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The ‘Time in the Slime’: not quite counting down to the millennium

Time in the slime

Millennium Clock Source: Pinterest

By Adrian James Kirwan

The Millennium Clock was design to be a significant part of the millennium celebrations in Dublin city. The six-ton, £250,000 clock was sponsored by the Irish National Lottery. The clock was placed underwater at O’Connell Street Bridge in March 1996 and its primary function was to countdown to the year 2000. It consisted of a 1.9 meter deep, 7.8 meter-wide steel frame with luminous green rods that displayed the time. It also included a kiosk, located on O’Connell Bridge which recorded the time remaining on the clock on a postcard, thus providing a unique memento.

However, difficulties with the clock and its position in the river were experienced from the onset. Firstly, as anyone who is familiar with the pristine waters of the River Liffey can testify, the placing of a clock underneath its surface was a recipe for disappointment. Hence the granting of its colloquial title by the citizenry of Dublin: ‘the time in the slime.’ Three days after the clock was switched on it was to disappear. Despite reports in a national newspaper that this may have been the work of the magician Paul Daniels, it was in fact removed to facilitate a boat race. Indeed, it was reckoned that this would be a regular feature of the clock’s future.

The clock was to experience a number of mechanical faults over its short life, including displaying the wrong time. In addition to these mechanical difficulties, there were mounting costs associated with keeping the clock clean. It was removed from the river permanently by the end of the year. The Irish difficulty with electronic devices should have perhaps served as a warning to Irish politicians when they embarked on the electronic voting fiasco a few years later. This was to involve spending €54 million on 7,500 electronic voting machines that were widely unpopular among the public and never used! Perhaps the last word on the clock should go to the National Lottery spokesperson: ‘When it’s up and running, we are confident that people will say it was worth it.’ We will leave it up to you to decide if that was the case.

Further reading
‘The Millennium Clock’ in Irish Independent, 2 April 2016, available at (http://www.independent.ie/unsorted/features/the-millennium-clock-26410316.html) (22 May 2017)

‘Liffey clock to be tock of the town in March’ in Irish Times, 26 Jan. 1996, available at (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/liffey-clock-to-be-tock-of-the-town-in-march-1.25327) (22 May 2017).Evening Herald, Wednesday, 1 May 1996

‘Time in the Slime is the Clock in Dry Dock’ in Irish Times, 20 Mar. 1996, available at (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/time-in-the-slime-is-the-clock-in-dry-dock-1.35492) (22 May 2017).

Evening Herald, Wednesday, 1 May 1996

Bio:
Adrian J. Kirwan, co-editor of Holinshed Revisited completed a Ph.D. at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, in 2017. His research focuses on the interaction between science, technology, and society. He is currently researching the history of early research into radioactivity in Ireland. More about his research can be found here.

 

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Eisenhower in Wexford, 1962

BY EMMA EDWARDS

Ike

Headline in the Irish Examiner, 24 August 1924

The south-east tourist industry has reaped great currency out of the visit of an American president in 1963. However, what is perhaps less well known is that the visit of the 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was preceded in 1962 by the visit of the 34th. Dwight D. Eisenhower was no longer a sitting president when he visited Wexford in 1962 but his visit emanated from a gesture of thanksgiving and commemoration during the course of his presidency. In 1956 a gift from the  ‘people of the United States’ was unveiled on Crescent Quay, Wexford  by President of Ireland Seán T. O’Kelly (who himself had married not one but two Wexford women from the nationalist Ryan dynasty, first Mary Kate and then following her death, her sister Phyllis). The bronze statue of Commodore John Barry was designed by William Wheeler and shipped to Ireland on board the U.S.S Charles S. Sperry.  Barry, referred to as the ‘father of the United States navy’, was born in 1745 in Ballysampson, Tacumshane, Co. Wexford. Having gone to see as a child of ten he settled as a merchant sailor in Philadelphia and was a ship’s master by age 21. With the outbreak of the War of Independence, he offered his services to the Continental Army. His ship the Black Prince was outfitted for naval service, renamed the Alfred and became the first ship in the Continental Navy. Commissioned as a captain he led the first American capture of a British ship and received a personal note of gratitude from General Washington. With the foundation of the U.S. Navy in 1794 Barry, though listed as the senior captain of the service, bore the courtesy title of commodore (the position of commodore was not formally created until 1862). He died in 1803.

barry

The visit of JFK to Ireland in June 1963 is considered an iconic event due to the president’s Irish ancestry, his viewing of the ‘Kennedy homestead’ in Dunganstown, New Ross and to the poignancy of his promise to be ‘back in the spring time’ with the shooting in Dealey Plaza a mere five months away. Eisenhower’s visit to Wexford was undertaken at less notice, fanfare and was bedevilled with setbacks. Eisenhower was due to make a tour of Europe in late summer 1962 when a visit to Ireland was discussed with the U.S. ambassador to Ireland. Wexford Corporation had to respond to charges from an aggrieved public and sceptical press that it had declined to receive Eisenhower. In a statement issued to the press, the Corporation claimed that ‘when the matter was first considered, the members genuinely felt that they could not do justice to such a distinguished person in mid-week.’ Eisenhower himself was also perturbed to learn that there was no airport close to Wexford. The Corporation decided to change its mind in response to ‘the wholehearted support they have now been offered from all sections of the community.’ Such support was expressed in erection of ‘We like Ike’ posters on the walls and streets of Wexford town, as reported by a journalist from the Irish Press. At a special meeting of Wexford Corporation on 16 August Alderman K.C. Morris expressed his hope that the visit would ‘clear up all the misunderstandings which had got wide publicity and should prove that Wexford at no time turned down the General’s visit’ and plans were put in place for Eisenhower’s helicopter to land on the G.A.A pitch two miles outside Wexford town. Eisenhower made quite literally a flying visit, arriving first in Dublin to stay in the Gresham Hotel and on the following day enjoying a luncheon with President de Valera. The former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe arrived in Wexford on 23 August by helicopter to a town bedecked by bunting and a higher than average population of American tourists. Cheered on from streets and doorways, Eisenhower arrived to lay a wreath at the Barry Statue. He announced that he has been ‘a dismal failure’, explaining to a crowd soaked through by a torrential downpour that he had previously enjoyed a reputation for bringing fine weather with him. Gardaí and security men reportedly fought a losing battle with photographers. According to the calculations of an Irish Examiner journalist present, Eisenhower’s speech lasted less than two minutes in which he praised Barry as ‘a great patriot’ and then spoke to the Mayor of Wexford for four minutes, the latter also making a short speech. Whisked away for lunch in the Talbot Hotel, Eisenhower was back in his helicopter twenty minutes later. President Kennedy paid his respects to the Barry statue less than a year later giving Wexford Corporation further exposure to the executive branch of the U.S. government. Barry’s statue still stands on Crescent Quay looking out onto the Slaney estuary; other statues were erected in Franklin Square, Washington D.C. and at the entrance to Independence Hall, Philadelphia.

Further Reading

Irish Examiner, Irish Independent, Irish Press, Irish Times, Aug.-Sep. 1963.

David Murphy, ‘John Barry’ Dictionary of Irish Biography.

‘I personally don’t want to see another Ballymun again’: the lessons of urban planning and regeneration

Ballymun new

Ballymun under construction, still taken from short video see (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O7G8weRc98) (26 May 2016)

By Adrian James Kirwan

On the 10 May the master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, speaking at the new Dáil committee on homelessness highlighted many of the lessons that can be learnt from the rapid construction of social housing projects without detailed planning stating: ‘I personally don’t want to see another Ballymun again’. Honohan was highlighting that the town had become a byword for the mismanagement of urban planning and management. Perhaps it is important as the state appears set on a new phrase of rapid construction of social housing to re-examine the history of Ballymun, to see what lessons we can learn from it and if those lessons are being implemented.

Ballymun was a direct response to a housing crisis which Dublin was experiencing in the 1950s and 60s. Dublin’s housing stock was not only under pressure from a rising population but also, in the city, extremely poorly maintained. Between the summer and end of 1963 tenements across the city collapsed or were evacuated due to safety concerns. House collapses in Bolton Street and Fenian Street led to the death of four people, forcing Dublin Corporation to adopt ‘emergency measures’ to deal with the crisis. These measures included the removal of over 1,000 people from homes deemed to be dangerous, leading to a doubling of the Corporation’s housing list.

The answer to the surge in housing demand quickly came from central government: pre-fabricated buildings. Such building techniques had become popular in Britain and Europe in the 1950s/60s and offered the government a relatively cheap and rapid way to construct homes. For some the use of such modern construction techniques and the introduction of high-rise living also signalled that Ireland was entering the modern age of public housing. Alongside the provision of spacious homes, constructed to high standards, the planners and government would meet the other needs of the new community, these included: shops, schools, green spaces, playgrounds, community halls and meeting rooms, a health clinic, a swimming pool and landscaped parks. It was to be a model of high-rise living, providing families with every amenity they required. However, as highlighted by Robert Somerville-Woodward, by the time construction began, in 1965, states across Europe were already abandoning such developments due to many of the problems that would scourge the new town, including poor maintenance of communal areas and the social isolation of residents.

File:James connolly Tower 2007.JPG

James connolly Tower, available at Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_connolly_Tower_2007.JPG) (26 May 2016).

The first residents began arriving in the new town in 1966 and were delighted by the homes that greeted them. For many coming from inner-city tenements and others after years in cramped conditions on the Corporation’s housing list, the provision of three and four bedroom flats and houses, with central heating and hot water on demand, was warmly welcomed. However, while the homes were deemed adequate, the lack of facilities, many of which were incomplete even in the 1970s, led to the unravelling of the project. In particular, the town centre, to primarily consist of a shopping centre was not completed until after the completion of all the residential units, meaning that some tenants now housed miles from Dublin city-centre were literally years without access to shopping facilities. Added to this, the inclusion, and hence delay, of much of the town’s social facilities and a health centre as part of the new town centre further alienated the residents. Thus, when the town was formally taken over by Dublin Corporation in February 1969 it lacked much basic infrastructure that was essential for a properly functioning urban area.

By the 1970s the socio-economic demographics of the new town changed as more affluent tenants began to leave the area. This problem was exacerbated in 1985 by the introduction of the Surrender Grant Scheme. This scheme gave £5,000 to residents who decided to purchase their house, but as flats were not covered by the scheme many residents seeking to purchase their home sought transfers to houses. The scheme was an un-mitigating disaster for Ballymun, and in 1985 over 1,000 flats contained new tenants. This turnover of residents was to continue into the future and was in a large part responsible for difficulties creating a sense of community within the town. In tangent with this, many offers of housing in the area were declined, leading to the accumulation of a high percent of those from a social-economic deprived background or with substance abuse problems being housed there, by the 1980s the area suffered from a severe drugs problem.

File:MacDermott Implosion.JPG

Demolition of Séan MacDermott tower, available at Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MacDermott_Implosion.JPG#globalusage) (26 May 2016).

Despite, and perhaps because of, the difficulties that the community faced, many groups and organisations were formed to aid in the development of facilities and supports. These ranged from youth groups, to the establishment of a credit union, to other groups pushing for improvements in housing and the built environment. In the 1980s/90s a number of reports were commissioned to seek a way to solve the many difficulties that the town’s population faced. The results of these was the establishment of Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. in 1997, which was responsible for the demolition of all flat complex’s in the estate and their replacement with housing. The planners of the ‘new’ Ballymun would seek to address many of the failures of the original project. As well as the replacement of existing social housing, private housing would also be constructed to change the social-economic demographic of the area; schools would be upgraded; a new, modern shopping centre would also be part of the plans, as would a theatre and other recreational facilities. The area would be provided ample playgrounds and of extreme importance would be an investment in the human as well as the built capital of the area. A renewed focus on educational attainment and training would seek to improve not only the physical environment of the area but also provide greater opportunities to engage in the ‘Celtic tiger’. For this was truly a creation of that tiger, Ireland now had the money to correct the mistakes of the past, indeed break with the past, and what better way to demonstrate that the economic miracle was benefitting everyone than the erasure of those tower blocks that had come to signify the inequality of Irish society?

The regeneration of Ballymun has seen the demolition of all flat complexes and the construction of some of the promised facilities including a new swimming pool and the axis theatre. However, with the economic downturn much of the promised amenities have not been delivered. In particular, with the closure of Tesco’s in 2014, the shopping centre’s anchor tenant and one of the last remaining shops, Ballymun is again without a proper shopping centre. (The site of the new proposed centre remains vacate).

Thus, have we learnt the lessons of Ballymun? Like Edmund Honohan, the state has no desire to build large-scale social housing estates again. Rather the ideal for urban planners is a social mix, which house’s tenants from a range of social and economic backgrounds. This type of housing means that those engaged in anti-social behaviour will not become an overarching feature of any area; that amenities for the whole community can be funded by the community; that commercial enterprises, such as shops, will see the benefits of serving such communities. It is these lessons that the government and local authorities seem to have taken from the experience of Ballymun. But for residents of such large-scale social housing projects many of these lessons have been ignored during the recession. As can be seen in Ballymun, the lack of a shopping centre was deemed one of the central concerns of tenants arriving in the 1960s, and yet the same problem exists in 2016. Throughout the town’s existence external financial factors and economic downturn have affect the provision of services. This should be the primary lesson that we take from this case study: that short-term savings lead to long-term problems that are also much costlier to resolve.

Further reading
Robert Somerville-Woodward, Ballymun, a history (2 vol., Dublin, 2002) i & ii; see also Robert Somerville-Woodward, Ballymun, a history, Synopsis (Dublin, 2002), available at Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. (http://www.brl.ie/pdf/ballymun_a_history_1600_1997_synopsis.pdf) (20 May 2016).

Boyle M and Rogerson R J (2006) ‘“Third Way” urban policy and the new moral politics of community: A comparative analysis of Ballymun in Dublin and the Gorbals in Glasgow’ in Urban Geography, xxvii, pp 201-227, available at (http://strathprints.strath.ac.uk/681/1/strathprints000681.pdf) (20 May 2016).

Ballymun regeneration Ltd., Sustaining regeneration: a social plan for Ballymun, available at Ballymun Regeneration Ltd. (http://www.brl.ie/pdf/SRBallymunLowRes_FA.pdf) (23 May 2016).

And for a look at the community’s view of the regeneration:
Ballymun Community Action Program (CAP), On the Balcony of a new millennium, regenerating Ballymun: Building on 30 years of community experience, expertise and energy (Dublin, 2000), available at (https://uniteyouthdublin.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/on-the-balcony-regenerating-ballymun.pdf) (20 May 2016).

Bio

Adrian James Kirwan, co-editor of Holinshed Revisited, is an Irish Research Council funded Ph.D. candidate at the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. His research focuses on the interaction between society and technology, more about his research can be found here.

 

The Royal Irish Constabulary: centralised and ‘political’ policing in Ireland

RIC_Horse_Badge

Tack badge from the RIC Mounted Division

By Adrian James Kirwan

The policing of Ireland was a topic that vexed politicians from the act of Union, 1800, onwards. The country was prone to disturbances ranging from that particularly Irish pastime of faction fighting to agrarian unrest. In the opinion of Robert Peel, undersecretary at Dublin Castle, the provision of law and order by the country’s ‘natural’ leaders, meaning local landowners, had broken down. However, difficulties with policing spread beyond local notables to the county constabulary. These forces were controlled by local magistrates, appointed by the grand jury and were generally considered worthless.
The situation led to an ongoing struggle between local landowners and Dublin Castle, as the central administration attempt to reform policing and the administration of justice throughout the island. The outcome of this was the eventual establishment of a centrally control nation-wide police force in 1836. The Irish Constabulary (the Royal prefix would be awarded in 1867, following the force’s efforts in suppressing the Fenian rising of that year) was formed in 1836.
The government’s efforts to centralise the RIC was in direct response to the divided nature of Irish society. While the natural leaders of local politics were predominantly Protestant, the vast bulk of the population were Roman Catholic. While we must be careful not to simplify the divisions between these communities, there were two completing political and religious camps on the island. Due to this, any decision by government or its arms, such as the police, would be scrutinised for partiality. Given the formation of the Irish Constabulary only seven years after the granting of Catholic Emancipation, by a tory government reliant on the support of O’Connell, fears of centralised (political) policing were rife. Indeed such centralised policing was contrary to British ideas of liberty; the ideal was a non-military, regional police force whose control was in local hands. The RIC had more in common with European models of policing than British. Indeed, its intelligence gathering activities were more akin to policing in Indian than Britain.
By having a centralised police force throughout most of the island (the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) was responsible for policing in Dublin) the Irish administration at Dublin Castle sought to ensure that police actions did not incite conflict. Hence, fears of political policing were in a manner well founded. Thus, it was Ireland’s well-known uniqueness in terms of political and social unrest that convinced the government of the need for a centralised and ‘politically’ controlled police force. This was to have long-term impacts on the structure of policing in Ireland, leading to a high level of correspondence. The police force was to become a sort of unofficial civil service. It was to compile statistics on a range of subjects, ranging from farming outputs to surveillance. However, this centralisation also removed the freedom of action of local commanders, leading, in many cases, to the most mundane decisions being taken at high levels of the force’s command structure.

Further Reading

Galen Broeker, Rural disorder and police reform in Ireland, 1812-36 (London & Toronto, 1970).

Stanley H. Palmer, Police and protest in England and Ireland, 1790-1850 (Cambridge, 1990).

Margaret O’Callaghan, ‘New ways of looking at the state apparatus and the state archive in nineteenth-century Ireland “curiosities from that phonetic museum”: Royal Irish Constabulary reports and their political uses, 1879-91’ in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, civ, C, no. 2 (2004), pp 37-56.

Bio

Adrian James Kirwan, co-editor of Holinshed Revisited, is an Irish Research Council funded Ph.D. candidate at the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. His research focuses on the interaction between society and technology, more about his research can be found here.

 

The Aud and Karl Spindler; Good Friday 1916

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Medal presented to Karl Spindler

By David Gahan

With events commemorating the Easter Rising expected to reach a high point in Dublin this weekend, aspects and events surrounding the Rising are rightly being looked at from various angles. The story of the Aud, its captain, crew and cargo of arms is one such aspect of the 1916 narrative and a chance discovery of some text from a talk given by Karl Spindler, captain of the Aud added some new insights to this story.

The story of the Aud is often overshadowed by the landing of Roger Casement from a German U-boat, on the Kerry coast on the same day and his subsequent arrest, imprisonment and execution in August 1916. The background to this is the efforts of Clan na Gael in America and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) in Ireland to secure an arms shipment from Germany to help stage an insurrection in 1916. John Devoy, a Clan na Gael leader had numerous meetings with members of the German Consulate in New York, including Franz von Papen, to help facilitate this operation. Casement was already in Germany to further this and pursue his plan of raising an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners of war, though Devoy was sceptical of this and wary of some of Casements plans. Robert Monteith was also sent by the Clan to Germany. In early March Devoy received word that a ship with 20,000 rifles and ammunition would arrive in Tralee Bay on the morning of 20 April, Holy Thursday. But on 14 April Devoy received a hand delivered message from Ireland that the arms must not be landed before Easter Sunday night. This spelt disaster for the operation as the Aud which had no wireless on board, was already on its way to Ireland to rendezvous on the agreed date.

Karl Spindler relates how he was tasked with choosing twenty-one men for an expedition of which he did not know the plans; was given command of a ship, the Libau and that arms were loaded onto it in Lübeck. Here they realised this was not a normal wartime operation when they changed from German uniforms into common dungarees. The ship was provided with official papers and ‘became’ a Norwegian vessel, the Aud. The efforts to disguise the ship were meticulous, the crew were ordered not to shave and to walk about with their hands in their pockets while in the view of other ships. Norwegian newspapers and books were provided, pictures of girls and letters were put up all over the ship, in cupboards etc. The crew could not speak Norwegian but were to speak in low-German if encountered by the British in an attempt to disguise their nationality. Spindler even bought a dog in Lübeck to have on board, ‘every sailor knows that every tramp steamer has a dog’ and he was to be visible if enemy ships were passing.

Through skilful navigation and planning Spindler managed to steer the Aud through four British blockades. At four o’ clock in the afternoon, 20 April, they reached their rendezvous point, Innistooskert Island in the middle of Tralee Bay. They waited until noon on Good Friday for some signal from the shore which was not forthcoming, then with a British patrol boat approaching them they left the bay but later that evening were surrounded by British ships and instructed to proceed to Cobh. The next morning as the Aud entered Cobh, the crew raised the German Ensign and scuttled the ship.

Though part of the German planning was precise, to send a ship without a wireless and the make-up of the cargo, fifteen-year-old Russian rifles that had been captured on the Eastern Front, raises some doubt over their commitment to the expedition.

Casement had been put ashore on Good Friday, but weak from sickness and the exertions of rowing to dry land was left at McKennas Fort, Banna Strand while his comrade Monteith sought aid. Casement was captured some hours later; Monteith remained on the run for eight months before a passage was secured returning him to America.

These events happened in Kerry and off the South-West coast on Good Friday/Easter Saturday, one hundred years ago.

Bio:

David Gahan is a final year Ph.D. candidate at the Department of History, Maynooth University.

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