1916 On this day in 1916, the steamship SMS Libau left the German port of Lübeck disguised as the Norwegian boat of similar appearance, the SS Aud.
The SMS Libau contained an estimated 20,000 rifles, one million rounds of ammunition as well as machine guns and explosives, that were due to be collected in Ireland by Roger Casement.
Casement was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and had arranged for the weapons to be delivered, so that the members of the IRB could be adequately armed for the planned uprising against the British, the event that became known as the Easter Rising.
The boat was disguised so as not to be intercepted by the British navy, who were fighting against Germany in the First World War at the time. It successfully made it to Tralee Bay, but never completed the delivery to Casement.
He had tried to re-arrange the meeting time, but was unable to communicate to the ship’s captain as there was no radio on board.
The British authorities found out about the planned arms delivery, and Casement and his men were arrested. He was later found guilty of treason and hanged at Pentonville Prison. With no one waiting to meet them on their arrival, and thousands of guns and weapons on board, the captain of the SMS Libau attempted to escape back into the open sea, but was trapped by the British navy.
SMS Libau was escorted to Cork harbour, but rather than allow the ship to be taken by the British (who had initially built and owned it, until it was seized by Germany seven years previously), the German crew scuttled (deliberately sank) it before being captured and held prisoner for the remainder of the war.
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1917 Vincent O’Brien was born in Cork on this day in 1917. He is widely regarded as the best racehorse trainer that has ever lived. O’Brien had a career that spanned more than 50 years, and won every major race in Ireland and Britain numerous times. He was named as the greatest influence in horse racing history by the Racing Post newspaper in 2003.
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1981 IRA prisoner, Bobby Sands won a seat in British parliament on this day in 1981. He had been on hunger strike for over a month in protest at the treatment that he and other IRA prisoners had endured.
After the main candidate for the seat for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Frank Maguire, died suddenly of a heart attack, Sands put himself forward to gain publicity for his cause and won the vote. He was never able to take his seat in parliament though, as he died of starvation less than a month later.
The British government had been embarrassed by Sands’ success, and quickly passed the Representation of the People Act 1981, to prevent any other prisoners being able to stand for election.
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1981 Happy birthday to Gavin Noble, born in Enniskillen on this day in 1981. He is a professional athlete, and competed in the 2012 London Olympics in the triathlon.
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2000 Nelson Mandela arrived in Ireland on this day in 2000, his second visit to the country. He was awarded an honourary degree in law from Trinity College, Dublin during his four day stay.