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1824 Thomas Devin Reilly was born in County Monaghan on this day in 1824. He was a nationalist journalist, and campaigned for the rights of the Irish working classes. Reilly was a member of the Irish Confederation, who worked to enable Irish farmers to keep their crops to feed their families and communities.
The group destroyed railway tracks and bridges to prevent wheat crops being exported from the land from which they had been harvested, where the communities were suffering starvation due to a series of failed potato crops.
Reilly joined the Young Irelanders movement, and was part of the failed Rebellion of 1848. He was forced to flee Ireland to America, because had he been arrested he would’ve faced execution or deportation to a labour camp in Australia.
Below is an extract from an article Reilly wrote for the Irish Felon newspaper, in regards to the June 1848 Uprising in France, when the workers rebelled against the poor working and living conditions they were forced to endure.
He could see the comparison between the plight of the French workers and that faced by his own people:
“We are not Communists. Communism destroys the independence and dignity of labour, makes the workingman a State pauper and takes his manhood from him. But, communism or no communism, these 70,000 workmen had a clear right to existence – they had the best right to existence of any men in France, and if they could have asserted their right by force of arms they would have been fully justified.
“The social system in which a man willing to work is compelled to starve, is a blasphemy, an anarchy, and no system. For the present these victims of monarchic rule, disowned by the republic, are conquered; 10,000 are slain, 20,000 perhaps doomed to the Marquesas. But for all that the rights of labour are not conquered, and will not and cannot be conquered.
“Again and again the labourer will rise up against the idler – the workingmen will meet this bourgeoisie, and grapple and war with them till their equality is established, not in word, but in fact.”
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1851 The population of Ireland fell to six and a half million people according to a census published on this day in 1851, a 20% drop since 1845.
The ‘Great Famine’ saw hundreds of thousands of people leave Ireland for the UK, America and Australia, as there was simply not enough food to survive. Millions more stayed but many perished from starvation and disease.
The British government of the day were very complacent and displayed an amazing lack of urgency of the plight of the starving people.
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1880 Seán O’Casey was born on this day, 30 March 1880 – he was a playwright and staunch socialist. His work was mainly about the plight of the Dublin working classes.
This quote has a neat twist on Shakespeare’s “all the world’s a stage…” Most people would probably identify with the ‘unrehearsed’ idea… unfortunately, there is no rehearsal… you go straight in live.
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1926 Ray McAnally was born in County Donegal on this day in 1926.
He had a successful acting career which included appearances in The Sicilian, based on the book of the same name by Mario Puzo and intertwined with the Godfather trilogy.
McAnally’s last major role before his death in 1989 was in My Left Foot, for which he won a BAFTA for best supporting actor and co-stars Daniel Day Lewis and Brenda Fricker both won an Oscar.
Click here to read about more great Irish actors
Click here to read about Brenda Fricker
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1948 Happy birthday to Eddie Jordan, born in County Wicklow on this day in 1948. Jordan was a professional racing driver before injury forced him to retire. He set up his own racing team, and had a successful spell in the 1990s with his Jordan team before a sequence of bad luck forced him to close the team down.
Jordan was famous for putting his faith in young drivers while he was in charge of his racing team. Several Formula One champions were given their first opportunity in the sport by Jordan, including Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna.
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1958 John Pius Boland died on this day in 1958. He was an Irish nationalist and had a seat in the British House of Commons. His most noteworthy achievement though, didn’t come in politics but in sport.
Boland was the first Irishman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. He won the gold in the tennis singles and doubles at the 1896 Games in Athens. However, as Ireland was still under British rule at the time, Boland was competing for Great Britain and not Ireland.
He did though, request that an Irish flag be raised to mark his victory in the doubles along with the German flag for his partner Friedrich Traun.
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1976 Happy birthday to Mark McClelland, born in Northern Ireland on this day in 1976. He is a musician and was part of rock band Snow Patrol since their formation in up until 2005. He was forced to leave after a dispute over royalties with lead singer Gary Lightbody.
Click here to read about more great Irish bands