Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ireland To Get Extra Seven Bank Holidays

For a number of years there has been a discussion about creating a Republic Day to celebrate our independence as a sovereign nation. We do celebrate St Patrick’s Day but that is a celebration of our tribe not our nation. But if we create a Republic Day as an extra Bank or Public Holiday when should be celebrate it?

The creation of an extra bank holiday has its own issues. There is a cost to the employer with Bank Holiday rates. There is a cost to the Government as productivity is reduced and costs rise. There is a threat to the economy as it recovers from years of austerity. A Bank Holiday to celebrate our nationhood should benefit all our citizens’ not just Civil Servants with an extra paid day’s leave or public service workers with increased bonus payments. Children get a day off school and college but parents who work may have to pay for extra childcare. Hospitality workers work extra hours including extended opening hours in the bar industry on the Sunday eve of a bank holiday. Old age pensioners who have worked all their lives receive no benefit from a bank holiday and feel less inclusive. A Republic Day should be a day off for everyone and the State should provide the financial bonus to all our citizens young and old. Emergency services and armed Forces personnel should be paid an extra bonus or be provided time in lieu.

So perhaps to the most important question. When? There are a number of dates.

April 24th – The day that the Easter Rising begun. This will often create an extra Bank Holiday in the month of April as Easter falls primarily in April. The next question is should it always be April 24th even if that falls on a Saturday. Traditionally Bank Holidays are on a Monday or maybe we could choose

April 18th – The date in 1949 when the Republic of Ireland Act cam into force and the nation of whom we wish to celebrate The Republic of Ireland came in being

December 6th – The date in 1922 when the Irish Free State became a legal entity and we achieved our independence from Britain

January 21st – When the first Dail met in 1919, the lineage of today’s Irish parliament t and they declared independence.

August 22nd – In 1798 and a Republic of Ireland is declared by the invading French forces in Connacht and John Moore named as the Republics first president

July 23rd – The declaration of a republic as Robert Emmet’s rebellion is launched on this date was the first declaration of an Irish Republic although that referred to a 32 county Ireland not the presently constituted 26 counties.

March 5th – The 1867 proclamation of an Irish Republic has as much validity as the proclamation in 1916 and perhaps it should be recognised as a more neutral non political date to celebrate Republic Day.

Ireland to get an extra seven bank/public holidays? I wish but if no decision can be made, make them all Bank Holidays and we can have an extra week of holidays in the year.
Perhaps as a neutral alternative we could have a President's Day when we can celebrate the role of our President of the Republic of Ireland.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Summerhill Publican Mentioned in the House of Commons

There are not many Dublin public houses who have found themselves at the heart of political debate and even fewer who have been mentioned on the floor of the House of Commons at Westminster. But in March 1871 this is exactly what happened.

Cavan born Charles Lynch was running a public house at 121 Summerhill on the corner of Summerhill and Lower Gardiner Street. In early March his brother Owen was taking over the business. Owen was already running a pub on Mabbot Street. As it required today the licence needed to be transferred from one brother to the other. On March 6th 1871 Owen had his officially opening at Summerhill. His pub was full and as was and is customary the new publican provided free beer, wine and spirits for those who were invited to the event.

Closing time in 1871 was 10 p.m. and shortly after that hour the local police arrived at the door. Police Constable Mark Byrne of C Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police stated after that when he arrived at the door of the pub he ‘found it crammed full of people who were drinking and they were very disorderly’. Another Constable stated that many of the patrons were ‘in a drunken state and quarreling with each other’ although they were packed so tightly in that they had no space to fight. The policemen asked the Lynch’s to clear their pub but they either refused or were under the impression that they were to be given a little bit of leeway from the local inspector. Several customers who had become belligerent were arrested and taken to the police station. The aftermath of the raid was that Charles Lynch was fined one guinea while it appeared that the licence had not in fact been transferred and therefore Owen Lynch opened his pub without a licence and was illegally selling alcohol drinks. Owen was fined five guineas.

One of those arrested was local labourer thirty six year old William Keely who the police stated was arrested for his own protection as he was highly intoxicated. At 2 a.m. in the police cell he became quite ill and the decision was made to transfer him by police horse and car to the Mater Hospital but he was dead on arrival. A post mortem was performed by Doctor R W Egan and death was caused by ‘apoplexy the result of excessive drinking’. At an inquest it was revealed that Keely had drunk a pint of whiskey which he, like most of the others in the pub that night, had received gratis.

On March 8th 1871 reports appeared in the Freeman Journal and the news that Keely had died basically from alcoholic poisoning with free drink given out at a pub opening which seemed to be commonplace in Dublin at the time caused a public outcry. Dublin was a city struggling with a drink problem and topped with the rise of the Temperance movement throughout the mid 19th Century, this story was big news, so big in fact on March 16th it reached the floor of the House of Commons. A bill was proceeding through Parliament attempting to limit drinking excesses by decreasing the number of licences across Britain and Ireland and increasing penalties for drunken behaviour. The Dublin M.P. Jonathan Pim believed that putting an end to the practice of giving out free drink at events such as pub openings should be included in the new piece of legislation, The Licensing Bill (Ireland), Excessive Drinking in Public Places 1871.

He posed a question to the then Chief Secretary to Ireland the Marquis of Hartington.
In Hansard’s historic record of debates Mr Pim
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the circumstances connected with the death of William Keely, who, as stated in the "Dublin Freeman's Journal" of March 8th, died of apoplexy after drinking "more than a pint of new whiskey," given him In a public house which was re-opened by a new proprietor, who, as it seems is usual with the trade on such occasions, supplied to all comers 'drinks' gratis: whether the Law affords any means of preventing such an objectionable mode of advertising the opening of a new public house, or of punishing the trader who supplies spirits in such quantity as to be equivalent to poison; and whether, in case the present Law does not afford the means of prevention or of punishment, he will consider the subject with the view of providing a remedy under the Licensing Bill which is intended to be brought in for Ireland?’

to which the Chief Secretary replied

‘his attention had been called to the circumstances. With reference to the statement that the man had drunk more than a pint of new whiskey, he was informed that nothing of the kind was proved at the coroner's inquest. No doubt Keely had drunk to great excess at the opening of this house, and being an habitual drunkard he died in the course of the night. The explanation made by his hon. Friend rendered it unnecessary for him to add that the most respectable publicans in Dublin entirely denied that any such custom as free drinking prevailed on the opening of new public houses. The law did afford the means of punishing a person guilty of the irregularity which was said to have occurred on that occasion. He had a report from the police to the effect that the proprietor had been summoned for allowing drunken and disorderly conduct in his house. The house had been placed under restriction, and the proprietor had since left it, and given it up to another man. No doubt the law could provide effectual means of making parties so offending amenable.’

The case slowly drifted away and the practice of free drinks at pub openings still prevails today in Ireland.