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Archive for the ‘Dublin History’ Category

In terms of the international stage, Ireland was still finding her feet politically either side of World War 2. Successive Fianna Fáil governments under the stewardship of War of Independence and Civil War veteran Éamon de Valera sought to define a New Ireland, marked by the independence he had fought for.

To assert this independence, he led the country through a period of economic isolationism, and to define her sovereignty denying steadfast at times to engage in acts of support for her neighbours- refusing to deal with the requests of the Allies right down to refusing to repatriate German spies and prisoners of war in her custody. This denial of co-operation should not be seen as a singularly pro-Axis act, rather the naivety of a new nation under a conservative and stubborn leader, but also as Michael Kennedy suggests in his document “A Deed Agreeable to God,” an Ireland sceptical of the British justice which she so well remembered.

The refusal to ‘play ball’ with Allied nations as well as spurious rumours in the press regarding warm welcomes being meted out to German U-Boats in Irish ports and an island swarming with German spies formenting anti- British sentiment did little to dispute the widely held notion that the nation was pro-Axis. The flagrant anti-Semitism and vocal support given to Hitler by Charles Bewley (the Irish minister in Berlin until 1939,) did nothing to help her image. Nor did the nail in the coffin, that being De Valera’s visit, accompanied by the Secretary of External Affairs, Joseph Walshe to Dr. Hempel, the German Minister to Ireland to express his condolences on the suicide of Hitler. Walshe had pleaded with De Valera not to make the visit, and the sensationalist coverage in the press all over the world in the days following proved him correct, along with more bogus allegations amongst others, that the Nazi flag had been flown at half-mast outside various Irish ministries.

In truth, Ireland’s ‘friendly neutrality’ towards the war effort meant freedom for thousands of Irishmen enlist for the war effort, large scale press censorship, shared intelligence between Ireland’s G2 and the British MI5, suppression of the IRA during the war years and although there’s a massive counter argument to be made, there is many a suggestion that Ireland neutral was far more beneficial than Ireland belligerent. And of course the War did come to Ireland, with Nazi bombs raining upon the North Strand resulting in the deaths of 34 Dubliners.

Similarly, the plentiful accusations that Ireland was a bespoke but well-worn ratline for Nazi war criminals whilst ringing true on occasion was, in truth light on merit. Even the Simon Wisenthal Institute argued that no ‘big fish’ had made it to Ireland. The allegations that those who did pass through and the handful that settled here had the backing of the Irish State is also arguable, given the recent Dept. of Justice and Dept. of External Affairs papers examined by Kennedy in his aforementioned work.

Despite all this, it is undeniable that there were some figures that made it to Ireland- from Breton and Flemish exiles, to a mad Scottish separatist with the amazing name of Ronald MacDonald Douglas. Two of the most high profile names to make it though were Hitler’s one time bodyguard, Otto Scorzeny and the inspiration for this piece, Andrija Artuković.

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Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Mladen Lorkovic and Andrija Artuković looking over Ante Pavelić’s shoulder

Artuković, in a nutshell was known as the ‘Yugoslav Himmler’ and ‘the Butcher of the Balkans’. As Minister for the Interior of the Nazi puppet ‘Independent State of Croatia’ he oversaw the construction of a string of Ustaše death camps and is claimed by sources to be responsible for the deaths of anywhere between a quarter and three quarters of a million Jews, Roma, Serbs and anti- Ustaše Croats.

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The introduction of the Eighth Amendment into the Irish Constitution in 1983 “was a remarkable feat by a small group of Catholic right-wing conservatives.” After a bitter referendum battle, the anti-abortion legislation was passed 66.9% to 33.1% in September 1983.

The leading ‘Anti-Amendment Campaign’ was supported by the ‘Anti-Amendment Music’ sub-group which included more than sixty of the country’s leading musicians, singers, actors, comedians, journalists, DJs and poets. It is worth remembering their names and the sacrifices that they took back in a society which is very different to ours in 2018.

The Irish Press, 8 Sep 1982.

Some of the big names who backed the cause were Paul Brady, Moya Brennan (Clannad), Adam Clayton (U2), Paul Cleary (The Blades), Bob Geldof and Christy Moore.

Others who nailed their flags to the mast included:

Bands: Auto Da Fe, Back to Back, Dr Strangely Strange, High Heeled Sneakers, The Lee Valley String Band, Les Enfants, Max, Nine Out Of Ten Cats, Scullion, The Shade, Stepaside, Stockton’s Wing, Tokyo Olympics

Singers/Musicians: Sonny Condell, Jimmy Crowley, Keith Donald (Moving Hearts), Mick Hanly, Honor Heffernan, Donal Lunny, Ferdia MacAnna (The Rhythm Kings), Barry Moore (aka Luka Bloom), Maura O’Connell (ex. De Danann), Red Peters (1946-2012), Noel Shine, John Spillane, Jil Turner (Eugene), Freddie White, Gay Woods

Actresses: Kathleen Barrington, Carol Caffrey, May Cluskey (1927-91), Ingrid CraigieNuala Hayes, Annie Kilmartin

DJs/Presenters: BP Fallon, Dave Fanning, Carolyn Fisher

Comedians: Billy Magra, Dermot Morgan (1952-98), Helen Morrissey, Roisin Sheeran

1982 saw a host of fundraising gigs in some of the capital city’s best venues.

13 September: The Blades, Paul Brady and DJ Dave Fanning at The Baggot Inn

The Irish Times, 22 Sep 1982

30 September: Some Kind of Wonderful, BP Fallon and Max at McGonagles

9 October: The Rhythm Kings and High Heeled Sneakers at The Baggot Inn

Paul Brady, Mary Robinson and Ferdia McAnna. The Irish Independent, 8 Se 1982.

14 October: Comedy gig with compere Billy Magra at The Sportman’s Inn, Mount Merrion

Anti-Amendment Music – Rock against the Referendum (1982). Uploaded by Student History Ireland Project.

Things picked up again in 1983:

21 April: Unknown acts at Owen O’Callaghan’s (Mark’s Bar), Crowe Street, Dundalk, County Louth

July: The small concert hall in RDS hosted singers Honor Heffernan, Moya Brennan (Clannad), Maura O’Connell (ex. De Danann), comedian Helen Morrissey, actress May Cluskey who performed from her show ‘Mothers’ and actresses Nuala Hayes and Ingrid Craigie staged the “total 30-hour Oireachtas debate on the amendment in 15 minutes flat”. The MC on the night was RTÉ presenter Carolyn Fisher.

Evening Herald, 05 June 1983.

July: Auto Da Fe with Gay Woods, Barry Moore (aka Luka Bloom) and Scullion at Stephen’s Green.

In August 1983, the campaign hosted a press conference with Christy Moore, Keith Donald (Moving Hearts), Paul Cleary (The Blades), Adam Clayton (U2), Ferdia MacAnna (The Rhythm Kings), Jill Turner (Eugene) and Maura O’Connell. It was chaired by Senator Michael D. Higgins. Adam Clayton said: “It is like a witch hunt with people going around saying who is a slut and who isn’t”. Paul Brady told the press that “he agreed with Senator Robinson that there were ‘subterranean rumblings’ to try to take Ireland back to an era which he for one was glad was gone”. Finally Ferdia MacAnna remarked that the amendment would be “as much use as outlawing sex in this country which has been tried before by repressive education”

The Irish Press, 27 Aug 1983.

The last two gigs took place in Dublin and Cork in August 1983.

On 28 August, on the same day that Black Sabbath played Dalymount Park, Paul Cleary, Les Enfants, Donal Lunny, Stepaside, Red Peters, Mick Hanly, Keith Donald (Moving Hearts), Nine Out Of Ten Cats were advertised to play outdoors at Blackrock Park. While in Cork, Jimmy Crowley, The Lee Valley String Band, Noel Shine, John Spillane were listed to play at the Coolquay venue.

If you have any more information or material from the Anti-Amendment Music campaign, please get in touch!

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The Military Service (1916-23) Pensions Collection today released files relating to claims lodged by 1,442 individuals (or their dependants). The May 2018 release includes 600 female participants and 82 individuals who died in the period 1919-1921. As a Project Archivist employed on the collection, I was responsible for the processing of about 470 of these individuals.

A full list of the names and addresses and of those released today can be viewed here.

Using the name or reference number, users can then download the original files and read the individual’s service histories here.

For those interested in labour and socialist history, this release contains newly digitised and released files relating to seven members of the Irish Citizen Army. All seven applications were unsuccessful.

1. Annie Collins (?-?) 35 Upper Dorset Street, Dublin. Unsuccessful application. Ref: MSP34REF1139.

” Applicant claimed membership of the Irish Citizen Army from 1913 until 1923. On Easter Sunday 1916, Annie Collins states that she was based in Liberty Hall preparing food and bandages.

On Easter Monday, the applicant claims that she carried several dispatches from St. Stephen’s Green to the General Post Office (GPO). Annie Collins states that she returned home but went to the College of Surgeons on Thursday where she was told by Countess Markievicz to return home once again on account of her young age. Applicant states that she did not sign the 1916 Easter Rising Roll of Honor as she believed an individual had to be active for the full duration of the week.

Attached to the Dublin Brigade, ICA, it is stated that the applicant took part in ICA general activity before and during the War of Independence (January 1919 – July 1921) including; first aid work, drill instructions; attending the funeral of [Joseph] Norton (MD33223) in Swords (1917); a reception for Countess Markievicz at Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) (1918); the 1918 General Election and attending the funeral of Tadhg Barry (1D373) [1921].

Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), the applicant states that when the Four Courts was attacked, she was mobilised for Barry’s Hotel where she spent one night. Annie Collins claims that she was then sent to the Hammam Hotel which acted as Brigade HQ. On several occasions, the applicant states that she transported arms and ammunition from the Stanley Street workshop to the Hammam Hotel. Further states that she carried arms in advance of a raid of Griffith’s boot store on the corner of Upper Abbey Street and Capel Street. Also claims that she brought a dispatch to Harry Boland (MD909) in Blessington [village] from Cathal Brugha and returned to the Hammam Hotel with a Lewis gun, some rifles and ammunition.”

Hand-written testimony from Annie Collins about her Civil War service. Ref: MSP34REF1024

2. Edward Conroy (1901-1982) 4 Robert Street, Dublin. Unsuccessful application. Ref: MSP34REF1126.

“Applicant claimed membership of the Irish Citizen Army from June 1917 until August 1923.

Attached to the Dublin Brigade, ICA, it is stated that the applicant took part in ICA general activity before and during the War of Independence (January 1919 – July 1921) including; a reception for Countess [Markievicz] at Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire); attending the funeral of Mrs. McDonagh (1917); attending the funeral of [Joseph] Norton (MD33223) in Swords [1917]; the defence of Liberty Hall [Armistice Night 1918]; attending the funeral of [Richard] Coleman (1D15) [1918]; the 1918 General Election; Belfast Boycott work; a fight on Dawson Street [1919]; demonstration in connection with the hunger-strikes (1920) and attending the funeral of Tadg Barry (1D373) [1921].

Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), the applicant states that he took part in engagements with the National Army in the area around the Hammam Hotel, O’Connell Street and Marrowbone Lane. Edward Conroy claims that he was arrested by the Free State (National Army) on 28 October 1922 and interned in Wellington Barracks, Dublin and Hare Park, the Curragh, County Kildare until 21 August 1923.”

 

3. John Craven (?-?) 193 Donnellan Avenue, Mount Brown, Kilmainham, Dublin 8. Unsuccessful application. Ref: MSP34REF863.

“Applicant claimed membership of the Irish Citizen Army from 1913 until 1923.

Attached to the Dublin Brigade, ICA, it is stated that the applicant took part in ICA general activity during the War of Independence (January 1919 – July 1921) including: drilling and “military operations against the enemy”.

Applicant states that he was arrested on 5 August 1922 by the Free State and imprisoned in Maryborough Gaol (Portlaoise Prison), County Louth and Tintown No 3 Camp, Curragh, County Kildare until release on 23 November 1923.”

4. Stephen Hastings (? – 1935). 11 George’s Quay, Dublin. Unsuccessful application. Ref: MSP34REF1024.

“Applicant claimed membership of the Irish Citizen Army from 1917 until 1923.

Attached to the Dublin Brigade, ICA, it is stated that the applicant took part in ICA general activity before and during the War of Independence (January 1919 – July 1921) including: removing transport arms and ammunition from an American boat; a reception for Countess [Markievicz]; the defence of Liberty Hall (Armistice Night 1918); the 1918 General Election; attending the funeral of [Joseph] Norton (MD33223) in Swords (1917) and demonstrations in connection with [Mountjoy Jail] hunger-strikes [1920].

Taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923), Stephen Hastings states that he took part in the defence of Moran’s Hotel, Dublin and the destruction of a bridge in Blanchardstown, Dublin (5 August 1922). Applicant claims that he was arrested by National Forces on 6 August 1922 and imprisoned in Maryborough Gaol (Portlaoise Prison), County Louth and Tintown No 2 Camp, Curragh, County Kildare until October 1923.”

Hand-written account from Stephen Hastings of the 1918 period. Ref: MSP34REF1024

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Paddy O’Brien at work in McDaid’s, from Bord Fáilte Archive, Dublin City Council collections.

John Ryan’s memoir Remembering How We Stood may be the most battered book on my bookshelf, which is a remarkable achievement in itself. It has the tea cup stains,  dog-eared pages and the scrawled notes of a truly loved and enjoyed book. It is, in essence, the tale of a man who went to an auction to buy an electric toaster and came back an accidental publican. Ryan was infinitely more than that, and as an artist, publisher, broadcaster and critic he left a fine legacy of work behind. His memoir is packed full of little gems like this:

 A man I knew was taking a stroll down Grafton Street one day when he happened to overhear part of a discussion which three citizens were having outside Mitchell’s Café. The gist of their dialogue was that they were deploring the absence from the Dublin scene of any real ‘characters’. They appeared to be genuinely aggrieved. They were, in fact, Myles na gCopaleen, Seán O’Sullivan and Brendan Behan.

Ryan’s pub, The Bailey, became a central part of the literary scene of Dublin in the second half of the 1950s and into the following decade. Still, there was one public house that was head and shoulders above them all for literary appeal, and that was McDaid’s of Harry Street. In the words of Brendan Behan’s finest biographer, Michael O’Sullivan, it was quite simply “Dublin’s literary Mecca.”

Central to the appeal of the pub was its head barman, Paddy O’Brien. Still fondly remembered in Dublin’s public houses today, O’Brien pulled pints in McDaid’s from 1937 until his departure for the nearby Grogan’s on South William Street, which played no small role in giving the later a literary reputation that continues to this very day. A Dubliner of Meath stock, O’Brien answered an advertisement for a pub job in his early 20s, beginning a career that would span decades.

In the important Kevin C. Kearns oral history Dublin Pub Life and Lore, O’Brien recalled the McDaid’s of the 1930s as a pub that “was nothing at all. It was a dreadful place. Just an ordinary pub with snugs and little partitions and sawdust and spittoons.” To his mind, Davy Byrne’s was then the only true literary public house in the capital. In trying to pinpoint the moment at which McDaid’s began attracting a literary clientele, O’Brien pointed towards the arrival of John Ryan as a regular. In Ryan’s own words, “in those days I published Envoy and people would come into McDaid’s who were seeking me out….There’d be Behan, who was a marvelous stage filler, and Kavanagh and O’Nolan and Donleavy and Tony Cronin. And Liam O’Flaherty was there quite a lot. Quite regularly you’d see five of them together there.”

A young Anthony Cronin, Enniscorthy-born and carving out a name as a poet in literary Dublin, quickly fell for McDaid’s, remembering that “McDaid’s was never merely a literary pub. Its strength was always in the variety of talent, class, caste and estate. The divisions between writer and non-writer, bohemian and artist, informer and revolutionary, male and female, were never rigorously enforced; and nearly everyone, gurriers included, was ready for elevation, to Parnassus, the scaffold or wherever.” Visitors fell for it too; the Irish American hippy Emmett Grogan, so central to the Summer of Love that took San Francisco by storm, recalled in his autobiography (written in third person):

He liked the saloon with its high ceiling, scattered tables and solid wooden bar. It was a big, funky room and the only decor was the people in it. They were very hearthy and whether they were laughing or arguing, discussing or pontificating, they were enjoying themselves and each other. They weren’t dressed up to impress anybody.

In folk memory, the characters of literary Dublin become two dimensional, remembered as heavy drinkers who reveled in each others company. In reality, there were often very real tensions between the men. Writing in the 1980s, Seán Dunne rightly decried the “attitude which finds writers easy to handle as anecdotes but not as artists”, and which overlooks much of the difficulties of the much romanticised 1950s in Dublin public houses. Sometimes, tensions were no doubt motivated by professional jealously and circumstance at any moment in time. In an interview with the Evening Herald in the 1980s, O’Brien recalled how:

Myles (Flann O’Brien) would arrive at the same time every day, half past one, dressed in the same coat and hat…When the ball of malt was set in front of him he’d turn to Kavanagh at the end of the counter and ask ‘Are you buying me that?’ Kavanagh would give him a dirty look and Myes would remark: ‘You mean Monaghan bastard.’

The ability of O’Brien to calm men and tempers was central to his popularity as a barman. Different public houses in the city, as today, had their own regular clientele, who debated the issues of the day, sometimes to a bizarrely localised extent. The poet Louis MacNeice recalled on the eve of World War Two how he “spent Saturday drinking in a bar with the Dublin literati; they hardly mentioned the war but debated the correct versions o fDublin street songs.” The Palace on Fleet Street, like McDaid’s, had its own impressive crew that included diverse faces like Irish Times editor R.M Smylie, the sculptor Jerome Connor, artist Harry Kernoff and the occasional radical like Cathal O’Sullivan and Leslie Daiken. On occasion, people drifted from one milieu into the next. The curious mix of IRA veterans, young poets and aging writers that took McDaid’s to their heart was beautifully described by Ryan as being comprised of “Grafton Street boulevardiers and the MacDaidian intelligentsia.” In O’Brien’s own words, he was not part of such scenes, but he was respected among them.

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Anthony Cronin, John Ryan and Paddy Kavanagh, all centrally important to the story of McDaid’s in the days of Paddy O’Brien (National Library of Ireland)

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Nannetti

Joseph Nannetti, Lord Mayor of Dublin 1906/7.

Little Jerusalem has a special place in the folk memory of Dublin, with the area around Portobello and the South Circular Road boasting a number of plaques and a museum which tells the story of Jewish Ireland. The story of Jewish Dublin includes names like Harry Kernoff, Leopold Bloom, Leslie Daiken and Chaim Herzog, and has been documented in memoirs like Dublin’s Little Jerusalem by Nick Harris.

One of the more curious migrant quarters that has all but disappeared from memory is Little Italy, located in the vicinity of Little Ship Street, Chancery Lane and Werburgh Street. Its story is intertwined with that of the Cervi family, who established a lodging house in the area which became popular with Italian workers in the city. In the words of Toni Cervi, son of Guisseupi Cervi (who opened Dublin’s first fish and chip shop in 1882):

The area around us – off St. Werburgh Street….was known as ‘Little Italy’. If someone came to Dublin and wanted to locate a particular Italian, he would more often than not be directed to Little Italy. The place was filled with barrel-organ men, ice-cream men who traveled the city with their barrows, and with marble men.

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The 1911 Census returns of the Capoldi family, living in Chancery Lane. Notice the diversity of birthplaces, revealing the journey the family had undertaken before setting in Dublin (National Archives of Ireland.)

Little Italy never amounted to a community the size of Little Jerusalem. As Cormac Ó Grada has noted, Dublin by 1912 contained fewer than 400 migrants of Italian stock. What is telling was the diversity of Italian migrants living in Ireland in terms of skilled labour; workers from Italy’s Lucca region tended to be “made up of artisans, plaster workers, and woodworkers, with surnames like Bassi, Corrieri, Deghini, Giuliani and Nanetti.” Others, originating in the Val di Comino, tended to be “either street-sellers of ice cream or cafe owners.” The later included familiar names like Forte and Fuscos.

References to Dublin’s ‘Italian Colony’, as such quarters were known, are plentiful in the press of the 1880s and 1890s. The Freeman’s Journal wrote in 1886 of the contribution of Italians living in Dublin to New Years Eve traditional festivities:

 There is within the boundaries of Dublin no more extraordinary spectacle to be witnessed on New Years Eve than the annual serenade of the Italian organ-grinders and musicians in Chancery Lane. This comparatively unknown portion of the city has been for many years the headquarters of all the Italian and other itinerant foreign street musicians who migrate to Dublin.

Italian ice cream men sometimes got a hard time of it in the Irish press, with the Evening Herald lamenting how “thoughtless city children eagerly partake of the ice-creams vended by them. These delicacies are manufactured and stored in the tenements of Chancery Lane…It should interest the authorities to discover whether these dairies are registered according to law.” Still, Dubs trusted the Italians when it came to ice cream. John Simpson has noted that “the 1901 Ireland census records the Dubliners’ indebtedness to their compatriot Italians for ice-cream. Of 23 people listed as involved with the ice-cream trade as vendors or makers, all but seven were born in Italy.”

Italian organ grinders, complete with performing monkeys, became familiar sights on the streets of the capital too. The occasional escaping money made it into the press, and sometimes their owners made it into the courts.

ItalianColony

Irish Independent, March 1906.

The most well-known figure to emerge from the Italian community in Irish public life was Joseph Nannetti, the son of an Italian sculptor and modeller who involved himself in both municipal and national politics. A Home Rule nationalist and a committed trade unionist (though of a school of trade unionism that was very different from the radicalism preached by men like Connolly and Larkin), Nannetti served as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1906/7, and is mentioned by James Joyce within the pages of Ulysses.

The level involvement of Italians in radical Irish politics is difficult to gauge, though there are some passing references to the Irish Italian community within the Bureau of Military History. Stephen Keys,a section commander in the IRA’s Dublin Brigade during the War of Independence, remembered that “No one in Camden Street ever attempted to obstruct us.. In fact, they had great respect for us. Some of the shopkeepers; in that area, including an Italian named Macetti who had an ice-cream shop, used to subscribe to our arms fund.” There are mentions of some members of the Italian community in Belfast suffering during the Anti-Catholic pogroms there in the dark days of the Civil War too.

One family of Italian blood who were deeply involved with republicanism during the revolutionary period were the Corri’s, with Hayden Corri’s Military Service Pension file detailing his contribution to the Republican Police during the War of Independence and the Republican side of the Civil War. Hayden and his brother, WIlliam Corri, were the grandchildren of the talented landscape painter Valentine Corri, whose family hailed from Rome.

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Contemporary Ordinance Survey map showing some of the streets where Dublin’s Italian community settled, including Ship Street Little and Chancery Lane (Image Credit: OSI)

With the emergence of Fascism in Italy, the ideology gained influence among some sections of the Italian community in Ireland. The presence of Italian ‘Fascisti’ in Dublin was closely monitored by state intelligence. The fourth anniversary of Mussolini’s March on Rome was marked at the Italian Consul’s Office on Lower Abbey Street, while an ‘Irish Free State Fascisti Headquarters’ was opened at Fownes Street in September 1927. At the funeral of Kevin O’Higgins, the government minister assassinated by Irish republicans in retaliation for the execution policy of the Free State in the Civil War, the Leinster Leader newspaper reported that “a picturesque note was struck by the Dublin Fascisti in blackshirts.”

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Evening Herald, October 1926.

There is no trace of Italian migration in the areas around Chancery Lane, Werburgh Street and Little Ship Street today. Familiar Italian names over fish and chip shops, and beautiful stucco work inside some of Dublin’s finest homes, remain however.

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casinofinglas

On both sides of the Liffey, former cinema buildings dot suburban Dublin. They have taken on new lives, often as bingo or snooker halls. The old Astoria Cinema (later the Oscar) by Ballsbridge has become a Sikh temple, while Ballyfermot’s  Gala Cinema became home to a carpet shop, Chinese takeaway and more besides.

One I’d walked by several times before noticing is The Casino in Finglas village. Sitting between Supervalu and the Shamrock Lodge, The Casino was perhaps a victim of its own ambition, boasting a remarkable 1,910 seats. To put that in context, a nearby church could hold 1,500 parishioners. The misfortune of The Casino was the timing of its arrival on the scene,  opening in 1955 as the spectacle of television was beginning to loom large over suburban Dublin. Looking at it from across the street, it retains the very distinct appearance of a suburban cinema, despite its entrance being swallowed up by new development.

Constructed by Maher and Murphy, a building company based on Dublin’s Aughrim Street, the new cinema became an integral of a suburb that was very new, much like Artane and Ballyfermot on the other side of the Liffey.  Almost overnight, it seemed to the Evening Herald that Finglas, “a picturesque Dublin village, has become one of the largest housing estates in the city.” New suburbs required churches, schools, shops and cinemas.

The Evening Herald praised the building, noting that “the front of the three-story Casino is done in red brick relieved with reconstructed stone and is a most imposing structure with two shops, one on each side. A feature of the entrance is the fact there are doors leading to the foyer.”

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Evening Herald report on opening of cinema.

The new suburbs saw an influx of families from the inner-city, where tenements remained a subject of worry to many, and which continued to pose a grave threat to the welfare of Dubliners, with four lives lost to tenement collapses in 1963. In the below RTÉ feature from 1964, it is clear that some were quite content to move to Finglas. One youngster interviews mentions there being “plenty of fields to play in”,while another talks of her joy of having hot water in her household. Still, local amenities were often slow to pop up in new suburbia, creating alienation and boredom. The actor Brendan O’Caroll remembered the positive impact of The Casino in the area in the absence of other amenities, recalling that “I loved the fact you could go to the pictures and imagine you were the boy up there on the screen. I never thought that one day I’d ever be in a movie, that would be crazy, but the films allowed you the chance to dream, to use your imagination.”

What nobody could predict when the doors of The Casino opened was the impact of television in the following decade. In a city and county that boasted no fewer than 56 cinemas in 1956, the arrival of television into the living rooms of suburbia heralded their death kneel. Cinemas sometimes took on a new lease of life as concert venues, with The Ramones  famously playing in Cabra and Phibsboro cinemas, while The Casino hosted concerts of its own.

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Evening Herald, 1968.

What suburbia felt it needed now was not cinema, but shopping centres. By 1970, The Casino was a memory,  replaced by Superquinn. Still, the facade remains today, reminding many locals of simpler times.

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In January 1978, the Dublin Well Woman Centre opened its fifth clinic in the city at 63 Lower Leeson Street under the directorship of Anne Connolly. The aim of the organisation was to help “Irish women access family planning information and services”.

Four right-wing Catholics picketed the opening of the centre with placards reading: “Parents! Contraception means Promiscuity & Abortion” and “No Abortion or Abortion Referral! Defend Our Youth”.

Well Woman Centre picket. Evening Herald, 17 Jan 1978.

The four individuals were Brigid Bermingham, Maureen Fehily, Mine Bean Uí Chroibín/Chribín (Mena Cribben) and John Clerkin.

Well Woman Centre picket. Irish Press, 18 Jan 1978

Bridget Bermingham (or Brigid Bermingham) of 25 Lombard Street West, Dublin 8 was Secretary of Parent Concern in the 1970s/1980s and was also connected to the Concerned Christians’ Group in the early 1980s. She wrote dozens of letters to the newspapers from 1975 until 1986. In November 1977 she handed out leaflets, with Máire Breathnach (Irish Family League) outside a Cherish conference, that stated that there was “no such thing as a single parent” and that the term was invented by the “contraceptives-divorce-abortion-lobby”.

Brigid Bermingham. The Irish Times, 19 Nov 1977.

In June 1980, Bermingham wrote a letter to the Taoiseach Charles Haughey expressing concern about family planning centres and suggesting that they “are no more than prostitution centers (sic) for orgies with … the commercial advocacy of contraceptives and abortion”.

Maureen Fehily, of 2 Leopardstown Avenue, Dublin 18, seems to have been an independent operator. A 1980 letter of hers advocated that Irish children needed a sex education based around the concepts of chastity and moral training and “not assistance in fornication and killing“. She passed away in 1982.

Letter from Mrs. Maureen Fehily to The Irish Times, 06 Mar 1980

Mena Cribben of Santry Avenue, Dublin 9 was a vocal spokesperson for an array of ultra-conservative Catholic groups from the late 1960s until the late 2000s. We covered her political history in a 2012 post on the site. She passed away that same year.

John P. Clerkin of 35 Wellington Road, Crumlin, established the Children’s Protection Society in late 1978. Throughout the 1980s, he rallied against contraception, homosexuality and liberal values.

John P. Clerkin fined. The Irish Times, 27 June 1980.

In 1991, he published a pamphlet entitled ’67 reasons why condoms spread acquired immune deficiency syndrome’.

While they have similar names and have been confused in the past, it would seem that John P. Clerkin is a different individual to Sean Clerkin who ran for the Christian Principles Party in the Cabra ward in the 1991 Dublin City Council Local Election polling 1136 votes (10.4%).

Clerkin mix-up. The Irish Times, 25 July 1991.

Bizarre leaflets from the Children’s Protection Society using the same address and signed by John Clerkin appeared in 2015 and 2017. Further unhinged literature calling on the Irish public to Vote No to retain the 8th amendment also appeared in April 2018 pasted to lampposts and bus-stops. The original John Clerkin, aged 34 in 1980, would be around 72 today so it is quite possible that he or a close relation are behind the most recent circulars.

2018 anti-Repeal material from the Children’s Protection Society. Credit – Irish Election Literature blog

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