ON THIS DAY

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2017), News, Volume 25

MARCH

09/1932

Above: ‘No “Reds” here’—a 1932 anti-Fianna Fáil Cumann na nGaedheal election poster.

Éamon de Valera, leader of Fianna Fáil, was elected president of the executive council of the Irish Free State. In the run-up to the meeting of the seventh Dáil it was widely rumoured that the outgoing W.T. Cosgrave Cumann na nGaedheal government would refuse to hand over power to the political movement that they had defeated in a bitter civil war nine years before. There were even rumours of a plot by disaffected Free State army forces to stage a coup. During the election campaign the Cumann na nGaedheal government had relied heavily on the ‘red card’, warning the electorate that Fianna Fáil was planning to establish ‘a republic of a Soviet nature’. Dev, in some quarters, was portrayed as a pro-IRA communist intent on Bolshevising the Free State. Fianna Fáil, on the other hand, played the ‘green card’, focusing on issues with which we are all too familiar today, such as jobs, the elimination of waste in the public service, a more equitable distribution of the state’s resources and political reform. Little wonder that large crowds—‘cheering, booing and singing’, according to one report—gathered outside the Dáil and that the atmosphere inside was one of ‘tense excitement’. In the event, however, Fianna Fáil apprehensions were unfounded. Cosgrave adhered to his democratic principles. Before the crucial vote on the formation of a government he was in his office, not plotting a coup but relaxing over a game of pontoon with a senior colleague. At 4.26pm a ‘nervous and pale’ de Valera was elected to lead a minority Fianna Fáil administration with the support of the Labour Party.

03/1977
Brian Faulkner (56), last prime minister of Northern Ireland (March 1971–March 1972), was killed in a hunting accident, two days after his reception into the House of Lords.

04/1867
The Fenian Rising took place, with outbreaks in several counties, notably Tallaght, Co. Dublin, and ended in failure.

06/1987
The Herald of Free Enterprise, a roll-on-roll-off ferry, capsized moments after leaving the Belgian port of Zeebrugge, killing 193 passengers and crew.

07/1967
Minister of Home Affairs William Craig banned commemorations in Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the Fenian Rising. He also banned Republican Clubs, which he described as a front for the IRA.

08/1917
The February Revolution in Russia led to the establishment of a provisional government and the demise of the Romanov dynasty.
Ferdinand von Zeppelin, German general who founded the Zeppelin Airship Company, died.

12/1917
In Russia the Petrograd soviet (workers’ council) was founded, followed by numerous others throughout the country, competing for power with the new provisional government.

12/1947
In a speech to Congress, President Harry S. Truman enunciated what became known as the ‘Truman Doctrine’—US support for nations threatened by Soviet expansionism.

15/1767
Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States (1829–1837), born in the Scots-Irish community of Waxhaws district, South Carolina, two years after his family arrived from Ireland.

15/1917
Czar Nicholas abdicated.

16/1967
Thomas MacGreevy (74), scholar, poet, critic and director of the National Gallery of Ireland (1950–64), died.

18/1967
The SS Torrey Canyon, bound for Milford Haven with a full cargo of crude oil, struck rocks off the Cornish coast, leading to a major environmental disaster.

25/1957
The Treaty of Rome established the European Economic Community (EEC).

28/1957
Jack Butler Yeats (85), painter and younger brother of W.B. Yeats, died.

31/2012
Mike Nesbitt (54) was elected leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

APRIL

06/1959

Above: Seán T. O’Kelly, the first president of Ireland to be officially welcomed on British soil

Seán T. O’Kelly became the first president of Ireland to be officially welcomed on British soil. In the spring of 1959 President O’Kelly made a ten-day state visit to the United States, during which he addressed Congress and visited the Irish diaspora in eight states. Anglo-Irish relations at the time were poor, to say the least. The previous month Taoiseach Éamon de Valera had clashed with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan over the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, and during his visit O’Kelly had taken every opportunity to denounce partition. This particularly irked the British because Macmillan was in the country at the same time for talks with President Eisenhower. With his liner docking at Plymouth, on his return journey—there were no government jets in those days—he and his party planned to transfer quietly from there by car to Exeter airport to catch a flight to Dublin. But the British were sticklers for protocol. As soon as he set foot on the quayside he was greeted by the lord mayor of Plymouth and the lord lieutenant of Devon, who was the queen’s personal representative in that county. Both were appropriately attired in full regalia. In reply, the bemused O’Kelly thanked them and politely requested that his gratitude be conveyed to ‘her majesty’. And then there was a little drama. Coinciding with his arrival, the Devon police received an anonymous phone call threatening O’Kelly’s safety. He and his party were consequently accorded a police escort to Exeter, where officers stood guard until his plane arrived and safely departed for Ireland.

01/1917
Scott Joplin (49), African-American composer and pianist known as the ‘King of Ragtime’, died in a mental institution.

02/1917
President Woodrow Wilson delivered a war address to Congress. Four days later the US declared war on Germany.

09/1947
Desmond Fitzgerald, journalist and Cumann na nGaedheal politician who was minister for external affairs (1922–7), died. He was the father of Dr Garret Fitzgerald (1926–2011).

09/1992
In the Westminster election the Conservatives, under John Major, were returned to power. Joe Hendron (SDLP) ousted Gerry Adams (SF) in West Belfast.

10/1867
George William Russell, widely known as ‘AE’, poet, mystic, editor, writer and artist, born in Lurgan, Co. Armagh.

16/1917
After twelve years in exile, the leading Russian Bolshevik, Vladimir Illyich Lenin (47), arrived in St Petersburg after a week-long journey from Zurich in a sealed train.

16/1947
The expression ‘Cold War’, a war waged through proxies, was coined by the US statesman and millionaire financier Bernard Baruch.

17/1917
Jane Barlow (60), writer, whose Irish idylls went into eight editions, died.

22/1967
Walter Mackin (50), actor, dramatist and novelist, best remembered for his historical trilogy Seek the fair land (1959), The silent people (1962) and The scorching wind (1964), died.

25/1917
Ella Fitzgerald, jazz singer, born in Newport News, Virginia.

25/1987
Lord Justice Gibson and his wife were killed by an IRA bomb as they crossed the border south of Newry, Co. Down.

26/1937
During the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica, a bastion of Republican resistance, was pounded by the German Condor Legion with high-explosive bombs and at least 3,000 incendiary bombs. Over 1,600 people were killed in the subsequent firestorm.

29/1917
Following the disaster of the second Battle of the Aisne that month, almost half of the French infantry divisions on the Western Front mutinied.

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