Irish History Bitesize
Proclamation of Irish Independence prints

May 21


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1920 James Plunkett was born in Dublin on this day in 1920. He grew up in working class Dublin in the years after the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Plunkett took to writing and wrote about the reality of living in Ireland in the early 20th century.

His play Strumpet City was about the effects of the 1913 Dublin Lock-Out and the impact it had on the lives of the workers. Plunkett also wrote a radio play about the Trade Unionist James Larkin, the man who inspired the workers to strike in Belfast in 1907 and Dublin in 1913. Larkin was a brilliant speaker and coined the phrase: “A fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.”

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James-Plunkett_speaking about Strumpet City and Jim Larkin* * *

Radio Caroline founder Ronan O'Rahilly1940 Ronan O’Rahilly was born in Co Louth on this day in 1940. He was the founder of Radio Caroline, one of the major pirate radio stations in Britain in the 1960s and 70s. O’Rahilly was a music agent and set up Radio Caroline after he failed to get any of the major stations to play the music of his acts.

He realised that the stations were owned by the record companies, and so they controlled what people listened to in order to sell records. O’Rahilly decided to counter this by setting up his own radio station, broadcasting from a ship in the North Sea.

At its peak, Radio Caroline was getting a daily audience of around 23 million listeners. O’Rahilly also used the station to promote love and peace with an eastern concept called Loving Awareness. O’Rahilly set up a band called The Loving Awareness Band and promoted them on his station.

Over time, the station ran into difficulties with damage to its broadcasting ships. It also struggled to maintain its listeners as more choices in radio and television became available. However, Radio Caroline is still in business now, broadcasting 24 hours a day on the internet.

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1944 Mary Robinson was born in Co Mayo on this day in 1944. She was the youngest ever Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin and also served as the President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997. She was also United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, from 1997 to 2002.

Mary Robinson,  first female, President of Ireland from 1990 to 1997

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1963 Happy birthday to Kevin Shields, born in New York on this day in 1963. His family moved back to their native Dublin while he was still young and raised him there. Shields has said that the move from the USA to Ireland was like “going from the modern world to some distant past.”

However, he also added that it was the Irish attitude to music that launched his career as a rock star: “In the US there was no Top of the Pops, there was nothing like that, there was no MTV; and over in Ireland, everything was completely catered to for teenagers. It’s what got me into music in a really big way.”

From then on, Shields wanted to be a music star and has been a guitarist with the rock bands My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream.

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1981 Raymond McCreesh died in Maze Prison on this day in 1981, after being on hunger strike for 61 days. He was a member of the Provisional IRA and was suspected of being responsible for a string of violent attacks in Co Armagh.

In 1976, McCreesh and two of his IRA comrades were arrested and charged with the killing of RUC Constable David McNeice and rifleman Michael Gibson, the attempted killing of Protestant farmer Samuel Rodgers, the attack on a military helicopter and security force personnel. They were also accused of being responsible for the Kingsmill massacre in 1976, which saw the murder of 10 Protestants after their van was stopped on a County Armagh.

Upon his arrival in prison, McCreesh joined the IRA blanket protest, where the prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash. He then went on hunger strike and died on this day in 1981.

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2003 Thousands of Celtic fans, many from Ireland, were left heartbroken as their side was beaten by FC Porto in the final of the UEFA Cup on this day in 2003. The Scottish side, managed by Ulsterman Martin O’Neill drew the game 2-2 in normal time thanks to a brace from Swedish striker Henrik Larsson.

However, they were left devastated when Brazilian Derlei scored a winner for Porto in extra-time. It was a crushing blow for O’Neill who had enjoyed a successful career in management without ever winning a European trophy. He later went on to be the manager of the Republic of Ireland national team.


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