Since 1841, the Irish Examiner has recorded the major events in the life of our nation, and much of that material is now available to view online, thanks to the digitisation of the archives as part of a national media project overseen by the Irish Newspaper Archives.
Stage one of the archive project was launched last November, and today we make available archives up to 1999. The rollout of the rest of the archive will be completed by January next.
While Ireland in the 1950s was a dour and colourless place, the following decade dawned with high hopes for the future. The 1960s saw Ireland’s re-birth as a modern nation, economically, politically, and socially.
This transformation from a rural, agrarian society was consolidated over the following three decades from the 1970s to the new millennium.
1970 dawned with a mixture of good and bad news. Dana was being feted in Dublin after becoming the first Irish singer to win the Eurovision Song Contest while Taoiseach Jack Lynch had to deal with what became known as the ‘Arms Crisis.’ At the same time, so-called ‘Women’s Libbers’ defied the law by bringing contraceptives on the train from Belfast to Dublin.
The government sent a special plane to Amsterdam to bring Dana, who was only 18, back to Ireland. RTÉ hosted the contest in Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre the following year, its first live broadcast in colour.
In the early hours of May 7, 1970, Taoiseach Jack Lynch told a shocked Dáil he had sacked two government ministers, Neil Blaney and Charles Haughey, on suspicion of them being involved in a plot to import arms and smuggle them to nationalists in the North . Both men were later found innocent of any involvement in what became known as the ‘Arms Crisis.’ The Troubles also precipitated a refugee crisis as hundreds of nationalists fled south following the introduction of internment and a bloodbath in Belfast in which12 people died in an orgy of shooting and rioting.
The 1970s witnessed massacres both here and abroad. On Sunday, January 30, 1972, British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march against internment in the Bogside area of Derry. Fourteen people died, 13 on the day, while another man died four months later as a result of his injuries.
During the Munich Olympics the following summer, 11 Israeli Olympic team members were taken hostage and eventually killed, along with a German police officer, by the Palestinian group Black September.
The horrors of the North came south in 1974 when 33 people were murdered in the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. In retaliation, 24 people were killed when the IRA targeted pubs in Birmingham and Guildford.
That same year, Richard Nixon resigned as US president in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Two years later, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh became the first Irish president to resign after insulting remarks made about him by Defence Minister Paddy Donegan.
In 1977 the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Presley, died but, as far as Ireland was concerned, the real king was Jack Lynch after he led Fianna Fáil to a stunning general election victory. Within two years, though, Jack was political history.
For rugby fans, there were 15 kings when Munster made history by beating the All-Blacks at Thomond Park in Limerick.
1978 was also the year of three popes. When Pope Paul died he was succeeded by John Paul who reigned for only 33 days before his death. He was followed by Pope John Paul II who the following year became the first pope to visit Ireland. More than 1m people came to see him in Phoenix Park in Dublin. He also visited Drogheda and Galway, to huge acclaim. The Examiner brought out a special Sunday edition to mark the occasion.
That same year also saw the death of the great Cork hurler Christy Ring and began with the deaths of 50 people in the Whiddy island disaster when the oil tanker Betelguese exploded at the oil terminal in Bantry.
1980 also had its share of tragedies with the murder of Beatle John Lennon and the deaths of 18 people in Ireland’s worst ever rail disaster at Buttevant, Co Cork. The following year was dominated by events surrounding the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland, and disaster struck again when 48 young people died on St Valentine’s night at the Stardust disco club in Dublin. Britain was victorious in the Falklands conflict in 1982, re-taking the islands after an Argentinian invasion. Victory of a different kind was celebrated here when Ireland won rugby’s Triple Crown.
The decade also saw the closure of the Ford and Dunlop plants in Cork with the loss of almost 2,000 jobs. There was much national soul searching with the death of teenager Anne Lovett while giving birth in secrecy near a grotto and the Kerry Babies affair.
In Britain, prime minister Margaret Thatcher survived a murder attempt in 1984 when the Provisional IRA blew up Brighton’s Grand Hotel during the Conservative party annual conference .
The following year Sikh terrorists blew up an Air India plane off the south west coast of Ireland, killing all 329 passengers on board. The bodies were taken to the Regional Hospital in Cork and Examiner photographer Denis Minihane’s photograph of some of the bodies in the hospital became the defining image of the disaster.
Religious fervour was generated by the ‘moving statue’ at Ballinspittle in Cork while fervour of a different kind was exhibited with the stunning success of Stephen Roche in the Tour de France and the victory by the Republic of Ireland soccer team over England in the 1988 European Championships. Lotto fever stuck as the National Lottery began and within months produced its first lottery millionaire.
The following year marked the end of Communism in Europe and the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
Italia 90 reached fever pitch when Packie Bonner saved a penalty to send the Republic of Ireland into the quarter finals for the first time. Celebrations also surrounded the election of Mary Robinson as Ireland’s first woman president and the visit of Nelson Mandela who paid tribute to Dunnes Stores workers for opposing apartheid even when it meant the loss of their jobs.
In 1991 the first Gulf War began with the pounding of Baghdad and the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s forces, although the dictator held onto power.
At home, the gregarious bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey, lost much of his charm and had to resign when it was revealed he had fathered a child with Annie Murphy, a woman with whom he had an affair. Past misdeeds also came back to haunt Charlie Haughey who resigned when it was revealed he knew about the phone tapping of journalists’ phones a decade earlier.
Celebrations followed the passing of legislation to legalise homosexual acts, the silver medal won by runner Sonia O’Sullivan at the 1993 World Athletic Championships and the four medals won by Michelle Smith at the 1996 Olympics.
It was the same year that journalist Veronica Guerin was shot dead, while in 1997 the world was stunned with the death in a car crash of the much loved Princess Diana, followed by the passing a week later of her friend and mentor, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
While 1994 had seen the IRA declare a ceasefire, proof that the terrorists had not gone away was the brutality of the Omagh bombing that claimed the lives of 29 people.
The end of the decade saw the arrival of the Euro and conflict in the Balkans when Nato forces unleashed a bombing campaign against Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian forces.
On the cusp of the new millennium fears were widespread that computer clocks would malfunction and that planes would fall from the sky.
It never happened.
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