February 21

February

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1958 Happy birthday to Jake Burns, frontman and lead vocalist for the punk band Stiff Little Fingers, born on this day in Belfast in 1958.

Burns celebrated his 21st birthday with the release of the band’s debut album, Inflammable Material, which described the difficulties faced by people in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’ of the 1970s.

Stiif Little Fingers with an Alternative Ulster

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1979 Eleven men were sentenced to a total of 19 life sentences in prison on this day in 1979, bringing an end to their spree of brutal torture and killing. The group were known as the Shankill Butchers. They were made up of violent members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, which was an organisation in Northern Ireland which wanted to remain a part of Britain.

The ‘Troubles’ in Belfast were at their worst, and the IRA were bombing and killing innocent civilians on a regular basis.

In response, the Shankill Butchers carried out killings of despicable violence, in which they kidnapped, tortured and butchered their victims – cutting their throats with a butcher’s knife. Some were attacked with a hatchet. The group targeted civilians they assumed were Catholics, although their 19 victims were actually made up of people of both Catholic and Protestant faith.

On this day eleven of the Shankill Butchers were taken off the streets of Belfast, although other members of the group continued to carry out the terrible attacks.

2_21_Belfast_murals-photo-Sitomon_CC2-600 Ireland CallingRead an overview of The Troubles here

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Michael Collins

2003 A letter written by Irish hero Michael Collins sold for €28,000 on this day in 2003. Collins was a key figure in Irish history and was one of the rebels that took part in the Easter Rising.

He then became a senior figure in the IRA during the Irish War of Independence, and was one signatories of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which effectively ended the war. However, it was an act which split the IRA, with some members feeling it conceded too much to the British. A Civil War quickly followed with the anti-treaty IRA fighting against the newly formed Free State government.

Collins wrote to his sweetheart Kitty Kiernan, saying he had ‘signed my own death warrant’. He was killed in an IRA ambush less than a year later in his home county of Cork.

The letter was bought by the Mickey Ryan, the manager of Irish songstress Enya. Ryan fended off competition from the National Library and won a bidding war for the rare piece of Irish history.

Click here to read more about the Easter Rising
Click here to read more about Enya

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2009 A march of 120,000 people took place in Dublin on this day in 2009. They were protesting about the way the Irish government had handled the economic crisis.

Ireland needed a bail-out from the EU in 2008 and the lack of employment opportunities led to thousands of young Irish people to move abroad in search of work throughout the 2000s.
February

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