April 11

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1971 At its annual congress in Belfast the GAA voted to abolish Rule 27, the ban that prohibited the playing of soccer, rugby, hockey and cricket by members of the association.
  • 1770 George Canning, Tory statesman and prime minister for the final 118 days of his life, who described himself as ‘an Irishman born in London’, born to George Canning, a failed wine merchant and lawyer from Garvagh, Co. Derry, and Irish actress Mary Ann Costello.
  • 1968 President L.B. Johnston signed the historic Civil Rights Act, also known as the Fair Housing Act, into law.
  • 1912 Prime Minister Asquith introduced the third Home Rule bill in the House of Commons.
  • 1986 Brian Keenan (35), a teacher from Belfast at the American University of Beirut, was kidnapped by a Shi’a militia group. As the Belfast man was no doubt aware, the situation back home at the time was fairly unsettled. By-elections caused by a mass resignation of unionist MPs in protest against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed the previous November, were followed throughout the spring by violent loyalist protests leading to rioting, along with attacks on the homes of Catholics and hundreds of RUC officers. The situation in Lebanon, however, as those of us who tried to follow the Lebanese Civil War (1975–90) can attest, was altogether more complex. A multi-faceted armed conflict between various Christian and Muslim forces, in which alliances shifted rapidly and unpredictably, the conflict involved various foreign powers, such as Israel and Syria. That month, following US airstrikes, a new round of hostage-taking had begun. In all, between 1982 and 1992 over 100 foreign hostages, mostly Americans and Western Europeans, were taken, of whom at least eight died. Keenan was not amongst them. After spending two months in isolation, he was moved to a cell shared with the British journalist John McCarthy. Blindfolded and chained hand to foot throughout most of his 1,574-day ordeal, he later described feeling ‘bereft, riven with pity and grief’, and his situation as a hostage as one of ‘crucifying aloneness, a silent screaming slide into the bowels of ultimate despair’. Listening to the screams of other hostages being tortured was worst of all. His bestseller, An evil cradling, revolves very much around his friendship with McCarthy and the brutality they experienced at the hands of their captors. He was released on 24 August 1990.
  • 1923 In retaliation for the execution of six Republicans, Spiddal House, Co. Galway, home of Lord Killanin, unionist and ardent supporter of the Gaelic revival movement, was burnt to the ground.

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