December 15
1760 – John MacNaghten, a gambler, duellist and criminal, is hanged at Strabane jail for his involvement in the killing of Mary Anne Knox, daughter of Andrew Knox MP. At the first attempt to hang him, the rope breaks but, ignoring offers from the crowd to help him make his escape, he declares that he does not wish to be known for ever as ‘half-hung McNaghten’ and asks the hangman to proceed
1899 – Irish units of the Boer army face the Dublin Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers and the Inniskillings in the battle of Colenso
1971 – Death of General Richard Mulcahy, Irish Volunteer and TD
1993 – Albert Reynolds and John Major sign the Downing Street Declaration: if the IRA stops its campaign for three months, Sinn Féin will be allowed to join all-party talks.


December 16
1653 – Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector of Ireland
1922 – Arthur Griffith and his ministers assume seat of government at Dublin Castle
1939 – Barney McKenna of the Dubliners is born
1987 – Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl reaches no. 2 in the British charts
1999 – Padraic Wilson, a senior republican tipped to represent the IRA in disarmament talks, is given an early release from Northern Ireland’s top security Maze Prison

December 17
1803 – Rebel leader Michael Dwyer, whose guerrilla attacks had maddened British colonial authorities since 1798, surrenders
1885 – The results of newspaper reports of Gladstone’s conversion to Home Rule, following the general election, gives Parnellites the balance of power
1971 – Soldier and politician General Richard Mulcahy dies in Dublin
1983 – An IRA car bomb kills 3 police officers and 3 shoppers outside Harrods in London’s Knightsbridge; scores are injured
1997 – New regulations are unveiled which confer sweeping discretionary powers on Departmental officials responsible for processing asylum applications, including the authority to summarily deport foreigners
1997 – British Prime Minister Tony Blair makes a fleeting visit to Belfast in a bid to boost the faltering peace process
1998 – Danny McNamee’s12-year campaign to clear his name of a terrorist conviction ends in triumph
1999 – The State announces the purchase of the 550 acre Battle of the Boyne site for about £9 million. The seller is an unidentified businessman.


December 18
1781 – Barry Yelverton introduces the bill that will become Yelverton’s Act; the bill is an amendment of Poyning’s Act and states that only bills passed by both Irish houses of Parliament would be forwarded to England for assent (see entry for July 27, 1782)
1980 – Prisoners in Armagh and Long Kesh end their hunger strike on promises of political status. The promises are not kept
1998 – The Loyalist Volunteer Force becomes the first terrorist group in Northern Ireland to decommission some of its weapons
2000 – A boating accident in Mexico claims the life of singer Kirsty MacColl. She was best known for her vocals alongside The Pogues’ Shane McGowan on the 1987 Christmas No 1, Fairytale of New York
2001 – The Conservative Party ends more than three decades of co-operation over Northern Ireland in protest at the British government’s plans to allow Sinn Féin MPs to use offices at Westminster
2002 – According to the latest census figures, the prospect of a Catholic majority in Northern Ireland is fast becoming a reality
2002 – The Irish and British governments issue firm assurances about the temporary nature of arrangements in operation during the current suspension of the elected Northern Ireland Assembly

December 19
1877 – Land League organizer, Michael Davitt, is released from Dartmoor Prison
1972 – Thin Lizzy reach no. 1 in the Irish charts with Whiskey In The Jar
1973 – The Supreme Court in Dublin decides by a majority of four to one that a ban on contraceptives is unconstitutional
1974 – Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh is inaugurated as the fifth president of the Irish Republic following the death of Erskine Childers
1999 – Sinn Féin says it has no knowledge that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are to be given Westminster offices without having to swear an oath of allegiance
2002 – Unionist leader David Trimble walks out of talks aimed at restoring the North’s government and parliament after documents leaked in Dublin say the IRA is still active
2002 – In Limerick, hundreds take part part in a candlelit peace march to express their sympathy and support for families who have lost loved ones through violence

December 20
1865 – Birth in Dublin of Maud Gonne McBride, revolutionary and patriot, who dedicates her life to the attainment of an independent Irish nation
1961 – Robert McGladdery is hanged in Belfast for murder: his is the last judicial execution in Ireland
1998 – There is renewed speculation that the IRA will make a token gesture on the issue of decommissioning before 1998 passes into history
2000 – The bomb making capacity of dissident terrorists is severely dented with the seizure of almost 400 sticks of Frangex commercial plastic explosive in Co. Kilkenny

December 21
1796 – A French fleet under General Hoche with Wolfe Tone, 43 vessels and 14,500 men sails from Brest in December and is scattered by storms; 36 ships arrive at Bantry Bay but do not attempt a landing and return to France, thus preventing what might have been an Irish/French victory over the English
1919 – Dáil Éireann meets for the first time and elects Eamon de Valera as President of Ireland
1948 – Republic of Ireland Act passed by Dáil
1985 – Progressive Democrats founded by Dan O’Malley, Mary Harney, and other former members of Fianna Fáil, following split within party

In the Celtic Calendar, today is the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. In Dublin, on this date, the sun will rise at 8:39 am and set at 4:09pm, giving just seven hours and 30 minutes of daylight. In Belfast, the day is even shorter. The sun will rise at 8:43 and set at 3:59.