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FORMER TAOISEACH BERTIE AHERN RESIGNS FROM FIANNA FAIL
Despite still protesting his innocence former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has resigned form the Fianna Fail party just as he was about to be expelled. The report of the Mahon Tribunal into 'payments to politicians' forced the hand of the current Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, who instigated proceedings to expel his former party leader.
This is a huge fall from grace. Bertie Ahern was Taoiseach of Ireland from 1997 to 2008. It was during this time that the economy of Ireland really took off with the 'Celtic Tiger' roaring its way to hitherto unheard of heights of expansion and economic development. Unfortunately the boom was to a large extent based on the construction industry and when the housing bubble burst in 2008, coupled with the banking crisis that followed, the economy collapsed and took Bertie Ahern's reputation with it.
He had resigned in 2008 after revelations in the Mahon Tribunal led to questions about deposits made to his bank account for which he gave several ambiguous answers. The fact that some of this money was raised from 'whip-arounds' has exposed Bertie Ahern to an income tax liability at the very least, although the most vociferous of his critics want to see him prosecuted. It should be pointed out that the Mahon report did not find Bertie Ahern guilty of corruption (of taking a bribe for political favours) but rather indicated that it simply did not believe his account of the lodgments to his bank accounts.
The former Taoiseach has indicated that he intends to challenge the findings of the Mahon Tribunal in court in an effort to clear his name. Fianna Fail are keen to move on from the affair and have acted quickly in instigating expulsion proceedings against not just Bertie Ahern but also several other high-profile former T.D.'s who may ultimately face criminal charges.
This matter is likely to drag on for several years yet but is becoming less and less important in the public consciousness. The Mahon enquiry cost well in excess of 300 Million euro to complete, most of which was paid to Barristers. Critics of the enquiry lament such a dreadful waste of public money, while others take the view that this is the price of democracy.
Regardless of the outcome of his fight with the Mahon Tribunal, Bertie Ahern will likely be remembered most for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process in which he was instrumental. He was one of the main players who brought a skeptical Unionist establishment in Ulster to the table with Sinn Fein while also pushing through a change in the Irish constitution necessary to ensure progress. Surely his greatest achievement.
DEPTHS OF IRISH PROPERTY CRASH REVEALED
The Central Statistics Office in Ireland has published some startling figures that shown just how far Irish property prices have tumbled. Overall prices are down by 49% since 2007. Dublin apartment prices have fallen by as much as 62% while falls outside Dublin are 45%.
Most worrying though is that there are signs that the decline in prices is starting to accelerate again. It had been hoped that the bottom of the market had been reached towards the end of 2011 but the new CSO figures reveal that February 2012 saw a 2.2% price reduction in that month alone. Commentators continue to blame the banks reluctance to lend for the continuing fall in prices with no end in sight.
DEFIANCE TO PROPERTY TAX GROWING
The hugely unpopular property tax that has been introduced by the Irish government is being fought at every level of Irish society. Members of the Irish Parliament (T.D.'s), priests, journalists and pensioners have combined to publicize their campaign of non-payment of the tax. The deadline for payment is March 31st but a week before that deadline only about 20% of households had paid the 100 euro charge. It is expected that the nominal charge will be replaced with a much higher annual bill next year, stretching to thousands of euros for some families.
If the vast majority of households (or even a significant minority) refuse to pay the charge then the government will face a huge problem. It must either threaten, fine and even imprison huge numbers of its citizenry or else scrap the charge and go back to the drawing board. This is a potentially explosive issue for the Fine Gael government and is a first sign that a significant protest against the EU/IMF austerity measures has enough momentum to hurt Fine Gael where it matters, at the polling station. Even more at risk from any well-organised mass protest against the charge is the Labour Party who are in coalition with Fine Gael. As a left-wing party they would be under even more pressure than Fine Gael to scrap the property tax.
There are other dangers in this issue for the government apart from an increase in its unpopularity. Ireland is to hold a referendum at the end of May to approve or reject the new EU fiscal Treaty. If the anti-property charge groups were to coalesce with the anti-Treaty groups then it is conceivable that the Treaty could be defeated with huge repercussions for Ireland within the European Union.
The 'Leabhar Gabhala' or 'book of invasions' is
a manuscript that records the ancient history of
Ireland. It was written in the eleventh
century and gives a vital account of the invasion
by the Gaels, the 'Sons of Mil', the Milesians.
The story of the Milesians begins in Scythia in the very south-eastern part of Europe in the millennium before Christ. These were a nomadic people famed for their prowess with horses. They were ruled by King Fenius who had a grandson named Gaedhuil, or 'green gael'. Having been bitten by a snake the boy was taken by his father to Moses, who cured him with his staff.
Moses told the boy that he would travel to a land without snakes, an island to the west, where his descendants would remain.
The boy travelled throughout Europe and settled in Spain where he was known as Milesius and became King. His brother, Ith, discovered the island that Moses had told him about, but was killed by the Tuatha de Danaan, the people of the Goddess Danu. By this time Milesius had also died but his wife, Scota, and his sons, swore vengeance on the Tuatha de Danaan and set off for Ireland. Victory was theirs despite Scota being a casualty of the war. The sons of Milesius, Eber and Eremon, became rulers of Ireland, the land without snakes. The two rulers divided the country between them with Eber ruling the North and Eremon the South. Needless to say, the peace of the land was short-lived with a battle ensuing to claim the hill of Tara. Eremon prevailed, and became King of Ireland.
Academic scholars are unsure of when exactly the Milesian invasion occurred. Some estimate it at 1000 bc, others as early as 3500 bc. Despite the difficulty with verifying traditions and legends there is good evidence to prove the existence of the Milesians as a Celtic race of people. The descendants of the Milesians include 'Niall of the Nine Hostages' (from whom all O'Neills are descended), Conn of the Hundred Battles, and Ugani Mor. It is based on this pedigree that the Milesians are regarded as the true fathers of the Irish people.
1. Dublin's O'Connell Bridge was originally made
of rope and could only carry one man and a donkey
at a time. It was replaced with a wooden
structure in 1801. The current concrete bridge was
built in 1863 and was first called 'Carlisle
2. O'Connell Bridge is the only traffic bridge in Europe which is wider than it is long and Dublin's second O'Connell Bridge is across the pond in St. Stephen's Green.
3. Dublin Corporation planted 43,765 deciduous trees in the Greater Dublin area in 1998.
4. Dublin's oldest workhouse closed its doors for the last time in July 1969. Based in Smithfield, the premises housed 10,037 orphan children during the one hundred and seventy years it operated.
5. Dublin was originally called 'Dubh Linn' meaning 'Black Pool'. The pool to which the name referred is the oldest known natural treacle lake in Northern Europe and currently forms the centrepiece of the penguin enclosure in Dublin Zoo.
6. None of the so-called Dublin Mountains are high enough to meet the criteria required to claim mountain status. The Sugarloaf is the tallest 'Dublin Mountain' yet measures a mere 1389 feet above sea level.
7. The headquarters of the national television broadcaster, RTE, in Montrose, was originally built for use as an abattoir.
8. Dublin's oldest traffic lights are situated beside the Renault garage in Clontarf. The lights, which are still in full working order, were installed in 1893 outside the home of Fergus Mitchell who was the owner of the first car in Ireland.
9. The Temple Bar area is so called because it housed the first Jewish temple built in Ireland. The word 'bar' refers to the refusal of Catholics to allow the Jewish community to enter any of the adjoining commercial premises.
10. Tiny Coliemore Harbour beside the Dalkey Island Hotel was the main harbour for Dublin from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century.
11. Dublin is the IT Call Centre capital of Europe with over 100,000 people employed in the industry.
12. In 1761 a family of itinerants from Navan were refused entry to Dublin. The family settled on the outskirts of the city and created the town of Rush. Two hundred and fifty years later, a large percentage of the population of Rush can still trace their roots back to this one family.
13. Dubliners drink a total of 9800 pints an hour between the hours of 5.30pm on a Friday and 3.00am the following Monday.
14. Dublin is Europe's most popular destination with traveling stag and hen parties.
15. Harold's Cross got it's name because a tribe called the 'Harolds' lived in the Wicklow Mountains and the Archbishop of Dublin would not let them come any nearer to the city than that point.
16. Leopardstown was once known as Leperstown.
17. The average 25-year-old Dubliner still lives with his/her parents.
18. Three radio stations attract over 90% of all listeners in the Dublin area.
19. There are twelve places called Dublin in the United States and six in Australia.
20. Buck Whaley was an extremely wealthy gambler who lived in Dublin in the seventeen hundreds. Due to inheritances, he had an income of seven thousand pounds per year (not far off seven million a year at today's prices). He lived in a huge house near Stephen's Green which is now the Catholic University of Ireland. He went broke and he had to leave Ireland due to gambling debts. He swore he'd be buried in Irish soil but is in fact buried in the Isle of Man in a shipload of Irish soil which he imported for the purpose.
21. The converted Ford Transit used for the Pope's visit in 1976 was upholstered using the most expensive carpet ever made in Dublin. The carpet was a silk and Teflon weave and rumoured to have cost over IR£950.00 per square meter.
22. There was once a large statue of Queen Victoria in the Garden outside Leinster House. It was taken away when the Republic of Ireland became independent and in 1988 was given as a present to the city of Sydney, Australia to mark that city's 200th anniversary.
23. The largest cake ever baked in Dublin weighed a whopping 190 lb's and was made to celebrate the 1988 city millennium. The cake stood untouched in the Mansion House until 1991 when it was thrown out.
24. Strangers are more likely to receive a drink from Dubliners than from a native of any other County.
25. There are forty six rivers in Dublin city. The river flowing through Rathmines is called the River Swan (beside the Swan Centre). The Poddle was once known as the 'Tiber' and was also known as the River Salach (dirty river), which is the origin of the children's song 'Down by the river Saile'. It is also the river whose peaty, mountain water causes the Black Pool mentioned above.
26. Saint Valentine was martyred in Rome on February 28th eighteen centuries ago. He was the Bishop of Terni. His remains are in a Cask in White Friar Street Church, Dublin. He is no longer recognised as a Saint By the Vatican.
27. The statue originally in Dublin's O'Connell Street (but now moved to the Phoenix Park) is commonly known as the 'Floozy in the Jacuzzi' while the one at the bottom of Grafton Street is best known as the 'Tart with the Cart'. The women at the Ha'Penny bridge are the 'Hags with the bags' and the Chimney Stack with the new lift in Smithfield Village's now called the 'Flue with the View'. The short lived millennium clock that was placed in the River Liffey in 1999 was known as 'the chime in the slime'.
28. Montgomery Street was once the biggest red-light district in Europe with an estimated 1600 prostitutes. It was known locally as the 'Monto' and this is the origin of the song 'Take me up to Monto'.
29. Henry Moore, Earl of Drogheda lived in Dublin in the Eighteenth century. His job was naming streets. He called several after himself. Henry Street, Moore Street, Earl Street, Drogheda Street. Drogheda Street later became Sackville Street and is now O'Connell Street.
30. Nelson's Pillar was blown up in 1966 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 rising. It now lies in a heap in a valley in County Wicklow.
31. Leinster House in Dublin was originally built as a private home for the Duke of Leinster. At that time, the most fashionable part of Dublin was the North Side and he was asked why he was building on the South Side. He said 'Where I go, fashion follows me!' .....and to this day the most fashionable part of Dublin is the South Side.
32. Tallaght is one of the oldest placenames in Ireland and it means 'The Plague cemetery'.
33. There are seven areas in Dublin whose names end in the letter 'O'. Fewer than one Dubliner in 20,000 can name them off by heart. They are: Rialto, Marino, Portobello, Phibsboro, Monto, Casino and Pimlico.
34. Kevin Street Garda Station was once the Palace of the Archbishop Of Dublin.
35. The original name of Trinity College was 'Trinity College Near Dublin'. The capital was a lot smaller then.
Best wishes from Van Demons Land!
(In Australia but from Limerick!)
THE EASTER RISING IN IRELAND, 1916
1. BACKGROUND TO THE RISING
THE IRISH REPUBLICAN BROTHERHOOD (IRB)
One of the main and lasting effects of the Great
Famine of 1845-47 was emigration. The 'Coffin
Ships' carried tens of thousands of the poorest
Irish people who fled Ireland to avoid starvation.
They created a new Irish nation within America
whilst remembering the injustice of the English
occupation of their homeland as well as harboring
a deeply felt hatred of landlords and evictions.
A Clann na Gael source estimated that there were
over one and one half million people of Irish
birth in America towards the end of the nineteenth
century. These people supported the republican
cause by giving money, weapons and, significantly,
a propaganda machine which has continued to this
The Irish Republican Brotherhood was formed in
a Dublin timber-yard on Saint Patrick's Day in
1858. James Stephans was assisted by Thomas Clarke
Luby, James Denieefe, Garret O'Shaugheynessy and
Joe Denieefe brought financial support back from
America. He had left Ireland after the Ballingarry
defeat in 1848. James Stephens, Michael Doheny
and John O'Mahony fought in Ballingarry in 1848.
Stephens was injured but still manage to escape
to Paris where he familiarized himself with the
revolutionary tactics of that country. He came
back to Ireland to try to establish an underground
organisation to remove the English from Ireland.
Denieefe and Luby traveled the country extensively
and organised military groups called 'circles'.
They formed oathbound secret societies of loyal
patriots. Popular opinion did not support the
revolutionary ideals of the IRB nor did the Church
whop were strongly opposed. The mainstream support
came from the poorer classes who, despite their
poverty, were often highly idealistic.
At the time of the 1867 rising the membership of
the IRB was estimated at over 80,000.
Informers such as Corydon and Magle did untold
damage to the IRB by betraying their oath and
giving information to the English.
The Fenian movement split in America in 1865.
John O'Mahony took over from the Stephans.
O'Mahony was later himself to be deposed when his
hesitation in calling an insurrection dissatisfied
the soldiers he commanded (many of whom were
veterans of the American Civil War). Colonel Thomas
J. Kelly, was appointed Chief of Staff of the IRB
in 1867 and departed for Ireland.
A rising was planned for February 1867. Chester
Castle in England was to be attacked and
simultaneous raids in Ireland were to be carried
out. The English knew in advance however as
Corydon kept them informed.
The news had not filtered through to the Fenians
in Ireland and sporadic battles took place in
Kerry and Dublin.
THE MANCHESTER MARTYRS
The IRB was reorganised in Manchester in July of
1867 and a supreme council elected. Colonel Kelly
and Jim Deasy were captured by the English and
then rescued by the Fenians in a daring raid in
which a police officer was killed. Allen, Larkin
and O'Brien were hanged for their complicity in
the events and they became known as
'The Manchester Martyrs'.
The mass funerals that followed together with
the later formation of the Land League focused
the minds of the popular masses on the injustice
of English rule in Ireland.
CLAN NA GAEL
The IRB delegates in Manchester broke away from
the feuding factions of Fenianism in America and
supported Clan na Gael who were founded there in
June of 1867. The objectives of Clann na Gael was
to secure an independent Ireland and to assist
the IRB in achieving this aim. John Devoy was the
mainstay behind the Clan.
Devoy became involved in the 'New Departure' and
assisted Davitt and Parnell in their fight against
the landlords. Independence remained his main aim
however as he felt that the Land League was not
militant enough to remove the landlords. Devoy,
assisted by Doctor Pat McCartan, founded
a newspaper, 'The Gaelic American’'.
Doctor Pat McCartan transferred from Clan na Gael
to the newly formed 'Dungannon Clubs', a
separatist organisation which was denounced by
Tom Clarke became a member of the Supreme Council
of the IRB in 1909 and helped form the
revolutionary paper 'Irish Freedom'. He became the
link with Clan na Gael in America.
In 1912 the IRB sent Sean MacDiarmada as a delegate
to the Clan convention and he succeeded in securing
the enormous sum of $20,000 for the IRB at home.
In November 1913 the Irish Volunteers were formed
in Dublin and 4,000 enrolled on that first night.
In 1914 Padraig Pearse went to America to raise
funds to save his Gaelic school, St. Enda's. This
he achieved and then turned his attention to
On his return from America he sought 1,000 rifles
from McGarrity. He as assisted by Sean
Mac Diarmada, Eamonn Ceannt and Sean Fitzgibbon.
Pearse was convinced that the revolutionary force
in Ireland had never been better organised
or equipped. His speech in 1914 reflected this:-
'In Dublin, we have some 2,500 admirably
disciplined, drilled, intelligent, and partly armed
men. Nationalist Ireland has never before had such
an asset. Our main strength is in Dublin, but large
minorities support us everywhere, especially in the
towns and in the extreme South and West. We expect
to have 150 companies, representing 10,000 to
15,000 men, represented by delegates at next
THE GAELIC LEAGUE AND THE GAA
The IRB were influential in many cultural and
national organisations. Most of the leaders like
Pearse, Plunket and McDonagh were fluent Irish
speakers and were members of the Gaelic League.
The Gaelic Athletic Association (the GAA) was
formed by Cusack in November 1884.
THE GREAT WAR 1914-18
At the outbreak of the first world war, Redmond
urged the Irish Volunteers to join in the fight
against the oppressors of small nations. 170,000
of the Volunteers supported Redmond whilst
11,000 supported Pearse.
Tom Clarke urged the Supreme Council of the IRB
that a rising must happen before the end of the
war, especially as the Irish Home Rule bill had
been suspended at the outbreak of the war.
Pearse, Plunket and Ceannt drafted the first
Prior to the rising and thanks to Hobson, Casement
and Childers, guns were landed at Howth and
Wicklow. Casement went to Germany where he
published the Irish cause in German newspapers.
His efforts to secure weapons were dealt a severe
blow when he and the weapons they were attempting
to smuggle into the country were captured on
Casement, an English subject, was eventually
convicted of treason and hanged.
PLANS FOR THE RISING
Thomas Clarke was the main instigator of the
rising, supported by Pearse, Sean Mac Diarmada,
Eamonn Ceant and Sean T. O'Ceallaigh who went to
America for further assistance. Thomas McDonagh,
Joseph Plunket and James Connolly. were later
brought on to the Supreme Council.
James Connolly used his paper 'The Workers'
Republic' to call for an armed revolt. He used
the Citizens Army to protect the paper.
The Irish Volunteers were holding recruiting
meetings throughout Ireland and training
enthusiastically. They awaited the signal to act
as the rising had been set for Easter Saturday,
22nd of April, 1916.
Setbacks to the plan included the capture of
Casement and the weapons, the capture of Austin
Stack, commandant of the Kerry Brigade and the
discovery of the plans for an uprising following
a raid on German officials in New York.
The Supreme Council decided unanimously decided
to proceed with the uprising despite the fact
that they knew it had little chance of success. It
was decided to strike on Easter Monday. In spite
of the order from McNeill not to revolt, over
2,000 soldiers made a strike for freedom.
2. THE INSURRECTION
On Easter Monday, 24th April, 1916 the GPO was
occupied by the revolutionary forces. Pearse read
the Proclamation of the Republic to a bemused
The Volunteers seized and fortified six positions
in Dublin city: the GPO, the Four Courts, Boland's
Mill, St. Stephen's Green, Jacobs Factory and the
South Dublin Union. Attempts to seize Dublin Castle
and Trinity College failed. This latter failure
severely restricted the Volunteers mans of
communicating with each other.
The failure of the country to rise made it
impossible to prevent the arrival of English
reinforcements. By Wednesday the revolutionaries
were outnumbered by 20 to 1. The English secured a
cordon about the city and closed in. They
concentrated their attack on the GPO whilst none
of the other strongholds came under the same sort
of concentrated bombardment.
A gun-ship, the Helga, arrived in Dublin and
field-guns were mounted on Trinity College. The
effect of the continuous shelling of O'Connell
Street virtually destroyed it and the surrounding
areas. By Friday the GPO was engulfed in flames and
Pearse gave the order to surrender. 450 people were
dead, many of whom were civilians, with over 2500
wounded. The city was in ruins with the damage
estimated at a massive 2 Million pounds.
Over 3,500 people were subsequently arrested
country-wide (including DeValera and Collins),
although 1,500 were freed after questioning.
1,841 of these were interned without trial in
England, and 171 were tried by secret court
martial resulting in 170 convictions. 90 were
sentenced to death but 75 of these sentences were
commuted to life imprisonment. The seven
signatories of the proclamation of independence
(Pearse, Connolly, Clarke, MacDonagh, MacDermott,
Plunkett, and Ceannt) were all executed to the
outrage of the Irish public who had now begun to
revise their opinion of the insurgents to that of
a heroic nature.
3. EFFECTS OF THE REBELLION
The rising was critical in terms of the overall
fight for an Irish Republic.
For the first time the masses of the country
wanted an end to English rule. Nationalism swept
the country especially as the details of the secret
executions became known.
National attention was brought to the Irish cause
and to the oppressive ways in which the English
ruled the country.
These realisations were in all probability the
main aim of the insurgents. The War of Independence
which followed in 1919, the subsequent Civil
War and the formation of the Irish Free State and
the declaration by Costello of an Irish Republic
can all be traced back to the events of Easter