Night before last
I was going to so some dangerous activity like bungee jumping but it may have been parachuting. There was water blow me. I was wiith a bo my age. He cheerfully got on with it. I eas gripped by fear and refused to go through with it. What am I scared of? Maybe I think I am overly catuous sometimes. I need to be bolder.
3 nights ago
I was with Chris, a Pakistani and some other male. We were in an ill-lit hotel somwerre in the FAR East/ We would be semugglin an illgegal substace. I think i was brown. Chris wa uobeat and naive in his usual chirpy manner. I was getting cold fee about it. I was increasinly nervous. Could I back out/ I padded around the dingy corridor. of this hote. It was almsot desetred and the scene was dispaitringly. It was like a place I once stayed in Sri Lanka the YMCA albtough in fact I have ahppy memries of that spot.
Then I heard the Pakistani man had died of an overdose in his room. In fact in Sri Lanka it was Hans the American who died from alcohol abuse. I was not tha scholc in my dream. Would the mission be abandoe?
I have been thinking of Chris and how foolos he is – oddly childlike.
Eire entered the 90s with the Northern conflict winding down. President Hillery was coming to the end of his term in Phoenix Park. Haughey appeared to be at the height of his powers. The economic was making a little headway.
In the summer of 1990 Ireland was convulsed by the ectasy of seeing the Irish team do so well in the World Cup. The Republic of Ireland’s team in Italy won an agonisingly close penalty shoot out against Romania. Ireland’s hero was the goalie from Donegal Paki Bonner. The manager was an Englishman Jack Charlton. It was said if he stood for the presidency he would win but he was not a citizen.
Labour chose as their candidate Mary Robinson. Mrs Robinson was a barrister who aged 24 had become a professor of law at Trinity College, Dublin. She came from a Mayo bourgeois family and she defied convention by marrying a Protestant. She was narrowly against candidates who were establishment figures. It was second preferences that took her over the line. She was well known for controversy. She had long called for contraception to be made widely available, for gay rights and for divorce. These were highly unpopular positions when she first started espousing them in the 1960s.
Mrs Robinson took office that November. She was outgoing and amiable. She set a new style for the presidency which had been semi -retirement for superannuated politicians. She was also the first Labour president. In fact she was the first president not to be a Fianna Failer. (Admittedly the first two governors-general had been in Cumann na Gaedhal – the precursor of Fine Gael) She became known across the world. President Robinson seemed to signal a new era for Ireland. She was an avowed liberal in her views and she had little truck with nationalism. Ireland was said to be becoming post-nationalist.
In 1991 a scandal broke about Haughey. He had become aware that members of his party were plotting to oust him. This was legal political activity.. He had persuaded the Gards to bug his opponents within the party even though there was no suspicion of a crime. Haughey was forced to resign. No one was charged with any offence relating to this wire tapping.
The new Taoiseach was Albert Reynolds. Reynolds came from a small town in the Midlands. He was a sell made dog food businessman. Reynolds was a less flamboyant and more down to earth leader. He was also incredibly boring and a poor orator. However, the was someone the average Irishman could identify with more than with Haughey. Haughey suffered from aristocratic pretensions and liked to parade fly around in his personal helicopter from his stud farm to his private island. Reynolds had non of this flamboyance and his unremarkable rural background gave him more of the common touch.
Under Reynolds economic growth started to speed up. The IT sector got going. The financial services sector in Dublin grew significantly. Albert Reynolds also signed the Downing Street Declaration with John Major. Major and Reynolds had known each other when they were both finance ministers. They had agreed that if they ever got into a position to improve the Northern Ireland situation they would do so. This declaration affirmed that Northern Ireland would remain within the UK unless a majority of people there chose otherwise. It also underlined that the Republic had a legitimate interest in the affairs of the North and some all Ireland bodies should be established.
In 1992 the Republic of Ireland signed the Treaty of Maastricht. This was put to the people as required by a referendum. Only Sinn Fein and the far left were against it. Their posters warned people ”Don’t be Maas tricked.” The Yes campaign won comfortably. Later it came to light that taxpayers’ money had been used to bankroll the Yes campaign but not the No campaign. This was unlawful but was unlikely to have altered the result. Despite this illegal spending of public money the poll was not rerun.
Reynolds began secret negotiations with the IRA and with loyalist terrorist organisations. He tried to move them towards a cessation of violence. The IRA wanted to call a halt to its campaign but maintain the option of attacking security forces in nationalist communities. They called it ”defending nationalist areas”. Reynolds told them they could ”shag off”. He demanded a total cessation of violence.
In August 1994 the IRA announced a ceasefire. Within days Reynolds met Gerry Adams (leader of Sinn Fein) and John Hume (leader of the SDLP). Reynolds posed for a photo with the two. This incensed Unionists. They said it was endorsing the IRA only weeks after it had murdered people. However, others praised Reynolds bravery and said he had increased the chances of a long lasting peace.
In 1994 it emerged that Albert Reynold has known about Fr Brendan Smyth who was a serial paedophile. Fr Smyth came from Belfast and the Catholic Church has known about allegations against him since the late 1940s. That was not a time when there was any incentive to make a bogus accusation against a priest. Fr Smyth had been protected by the Church who never informed the police. He had been moved to the United States and allowed to be in sole charge of children. Reynolds had tried to prevent Fr Smyth being extradited to Northern Ireland. This scandal brought down the Fianna Fail Government. Fr Smyth went on trial in the Republic of Ireland and was found guilty. He was awarded a gaol term. He died of heart attack in prison in 1997.
This brought about the Rainbow Coalition. This came about without an election. Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left formed a government. Democratic Left had broken off Sinn Fein to become Official Sinn Fein in 1969. It was Marxist at first. Then they changed their name to Sinn Fein the Workers’ Party. Finally they became Democratic Left.
The new Taoiseach was the Fine Gael leader John Bruton. Bruton was a barrister from Meath. He was widely regarded as honest and likable. He was perhaps too effete to really connect. He was much more intellectual than his two immediate predecessors. He was a restrained campaigner and never at a loss for words. Bruton identified with the constitutional nationalist tradition and not with republicanism.
The Rainbow Coalition introduced some epoch making social reforms. The Republic of Ireland had a Victorian era law criminialising homosexual acts. In fact there had been no prosecutions under it for many years. Howver, it was symbolically important that this was repealed. Moreover, divorce was also legalised by a referendum since this involved changing the constitution and all constitutional amendments had to be put to the people. This change had been narrowly reject in the 80s with Dublin mainly voting Yes and the countryside mainly voting No.
In 1997 it was time for another Oireachtas election. Bruton did not galvanise the public. Fianna Fail won under their leader Bertie Ahern. Fianna Fail did not have quite enough seats to form a government on their own so they created a coalition with the Progressive Democrats led by Mary Harney. This was ironic since the Progressive Democrats had been founded a decade earlier as a breakaway from Fianna Fail by those who could not abide Charlie Haughey. Ahern was a devotee of Haughey! Bertie Ahern was a Dubliner who had been Lord Mayor of his native city. He came from a working class family and seemed to be an everyman. He was without intellectual pretensions. However, it later emerged that he embroidered his CV claiming to have studied at University College Dublin and the London School of Economics. He said he was accountant when in fact he never qualified as one. He had a total disregard for the truth and was no orator. However, many people took him to their hearts. He was Taioseach. The Tainaiste was Mary Harney. She was an unsmiling woman who had never worked outside politics. She had been appointed a senator at the age of 24 before being elected to the Dail. She was also single which was unusual at her age. This invited some unflattering comments.
The government presided over an unprecedented economic boom. People spoke of the Celtic Tiger. Unemployment was tumbling. Salaries were rising but so were house prices. There was a construction boom. People expanded their existing houses or built new ones. Many hotels were constructed. People were appreciative of having considerable disposable incomes for the first time. It was redolent of West Germany in the 1960s. There seemed to limitless economic growth. Property prices rose exorbitantly as did the cost of building houses. Builders could charge more or less what they liked. Fianna Fail liked to claim this spectacular economic expansion was owing to their Thatcherite policies. They certainly made tax easy to avoid. Fine Gael and Labour did not know how to respond. They were unprepared for this unprecedented prosperity. They complained that villages in the west were left behind the and proceeds of growth were maldistributed. The public were steeped in free market ideology and Fianna Fail claimed that mantle. The Irish Republic was one of the greatest exponents was super fast economic growth due to Monetarism.
Ireland had the ideal conditions for economic growth. The fertility rate was down to 3.0 babies per woman. This was still the highest in the European Union. However, there were not so many dependents. That means relatively few pensioners and few children but there were plenty of adults under the age of 60. All the decades of heavy investment in education had paid off. University tuition fees were abolished. AFTER A few years the government was to reintroduce them. Ireland experienced an unprecedented economic takeoff. Regulatory lightness of touch was said to be part of the magic.
Asylum seekers from Romania began to arrive. There were also economic migrants from Poland, China and Nigeria. Ireland became 1% non white. This figure was rather higher in Dublin. `People spoke of new multiracial Ireland.
Ireland was self-confident as never before. The Republic Ireland’s membership of the European Union was a shibboleth that almost no one questioned. Even Sinn Fein reversed their previous independence policy and supported Ireland being a province of the EU.
Ireland was a rising star of the global economy. Talk of the Celtic Tiger was widespread. Many American companies set up in the Republic of Ireland. They were attracted by an educated, English speaking work force in the EU and very low corporation tax. There was little inkling that Ireland was headed for a fiasco in a few years. Some said the economy had grown too fast and was overheating. Such people were dismissed as naysayers and gloom merchants. The Irish Republic came to be seen as a model for other countries that were bottom of the top third or countries by GDP.
The Irish Republic entered the 80s with the Northern conflict still suppurating. President Hillery was in office. Charles Haughey of Fianna Fail was Taoiseach. People were feeling conflict fatigue. It ceased to be the most salient issue for many. But then came the hunger strikes. The UK Government brought in a policy of treating republican and loyalist terrorists as ordinary criminals. They had to wear prison uniform. The republicans refused to accept this and some went on hunger strike to try to get Prisoner of War status. This forced the Northern issue back onto the agenda. There were anti H block committees in many Southern towns. Feeling was running high. Marches and protests were the order of the day. People kept vigil outside the British Embassy. The Irish Government tried to intercede to persuade Thatcher to make major concessions. This proved fruitless. Some hunger strikers died. This attracted far more attention that the victims of terrorism. The hunger strikes ended in 1981. Relations between the UK and the Irish State were as an all time low.
In June 1981 just after the hunger strikes ended Charlie Haughey and Fianna Fail were voted out. Fine Gael and Labour took office. The new Taoiseach was Dr Garret FitzGerald. Dr FitzGerald had a reputation as being a mild mannered and dreamy academic. He was very moderate on the Northern issue. His grandmother was an Ulster Protestant so he did not simply dismiss Unionist beliefs as so many others did. He had told the families of hunger strikers that the best chance of saving the lives of their relatives was for the IRA to end its campaign. Some of the hunger strikers stood for election to Dail Eireann as Anti H Block candidates. Some were elected but overall their share of the vote was derisory.
In 1982 FitzGerald’s government called an election and lost. This brought Fianna Fail and Haughey back to office with a wafer thin majority. The economy was in parlous shape. This was partly a knock on effect from the recession in the UK. FIANNA Fail was forced to go to the country a second time that year. They lost and FitzGerald and his coalition were back in office again.
President Hillery’s term was coming to an end. To general relief he chose to stand and no one got enough nominations. He was re elected unopposed. Three elections in one year would have been too much.
it was agreed that contraceptives could be proscribed to married couples. Despite AIDS becoming a grave threat in the 1980s the government decreed that condoms must not be available in machines.
In the early 1980s a significant amount of drugs started to be smuggled into the Republic of Ireland. Sometimes republicans were doing this. While they brought in a consignment of illegal weapons they would also bring in narcotics. The IRA had cordial links with FARC ‘ Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The IRA and the INLA were selling these substances to fund their terrorism. It was becoming increasingly difficult to effect bank robberies. Drug addiction became a significant problem in Cork and Dublin. Despite unemployment being up to 20% and low wages Ireland was still a relatively prosperous country. There was enough money to make it worth selling these substances. Addicts could rob the rich to fund their habits.
In 1984 the government held the New Ireland Forum. They invited people of all different shades of opinion to present their views on Northern Ireland. Different political parties participated in the hearings. However, no unionist was willing to address the New Ireland Forum. They thought it wrong that the Irish Government should seek to determine the future of Northern Ireland. Even the Alliance Party refused to send a representative. The NIF examined various possible futures for Ireland and concluded that a 32 county unitary state was the most desirable. It was also the most objectionable from a unionist persepective. However, the unionists had themselves to blame for this partly since they declined to submit their opinions to the NIF. Their opinions were already well known.
Dr FitzGerald really tried to win Margaret Thatcher over. His attempts to be reasonable made little progress with her. They finally succeeded in signing the Anglo Irish Agreement in 1984. Fianna Fail denounced it but the people voted it through in a referendum. Some Fianna Fail people who voted in favour of improving relations with the United Kingdom were expelled from the party.
Haughey was known as the boss. He ran his party like a dictator. Haughey was able to intimidate the Bank of Ireland into extending him an enormous loan and then writing it off. ´´I can be a very powerful enemy´´ he warned them darkly. Some people who could not abide him broke off and formed the Progressive Democrats. They were led by Des O’Malley a solicitor from Limerick. They managed to gain a few TDs. The Progressive Democrats were free market liberals. In 1987 FitzGerald and the coalition lost office once more. Haughey and his party were back. By the late 1980s the economy was slowly growing. EEC funding was starting to make a significant difference to people’s lives. Aer Lingus was becoming recognised as a global brand. A financial services centre was established in Dublin. The Irish duty free company set up duty free shops across the world.
From time to time the Republic of Ireland held the rotating presidency of the European Economic Community. Other EEC heads of government would come to Ireland. When Thatcher came to Dublin in 1989 she faced furious protests.
The Republic of Ireland declared that artistic earnings would be tax free. Ireland was to be an island of saints and scholars. This appealed to the imagination of Haughey. However, it was totally inequitable. A multimillionaire musician or writer would live tax free whereas someone on minimum wage would have to pay tax.
An increasing number of Irish people started to work in the Middle East as doctors, teachers and engineers. They could not become citizens there. This was a different migration pattern from the usual emigrant destinations of the United States, Great Britain and Australia.
In 1971 the Republic voted in a referendum to join the EEC. At the same time people voted to remove the clause in the constitution stating that the Catholic Church had a special position. This proposal was also carried. The Republic was becoming more secular. It was also a bid to mollify Unionist sentiment.
On 1 January 1973 the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC). This was the same day that the United Kingdom and Denmark also acceded to the EEC. Up until that time the punt (Irish pound) has been pegged to sterling. Pounds sterling were legal tender in the Republic of Ireland along with the Irish pound. The State followed interests rates set in London. Furthermore, the Irish pounds was divided into shillings as well as pence. Joining the EEC was when Ireland broke the link with sterling. Ironically joining the EEC was seen to make Ireland more independent and not less. Moreover, the Republic now set her own interests rates. Sterling was no longer to be accepted in Southern Ireland.
In 1973 an Oireachtas election marked a defeat for Fianna Fail. Fine Gael took office in partnership with Labour. Liam Cosgrave was the new Taoiseach. He was the son of an earlier Taoiseach W T Cosgrave. Liam Cosgrave was born in 1920 and was a well heeled Dubliner. He did not have so much of the common touch.
Cosgrave took over at a very difficult time for Ireland. The Troubles in the North spilled over into the Republic of Ireland. The IRA used the South as a base. Loyalist terrorists occasionally launched forays into the South.
The IRA tried to raise funds by staging bank robberies. Until 1969 bank raids had been very rare. By the early 1970s Ireland was awash in guns and there were plenty of people who said they had an ideological justification for commmandeering people’s money. Bank robberies became very commonplace. The government was compelled to send the army to accompany deliveries of cash. Banks improved their security with bullet proof glass and time delay safes. The number of bank robberies dropped dramatically but did not fall to 1960s levels.
In 1973 de Valera retired as required by the constitution because he had served two terms as president. Carll O’Dalaigh was elected in his place. O’Dalaigh was a former supreme court judge. He had also served in the European Court of Human Rights. He came from a lower middle class family in Wicklow. He was an ardent Catholic and had an overdeveloped sense of self-importance yet he lacked the gravitas of his predecessor.
The government tried to quieten the conflict by locking up more IRA men. At least this would save them from being killed by the British Army. O’Dalaigh sent the act to the supreme court to test its constitutionality in 1974. This was his prerogative as president. The defence minister gave a speech to soldiers in AThlone in which he described the president as ”a thundering bollix.” Word got back to Aras an Uachtarain. President O’Dalaigh demanded that the minister be sacked. Cosgrave had the minister concerned issue and effusive apology but this was inusfficient for the president. He said the dignity of his office had been impugned and if this minister was not dismissed then he must resign in order to preserve the supremacy of the presidency. Cosgrave stood firm and O’Dalaigh was as good as his word. He resigned after a year in office and this caused a new presidential election. In the end it would not have mattered much since he died of natural causes two years later.
Erskine Hamilton CHilders was elected. President CHilders was the son of the more famous Robert Erskine Childers. Confusingly both father and son were known as Erskine Childers. President CHilder was a Fianna Failer and unusally he was a Protestant. He had attended a public school in England and spoke with a pukka accent. He died after two years in office. That was 1976
Then another president had to be elected – the fourth in three years. Dr Patrick Hillery was elected. Dr Hillery was a Fianna Failer and had been a County Clare GP before entering politics. He had served as Foreign Minister. He was a keen golfer and a people person but he chose to be withdrawn for the first two years. He said people should know that they had lost a president through death. Thus he accepted very few public engagements. He seemed very banal at first. He was certainly respected and noted for his integrity.
In 1974 there was the oil shock. Many Arab countries were angry at Western support for Israel. They stopped producing oil for a few months so as to economically penalise Western countries. Oil prices quadrupled. Ireland was entirely dependent on oil imports as it had no oil or coal of its own. This hit the economy hard. Many people took to free wheeling down hills.
This also gave the government a spur to encourage more exploitation of Ireland’s peat resources. People began burning peat at home to save on imported fuels.
In May 1974 an explosion in Dublin and one in Monaghan caused 34 deaths. This was the worst mass murder in Ireland since the 18 th century. The UVF claimed responsibility for this. The IRA was eager to cause as much hatred against the United Kingdom as possible. The IRA insisted that the British Government was behind the blasts.
Cosgrave had some IRA men arrested and prosecuted. Some people were imprisoned for IRA membership. They would typically serve a year. There was considerable sympathy for the IRA especially in border areas. The Gards did not like to be called traitors and West Brits.
The conduct of the British Army was not always good. Suspects stopped at check points in the North were sometimes beaten up. The Army had shot dozens of civilians in different incidents. In some of these cases there was a mistake in other cases it was wilful murder.
In 1976 Sir Christopher Ewart Biggs, the British ambassador, was assassinated by a car bomb. It was an appalling breach of the internationally recognised status of diplomatic immunity. The IRA carried out the murder. Cosgrave rightly denounced the crime as outraging all right thinking Irish people.
Funding from the EEC helped to improve the Irish infrastructure. The economy grew slowly. Mass emigration was still the order of the day.
Contraceptives became available to married couples on prescription. Some feminists went to Belfast and travelled back to Dublin by train. They would declare to customs officers that they had contraceptives but that these were in their bodies. The officers would be too embarrassed to do anything. This is partly what led to a change in the law.
Dublin also began to restrict smoking in certain places. Health warnings were placed on packets of tobacco. At the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis (conference) the delegates were forbidden to smoke on the stage so as to set a good example.
In the mid 1970s the IRA began to kill more civilians. This bombing campaign reduced sympathy for them in the South of Ireland. It also caused a spike of anti-Irish sentiment in Great Britain.
The Irish Government took the UK Government to the European Court of Human Rights over the alleged torture of IRA suspects. The ECHR initially found against the United Kingdom. On appeal the Court downgraded this to abuse. The mistreatment was not severe enough to make the use of the word torture.
In the 1970s more tourists started to come to Ireland as air travel became cheaper. These were mostly Americans. The other nationalities who came in large numbers were German and Dutch. British tourists were often put off by the Troubles.
In 1979 the new pope, John Paul II, visited Ireland. It was the first time a pontiff had ever come to Hibernia. Most people were elated. A huge congregation greeted him at Phoenix Park in Dublin where he celebrated an outdoor mass. He urged people ”turn away from paths of violence and turn to paths of peace.”
Just after the pope’s visit Lord Mountbatten was murdered by the IRA along with other civilians. This harmed tourism even more. The IRA had broken its own rules not to kill people in the Republic of Ireland.
In 1979 there was an enormous explosion at Whiddy Island in Cork. This was an oil refinery. Dozens of people were killed. The company that owned the oil terminal won its court case so it was not held responsible for the explosion.
Ireland ended the 70s with the Northern conflict still raging. The Republic’s economy was hardly growing but the country was in better shape for being in the EEC. New markets had opened up.
In 1962 Sean Lemass was Taoiseach and another Fianna Failer Eamonn de Valera was President. The population of Ireland was just above 3 000 000 – so the 1966 census would reveal. The population had been falling since the 1920s. This was not due a a low birthrate. In fact the State had a fairly high birthrate for a European country. The reason it was not even higher was due to late marriage. The average age of marriage was 26 for women and 31 for men. Children being born out of wedlock was very rare. If a woman was pregnant but not married she would plead with or even demand her boyfriend to marry her. Her male relatives may threaten the man that he must make a decent woman of this kindred. This is what was called a shotgun wedding. This was the case in all Western countries at the time. In Catholic Ireland sexual shame was very strong and so the pressure to marry under these circumstances was even more acute than elsewhere.
The reason that the population was tumbling is that so many people left the country. There was mass unemployment. Wages were low and taxes were high. The Republic had no natural resources to speak of. The State had only just begun commercial sea fishing. Emigrants went chiefly to the United States. Other popular destinations were Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, West Germany and even South Africa.
Australia had an assisted passage scheme. An emigrant would only have to pay ten pounds for the passage on board a ship so long as this person spent at least two years in Australia.
Until the Kennedy presidency an Irishman was almost guaranteed entry into the United States. The law stated that there were quotas for each nationality coming into the United States. These quotas allowed a certain number of immigrants in from each country. The system strongly favoured North-West Europe. Kennedy said this was a racist system and had Congress scrap it. There would be no preference for any section of the globe thereafter.
The door to America was not as open as it once was. This is why Irish emigrants had to consider other countries to move to.
In the 1960s the economy was more or less stagnant. Nevertheless the government managed to move further with electrification and road building. A large reservoir was built near Macroom. The school leaving age was raised. There were still fees for university but these were heavily subsidised.
Television was launched in the Republic of Ireland in 1963. Up until that time some people living near the UK had been able to received BBC. The Arcbhishop of Dublin was John Charles MacQuaid. MacQuaid demanded that RTE submit its programmes to him first since their studio was in his archdiocese. He would have the right to censor its broadcasts. RTE politely refused. RTE broadcast just one channel for a few hours each evening. Its content was fairly conservative but for a programme called the Late, Late Show. This was hosted by a Dubliner named Gabriel Byrne. Gay Byrne, as he was known, had all sorts of guests on his show. Some were from the worlds of sport and showbiz. He also had guests on who were willing to question accepted mores. It enabled people to discuss what had previously been taboo topics. Young radicals showed disrespect for bishops and started to call for reform.
The Lemass Government began to think about the Republic joining what was then the European Economic Community. The Republic repeatedly rebuffed invitations to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. This was because Eire should be neutral. Moreover, then the State would be an ally of the United Kingdom. As Northern Ireland was within the UK then the Republic of Ireland would not befriend the United Kingdom. As for the EEC there was a question as to whether this would undermine independence too much. Moreover, since the early 1960s the United Kingdom had also become keen on being admitted to the EEC. If the UK joined then that would seem to reunite the Republic with the UK but it would also reunite Ireland. In the end it was decided that joining the EEC was a definite goal. Very few people opposed it. Ireland had always been in the shadow of her much larger neighbour. By joining the EEC she would be part of a comity of nations some of which were smaller than Ireland.
Lemass was broadminded on the North. He gave a speech in Killarney in which he recognised that most people in the North were adamant that they should stay part of the United Kingdom. He did not seem to regard this as baneful.
Lemass and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Terence O’Neill, met in Belfast in January 1965. Only Rev Ian Paisley seemed to take exception to this. As O’Neill said this amounted to a de facto if no de jure recognition of Northern Ireland’s place within the UK.
The Republic and the North co-operated on lighthouses, waterways, fisheries, electricity bus and rail travel. The RUC even lent vehicles to the Garda. A new era of amity and understanding appeared to be opening up.
In 1966 there were commemorations for the Golden Jubilee of the Easter Rising. The media was full of little else. President de Valera was also up for re-election. His principal opponent was Sean MacEoin. MacEoin had been a prominent IRA man in the 1919-21 conflict. Indeed the Blacksmith of Ballinalee had been under sentence of death at the time of the truce. MacEoin campaigned with verve. The ailing de Valera was blind and chose not to campaign. This was partly due to his infirmity. He may have felt he was going to lose and if he campaigned and lost that would be more of a humiliation than if he lost without having campaigned. He was very much an elder statesman. He had already been THE nationalist leader for half a century. But perhaps his era was over. In the end de Valera was very narrowly re-elected.
In the late 1960s feminists in Ireland began to push for reform. Women had to give up their jobs in the civil service or teaching if they married. The government eventually conceded to this demand. Women were paid less than men for the same work. Feminists demanded equal pay. This change came in the 1970s. They also wanted contraception to be freely available. The Catholic Church was steadfastly against contraception. The government took its queue from the Vatican. AT this time the constitution said that the Catholic Church had a special position. People noticed that in the United Kingdom contraception was freely available. There were other reforms in the UK such as the legalisaiton of abortion and homosexual acts. Many people in the Republic thought that the UK was decadent and these changes proved how the Republic of Ireland was morally superior.
In 1966 Sean Lemass stood down. He was in poor health – surprisingly so for a man who was not so old. He was replaced by a Corkman named Jack Lynch. Lynch was born in centre of Cork in 1917. He grew up in a working class family and became a clerk in the civil service aged 18. The civil service later recognised his talent and sponsored him through a law degree that his family could not afford. He was called to the Bar. He was well known for captaining Cork to an All Ireland hurling victory in 1939. Lynch was seen as dull but decent – rather different from Lemass.
Lynch had the unenviable task of trying to handle the Republic’s response to the deepening crisis in Northern Ireland. There was strong public pressure to do something. To do what? Some people were closed mindedly republican and wanted the Republic to declare war on the UK. Lynch knew this would mean instant Irish defeat and no chance of joining the EEC. There was no much he could do but set up field hospitals. He was in a bind. For repubicans anything he did was too little. Unionists would say anything he did was aggravating the situation. He demanded that the British Government reform. He found it increasingly difficult to co-operate on security with the UK. Public opinion found that unacceptable.
In 1972 the Parachute Regiment shot dead 14 people in Derry. There was fury throughout nationalist Ireland. An irate crowd gathered in Dublin to storm the British Embassy. The Gards tried to hold them back. Eventually they decided they could not and they pulled back. The mob then torched the embassy. No one was in the building at the time. Other buildings with British links were also vandalised.