The Battle of Ballynahinch

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The Battle of Ballynahinch was fought outside Ballynahinch, County Down, on 12 June, during the Irish rebellion of 1798 between British forces led by Major-General George Nugent and the local United Irishmen led by Henry Munro.

Munro was a Lisburn linen merchant and Presbyterian United Irishman who had no military experience but had taken over command of the Down organisation following the arrest of the designated leader, Rev. William Steel Dickson on 5 June.

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Upon hearing of the victory at Saintfield on 9 June, Munro joined the rebel camp there and then moved to Ednavady Hill, Ballynahinch to join the thousands who had gathered in support of the rebellion. The response of the British garrisons was to converge on Ballynahinch from Belfast and Downpatrick in two columns accompanied by several pieces of cannon.

The battle began on the night of 12 June when two hills to the left and right of Ballynahinch were occupied by the British who pounded the town with their cannon. During a pause when night fell, some rebel officers were said to have pressed Munro for a night attack but he refused on the grounds that it was unchivalrous. As a consequence many disillusioned rebels slipped away during the night.

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As dawn broke the battle recommenced with the rebels attacked from two sides and although achieving some initial success, confusion in the rebel army saw the United Irishmen retreat in chaos, pursued by regrouping British forces who quickly took advantage by turning retreat into massacre. Initial reports claimed four hundred rebels were killed, while British losses were around forty.James Thomson (mathematician), the father of the famous scientist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin was at the battle and published an eyewitness account.

Munro escaped the field of battle but was betrayed by a farmer who he had paid to conceal him and was hanged in front of his own house in Lisburn on 16 June. Ballynahinch was sacked by the victorious military after the battle with sixty-three houses being burned down. Cavalry scoured the surrounding countryside for rebels, raiding homes and killing indiscriminately, the 22nd Dragoons being guilty of some of the worst atrocities.The most famous victim was Betsy Gray,

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a young female rebel who, with her two brothers, was slaughtered in the post-battle massacre, ensuring her place in legend to this day.

Because of his family’s involvement in this event, Robert Stewart, the future Lord Castlereagh, was made chief secretary of Ireland.

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Blaming Irish Peasants for the Great Famine.

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The above image is from the 10 October 1846 issue of the Pictorial Times. It has the title  “Cahirciveen, the retreat of the Liberator.”  It accompanies an article discussing the plight of the Irish people who are suffering from hunger after the failure of their potato crops.

Words of the time—written by a British, not an Irish author—help us to understand what the Irish people were enduring when they needed help the most. Keep in mind that it was only the potato crop which had failed (not all other crops).

Since only the potato crop had failed, how was it that people were starving, leading to food riots? Was there no other food in Ireland? If not, why not?

If there was other food available, to feed the starving Irish people, why does this author seem to blame the Irish peasants for their desperate condition? If the potato crop failed because of a blight, not caused by the potato growers, why does this author blame the potato growers for the failed crops.

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FOOD RIOTS IN IRELAND.

CONDUCT OF THE LIBERATOR

We hold it to be a moral axiom, that the misfortunes of a nation, as of individuals, may be traced to a retributive justice, worked out through its own crimes or follies. It is idle to look beyond ourselves for the source of whatever mischief of misery befall us; and if our aim is to regain happiness, we shall be very wide of the mark if we think to do so by attempting to correct others, under the flattering but false impression, that it is not us but our neighbours who have been in fault.

Ireland should reflect upon this. Her grievance-mongers have now for more than a quarter of a century been agitating upon the pretended injustice of England towards her weaker sister, but without the least benefit, as we can perceive, accruing to the Irish people therefrom. They are still what they ever were, a discontented and starving people. And should they get their last demand, even Repeal, would they be better off? Not one bit. We are sure it could not be the case, whilst they persist in proclaiming themselves to be the finest peasantry in the world, and their island

The first flower of the ocean,
first gem of the sea.

But indeed, at the present moment, it is ungenerous to upbraid; Ireland needs something more than advice. Famine, the most pinching, has added its horrors to the misery previously unbearable.

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Fathers see those they love slowly expiring for the want of bread. Men, sensitive and proud, are upbraided by their women for seeing them starve without a struggle for their rescue. Around them is plenty; rickyards, in full contempt, stand under their snug thatch, calculating the chances of advancing prices; or, the thrashed grain safely stored awaits only the opportunity of conveyance to be taken far away to feed strangers.

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Do the children of the soil hesitate to see the avarice of man, thus speculating on the visitations of Heaven and do they not resent the inhumanity as treason to our common nature? But a strong arm interposes to hold the maddened infuriates away.

Property laws supersede those of Nature. Grain is of more value than blood. And if they attempt to take of the fatness of the land that belongs to their lords, death by musketry, is a cheap government measure to provide for the wants of a starving and incensed people.

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This must not be.

To prove the charge of injustice, oppression only is required. But England indignantly denies all that Irish agitators have alleged, and to prove the sincerity of her sympathy she must now advance unhesitatingly that relief which can alone save the Irish people. And she will do. England will give with an open hand. Will Ireland, like a sturdy vagrant, continue to curse a generosity that fails to satisfy inordinate, unreasonable demands?

We shall not stay to calculate how much it may be abused; what considerable portion of the relief forwarded may go to swell the exactions of greedy, needy demagogues, whose stock in trade is their country’s misfortunes, and who, vampire like, suck the life-blood of their infatuated followers, fanning their victims with the idle wind of winged words to lull suspicion and secure repose.

These are, indeed, the curse of that unhappy land. Cruel, unnatural leaders, who cannot meet each other without mutual smiling at the unsuspecting gullibility upon which they prey. With these however, in the present crisis, we have nothing too. Feed the distressed first, and perhaps they will listen afterwards to our exhortations and advice. In the meantime we must assist in the good work of forwarding the measures of relief, that benevolent individuals throughout the kingdom are carrying out.

Opportunity to help themselves, the late ministry, by the Labour Rate Act, have placed in the hands of the Irish gentlemen themselves. Able-bodied men at all events will get employment and wages. But this will not be sufficient; the aged and infirm, the women and children, have also to be provided for. Subscription lists should be opened in every town. A testimonial to Heaven for the mercy vouchsafed to ourselves could not have a more opportune moment to command contributions.

Is gratitude alone due to man for the relief from corn taxation we have obtained this very year? Had it been otherwise, with the serious failure of our potato crop, what would now have been the price of bread? Give of the surplus gained but a trifling portion, and an ample fund will be provided for our Irish brethren.

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But the crisis that is at hand, awful as it is, may, by a wise government, be made productive of permanent good to the empire, that will more than compensate the temporary misery it occasions; for a liberal measure of relief, with full stores of cheap grain to distribute at low prices, would contrast beneficially for the English character, with the rapacity evinced by the Irish agitators.

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Ettie and Leon Steinberg-Irish citizens killed in Auschwitz

 July 22nd, 1937, was Esther Steinberg’s big day. Her wedding to Vogtseck Gluck, a goldsmith from Antwerp, was a smart affair at the Greenville Synagogue just a short walk from her home on the South Circular Road in Dublin.
The men, pillars of Dublin’s Jewish community, wore top hats, while the ladies were decked in their finery.
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Ettie, as she was known, was just 22, a good-looking girl about to embark on the excitement and happiness of a new life. After the celebrations ended she set out for Belgium on a journey that was to make her part of the most horrific event the world had known. A little over five years later she, her husband and their three-year-old son, Leon, were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

Ettie Steinberg, a young Jewish woman who grew up in Dublin, is the only known Irish citizen (along with her infant son Leon) to have died during the Holocaust. Her legacy is a tragic one, a microcosm of the suffering of Jewish people throughout this turbulent period in history.

She was born Esther Steinberg to Czechoslovakian parents, Aaron Hirsch Steinberg and Bertha Roth, on 11 January 1914. She was certainly an Irish citizen, but whether she was born in Ireland or not is unclear. Some texts (for example Rivlin) indicate that she was born here, while others suggest that she originated from the town of Veretsky in Czechoslovakia and moved to Ireland from London in 1926. Her family lived in 28 Raymond Terrace, off the South Circular Road, with the children attending St. Catherine’s School in Donore.

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Although little is known about her life before marriage, it is believed that she worked as a seamstress. On a July day in 1937, Ettie married a Belgian man named Vogtjeck Gluck in Greenville Hall Synagogue off the South Circular Road. He came from a Belgian family of goldsmiths and the couple moved to Antwerp shortly after the wedding. Within a few years, the Low Countries were under threat from the Nazi advance and the couple fled to France, believing they would find safety and security. They travelled around but settled in Paris, where their son Leon was born on the 28 March 1939. Unfortunately, the threat of violence spread throughout France in 1940 and this put them in danger. From 1940 to 1942 the small family was in hiding, moving from place to place, rarely staying still for more than two nights at a time.

Back in Dublin, the Steinbergs worked desperately to save their daughter Ettie by getting her and her family back to Ireland. Pleas were sent to the Vatican and the Red Cross for information, but to no avail. They eventually managed to secure three visas from the British Home Office in Belfast and sent them to Toulouse, where the family was in hiding. However, they arrived one day too late for Ettie, Vogtjeck and little Leon. The Glucks had been caught in a round-up of Jews on the 2 September 1942 and were put on a train to Auschwitz.

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On this last journey Ettie through a postcard from the moving train, which was picked up by chance and posted to Ireland, cleverly coded by her to avoid destruction. It is a poignant piece of evidence that reads: “Uncle Lechem, we did not find, but we found Uncle Tisha B’av”.  Ettie’s family understood her tragic message very well:‘Lechem’ is the Hebrew word for bread and ‘Tisha B’Av’ is a Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the temple This means: we did not find plenty, but we found destruction, and demonstrates Ettie’s understanding of what awaited her at Auschwitz. Ettie, her husband and her young son arrived by train on 4 September and were exterminated immediately alongside a thousand other Jews. Ettie tried bravely to protect her family and the story is a testament to the human instinct for survival.

In contrast to Jewish response to the Famine in Ireland, Irish response to the Holocaust has been less than honourable. An Irish Famine Loan of £8 million was negotiated in London by Baron Lionel de Rothschild, who waived all commission

On October 9th, 1938, the former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Isaac Herzog, wrote to the Taoiseach, Mr Eamon de Valera, requesting the admission of six or seven Jewish refugee doctors and dentists.

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The request was refused.

Oliver J. Flanagan (22 May 1920 – 26 April 1987) was an Irish Independentand  Fine Gael  politician, used his maiden speech in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) to urge the government to “rout the Jews out of this country”

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“How is it that we do not see any of these [Emergency Powers] Acts directed against the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week? How is it that we do not see them directed against the Masonic Order? How is it that the I.R.A. is considered an illegal organisation while the Masonic Order is not considered an illegal organisation? […] There is one thing that Germany did, and that was to rout the Jews out of their country. Until we rout the Jews out of this country it does not matter a hair’s breadth what orders you make. Where the bees are there is the honey, and where the Jews are there is the money.”

Oliver Flanagan, Dáil Éireann, 9 July 1943.

 

On the 25th of March 2014 a  Memorial to Ireland’s only Holocaust victim unveiled by Tomi Reichentahl, a Holocaust survivor who currently lives in Ireland.

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The sinking of HMS Mashona

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HMS Mashona was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that saw service in the Second World War.

She was built by Vickers Armstrong, with her machinery supplied by Parsons. She was authorised in the program year 1936. Mashona was laid down on 5 August 1936, launched on 3 September 1937 and completed by 30 March 1939.

Mashona HMS, under command of Cdr. Selby, was one of those taking part in the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck.

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On May 28th, 1941, the day following the Bismarck´s destruction, the British forces were heavily bombed by German aircraft and HMS Mashona was hit and sunk  off the coast of Galway with the loss of 48 men.

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The destroyer Tartar took the survivors to Greenock.

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Happy 120th Birthday,Count Dracula.

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When I was a young boy, Count Dracula scared the crap out of me.Having an older brother pretending the Count didn’t help either. The fear was so real that to this day I still have a phobia for Bats.

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Little did I know then I would end up living in the country where the legend of Dracula was created, Ireland.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, on November 8, 1847, Bram Stoker published his first literary work, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, a handbook in legal administration, in 1879. Turning to fiction later in life, Stoker published his masterpiece Dracula, in 1897.

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On 26 May 1897,Stoker published his masterpiece, Dracula. While the book garnered success after its release, its popularity has continued to grow for more than a century. Deemed a classic horror novel today, Dracula has inspired the creation of numerous theatrical, literary and film adaptations. Among them are the 1931 film Dracula, starring actor Bela Lugosi, and F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu, starring Max Schreck.

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Dracula is literally translated in Gaelic as Drac Ullah (or Droch fola) meaning bad blood.

Count Dracula, a fictional character in the Dracula novel, was inspired by one of the best-known figures of Romanian history, Vlad Dracula, nicknamed Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler), who was the ruler of Walachia at various times from 1456-1462. Born in 1431 in Sighisoara, he resided all his adult life in Walachia, except for periods of imprisonment at Pest and Visegrad (in Hungary)

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Although he never traveled to Romania, Stoker crammed his book with descriptions of many real locations that can still be visited in present-day Romania. They include the most important historical places associated with Vlad Tepes, such as the 14th century town of Sighisoara where you can visit the house in which Vlad was born (now hosting a restaurant and a small museum of medieval weapons).

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Other Dracula sites include: the Old Princely Court (Palatul Curtea Veche) in Bucharest, Snagov Monastery, where, according to legend, Vlad’s remains were buried; the ruins of the Poenari Fortress (considered to be the authentic Dracula’s Castle); the village of Arefu where Dracula legends are still told, the city of Brasov where Vlad led raids against the Saxons merchants, and, of course, Bran Castle.

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“Vlad the Impaler” is said to have killed from 40,000 to 100,000 European civilians (political rivals, criminals, and anyone that he considered “useless to humanity”), mainly by impaling. The sources depicting these events are records by Saxon settlers in neighbouring Transylvania who had frequent clashes with Vlad III. Vlad III is revered as a folk hero by Romanians for driving off the invading Ottoman Turks, of whom his impaled victims are said to have included as many as 100,000.

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The story of Dracula has been the basis for numerous films and plays. Stoker himself wrote the first theatrical adaptation, which was presented at the Lyceum Theatre on 18 May 1897 under the title Dracula, or The Undead shortly before the novel’s publication and performed only once, in order to establish his own copyright for such adaptations. This adaption was first published only a century later in Oct 1997.[49] The first motion picture to feature Dracula was Dracula’s Death, produced in Hungary in 1921.

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F. W. Murnau’s unauthorised film adaptation Nosferatu was released in 1922, and the popularity of the novel increased considerably, owing to an attempt by Stoker’s widow tried to have the film removed from public circulation.

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In 1958, British film company Hammer Film Productions followed the success of its The Curse of Frankenstein from the previous year with Dracula, released in the US as The Horror of Dracula, directed by Terence Fisher. Fisher’s production featured Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, but it diverged considerably from the original novel.

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It was an international hit for Hammer Film, however, and both Lee and Cushing reprised their roles multiple times over the next decade and a half,

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concluding with The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (with Cushing but not Lee) in 1974. Christopher Lee also took on the role of Dracula in Count Dracula, a 1970 Spanish-Italian-German co-production notable for its adherence to the plot of the original novel.

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Many adaptions have been made over the years, The one truest to the novel is probably the 1992 adaption directed by Francis Ford Coppola,Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Gary Oldman in the role as Dracula.

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Nearly as popular as the main character is  the main protagonist,Professor Abraham Van Helsing.He is an aged Dutch doctor with a wide range of interests and accomplishments, partly attested by the string of letters that follows his name: “MD, D.Ph., D.Litt., etc, etc,”[4] indicating a wealth of experience, education and expertise. The character is best known throughout his many adaptations as a vampire hunter and the archenemy of Count Dracula. The character is been portrayed in most of the Dracula movies but also in other fictional Gothic  stories. In 2004 he was the main character in the movie “Van Hesling” played by Hugh Jackman.

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After 120 years the story of Dracula still captures the imagination of many and  is as popular as ever(if not more) it really has stood the test of time. Happy Birthday Count Dracula.

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Dublin and Monaghan bombings

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The Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 17 May 1974 were a series of co-ordinated bombings in Dublin and Monaghan, Ireland. Three bombs exploded in Dublin during rush hour and a fourth exploded in Monaghan almost ninety minutes later.

They killed 34 civilians including a full-term unborn child, and injured almost 300. The bombings were the deadliest attack of the conflict known as the Troubles, and the deadliest attack in the Republic’s history.Most of the victims were young women, although the ages of the dead ranged from five months to 80 year.

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), a loyalist paramilitary group from Northern Ireland, claimed responsibility for the bombings in 1993. It had launched a number of attacks in the Republic since 1969. There are allegations taken seriously by inquiries that elements of the British state security forces helped the UVF carry out the bombings, including members of the Glenanne gang. Some of these allegations have come from former members of the security forces. The Irish parliament’s Joint Committee on Justice called the attacks an act of international terrorism involving British state forces.The month before the bombings, the British government had lifted the UVF’s status as a proscribed organisation.

Two of the bombs went off on Talbot and Parnell Streets before a third blast exploded on South Leinster Street near Trinity College, 27 people died.

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Shortly afterwards another bomb exploded outside a pub in Monaghan, killing seven people. Hundreds more were injured.

In the aftermath of the coordinated attacks, then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave condemned the atrocities:

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I do not know which evil men did this but everyone who has practised violence or preached violence or condoned violence must bear his share of responsiblility. It will bring home to us what the people of Northern Ireland have been suffering for five long years.

Derek Byrne was just 14 and only a week into his first job working as a petrol pump attendant. Just as he was filling a car with petrol, a huge explosion struck on Parnell Street.

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His injuries were so horrific that emergency services thought he had died. He recalls waking up in a hospital mortuary.

“I just remember pulling back the sheets and then the lady in the morgue, she ran out,” he says.

“I don’t know whether it was hospital porters or doctors who came in. I was put on a trolley and brought straight to theatre. I was 18 hours in theatre and then 12 weeks in a coma after that.”

After the blasts, bystanders rushed to help the wounded, and emergency response personnel were on the scene within minutes. Hospitals across Dublin were put on standby to receive casualties. However, rescue operations in Dublin were hampered by heavy traffic due to the bus strike. Rescuers, feeling that help was not coming fast enough, lifted the dead and wounded, wrapped them in coats and bundled them into cars to get them to the nearest hospital.[Garda Síochána squad cars escorted surgeons through the crowded streets to attend the wounded. Many people, on finding out what had happened, went straight away to offer blood.

Paddy Doyle of Finglas, who lost his daughter, son-in-law, and two infant granddaughters in the Parnell Street explosion, described the scene inside Dublin’s city morgue as having been like a “slaughterhouse”, with workers “putting arms and legs together to make up a body”.

At 18:00, after all of the dead and injured had been removed, Garda officers cordoned off the three bomb sites in Dublin. Fifteen minutes earlier, at 17:45, the orders were given to call out ‘national cordons’, to stop the bombers fleeing the stat] Garda officers were sent to Connolly Station, Busáras, Dublin Airport, the B&I car ferry port, and the mail boat at Dún Laoghaire.At 18:28, the Dublin-Belfast train was stopped at Dundalk and searched by a team of 18 Gardaí led by an inspector.During the evening of 17 May, Gardaí from the Ballistics, Photography, Mappings, and Fingerprints section visited the three bomb sites in Dublin and examined the debris.

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Some accounts give a total of 34 or 35 dead from the four bombings: 34 by including the unborn child of victim Colette Doherty, who was nine months pregnant; and 35 by including the later still-born child of Edward and Martha O’Neill. Edward was killed outright in Parnell Street.Martha O’Neill was not caught up in the attack, although two of their children were seriously injured in the bombing; one of them, a four-year-old boy, suffered severe facial injuries. The 22-month-old daughter of Colette Doherty survived the Talbot Street blast; she was found wandering about near the bomb site, relatively unharmed.Six weeks after the bombings, the elderly mother of Thomas Campbell, who was killed in the Monaghan bombing, allegedly died of the shock she received at the death of her son.

Due to the bombings, the Irish Army withdrew its troops from UN peacekeeping missions for four year.

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Mary Elmes-Forgotten hero

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Marie Elisabeth Jean Elmes (5 May 1908 – 9 March 2002)[2] was an Irish businesswoman and aid worker who is credited with saving the lives of at least 200 Jewish children during the Holocaust by hiding them in the boot of her car.In 2015, she became the first and so far the only Irish citizen honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel which was in recognition of her work in the Spanish Civil War and World War II.

Born in 1908 at Winthrop Street in Cork, where her parents had a pharmacy, Mary Elmes studied French and Spanish at Trinity College Dublin

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and at the London School of Economics, before going to Spain in the 1930s during the civil war there, where she worked in children’s hospitals.

During the Holocaust, she helped save the lives of Jewish children at the Rivesaltes in the Pyrénées, which became a holding centre for Jews destined for concentration camps.In January 1943, she was arrested on suspicion of helping Jews escape and spent six months in a jail near Paris.

On her release, she returned to helping Jewish people escape the Holocaust.

It would take Prof Ronald Friend almost 70 years to identify the person who saved his life. Then, one morning in January 2011, an email popped into his inbox with a name. The woman who had extricated him from a detention camp during the Second World War was called “Miss Elms”.

He would later discover that her name was, in fact, Mary Elmes. Other details would follow. She was born in Cork City in 1908 and she had helped to save hundreds of Jewish children from the Nazi gas chamber.

(A 1943 school photo of Ronald Friend (middle row, 3rd from left) who was mixed in with local children at a school in the South of France. Mary Elmes extricated Ronald and his brother from the detention camp in 1942)

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He and his brother, then aged 18 months and five years old respectively, were two of those children. Although Prof Friend had spent years piecing together the details of his early childhood, this final piece of the jigsaw had always eluded him.

He had the end of the story, but not the beginning.

He had known, for instance, of his family’s near-escape over the Swiss border in 1942. His father Hans and brother Mario had made it to safety over the border. They turned back, however, when they saw that police had stopped young Ronald and his mother, Eva. They would all be detained at Rivesaltes, a notorious holding camp near Perpignan in the south of France.

He had evidence, too, that he had been spirited away to a safe house in Toulouse. He even met the French priest, Fr Louis Bézard, who had hidden him and his brother in a suitcase as they passed through Toulouse train station under intense Gestapo surveillance.

On 25 September 1942, Mary Elmes wrote to say that they were  going to be liberated the next day and taken to a Quaker hostel, or “colony”, in Vernet-le-Bains, called the Hotel du Portugal.

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The hotel is still there.” He and his brother were finally reunited with their mother Eva in 1947 but they found out their father Hans had been deported to Majdanek camp in 1943. He perished there.

On completing her studies Mary joined the University of London Ambulance Unit in Spain to help the innocent victims of the vicious ongoing Spanish Civil War. She was posted to Almeria in southern Spain to a children’s hospital that soon came under the administration of a Quaker humanitarian organisation the Friends Service Council. Almeria was bombarded by the German Navy in support of Franco’s fascists and Mary was moved further north to Alicante. Her organisational skills were obviously already evident as in Alicante she was put in charge of the hospital.

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Things were no easier in Alicante as the fighting raged on and the town sustained one of the worst aerial attacks of the war in May 1938, this time at the hands of the Italian airforce when more than 300 civilians were killed. Despite the desperate circumstances Mary was committed to her work realising that though she may be able to leave, the children she was helping had no choice but to remain. Her commitment was such that even when her father died back in Cork she refused to return home as no replacement for her could be found. It was at this time that Mary began taking children from the war-torn city up into the mountains to offer some refuge from the fighting and the daily horrors they witnessed.

The Civil War came to an end in April 1939 and a mass exodus of half a million refugees began fleeing to France in order to escape the new nationalist regime. Mary and many of her colleagues went with them making the tortuous journey across the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. In France they may have escaped the fighting and reprisals but conditions were terrible. The French government had set up holding camps for the new arrivals close to the coast where they were hemmed in by barbed-wire. There was little shelter, no toilet facilities and food and provisions were simply thrown over the fence.

Realising that most of the refugees would not return to Spain as they had hoped the French government finally put in place more organised camps and by the end of May conditions began to improve. Mary set to work caring for the many children who had made the journey and spent much of her time trying to provide reading materials and some kind of education for children and adults in the camps.

At the same time Hitler’s Germany was making preparations for war and in September the Second World War began when the Wehrmacht invaded Poland.

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Many Germans who had fled to France from the Nazis were rounded up as illegal aliens and sent to the camps in the south and things went from bad to worse as the Nazis quickly overran France itself with thousands more heading for the camps. Mary Elmes was based at Camp de Rivesaltes near Perpignan 40km from the Spanish border. As the war progressed and more and more people were detained it would become one of the largest detention centres in France and conditions quickly deteriorated. Her main concern turned from providing books and education to simply keeping as many people alive as she could.

As an Irish citizen Mary was able to remain working at the camp when many of her British and American colleagues were forced to leave as their countries entered the war. As the war progressed the Vichy government began sending thousands of Jews to Rivesaltes to join the already overcrowded Spanish and others who were detained there.

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Its location on a barren plain near Perpignan left it open to the elements, unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold during the winter and many of those detained had only rags for clothes; malnutrition and disease became a serious problem.

It was at this time that Jewish prisoners began being sent to the Drancy camp near Paris

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and then on to Auschwitz where most of them would be murdered. Mary and her colleagues soon realised what was happening after receiving reports from elsewhere and they set about saving as many people as they could. Under the Vichy regime the government was prepared to allow children to be taken from the camp to stay in children’s ‘colonies’ elsewhere but their parents could not go with them. Mary went around the camp asking parents to let the children go in the hope of saving them from an even worse fate.

When the Nazis took full control in 1942 they also put a stop to children being removed from the camp and those who had already escaped began to be moved to safer locations high in the Pyrenees where they would not be found by the authorities. Mary also began taking children from the camp directly herself and smuggling them across the Spanish border in the boot of her car with the help of Dr Joseph Weill and Andrée Salomon two members of the Jewish Children’s Aid Society (OSE).

Mary Elmes was arrested in February 1943 and imprisoned in Toulouse and later Fresnes Prison near Paris but was released six months later. She continued her humanitarian work until the end of the war despite the huge personal risk to her own safety. It is estimated that she helped save the lives of more than 200 Jewish children during the war. When the war came to an end she married a Frenchman and settled in the south of France where she raised two children.

She wass awarded the Legion of Honour, France’s highest civil accolade for her efforts during the war but refused to accept it not wanting any attention for what she did. She often returned to Cork and Ireland to visit throughout her life and died in France in 2002 at the age of 94. On January 23rd, 2013 Yad Vashem recognized Mary Elisabeth Elmes as Righteous Among the Nations.

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Irish government’s condolences to Germany after Hitler’s death

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Ireland’s president,Douglas Hyde, during World War II offered condolences to Nazi Germany’s representative in Dublin over the death of Adolf Hitler,  declassified government records show.

It was long believed that Ireland’s prime minister(Taoiseach) at the time, Eamon de Valera, was the only government leader to convey official condolences to Eduard Hempel, director of the German diplomatic corps in Ireland.

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(Dr Eduard Hempel, Dr Vogelsang and Dr Adolf Mahr at the German legation’s garden party in Dublin, 1938.)

De Valera’s gesture ,unique among leaders of neutral nations in the final weeks of World War II ,was criticized worldwide.

On May 2, 1945, just two days after Hitler and his consort Eva Braun committed suicide in their Berlin bunker, De Valera, who also served as foreign minister, and his aide, Secretary of External Affairs Joseph Walshe, visited the German Embassy in Dublin to sign a book of condolences for the departed Fuhrer.

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They also met with the top German envoy to Ireland, Eduard Hempel. Irish envoys in other nations did likewise, including Leopold Kerney in Spain, who called on the German Embassy in Madrid to express his condolences.

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Not everyone in De Valera’s government agreed with his decision to mourn Hitler. Frederick Boland, the assistant secretary of the Department of External Affairs, reportedly begged him not to go to the embassy.

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Indeed, no other Western European democracies followed De Valera’s example – he found himself in the dubious company of two European fascist dictators, Francisco Franco of Spain and António de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal, in voicing condolences over Hitler.

De Valera, who had apparently never expressed any admiration or support for Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the war, also found himself in the embarrassing and uncomfortable spot of receiving praise and gratitude from the British Union of Fascists for “honoring the memory of the greatest German in history.”

De Valera argued that to refuse condolences “would have been an act of unpardonable discourtesy to the German nation and to Dr Hempel”.

It was a pedantic and foolish diplomatic gesture, and it was not appreciated by my grandmother Christabel Bielenberg, according to Kim Bielenberg -her Grandmother was a German living in Ireland at the time,when she learned of it later on.

Many in Germany were hardly stricken with grief at the demise of Hitler in the Spring of 1945, and even if they had been sympathetic, they were so busy trying to guarantee their own survival – finding food and keeping a roof over their heads – that they had little time to mourn him.

The global media also piled on. An editorial in The New York Times said of De Valera’s visit: “Considering the character and the record of the man for whose death he was expressing grief, there is obviously something wrong with the protocol, the neutrality of Mr. de Valera.”

The New York Herald Tribune also blasted De Valera. “If this is neutrality, it is neutrality gone mad – neutrality carried into a diplomatic jungle – where good and evil alike vanish in the red-tape thickets: where conscience flounders helplessly in slogans of protocol,” the paper declared.

Some Irish-Americans also condemned de Valera.

One Angela D. Walsh of New York wrote to a local newspaper: “Have you seen the motion pictures of the victims of German concentration camps, de Valera? Have you seen the crematoriums? Have you seen the bodies of little children murdered by Nazi hands? Have you seen the living dead, de Valera? Skin stretched over bone, and too weak to walk?”

In response to vitriolic international criticism over his gesture (most notably from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Harry Truman), De Valera insisted it was a question of diplomatic protocol and that failing to send his respects would amount to “an act of unpardonable discourtesy.”

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In a letter to Robert Brennan, the Irish ambassador in Washington, De Valera wrote: “During the whole of the war, Dr. Hempel’s conduct was irreproachable. He was always friendly and invariably correct — in marked contrast with [U.S. envoy David] Gray. I certainly was not going to add to [Hempel’s] humiliation in the hour of defeat.”

De Valera also specified that his actions in no way condoned the policies of Hitler’s regime.

 

Belfast Blitz-15 April 1941

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Although the Republic of Ireland was neutral and was left largely unscathed during the war, Northern Ireland as part of the UK was not that lucky.

Belfast being the biggest city of Northern Ireland was hit by German bombers 4 times, between the 7th of April and 6th of May 1941.

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Northern Ireland was ill prepared for the Luftwaffe’s arrival. Ministers felt it unlikely that the bombers could reach Belfast.

There were only four public air raid shelters in Belfast, and most of the city’s searchlights had been sent back to England. There were plans to evacuate 70,000 children from Belfast, but little over 10% of that number actually left. When an unobserved German plane flew over Belfast to identify targets in November 1940, it saw a city defended by only seven anti-aircraft batteries. By March 1941, Northern Ireland’s minister of public security was close to panic – with some justification.

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Around midnight on Monday 7 April 1941, seven German planes began bombing Belfast targets that had been identified the previous year.

The moon, half-full, enabled the Germans to attack by sight as they flew low, just above the barrage balloons. In half-hour intervals, the Luftwaffe bombed the docks and shipyards with alarming accuracy. The fuselage factory at Harland and Wolff was hit by a parachute mine, destroying 50 Sterling bombers. Incendiary bombs and high explosives also destroyed houses in north and east Belfast. By the time the raid ended at around 3.30am, 13 people had been killed.

William Joyce (known as “Lord Haw-Haw”) announced in radio broadcasts from Hamburg that there will be “Easter eggs for Belfast”.

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On Easter Tuesday, 15 April 1941, spectators watching a football match at Windsor Park noticed a lone Luftwaffe Junkers Ju-88 aircraft circling overhead.

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That evening up to 200 bombers left their bases in northern France and the Netherlands and headed for Belfast. There were Heinkel He 111s, Junkers Ju 88s and Dorniers. At 10:40 pm the air raid sirens sounded.

Accounts differ as to when flares were dropped to light up the city. The first attack was against the city’s waterworks, which had been attacked in the previous raid. High explosives were dropped. Initially it was thought that the Germans had mistaken this reservoir for the harbour and shipyards, where many ships, including HMS Ark Royal were being repaired.

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However that attack was not an error. Three vessels nearing completion at Harland and Wolff’s were hit as was its power station. Wave after wave of bombers dropped their incendiaries, high explosives and land-mines. When incendiaries were dropped, the city burned as water pressure was too low for effective firefighting.

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Public buildings destroyed or badly damaged included Belfast City Hall’s Banqueting Hall, the Ulster Hospital for Women and Children and Ballymacarrett library, (the last two being located on Templemore Avenue). Strand Public Elementary school, the LMS railway station, the adjacent Midland Hotel on York Road, and Salisbury Avenue tram depot were all hit. Churches destroyed or wrecked included Macrory Memorial Presbyterian in Duncairn Gardens; Duncairn Methodist, Castleton Presbyterian on York Road; St Silas’s on the Oldpark Road; St James’s on the Antrim Road; Newington Presbyterian on Limestone Road; Crumlin Road Presbyterian; Holy Trinity on Clifton Street and Clifton Street Presbyterian; York Street Presbyterian and York Street Non-Subscribing Presbyterian; Newtownards Road Methodist and Rosemary Street Presbyterian (the last of which was not rebuilt).

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Streets heavily bombed in the city centre included High Street, Ann Street, Callender Street, Chichester Street, Castle Street, Tomb Street, Bridge Street (effectively obliterated), Rosemary Street, Waring Street, North Street, Victoria Street, Donegall Street, York Street, Gloucester Street, and East Bridge Street. In the east of the city, Westbourne and Newcastle Streets on the Newtownards Road, Thorndyke Street off the Albertbridge Road and Ravenscroft Avenue were destroyed or damaged. In the west and north of the city, streets heavily bombed included Percy Street, York Park, York Crescent, Eglinton Street, Carlisle Street, Ballyclare, Ballycastle and Ballynure Streets off the Oldpark Road; Southport Street, Walton Street, Antrim Road, Annadale Street, Cliftonville Road, Hillman Street, Atlantic Avenue, Hallidays Road, Hughenden Avenue, Sunningdale Park, Shandarragh Park, and Whitewell Road. Burke Street which ran between Annadale and Dawson streets in the New Lodge area, was completely wiped off the map with all its 20 houses flattened and all of the occupants killed.

 

There was no opposition. In the mistaken belief that they might damage RAF fighters, the seven anti-aircraft batteries ceased firing. But the RAF had not responded. The bombs continued to fall until 5am.

Fifty-five thousand houses were damaged leaving 100,000 temporarily homeless. Outside of London, with some 900 dead, this was the greatest loss of life in a night raid during the Blitz.A stray bomber attacked Derry, killing 15. Another attacked Bangor, killing five. By 4 am the entire city seemed to be in flames. At 4.15am John MacDermott, the Minister of Public Security, managed to contact Basil Brooke (then Agriculture Minister), seeking permission to seek help from the Irish government. Brooke noted in his diary “I gave him authority as it is obviously a question of expediency”. Since 1.45am all telephones had been cut. Fortunately, the railway telegraphy link between Belfast and Dublin was still operational. The telegram was sent at 4.35am, asking the Irish Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera for assistance.

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For decades now it has been part of unionist and loyalist lore that the then Fianna Fáil government was partly to blame for the Belfast Blitz due to a decision not to black out neutral Irish towns and cities at night.

Over 900 lives were lost, 1,500 people were injured, 400 of them seriously. Fifty-thousand houses, more than half the houses in the city, were damaged. Eleven churches, two hospitals and two schools were destroyed.

From conflict to peace-The life of Martin McGuinness.

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This is an A-political blog just highlighting the many facets of Martin McGuinness, a man who has made an impact on Ireland.I believe that ultimately history will portray him as a peacemaker.

Martin McGuinness, pictured circa 1972, holding a Luger pistol

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Martin McGuinness with masked IRA men at the funeral of Brendan Burns in 1988

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Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness

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Martin McGuinness was second-in-command of the IRA in Derry.

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The sinn Fein delegation led by Mr Martin McGuinness arriving for the opening of talks with a British Government delegation at Parliament Buildings, Stormont in 1994.

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Regardless what you think of either of these men, but if they can work together and have a laugh together anyone can.

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MI Rev Ian Paisley DUP Martin McGuinness Sinn Fein Stormount Photocall

Peter Robinson caught on camera in late 1984 during a visit to the Israel-Lebanon border with an automatic assault rifle.

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Leaving bygones be bygones ,former First Minister Peter Robinson and former deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness wave to the visitors.

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Shaking hands with the Queen.

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Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness.

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Martin McGuinness about Rev. Ian Paisley ”

“Over a number of decades we were political opponents and held very different views on many, many issues but the one thing we were absolutely united on was the principle that our people were better able to govern themselves than any British government.

“I want to pay tribute to and comment on the work he did in the latter days of his political life in building agreement and leading unionism into a new accommodation with republicans and nationalists.

“In the brief period that we worked together in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister I developed a close working relationship with him which developed into a friendship, which despite our many differences lasted beyond his term in office”

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A shadow of the man he used to be.

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