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1751 The Mayor of Dublin laid the first stone of the foundation of the Rotunda Hospital on this day in 1751. The hospital was built after doctor and man-midwife Bartholomew Mosse created a campaign for a new hospital.
Mosse was appalled that pregnant women and new mothers were being treated in unhygienic and unsafe conditions. He insisted a safe and clean environment be built that could be used as the city’s maternity hospital.
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1797 Edmund Burke died on this day in 1797. He was an Irish philosopher and politician. He entered the British House OF Commons in 1765. He campaigned to the government not to tax the American colonists but to no avail. Burke supported the Americans during the War of Independence.
Burke believed that ownership of property was key to a functioning society. He thought that the class structure that went with property ownership was beneficial to all groups in society. Much of Burke’s career was spent working to improve the lives of the working classes in British ruled countries such as Ireland and India. He is widely regarded as the founder of British conservative thinking.
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1959 Mary Browne from Roscommon was the first female member of the Gardaí. Her first shift was patrolling the streets of Dublin on this day in 1959.
There had been campaigns for women to be allowed to work in the Gardaí for more than 20 years. Although it finally happened in 1959, there would be few female Garda in Ireland until a change in recruitment policy took place in the late 1970s.
Officials weren’t keen on employing women as members of the Gardaí because they felt that once they got married they would have a commitment to their husband and their home, making them less effective in serving the community.
Employing women that were considered ‘plain’, was the unofficial policy adopted by the Gardaí, with the idea that they would be less likely to find a husband.
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One TD allegedly described the type of woman the Gardaí should be looking to hire:
“While recruits should not be actually horse-faced, they should not be too good-looking. They should be just plain women and not targets for marriage.”
Thankfully, attitudes have changed in the Irish government and in the Gardaí. There are now more than 3,000 female Gardas, roughly 25% of the entire force.
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1967 Happy birthday to Michael Carruth, born in Dublin on this day in 1967. He is an Irish Olympic gold medal winning boxer. Carruth was a member of the Irish Army in the early 1990s. He competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and won the gold medal in the Welterweight Division. He was the first Irish man in history to win an Olympic Gold medal in boxing, and the first gold medallist the country had seen since 1956.
Carruth then became a professional boxer and was trained by Irish boxing legend, ‘the Celtic Warrior’ Steve Collins. He retired from boxing in 2000, after a moderately successful career. Carruth now works as a masseur in Gaelic football, and is also an expert boxing commentator for RTÉ.
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1972 The Springhill Massacre took place on this day in 1972. It was one of many incidents that took part during the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. It resulted in the deaths of five civilians, three of them teenagers, after they were shot by snipers in the British Army.
The IRA and the British Army had very different versions of the events that happened. The IRA said that the British snipers had taken up positions in a timber yard. They then shot at two cars that had pulled up on the Springhill estate. One of the cars sped away but the other drove just a short distance. The occupants got out of the car and the snipers fired at them again, hitting one in the back of the head. Several passers-by tried to help the fallen man, but were each shot themselves. These victims were all unarmed and included a 13-year-old girl and a priest waving a white cloth.
The British Army’s statement was very different. They claimed the snipers were retaliating after being fired at themselves. An Army spokesman stated: “There has been a heavy exchange of fire between the IRA and troops. Some of the dead and wounded were undoubtedly caught in the crossfire.”
An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into the events. The names of the victims appear on a plaque of remembrance in Ballymurphy, Belfast.
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1974 Happy birthday to Gary Kelly, born on this day in Drogheda in 1974. He was a professional footballer and played his entire career at English club Leeds United. Kelly made 430 appearances over a 16 year spell, scoring four goals.
He also played for the national side 51 times, including at the World Cup Finals in 1994 and 2002. On both occasions Ireland managed to get out of the group stages.