Irish-History

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Bernadette Devlin was an Irish feminist, socialist, and republican, and at age 21, she became the youngest female Member of Parliament. She spoke passionately, eloquently, intelligently, and unforgivingly in support of Catholics during the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. In 1969, after the keys to New York City were presented to her, Devlin gave them to the Black Panther Party, because she better identified with them and their plight than with the conservative Irish-Americans she had met on her visit to the U.S. In 1972, the British Home Secretary made a defense for the British soldiers who shot 26 unarmed Irish civilians during the Bogside Massacre. In the middle of his speech, Devlin stood up and punched him. She stated that it was “coldly, and calmly done” and that she did it to deliver “a simple, proletarian protest.” When asked if she was going to apologize, she responded, “I’m just sorry I didn’t get him by the throat.” 

Gráinne Ní Mháille (c.1530 - c.1603), commonly known as Grace O'Malley, was a legendary Irish pirate and Chieftan of the Ó Mháille clan during the 16th century.

Born around 1530, Ní Mháille was the child of a wealthy sea trader who she accompanied on his voyages from a young age. As a teenager she was married to Donal Ó Flaithbheartaigh, heir to a powerful clan, as a political move. The marriage lasted for 19 years, during which they had three children and Ní Mháille gained considerable experience commanding ships in her husband’s fleet.

Following the death of her husband and her father, Ní Mháille inherited a considerable amount of money and took over her father’s fleet of 20 ships and hundreds of sailors. She built on her father’s success to become one the dominant forces on the Irish west coast, launching raids on rival clans, forcing merchant ships to pay for safe passage, and imposing taxes on fishermen as far away as England. She also transported Gallowglass mercenaries between Scotland and Ireland, often raiding Scottish islands at the same time.  Her position was strengthened by the control of several coastal castles, most prominent of which was Rockfleet Castle, which she gained through her second marriage to Risdeárd Bourke. After a year of marriage she is said to have taken control of the castle, barring Bourke from entering and yelling from a window, “I dismiss you!”.

Ní Mháille had a tumultuous relationship with the English. From the early 1560’s onward she was accused of piracy multiple times, but she won some favour with the English by assisting in coastal attacks on southern Ireland and won the respect of Sir Henry Sidney, the Lord Deputy of Ireland. However n 1579 she was besieged in her castle by English forces, who she defeated by pouring hot oil on the attackers and according to some accounts by making homemade bullets from melted down armour.

Ní Mháille made a lasting enemy in the form of Richard Bingham, the English ruler of Connacht, after she fought alongside the Bourkes in open rebellion against him from 1585 to 1589. Bingham sought revenge for the rebellion by targeting Ní Mháille, destroying her lands and property. Bingham killed Ní Mháille’s eldest son, Eoghan, and captured his castle, while making a deal with one of her other sons, Murchadh, to switch sides. Ní Mháille swore never to speak to Murchadh again after his betrayal and burned his lands.

Financially ruined, the final blow to Ní Mháille came in 1593 when Bingham captured her other son, Tiobóid, as well as her brother and threatened them with charges of treason. Ní Mháille petitioned Queen Elizabeth of England directly to ask for their release. Elizabeth sent Ní Mháille a list of questions which she answered, and later that year the two women met at Greenwich Palace near London. Despite Ní Mháille’s rough manners and refusal to bow, the two women, both in their sixties, seemed to develop a healthy respect for each other. As neither spoke the other’s language they conversed in Latin, striking an agreement that Ní Mháille’s family would be released, reparations would be made for her stolen property, and that Bingham would be removed from power.

The agreement did not last. Reparations were not fully made, and while initially stripped of his position, Bingham was eventually allowed to return to power in Ireland. Angered, Ní Mháille returned to helping Irish rebels during the Nine Years’ War. She died of old age in Rockfleet Castle at the end of the war in 1603. After her death Ní Mháille’s fighting prowess led to many Irish folk tales being told about her and she is still remembered as a legendary pirate.

Today’s WARRIOR WOMEN WEDNESDAY drawing is Grainne O’Malley!

We call her a gazillion different things, popularly “Grace O’Malley,” but I think her Irish first name better suits her while the Anglicized last name helps for clarity in knowing who I’m talking about and finding more about her.

Not too many of these subjects have long lives with happy endings, but O’Malley oversaw her lands and seas as rich as a troll and died of old age, her kid having been ennobled and her fleet as active as ever.

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G O D S . A N D . G O D D E S S E S
celtic pantheon; mórrígan the goddess of war

“She appears as a singular being and the Triple Goddess - maiden, mother and crone. Her role was to not only be a symbol of imminent death, but to also influence the outcome of war. Most often she did this by appearing as a crow flying overhead and would either inspire fear or courage in the hearts of the warriors.”

m o r e . a e s t h e t i c s

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January 30th 1972: Bloody Sunday

On this day in 1972, British troops fired on Irish protestors in an event which has become known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. The day began as a protest march in Londonderry, attended by around 10,000 people calling for Irish civil rights. The protestors, members of Derry’s predominantly Catholic nationalist community, rejected the rule of the mostly Protestant unionist Northern Irish assembly. The protestors were particularly incensed by the assembly’s policies of interning nationalist terrorist suspects without trial and alleged electoral fraud, which discriminated against those who sought Irish independence from Britain. On January 30th 1972, the British Army set up a barricade to block the protest route, but some protestors refused to change course, and hurled rocks at the soldiers. The soldiers responded with water cannons and rubber bullets, and were eventually ordered to arrest the rioters. The situation turned violent when some of the British paratroopers opened fire on the crowd, killing 13 people and wounding several more, one of whom later died from his injuries. The event enflamed tensions between Britain and Northern Ireland, also attracting the ire of independent Ireland, as protestors in Dublin torched the British Embassy. The army insisted they responded to fire from protestors, while locals saw the shootings as deliberate murder. A governmental inquiry sided with the army, causing outrage and demands for a new tribunal, which finally reported in 2010 that blame for the events of Bloody Sunday lay solely with the British army. Bloody Sunday was a pivotal moment in ‘The Troubles’, as opposition to British rule and support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted in Northern Ireland, while Britain increased its military presence in the country.

On May 25th 1971 Sergeant Michael Willetts used his body to shield a man, a woman and two children from a bomb thrown by a member of the IRA. Thanks to his bravery, Willetts was the only fatal casualty of the bomb attack. As he was being removed by ambulance, he and a number of injured policemen were jeered by local youths who screamed obscenities at them. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross.