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1889 Isaac Butt died on this day in 1889. He was a leading solicitor of his day, and also an influential politician. Butt was opposed to Daniel O’Connell’s repeal of the Act of Union campaign.
He was an Irish nationalist and his ideal was for a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland form of government that would allow Ireland greater powers of Home Rule. Butt was a founding member of the Home Rule League, which was a political party that campaigned for Irish home rule.
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1916 John MacBride was executed on this day in 1916 at Kilmainham Gaol for his part in the Easter Rising. He was part of the group of Irish rebels that took control of Dublin and declared an independent republic, no longer under the rule of Britain.
According to some accounts, MacBride was not heavily involved in the fighting with the British forces, which lasted for about five days. However, he was charged with treason and sentenced to death, possibly because he had fought for the Irish against the British in the Second Boer War in South Africa.
MacBride had also been married to the Irish nationalist actress, Maud Gonne. This deeply upset the Irish poet WB Yeats, who was in love with Gonne and had proposed to her on several occasions. Yeats also considered MacBride to be a dangerous and violent thug.
Still Gonne married him and they lived together in Paris and had a son. However, the marriage broke down after Gonne accused MacBride of molesting her eleven-year-old daughter Iseult. The allegations were never proven, but the two separated and MacBride never saw his son again.
Click here to read more about the Easter Rising
Click here to read about the relationship between WB Yeats and Maud Gonne
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1956 Happy birthday to Mary Coughlan, born in County Galway on this day in 1956. She is a folk/jazz singer and her 1980s debut album, Tire and Emotional sold more than 100,000 copies in Ireland.
Click here to read about more Irish singers
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1973 Happy birthday to Kevin ‘The Clones Colossus’ McBride, born in Clones on this day in 1973. McBride is a giant heavyweight, standing at 6ft 6’. He represented Ireland at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games but failed to gain a medal.
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1981 Bobby Sands died on this day in 1981 in Maze Prison hospital after 66 days on hunger strike. He was a member of the Provisional IRA and had been arrested for possession of a firearm.
He protested to being treated like a criminal, and being forced to wear a prison uniform and carry out prison duties. Sands and his fellow IRA prisoners claimed that they were political prisoners and should not be subjected to the same treatment as criminals.
Bobby Sands wrote this in his diary while he was in prison;
The announcement of his death triggered several days rioting in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland. More than 100,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was asked about Sands’ death to which she replied: “Mr Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims.”
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2003 On this day in 2003, it was announced that two unpublished plays written by the late Irish writer John B Keane have been found in his study. They will be released for performance once his widow, Mary feels the time is right.
Click here to read about more Irish writers