April 6

Published in On this Day listing

  • 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.
  • 1972 The Scarman Tribunal report on acts of violence and civil disturbances in Northern Ireland between March and August 1969 found that there was no plot to overthrow the government or to mount an armed insurrection. The riots were ‘communal disturbances arising from a complex political, social and economic situation’.

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