September 19

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1977 Minister for Health and Social Welfare Charles J. Haughey announced a new social welfare system, based on a simple pay-related contribution—Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI).
  • 1971 Former Fianna Fáil government minister Kevin Boland launched the Aontacht Éireann (Unity of Ireland) party. In the general election of 1973 its thirteen candidates received less than 1% of the vote. The party was wound up in 1984.
  • 1905 Thomas Bernardo, Dublin-born founder of homes for destitute children, died.
  • 1880 The nationalist leader and MP Charles Stewart Parnell gave a speech in Ennis, Co. Clare, that ultimately led to the addition of a new word to the English language. Parnell asked his listeners: ‘What are you to do to a tenant who bids for a farm from which another tenant has been evicted?’ As reported by the Freeman’s Journal, ‘several voices’ helpfully replied, ‘Shoot him’, but Parnell suggested instead ‘a more Christian and charitable way … by isolating him from the rest of the country as if he were a leper of old—you must show him your detestation of the crime he has committed’. This came at the height of the Land War and, as Parnell surely knew, here was a new way of putting pressure on landlords that was less obviously illegal than what some of his Ennis audience had in mind. Parnell’s suggestion was taken up by Fr John O’Malley, the parish priest of Kilmolara, Co. Mayo, and president of the local branch of the Land League, who at this time was supporting labourers on the estate of Lord Erne near Lough Mask who had asked for a rent reduction following a poor harvest. This was refused via Erne’s local agent, Charles Cunningham Boycott. After Boycott tried to evict eleven tenants who had refused to pay the full rent, O’Malley spearheaded a campaign that saw Boycott’s staff and labourers abandon him and local merchants refuse to deal with him. Boycott’s case became a cause célèbre at the time, but the transformation of his surname into a verb seems to have been due to O’Malley, who suggested it to the American journalist James Redpath as shorthand to describe what was happening in Mayo. ‘Boycott’ as used in this way first appeared in print in Chicago on 12 October 1880 and has had a long and often distinguished career ever since.

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