the Meath team has started to take shape.

Injuries have however plagued Banty’s squad, with regular players such as Mark Ward, Shane O Rourke, Gary O Brien and Seamus Kenny long term absentees. Stephen Bray, a former All Star, Paddy Gilsenan and Kevin Reilly have also struggled with their fitness this year.

However, this has given opportunities for players on the fringes of the squad to stake a claim for a regular place and they have taken that chance with both hands.

Donal Keoghan has come into the team at corner back and showed tenacity and doggedness beyond his years, shackling the vastly experienced and highly dangerous John Doyle against the Lily Whites in their last outing in Croke Park.

Keoghan will have to call on every ounce of concentration and experience to contain the threat of Bernard Brogan this Sunday, the dynamic corner forward and arguably best player in the country when on form.

Donnacha Tobin has proven to be somewhat of a utility man for Meath this year but he seems to be at home in the half back line. Tobin, Shane McAnarney and Mickey Burke are tasked with the job of stopping one of the hardest working half forward lines in the country.

Bryan Cullen will typically roam the pitch picking up breaking ball and distributing it down the open channels and Mickey Burke will more than likely be the man to shadow him. McAnarney on the other hand will be faced with the constant attacking threat of Alan Brogan and if Meath want to win this game these are the players that will need to be contained.

Alan Forde and Damien Carroll have added a new dimension of pace and vision into the Meath half forward line and their youthful exuberance caused Carlow and Kildare countless problems. Throwing the form of Brian Farrell and Graham Reilly into the mix who are both in scoring form, Stephen Bray  on the bench, Peadar Byrne who has developed an eye for goal and the return of Kevin Reilly from injury at full back, Meath will go to Croke Park quietly confident of causing an upset.

Dublin, who usually don’t have too many surprises up their sleeve, have named Michael Dara Macauley, the All Star midfielder, at full forward in place of the suspended Diarmuid Connolly.

This tactic could be employed to drag Kevin Reilly out of position but also neutralise the attacking threat of Graham Reilly around the middle who has excelled this year as a third midfielder.

Don’t be surprised to see Kevin McManamon and Bernard Brogan operating in a two man full forward line on Sunday.

Macauley, a former Irish basketball underage star, views Meath as a serious threat to their Leinster crown, “I’m looking forward to the Meath game, there’s always a great atmosphere when the two sides meet. It’s hard to believe we haven’t met in a Leinster final for 11 years, so it should be a big day. Meath are flying at the moment with a lot of youth in the team breaking through which are showing huge potential. They dismantled a strong Kildare team so it’s going to be a huge ask for us come Sunday but we’re looking forward to it”.

The feeling is that Dublin are a team that haven’t quite hit top gear and may be priming themselves for the latter stages of the championship. They have dominated Leinster since the turn of the century and are aiming for their sixth Leinster title in seven years.

Pat Gilroy has made some positional and tactical changes this year, with Eamon Fennell becoming a mainstay at midfield and Macauley being given licence to roam. Their league campaign was indifferent but that may have been a literal and figurative hangover from the return of the Sam to the capital.

In recent years Dublin have kept quiet in the build up to championship football and Gilroy seems to have instilled a sense of “us against the world” in the Dublin footballers with a sense of unity evident in this team that cements their position as leaders in the game.

With Meath on form coming into this game and Dublin about to hit stride, what is expected to be a capacity crowd in Croke Park will witness two of the biggest rivals in GAA history battle it out for the right to call themselves the Kings of Leinster.

Just like a Munster hurling final there is always a sense of drama to these affairs and this encounter should be no different. The oft quoted former supremo of Meath football, Sean Boylan, this week described Meath football as possessing a certain element of madness, the question remains will the reigning All Ireland champions and current standard bearers in the game rule supreme or will the madness of Meath football overcome their neighbours dominance of Leinster? It promises to be an intriguing affair.

John Fagan

Lessons from History – the Eucharistic Congress

It has been 80 years of tumultuous change since the last Eucharistic Congress was held on these shores, way back in 1932. Ireland has a different visage, a new one with which to face the 21st century. The hegemonic power of the Catholic Church has been broken in Ireland, as has that of its bedfellow, Fianna Fáil. Secularism rather than religiosity is beginning to determine our course, as people look to themselves and others to guide their lives rather than to a higher power.

The Eucharistic Congress is a week-long event, organised by the Vatican every four years, sort of like an Olympics for the Catholic Church and its people, a gathering of clergy and the religious laity to celebrate the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. 12,000 devotees gathered at the opening ceremony at the RDS last Sunday, where events have been held over the course of the week, around 80,000 attending the conclusion at Croke Park. Of course this Congress has been somewhat tainted by the allegations and revelations concerning the priesthood and child sex abuse over the past number of years and amidst a general decline in faith among its once devoted members. Attendants come from all over the world to participate in the air of unity that the Congress brings to those who join; old and young, male and female, come to renew and strengthen their faith. The week-long celebration is over for another four years, and already the talk concerns the legacy of this year’s Congress; whether it is a new beginning for the Church in Ireland, moving towards the inclusion of a young population who feel alienated by the ceremony and rigour of Catholicism, and the disillusion over the scandals which have rocked the Church and its people.

Today, in the 21st century, outside of the Catholic Church at least, the proceedings are met with (outside of interested Catholics) either a polite interest of complete indifference. But roll back the clock 80 years and you would find a country practically quivering with anticipation, and for many different reasons. For in the life of the infant Free State and in particular the newly ruling Fianna Fáil party, the Eucharistic Congress had an indelible effect. Before Ireland’s independence came in 1922, the Catholic Church had grown quite powerful throughout Ireland. And, when the power and influence of the landlord class finally began to wane, the local priests took up the mantle of community leadership. Ordinary people were far less educated when compared to our time, and people would often look to their clerics for advice and guidance. And while the Catholic hierarchy had often been associated throughout Europe with the rich and the powerful, in Ireland the opposite was true; a priest was one of the ordinary people. Of course, it certainly didn’t hurt that the Church often supported the nationalist movements, barring the more violent ones, while their control over the education system ensured a generation of Irish who viewed Catholicism as more than simply their religion, but an innate part of their Irish identity. With independence came the support from the Church of the Free State, and they condemned the rebellion of the anti-Treatyites, and excommunicated them from the Church. As the years passed, Catholicism cemented its position in the new nation. A narrow vision of the events of the previous decades was propagated with citizens celebrated the freeing of a Catholic people from an oppressive Protestant state, ignoring the fact of the involvement of many Protestants in the nationalist movements. In 1929, elaborate centenary commemorations were organised to celebrate Daniel O’Connell and the achievement of Catholic Emancipation, and in the same year, the Pope finally agreed to send a papal nuncio to Dublin, and to receive in turn an Irish ambassador to the Vatican. Following the establishment of the Free State W.T. Cosgrave presided over the Irish helm, alongside a relatively neutral Cumann na nGaedhael government. Protestants were by no means discriminated against, and indeed many were promoted to positions to ensure the views of the Protestant minority were well represented. In 1932, Catholic bishops received a cause for apprehension with the succession to power of Éamon de Valera, one of those who had been condemned for his part in the Civil War a decade previous. However, they need not have worried as ‘Dev’, as he became known, and his Fianna Fáil government were strongly influenced by the Church and their teachings. Fortunately for the man from Clare, one of the perennial Catholic events of his time would be held only three months following his election, cementing his and his party’s place in Irish political history.

Overall, around one million attended the ceremonies that took place during the week in June of 1932. Following the concluding procession through the streets of Dublin, the papal legate, Cardinal Lauri, sent a telegram to the Pope, Pius XI, declaring that the Irish people were uttering the “cry which sums up the tradition, the faith, the very life of the whole nation: God Bless the Pope.” Dublin’s Congress and its success were very clearly appreciated at the Vatican and the official state newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano featured a favourable account of the week’s events. “Everyone is at his post from the Bishop to the clerical student, from the President of the State to the policeman on the street…It is really nothing short of miraculous – for here we see, after a century and a half of attempted laicisation, an entire people proud of its name, but prouder still of its Roman religion.” Triumphalism has been the word used by historians to describe the display of power on the part of the Catholic Church during the Congress and here was clear evidence that the Irish Free State was a Catholic state, and proud of it. Even at the local level, ordinary people were as much a part as the clerics and politicians at the top. Masses of bunting were strung up across the country, and groups and choirs practised and rehearsed for a year to ensure perfection, culminating in the enormous attendance at the week’s events. One can only imagine how the exclusionary feeling of anyone who had the misfortune to belong to another religion, or to none at all. It is hardly surprising that between this power and their already close-knit relationship with the Irish people, the Catholic Church ensured its hegemonic position in the country for decades to come.

But the good news wasn’t solely for the Catholic Church; in the political arena too were the benefits felt. Despite having been excommunicated for his anti-Treaty Republican activities during the Civil War, de Valera had remained a good Catholic, and had retained friendships with various figures throughout the Catholic hierarchy in the country. An impressive speech given in English, Irish and Latin during the state reception for the papal legate at Dublin Castle benefitted his image favourably, and he kept a high-profile throughout the week’s events. Eventually this helped to win him political appeal and when he called an election six months following the Congress, he was able to transform his minority government into a majority, and he remained in office until 1948 while his party was the largest at each general election from that of 1932 until 2011.

On the more negative spectrum, partition between North and South was further entrenched, and it is easy to see why, contrasting the Catholic Free State with the more traditional Protestant Northern Ireland who had fought for so long to ensure the Papists never gained a foothold in their own country. Some Catholics travelling from North to South were the victims of sectarian attacks, perpetrated by loyalist mobs. For Protestant Ulster, the lavish celebrations commemorated an alien religion; they who elevated individual choice and a personal relationship with God above all. The events in Dublin showed a radically different outlook in the Free State, with a high value placed on community and access to God through the clerical hierarchy. While reports from 1932 suggested that Ireland had never been more unified than during those six days, the reality is that the split between North and South was possibly starker than ever before.

Some 300 people who witnessed the events of 1932 gathered this week in a hotel outside Dublin to reminisce over archive footage of the events which helped to define a generation. Now 92 Liam Cosgrave, son of de Valera’s predecessor W.T. Cosgrave, recalled the celebrations with pride. “It was important for the State that we could do it and do it well,” he said. “It meant an awful lot to the country,” he said. “Remember we were only 10 years with self-government. There was a great turnout of Army and Garda and helpers. It was very well organised.” The effects of the 2012 Congress will unlikely be as far-reaching, considering we live in a nation attempting, to an extent, to shrug off its Catholic past. Machiavelli wrote “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times.” In 2012, we are only now shaking off the legacy of the Catholic Church and the power Fianna Fáil held onto for so long. Hopefully, we don’t make the same mistake twice.

A Lost History Pieced Together

Records destroyed in a fire at the Four Courts nearly a century ago, and believed to be lost to the world have been reconstructed, the result of almost four decades of work by historians at Trinity College Dublin. The documents, from the medieval Chancery of Ireland have been made available to the public through a web project – CIRCLE: a Calendar of Irish Chancery Letters c. 1244-1509. A paper database of all references to known Chancery letters was established early on and using substitute sources from around the world, in combination with a keystone, the 1828 Latin Calender published by the record commissioners and containing a guide to the contents of original chancery rolls. The Chancery in Ireland was established soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1169 and issued letters in the King’s name, bearing the seal of Ireland. Copies of these letters were transcribed onto parchment known as chancery rolls and stored away. However in 1922, a blaze whose cause is still unknown destroyed the records, which were thought to be lost forever.

Between the 28th of June and July 5th, a week of street fighting raged throughout the Irish capital. Furious at the acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, recently ratified by Dáil Éireann, around 200 anti-Treaty IRA members occupied the Four Courts in Dublin on the 14th of April, led by Rory O’Connor. Thousands of British troops remained in the city, awaiting evacuation under the terms of the Treaty. O’Connor and his Irregular (as they were also known) followers wished to reignite the conflict with the British thereby reuniting both factions of the IRA (which had split over the Treaty), going on to fight for a 32 county Republic.

However, those who occupied the Four Courts had miscalculated. If those leaders at the helm were to transform the Free State into a true and self-governing state, then it was they who had to shoulder the responsibility of putting down the rebellion. The death of Sir Henry Wilson in London at the hands of two IRA men on the 22nd of June brought British pressure to bear on the provisional Irish government to take action against the garrison in the Four Courts. Four days later, Free State General J.J. O’Connell was kidnapped by the anti-Treaty troops at the Four Courts and it was decided to move against the agitators. An offer of weapons support by Winston Churchill was accepted by Michael Collins and two 18 pounder field guns were placed across the Liffey from the Four Courts. After one final ultimatum, the bombardment began on the 28th. Between Free State troops attacks and the incessant shelling, the Irregulars began losing men to injury, death and arrest. Early on the 30th, Ernie O’Malley had taken command of the Four Courts following Paddy O’Brien’s shrapnel injury. Word filtered through from Oscar Traynor, the anti-Treaty IRA commander in Dublin, that he couldn’t reach their position to assist, and ordered the garrison there to surrender. At 3.30pm, O’Malley officially surrendered to Brigadier General Paddy Daly of the Free State Dublin Guard.

By this stage, the Four Courts was ablaze. Several hours prior to the surrender, between 11am and 3pm, the Irish Public Records Office, located in the western block of the Four Courts, was destroyed. The office, which had been in use by the Irregulars as an ammunitions store was part of a huge explosion and a thousand years of Irish history was turned to ash, scattered by the wind across the Dublin skyline. Accusations have flown around regarding the cause of the explosion and the subsequent destruction. In fortifying the Four Courts before the bombardment began, the anti-Treaty forces mined the complex. It has been alleged by some that the Public Records Office was also deliberately booby-trapped, causing the explosion. Seán Lemass, future Taoiseach, among other anti-Treaty supporters, vehemently denied this. The insurgents maintained it was Free State shelling which ultimately destroyed the priceless archive.

Following the clearing of O’Connell Street, victory in Dublin meant that the Free State army could move out around the country, and crushed resistance by anti-Treaty forces. Major towns were taken and even the use of guerrilla warfare, so effective when presided over by Michael Collins, could not save the Republican side. By early 1923, the anti-Treaty IRA’s capability to launch offensive operations was seriously damaged. Republican Liam Deasy called on his compatriots to lay down their arms and when Liam Lynch, the IRA leader, was killed in action and replaced by the more realist Frank Aiken, the 30th of April saw a ceasefire and the ending of Civil War.

The effects of the Irish Civil War have resonated through the decades in Ireland and not just in terms of our records and history. The death of Michael Collins not only cost Ireland an invaluable and promising leader, but it also ensured hostilities between both sides sharpened, and bitterly. With all of the damage caused by the Civil War, the fledgling state ended 1923 with a budget deficit of £4 million. Being unable to pay their share of Imperial debt as per the Treaty led to an adverse effect on the Boundary Commission of 1924, which left the border unchanged, instead of reducing its size as promised, weakening the North and making a union with the South inevitable. And a bitterness has resided in Ireland since the early 1920s. Families and localities during the Civil War were often divided by their loyalties to the Free State or the Irregulars, and those decisions were carried for decades. Up until last year, the two biggest parties in the country were Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, direct descendants of the two warring forces during the Civil War. Politicians during the following four or five decades were more often than not veterans of the conflict. And when their children entered the political arena, a second and third generation of bitterness continued to permeate the Irish political landscape. While in the North, no one can deny the impact of the IRA up there, who could claim ancestry to the breakaway anti-Treaty IRA of the 1920s and who dedicated themselves to ridding Northern Ireland of British rule in 1948.

Political fighting, deep and bitter, has been a hallmark of Ireland since we won our independence all those decades ago. And the years that have passed by since then have seen little change. Had the country seen a unified stance on the Treaty, in recognition of the bigger picture, things might be very different today. Some lessons, it seems, are never learned.