On This Day: Defence Forces, learner drivers, and violence in the North

A look at some of the major political and tragic events covered over the years by the Irish Examiner 
On This Day: Defence Forces, learner drivers, and violence in the North
Irish naval vessel LÉ Samuel Beckett lies at anchor and is silhouetted against the dawn light in Bullens Bay. File picture; David Creedon / Anzenberger

Twelve months ago, the front page of the Irish Examiner shone a light on the critical staff shortages in the Defence Forces.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe was criticised for being “asleep at the wheel” after he disclosed that he had not been briefed in advance regarding the navy staff shortages fiasco, which led to two vessels being docked. 

Mr Kehoe claimed that the vessels were docked for repairs, and moved to dismiss the idea of staff shortages being the cause, despite the contradictory message coming from then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

It is a story that shines through, still, with the front page of this Monday's Irish Examiner highlighting further shortages, with the air corps and navy now almost one-fifth short of required personnel.

Casting an eye further back, to 2015, the front page featured a bullish Enda Kenny, who set out his stall out to lead the country into the next decade, planning to fight a general election in 2021. 

At the time, it was described as a blow to the leadership ambitions of Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney. Of course, it did not go as planned for Mr Kenny, who stepped aside in 2017 to be succeeded by Mr Varadkar, who fended off a stiff challenge from Mr Coveney in a leadership contest that year.

Enda Kenny awarded European Movement Ireland’s European of the Year in 2018 by Leo Varadkar. File picture: Conor McCabe Photography.
Enda Kenny awarded European Movement Ireland’s European of the Year in 2018 by Leo Varadkar. File picture: Conor McCabe Photography.

Mr Varadkar is set to return to the role in the coming years as part of the deal struck with Fianna Fáil to form a government this year.

In 2010, reports from the front page showed 22 learner drivers a day were breaking laws. The report showed that over 16,000 summonses had been issued since the rule change on July 1, 2008 which meant that all learner drivers, including those on a second provisional licence, could no longer drive unaccompanied. Transport Minister Noel Dempsey introduced the controversial measure, despite concerns about isolated drivers in rural Ireland.

Some 25 years ago, the Cork Examiner carried news of a tragic drowning incident that marred the Féile concert weekend. 

The event saw household names like Kylie Minogue, Blur, and the Stone Roses play at Cork's Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but the three-day event started with the tragic news of a young man drowning in the River Lee.

A look at the front page 50 years ago featured violence in the North. The report details a story of “further” rioting in Belfast. It mentions offices which were set on fire, the use of CS gas on crowds, and the stoning of cars by youths.

Elsewhere in the news on that Wednesday morning in 1970, Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, announced that Israel would accept the US Middle East Plan. 

Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon.

Guarantees from US President Richard Nixon reaffirmed the Israeli government of the plan, in what was seen at the time as a real drive for peace in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Libyan Revolutionary Council, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, returned to Tripoli a disappointed man after he visited Cairo, Baghdad, and Damascus in a bid to strengthen ties between Eygpt and Iraq, who were divided over the American plan for a 90-day ceasefire. Also in the papers on that day was the news of the UK Gold Reserves, which had seen a rise of £2m in the month of July.

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