Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

May 11


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1916  John Dillon, an Irish politician from Dublin, pleaded the case of the Easter Rising rebels in the House of Commons on this day in 1916. He argued that although the rebels had been “wrong” to take control of Dublin and proclaim Ireland an independent state, they had “fought a clean fight”.

Dillon fought for the executions of the leaders to be stopped, pointing out that the British government were simply fuelling the feeling of nationalism amongst the Irish people.

The Irish public had not been in support of the rebels when the Easter Rising took place, but the harsh penalties handed out to the leaders had changed the mood to sympathy of the nationalist cause. After Dillon’s speech in the House of Commons, no more leaders were sentenced to death, although the executions of James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada still went ahead the following day.

Click here to read more about the Easter Rising


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1921 On this day in 1921, a group of ‘Black and Tans’ went on a murderous rampage across the city of Galway. The Black and Tans were auxiliary soldiers drafted in by the British government to help tackle the IRA during the Irish War of Independence.

On 11th May 1921, a group of them went to a house in Galway after being tipped off that Hubert Tully, an IRA member, may be there. Tully answered the door and once they had confirmed his identity they repeatedly shot him until he was dead.

Earlier in the evening, the same group had visited another house in Galway in search of IRA member James Folan. Upon finding that Folan was not at home, the Black and Tans shot two of his brothers who were sleeping in a downstairs bedroom. Christy Folan was killed and Joseph Folan was badly wounded.

Black and Tan on duty during Irish War of Independence

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1971 Seán Lemass died in Dublin on this day in 1971. He was an Irish nationalist and fought under the command of Michael Collins during the Irish War of Independence. However, after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Lemass joined forces with the anti-treaty group of the IRA.

He was Rory O’Connor’s right-hand man during the Irish Civil War, and fought against Michael Collins’ pro-treaty followers.

Lemass later went into politics and became a founding member of leader of Fianna Fáil in 1926. He served as Minister for Supplies during the Second World War and was elected as Taoiseach in 1959, and remained in power until 1966.

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1999 Edmund ‘Birdy’ Sweeney died in Dublin on this day in 1999. He was a popular actor and stand-up comedian and appeared on several British and Irish television and radio shows.

He grew up in Co Tyrone, where he got the nickname Birdy because of his ability to accurately mimic various different birdsongs. Sweeney turned to acting in his later career, and made appearances in several major films including The Crying Game and Angela’s Ashes.

Click here for some of the best Irish jokes and comedians 
Click here to read about more great Irish actors

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2001 Caroline Casey of returned to Ireland on this day in 2001 after a four month elephant ride across India. Casey, who is visually impaired, raised more than €180,000 for charity. She has since worked as a motivational speaker, and here are a couple of her most famous quotes:

“Stop with the labels … because we are not jam jars; we are extraordinary, different, wonderful people.”


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2003 On this day in 2003, Gareth O’Connor went missing when travelling through Newtownhamilton in Northern Ireland. His body was found a month later in his car in a canal in Co Down. His father said he believed his son had been murdered by members of the Provisional IRA who had previously threatened him. He said he gave the names of the men to members of Sinn Féin but that nothing was done to bring the killers to justice.


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