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1846 John McLure was born in Ireland on this day in 1846. He was part of a Fenian movement in Ireland that became known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood. McLure was arrested along with several other nationalists was imprisoned when the authorities suspected they were planning a rebellion.
They were eventually released on condition that they didn’t return to Ireland. McLure travelled to America alongside four of his prison inmates which included Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
They boarded the Cuba at Liverpool and arrived in New York to a hero’s welcome from the Irish community. The group became known as the ‘Cuba Five’.
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1901 Patrick Smith was born in Co Cavan on this day in 1901. He was an Irish nationalist and took part in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. Smith was elected to the Dáil in 1923, and served as a politician in the Irish parliament for a record 53 years, working alongside numerous famous Irish politicians including Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass.
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1947 Shannon Airport became the world’s first customs free zone on this day in 1947. The airport, which was seen as the ‘gateway to Europe’ for flights to and from the US, took advantage of its location to offer visitors products at discounted prices as they were not obliged to pay tax duties on them if they were taking them out of the country.
Shannon Airport was a popular stop-off point for tourists travelling in and out of Europe to America. It was the site at which the Irish Coffee was first served, by a barman who had been told to make ‘something special’ for some American tourists that were stranded for the night after bad weather had delayed their flight.
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1951 Much of the Abbey Theatre burnt down on this day in 1951. It had been the venue plays by numerous esteemed Irish writers including WB Yeats, Padraic Colum, George Bernard Shaw, Thomas MacDonagh, John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey.
The building survived the fire and was renovated and rebuilt. It is still one of the most prestigious venues in Dublin, with regular performances from top actors and writers from both Ireland and abroad.
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2002 Birth figures were released by officials in Ireland on this day in 2002, revealing that one in three babies in Ireland were now born out of wedlock. The figures showed the evolving family structures in Ireland, and the declining role that religion played in people’s lives.
A little more than a decade later, a survey found that some Irish families were celebrating Christmas up to six times over the festive period, due to extended family dynamics including step-families, separated families and more.
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2005 Geraldine Fitzgerald died on this day in 2005. She was an actress from Greystones in Co Wicklow. Fitzgerald moved to America after becoming a star in Dublin and then London. She acted opposite Orson Welles in Heartbreak House and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Wuthering Heights.
She became a US citizen during the Second World War and remained in America for the rest of her life. She continued to act and had countless roles in both television and films. Fitzgerald’s long and distinguished career in acting is honoured by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.