19 December-Contraception in Ireland

The Irish government led by Éamon de Valera of the Fianna Fáil party passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1935. The Act translated the Catholic Church’s doctrine regarding contraception into the law of the land. The sale of contraceptives in Ireland was legal up until the passing of the Act. The law, with some alterations in 1979, remained in place for fifty years.

Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical (Casti connubii) in 1930. The encyclical prohibited people of the Roman Catholic faith from using any form of artificial birth control. The Irish Government made it illegal to import or sell contraceptives in Ireland when it passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1935. Section 17 (I) of the act stated: ‘It shall not be lawful for any person to sell, or expose, offer, advertise, or keep for sale or to import or attempt to import into Saorstát Eireann for sale, any contraceptive’.

In later years attempts were made to liberalise the law on contraception but without success. There were several protests, the most famous of which occurred on May 22nd 1971. On that occasion a group of 49 women took the train to Belfast. They purchased contraceptives and when they returned to Dublin refused to hand them over to the authorities. The event generated a lot of controversy and publicity.

A decision was made by the Supreme Court in 1973 that married couples were entitled to privacy under the constitution and as such could import contraceptives for personal use. This meant a change in the legislation was necessary. After several failed attempts the law was eventually changed when The Health (Family Planning) Act of 1979 became law. Under the new legislation contraceptives were made available on prescription from a doctor for bona fide family planning purposes. Six years later the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Act 1985 allowed for the sale of contraceptives without a prescription to people aged 18 and over.

The Irish Supreme Court decided that a ban on contraceptives was unconstitutional in the year 1973 On This Day.

Contraception Day





18 December-Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl, who recorded the Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York’ with Shane MacGowan and the Pogues, was a native of Croydon, England. Fairytale of New York was written by Shane MacGowan and Jem Finer. The song was first released in November 1987. Often referred to as the best Christmas song of all time Fairytale of New York achieved one million sales in 2013.

Kirsty Anna MacColl was born in Croydon, Surrey, England on October 10th 1959. She was the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl. Kirsty and her brother were raised by their mother Jean in Croydon where she attended school. As a teenager she performed for a short time with the band Drug Addix.

She left the band to begin her solo career and had a hit in 1981 with ‘There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis’. During the 1980’s and 1990’s recorded several hit pop records. She also performed on recordings by other artists including The Smiths, Alison Moyet, The Pogues and Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA.

In 2000 Kirsty MacColl was on holiday in Cozumel, Mexico. She was diving with her two sons in a designated diving area which boats were restricted from entering. However a speedboat entered the area. MacColl managed to save her two sons but she was hit by the boat and killed instantly.

Kirsty MacColl, singer, songwriter and entertainer who recorded the Christmas song ‘Fairytale of New York’ with Shane MacGowan and the Pogues, died in the Caribbean Sea off the island of Cozumel near the coast of Mexico in the year 2000 On This Day.

Kirsty MacColl

Kirsty MacColl


18 December-Stalin

Joseph Stalin was the dictator of the Soviet Union for more than two decades. He was one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history and millions of his own citizens died during his reign. Stalin modernised the Soviet Union and helped to defeat the Nazi’s during World War II.

Joseph Stalin (Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin) was born in Gori, Georgia in 1879. He was awarded a scholarship to study for the priesthood at the Tiflis Theological Seminary in Tblisi in 1894. Having been introduced to the writings of Karl Marx, Stalin left the seminary in 1899. He became involved in revolutionary and criminal activities. Following the Russian Revolution Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party. When Lenin died in 1924 Stalin successfully outmanoeuvred other leading members to take control of the Communist Party.

Stalin ruled the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1953. He instituted a reign of terror which caused the death and suffering of tens of millions. During his reign the Soviet Union became an industrial and military superpower. In 1939 Stalin signed a non-aggression treaty with Nazi Germany. This allowed the two dictators, Hitler and Stalin, to invade Poland in September 1939 and divide it between them. Hitler, however, later broke the agreement. He began Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia, on June 22nd 1941. Stalin aligned the Soviet Union with the Allies to defeat the Nazis.

After the war Stalin was convinced that the Allies were a threat to the Soviet Union. This led him to establish communist regimes in several eastern European countries between 1945 and 1948. His activities in Eastern Europe led to the start of what became known as the Cold War. In 1949 the Soviet Union entered the nuclear age when it successfully exploded its first atomic bomb. In 1950 Stalin assisted the communist North Korean leader Kim il Sung in the invasion of South Korea leading to the Korean War.

In the early 1950’s Stalin’s health began to deteriorate and he became increasingly paranoid. He ordered a new purge of the Communist Party. However he died of a stroke in 1953 at the age of 74, before the purge could be carried out. He had been dictator of the Soviet Union for 24 years.

Joseph Stalin, one of the most powerful and murderous dictators in history, was born in the year 1879 On This Day.

17 December-Dublin to Dún Laoghaire Railway

William Dargan, an engineer, from Killeshin near Carlow town, Ireland completed the building of Ireland’s first railway line in 1834. The line, which is 10km long ran from Westland Row station (now Dublin Pearse) in Dublin city to Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire). It was the first suburban and commuter railway line in the world and continues to operate to the present day.

In 1825 the Stockton and Darlington Railway in England had proved successful for the colliery owners and encouraged investment in the railways. In the same year an attempt to build a railway from Dublin to Kingstown failed to get approval. A year later in 1826 a railway line between Waterford and Limerick was authorised. However work on the line did not commence until 1848, by which time trains had been running on the line from Dublin to Kingstown for over a decade.

The company which would build the Dublin to Kingstown railway was founded in 1831. Following the passing of the necessary parliamentary act the contract to build the railway line was awarded to William Dargan. William Dargan was born near Carlow town on February 28th 1799. In his early career he built roads in England and Ireland most notably the road from Dublin to Howth. Following the successful completion of the first railway line in Ireland, Dargan went on to build over 1,300km of Ireland’s railways. He is often referred to as the father of the Irish rail network. He was also responsible for a host of other infrastructure projects around Ireland and he funded the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in 1853.

Construction on the new railway line began on April 11th 1833. Several engineering difficulties and opposition from some landowners along the route had to be overcome. Up to 1,800 people were employed when building was at its peak. It was built within the agreed budget and on time. The first journey was made by horse drawn coach, when one of the lines was complete. The journey was made in July 1834 by directors of the company and their friends.

Though the new service was resented by many, over 300,000 passengers used it in the first six months when it began service in 1834. Trains ran every half hour from 6am until midnight. It was later decided to extend the railway southwards. Isambard Brunel was appointed as consulting engineer for the line to Greystones. The railway line eventually reached Wexford in 1872. The first trial run of a train from Dublin to Kingstown consisted of eight carriages hauled by a steam locomotive. Described as being ‘filled with ladies and gentlemen’ the trial run took place on October 9th 1834.

Ireland’s first railway from Dublin (Dublin Pearse) to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) was officially opened in the year 1834 On This Day.

Dun Laoghaire by infomatique on 2009-08-02 14:25:14


14 December-Irish Women’s Right to Vote

Women in Ireland began campaigning for the right to vote on the same basis as men from the mid-19th century onwards. Following the introduction of the Local Government (Ireland) Act of 1898 women, with certain restriction were allowed to vote in and sit on district councils and town commissions. The campaign to be allowed to vote in all elections continued.

In the 1918 General Election women in Ireland were allowed to vote for the first time. In that election men could vote at age 21. Women were allowed to vote provided they were age 30 or over and were property owners. Following independence in 1922 men and women in Ireland were given equal voting rights.

Women in Ireland, provided they were age 30 or over and were property owners, were given the right to vote for the first time in a General Election in the year 1918 On This Day.