1572 Sir Nicholas White was appointed as Master of the Rolls in Ireland on this day in 1572. He was an Irish member of the British nobility, and had received a first class education in England. White worked as a lawyer and a member of the Irish parliament, and was noted for his impartial and fair approach to matters regarding British and Irish interests.
This position made White a figure of suspicion among many of his fellow MPs. He was eventually made victim of a smear campaign against him, after he worked closely with the new lord deputy Sir John Perrot. Perrot was ambitious and dynamic and upset many of the more traditionalist politicians.
White was a great supporter of Perrot. However, this position led to his death as he was also arrested when Perrot was accused of treason. White was elderly and in ill health, but was still locked away in the Tower of London and died in the jail cells before he could go to trial.
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1749 Matthew Lyon was born on this day in Co Wicklow in 1749. He studied in Dublin before deciding to emigrate to America when he was in his twenties. Lyon worked as a farmer, soldier before being installed as the representative for Vermont in Congress.
Lyon is most famous for taking part in a brawl with one of his rival politicians. He openly ignored comments from Roger Griswold during one meeting, as they represented opposing parties and Lyon had a personal dislike towards him. Griswold insulted Lyon by calling him a scoundrel and made reference to him being a coward, which was an accusation levelled at him during his military career.
Lyon responded by spitting at Griswold who then attacked him with a wooden post. Lyon armed himself with fire tongs and the two men exchanged blows until the other members of the congress were able to separate them. Both men remained in congress as it was considered to be too difficult to decipher who was to blame for the escalation of the incident.
Lyon was later imprisoned for publications in his newspaper, in which he insulted and questioned the integrity of several of his fellow politicians. His honesty and outspokenness brought him several supporters, though, and he was re-elected whilst in prison. His followers also threatened to break him out, but were encouraged not to use violent means by Lyon himself.
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1798 John and Henry Sheares were executed on this day in 1798. They were Irish lawyer brothers, who had become inspired by the French Revolution and joined the Society of United Irishmen to fight for Irish independence.
They became leading figures in the Society in both Cork and Dublin, but were betrayed by more than one of their comrades who informed the authorities of their whereabouts. The brothers were arrested and convicted of high treason and hanged in Dublin.
During the trial, John Sheares made a speech, knowing that he and his brother would be killed shortly. He said: “It is not the death which I am about to suffer that I deserve–no punishment could be adequate to such a crime. My lords, I can not only acquit my soul of such an intention, but I declare, in the presence of that God before whom I must shortly appear, that the favourite doctrine of my heart was that no human being should suffer death, but when absolute necessity required it.”
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1976 Happy birthday to Kirsten Sheridan, born on this day in 1976. Sheridan moved to New York when she was very young as her father tried to make his name in Broadway. The family returned to Ireland eight years later, and Sheridan’s father got his big break, as the director of the Oscar winning film My Left Foot. Sheridan played the younger sister of the lead character Christy Brown in the film.
She then had her first major directing breakthrough, with the 2001 psychological thriller Disco Pigs, starring Cillian Murphy and Elaine Cassidy. Sheridan has since collaborated with her father and sister on In America, which was loosely based on their own experiences of living in poverty in New York.
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1988 Happy birthday to Conor McGregor, born on this day in Dublin in 1988. He is a mixed martial arts fighter, and has been a member of the Ultimate Fighting Championship since 2013. McGregor had previously held both the CWFC Featherweight and Lightweight Championship belts, making him the first Irishman to hold titles in two separate divisions.
McGregor has proven to be a popular addition to the UFC, with his explosive fighting style and knockout ratio. McGregor has been compared to Mohammed Ali because of his arrogant and entertaining press interviews that have featured comments such as: “There’s two things I really like to do and that’s whoop ass and look good and I’m doing one of them right now and on Saturday night I’m going to do the other.”
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1999 Fidelma Macken was nominated for the European Court of Justice on this day in 1999. She had already served as a judge in the High Court and Supreme Courts of Ireland, and was elevated to the European Court of Justice.
Macken took up her position in October 1999 and served for five years before returning to Ireland and to the Supreme Court. She was the first woman to be appointed as a judge in the European Court of Justice.