Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

April 17


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1656  William Molyneux was born on this day in Dublin in 1656. He was a scientist and politician and was well respected by his peers. He is possibly most remembered for posing a philosophical puzzle that is still discussed and debated in schools and universities around the world today.

It became known as Molyneux’s Problem and a shortened version of the question is shown blow below.


Assume a blind man can tell the difference between a cube and a sphere by the way they feel when he touches them. If the man was then given the ability to see, could he tell which was the sphere and which was the cube simply by looking at them?

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Tomas-Mac Curtain1920  On this day in 1920, an inquest into the killing of Tomás MacCurtain, Lord Mayor of Cork, returned a wilful murder verdict against the Royal Irish Constabulary. MacCurtain was shot dead in front of his wife and children on his doorstep by a group of men with blackened faces.

The murder was a revenge attack after a policeman had been shot and killed by the IRA. MacCurtain had been an active member of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence, and was a Sinn Féin politician.

MacCurtain’s former comrade, Michael Collins, ordered his personal assassins to hunt down and kill the police officers responsible. Several months later the man who, who had reportedly ordered the killing of MacCurtain, RIC District Inspector Oswald Swanzy, was murdered as he left his Protestant church in Co Antrim.

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1936  Brendan Kennelly was born on this day in Co Kerry in 1936. He is a poet and a writer, and his style has made him extremely popular.

Kennelly doesn’t use pretentious, complicated words and ideas unnecessarily (in a way that some poets do to make their work seem deep and intelligent). Kennelly writes in a way that is colloquial and easy for people to understand. A good indication of his style can be taken from one of his more famous epic poems, Poetry My Arse.

In 2010, Kennelly received the PEN Award in recognition of his significant contribution to Irish literature.
Click here to read Ireland’s 100 favourite poems

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1969 Bernadette Devlin became Britain’s youngest ever female MP when she was elected to parliament as the representative for Mid Ulster. The 21-year-old was deeply concerned about ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland and wanted to voice the feelings of her community.

She was a republican who was opposed to the violence between the Catholics and Protestants. Devlin witnessed the Bloody Sunday massacre first hand, and when the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, said that the British troops had only fired shots in self-defence, Devlin slapped him across the face in the House of Commons.

She later supported the IRA prisoners in their Blanket Protest and Hunger Strikes, as they protested to being treated like criminals, when they claimed they were political prisoners.

Devlin survived an attempt on her life in 1981, when Ulster Freedom Fighter gunmen broke into her home and shot her seven times. British soldiers were watching Devlin’s home and managed to get her medical attention to save her life.

Roland-Gerrits_CC3-Bernadette_Devlin-600-Image-Ireland-Calling* * *

1984  Happy birthday to Rosanna Davison, born in Dublin on this day in 1984. She won the Miss World beauty pageant in 2003, so far the only Irish woman to do so.

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2000 On this day in 2000, it was announced that Northern Irish snooker legend, Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was seriously ill in hospital. He died a few months later. Higgins had transformed the game of snooker in the 1970s and 80s with his attacking style leading to numerous entertaining matches. He won the World Championship in 1972 and 1982.
Alex-Higgins_Im-a-one-off Graphic copyright Ireland Calling


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Alex Higgins V Jimmy White playing his 69 break.

See two more videos here on March 18 – the day in 1949 when Alex Higgins was born.
Amazing shots by Alex Higgins, and  Alex Higgins “Hurricane” – Documentary – The People’s Champion.


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