The Great O’Neill, 1550-1616, we salute you!

Last night, in his sleep, in his small palace in Rome, 400 years ago, one of the greatest figures in Irish history passed away, Hugh O’Neill. . With him in his final moments may have been his teenage son, John, whom he had nominated to succeed him as Earl of Tyrone and as The O’Neil. Also there may have been his nephew, who was to become increasingly the de facto leader of the exiled Irish Gaelic Lords in Europe, Owen Roe O’Neill. Undoubtedly senior figures in the Spanish administration and in the Vatican would have attended him in his final days or paid their respects at his funeral, as well as senior Irish clergy living in Rome. The scene at his bedside on his last evening may have been similar to that captured in a painting by an unknown Italian or East European artist, painted a century later, “Farewell at the deathbed”
Farewellat the deathbed
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O’Neill, O’Donnell and other Gaelic nobility left ireland in the Irish history-transforming event known as the Flight of the Earls, from Rathmullan, Co. Donegal, September 1607. Following the Nine Years War against English rule in Ireland, the last battle of which was the Battle of Kinsale, O’Neill marched his army back to Ulster, in the middle of winter, to continue the fight, before his eventual surrender two years later, in 1603. He had lost 1500-2000 men at Kinsale, but the English had lost over 7000 men, half their exhausted army, which had been the largest army ever assembled by Elizabeth !. O’Donnell had gone to Spain to collect more Spanish support and O’Neill must have felt confident that he could fight on successfully. But, after their Kinsale disaster, the English changed their tactics. They resolved “never to meet this man on the battlefield again”. Instead, they deployed the tactic which Lord Chichester said was “being used with success in the New World”, that is, an attack on the civilian population.

The genocide which ensued in Ulster for about a year, led by Lords Mountjoy and Chichester, which I do not remember ever reading in Irish school history books, is described by English historians as the darkest, most atrocious event in English history. Soldiers would raid small villages, when O’Neills army was elsewhere, and slaughter every man, woman, child. By sword, and later by starvations, by destruction of crops. The landscape was littered with human bones, or starving children, their mouths green from eating grass. Some were even taught by fathers and mothers to cannibalise their parents bodies when they died. A very high percentage of the population of Ulster died, especially East Ulster, and most others fled, to Donegal, to the south, even some lucky ones making it as emigrants to London, France, Netherlands and further, in what became the first years of seemingly unending Irish emigration.

These events are probably what (good !) Queen Elizabeth II was referring to when, on her visit to Ireland a few years ago, she “apologised”, saying (I paraphrase) that “there were certain things we did during our rule in Ireland that we would do differently now or even not at all” (Actually it was not only Ulster…There was a similar attack on the civilian population of Munster about twenty years earlier, followed by an attempt to populate the vacated land with English planters.)

This of course brought down O’Neill. He was unable to defend his people or support the junior clan leaders of Ulster. He surrendered, and was later intimidated out of his Earldom by legal, economic and political means, salted with a continuing threat of arrest and execution, so that he decided to move to Catholic Europe and try to rebuild support from there in 1607. But English diplomatic tactics preceded him and he found himself somewhat unwelcomed by the Spanish and their administration in Brussels He was basically shunted on to Rome, where the Pope felt obliged to show him some honours, give him an elevated position in the community in Rome, and awarded him and his family a small (but frugally furnished) palace in which to live out his life. Rome was a place of elegant architecture in those days, though “stinking hot” in summer
Vanvitelli, Rome late 17th

I don’t know if the men of 1916 and their successors in “Free Ireland” of the last 100 years are bothered to read and show respect for the heroics of the Gaelic Order in early modern history of our land. We honour the other side, in Mountjoy Square, and elsewhere. Where is Great O’Neill Avenue? Is there a large monument to him in the Phoenix Park? I think there’s an O’Donnell Avenue in Buenos Aires, or is it Madrid..and a famous O’Reilly Calle in Havana, and O’Higgins pops up in many South American countries. And others. What wrong with us, that we are afraid to give due honour and proper commemoration to real heroes of the past? I suppose history only began in 1916.

Great Hugh O’Neill, we remember you on your 400 th anniversary, July 20, 1616, and we Salute You !

Great ONeill

An Irish 400th year anniversary of note

We Irish have many 400th anniversaries, but few that can celebrate a happy event, given the state of our nation back in 1613. Leading Gaelic nobles had been exiled, their lands, especially in Ulster, planted with foreigners, their people destitute, dispersed to the forests and hills of Donegal, or emigrants, camped beside the Tower of London waiting for their lords to be freed, or tramping the roads of France as beggars, the womenfolk filling the brothels of Paris, Madrid and other cities.

With O’Donnell dead, and the Great Rebel Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone effectively imprisoned and isolated in Rome, the de factor leadership of the Gaelic “government in exile” fell to his nephew, Owen Roe O’Neill, commander of the Irish regiment in the Spanish army in the Netherlands, and later Field Marshall, and Governor of the strategic town of Arras. For thirty years, Owen Roe secured the survival of his army, through peace and war on behalf of Spain, and nurtured its cadre of highly skilled military officers, mostly sons of the Gaelic families. Eventually he succeeded in his life long ambition, to bring his military staff back to Ireland (1642), and build a disciplined army from the, by then, almost savage remnants of his people, His great victory as General of the Ulster Catholic Army at Benburb (1646) is probably the last victory by a Gaelic commander in Irish history.

In an age of atrocious brutality, Owen Roe was regarded by friend and foe alike as a humane and decent military commander. He was also non-sectarian in the conduct of warfare. Read the rest

We don’t want our Senate? – Give it to the diaspora !

The Irish government proposes that the Senate should be abolished, our second chamber, our Upper House. So, before doing so, and in the context of options to “reform” it, why not consider turning it, gradually and carefully, into a National Representative Forum where the views of the Irish Nation on matters which pertain to the nation’s cultural, economic, social and political welfare can be discussed and some policies and programmes agreed?

Of course our “nation” should be understood to include all people of Irish descent- perhaps up to some genetic content threshold- and no matter where they may be temporarily living on this planet. We who live in the Emerald Isle homeland should be sensible enough to accept that the majority of our brothers, sisters and cousins have been forced to- or have chosen to- occupy the planet but they have just as much right to define themselves as Irish as the minority who remained in the homeland. We have much history in common and a common cultural heritage as well as moral and social values, all of which define important aspects of what it is to be Irish.

In olden days emigration from the homeland almost certainly meant “never see you again” and the best one could do to stay in touch was write the occasional letter. Nowadays, anyone of Irish nationhood anywhere on the planet can have high quality video conferences with their cousins and friends for almost no cost, in real time, via computers. You can travel to the Senate in Dublin from any part of the globe in a day.

It is now the time to use technology to “reunite” the nation and give expression to our common Irishness via some institutions, and the Senate, about to be thrown away by Dublin, is surely the place to start.


Is this the newbie Irish currency?

The Irish Government has a new currency ready to print, if Ireland has to leave the euro…and it won’t be the old punt. The man gave me a preview…It’s the Geallt (pronounced gee-alt), like the Gaelic word for promise.

” The beautiful thing about it”, he says, “is that we can print as many as we
like and don’t have to put up with any nonsense from the ECB…and we can bail out all the banks with it, exchange the promissory notes and the NAMA bonds and all that stuff…Its just brilliant…a simple but great solution ! ..We might even buy back Eircom with it”

Yeah….quite nice……I like the rainbow..


Netsso gets praise as an internet “time saver”

I am delighted to see this opinion expressed..We knew they used Netsso, but did not know that they considered it their Number One time saver (from logins, remembering passwords, etc) on the internet.
“My Number One time saving tool…” (InisCommunications)

Digital sand art from Ukraine

This was the winning entry in “Ukraine’s got Talent” a few years ago. I think she tells a story of love and war. Thanks to Baumgardt.

Twitter: @ODohertyBrian;

St. Patricks Day notes: When the Irish ruled the world.

I’m not an historian, but I’ve read a few books and I’m very impressed by the achievements of Irish emigrants down the centuries and their descendents in the Irish diaspora and I’d like to bring you a few facts about that now and again in this column. The diaspora has achieved great things- and please write and tell me about them- and its very hard to pick out the most spectacular or important achievements.We know (though not enough) about the achievements in the military and empire-building arenas – Wellington in Waterloo, India won by Gaelic-speaking troops, the conquest and later the independence of South America and North America, etc…the navies of the world founded by Irish guys, the 750,000 Irish soldiers who died for France during the 18th and 19th centuries, and more.

But there was one period, of about 30 years, when the Irish diaspora really took political leadership of some of the most important nations, and all around the same time, say 1860 – 1890. It was a time, too, when the Irish were the majority ethnic group among the white population of the US. (You can read wonderful tales of the Irish fighting contributions on both sides of the US Civil War in some fine websites such as

But did you know..during the period I refer to, that Count Taaffe, from the Roscommon family, was Imperial Chancellor of the Austrian Hungarian Empire, for sixteen years (1868-70 and 1879-93)?;  and, from 1860-68, the Prime Minister of Spain was Marshall Leopold O’Donnell, also Duke of Tetuan; and then there was Marshall Patrice MacMahon (photo above), who was President of France, from 1873 to 1879.

There are guys out there who undoubtedly know a lot more about this than I do…so please send in the comments and the links.

Twitter: @Netsso ; @ODohertyBrian ;; ;

Netsso – your personal single sign on portal to the web

Yes, Netsso is the sponsor of this blog and I’m proud to acknowledge that and not only because I am a shareholder. But, you may ask, why, then, has there been such a long time waiting for the activity of the blog to re-commence?. Sponsor problems?  No, not that..It was me, being too tired for a while and sort of lost interest in writing out my opinions on various issues for my two readers (not counting wife and child).

No, Netsso…the development has been a bit slow, and a hundred or so persons have done a lot of testing, etc… but we think we have a classy item now…like that old bull with the ring in his nose, walking slowly around the first prize ring at the RDS….he’s no sprinter, but you’ve got quality beef there.

I strongly recommend to all my readers. Go register there and play with it for a few days. Enter a few of your favourite web places, which you wish to return to perhaps- not more than 3000, I would advise, and later realise how well Netsso can bring you to these places from any PC, when you double-click the links, without you having to remember your usernames or passwords, or even the names of the webplaces, – give your links some memory-assisting titles-  and some day you will wake up and realise that you’re not using commercial search engines so much any more and that you’ve taken control of your life in that part of the internet which is of most interest to you, your own internet “world”.

Your Netsso links follow you to any PC, delivered to you in private, and always encrypted when you’re not using them. So, one login to Netsso- only one password to remember – and you can then click to all other places. And when you consider that 40% + of all Google searches are for places previously visited by the searcher, and you don’t have to do that any more, and you can put all the internet places you know and like into your Netsso, including your direct links to online files and folders, your web mail, your music tracks, any web address…anywhere with its own url… then you have..a one click entry portal to your whole internet world. A private Single Sign On (SSO) portal to your interNET…

Links: A good review….……

AIB: Noonan fails to honour predecessor’s commitment

Maybe I am doing him an injustice…He seems a good person and generally reliable..Maybe it is my own fault…I did not notice an official, timely and proper withdrawal of the State’s offer in relation to AIB’s capitalisation, perhaps. If so, I am happy to apologise to Mr. Noonan.

But, otherwise it seems to me that the present Minister of Finance is ignoring the commitment made by his late predecessor and referred to more than once on his Department’s website and, widely, elsewhere…to wit…the State will “provide all the capital necessary” to AIB at a share price of 50 cents. He now proposes to put in €5 bn. capital at ONE cent per share, 50 times less than shareholders were reasonably expecting! (Further, he asks, via the Board of AIB, that shareholders should agree to this act of mass financial suicide, which only the irrational shareholders could possibly agree to)

Remember, the share price was still hanging in there around €1.75 a year ago, until the State (NAMA)  decided to pay only half what the shareholders had been reasonably expecting for their assets transferred to that “bad bank”. This immediately wrecked AIB’s plan to survive as a non-majority State owned bank. It also led to a run on deposits, triggered by a further slump in international trust in the quality of Irish government guarantees and promises, quite understandably if you look at the NAMA story, a run which further added to AIB’s difficulties. Then the Min.Finance announced that the State itself will proceed, if necessary, with the full recapitalisation of the bank by the issuance of new shares at 50 cents each. (This had the effect of actually capping the price at 50 cents.) Now they’ve ignored this promise too- thereby adding further reason for international investors lack of confidence in any Irish sovereign promise.

The official incompetence and dishonesty in all of this would be laughable if it were not so serious for the financial welfare of tens of thousands of ordinary, mostly elderly shareholders who own the majority of AIB’s equity. Our government, led by officials and politicians who seem to know little about banking, is the only government in the world which managed to wreck its banks while pretending to “save” them following the Lehman liquidity disaster.  At the very least we can say that, compared to other governments with similar problems, we have been incredibly unsophisticated at managing a financial crisis. (How can these officials possibly present themselves as suitable managers of an international financial services centre?)

What should happen now?

1. Shareholders should vote No…although its probably too late because the vast majority will not and cannot attend the EGM next week - the bank is owned by c. 90,000 small retail investors- and the proxy system will see the Board’s recommendation accepted (- a Board which already shows allegiance to the new incoming State shareholders over the existing small investors)

2. Shareholders should form a Shareholders Action Group of some sort and start fighting back.  In the absence of another, I’m happy to gather initial names of interested participants. Just send an email to  and then check back here next week. (Also, right-click the title of this article and you’ll get an address which you can email to others)

3. As a start to repair the damage which the State has done to AIB shareholders, the Minister should give a bundle of share purchase warrants to existing shareholders, enabling them to repurchase the company over the next few years at a non-ripoff price.

4.  The Board should examine and report on the consequences of retrieving AIB’s assets from NAMA, which, in any case, should not have been transferred last year as the shareholders approval to go into the NAMA scheme was based on the understanding that it was part of a solution which would leave them with 50+% ownership, a plan scuttled by NAMA itself. The Board therefore had no authority to make these transfers.

Queen, President should jointly inaugurate “Owen Roe” highway

The rather poor road between the border at Aughnacloy and the city of Derry is to be upgraded into a dual carriageway, substantially at the expense of taxpayers in the Republic. My proposal is that this roadway should be named after Ireland’s greatest unsung hero Owen Roe O’Neill, (c. 1585 – 1649). (I’m sure John Hume would agree…)

Owen Roe., nephew of the “Great” (rebel) Hugh O’Neill, spent 35 years in Flanders, learning the military arts, as Colonel of an Irish Regiment, the political arts, as leader of the Irish exiled Catholic community (after the Flight of the Earls), and the diplomatic arts, as the chief negotiator, on behalf of the emigrees, with European political leaders and governments, including Kings in Spain, Prime Ministers (Cardinal Richelieu) in France and elsewhere, Archdukes in the Spanish Netherlands and Popes. His glittering career is still to be comprehensively written up, but it is widely acknowledged that he was a greatly admired and very talented individual. and of noble and honourable character. Even his military opponents had admiration for him. He eventually gave up a certain senior reward from the King of Spain and the opportunity to establish a fine dynasty in Spain or elsewhere- his grandson was eventually recognised as Conde de Tirone by the Spanish- in order to come back to Ireland and help out in the rising of 1641. From 1642-49 he was singularly successful as General of the Ulster Catholic Army, victor at the great Battle of Benburb (1646) and one of the leaders of the Irish nation. He died from natural causes in November 1649 and is buried in an unmarked grave in the old Franciscan Abbey in Cavan.

When Owen Roe arrived in Ireland in 1642, the revolution had begun and many protestant settlers had been thrown off their lands by catholics, in revenge for their own dispossession a generation earlier. Although the number was later greatly exaggerated, many protestants were brutally murdered by undisciplined catholics. Owen Roe put an immediate stop to these atrocities, court-martialling some officers who had permitted it, buring the houses of some perpetrators and even hanging the worst offenders. Protestant leaders acknowledged his role at the time and in later investigations. Indeed, it could be said that, although he was leader of the “catholic” army, he was the first non-sectarian leader of importance in Ireland. In August, 1649, he even acceeded to a request from the Cromwellian Governor of Londonderry to rescue him and the English protestant occupants of that city from their suffering under a lengthy siege by the Royalist forces of King Charles 1. That siege, never commemorated these days, was of greater duration and was more costly in terms of inhabitants lives lost, than the Apprentice Boys siege of 40 years later. To relieve the people of Derry, Owen Roe began his march from near Clones, Co Monaghan and followed a route approximating the route which the new road will take. The Royalists fled as soon as they heard O’Neill was coming.

The new roadway will pass substantially through the old O’Neill lands of Co. Tyrone. By naming it, appropriately, after one of the great O’Neills, it commemorates also one of the first great non-sectarian leaders of modern Irish history. It will also remind us of a “might of been”…We might have been a united, independent Ireland, taking our place among the colonial powers with other European nations, instead of being a nation scattered to the ends of the Earth, and oppressed by sectarianism and tyranny at home. In October 1649, Owen Roe agreed a treaty with the Viceroy, the Duke of Ormonde, under which their two armies would unite against Cromwell, under O’Neill’s leadership, with every prospect of successfully avoiding the subsequent “Hell or Connaught” settlement imposed by Cromwell. Unfortunately the united army never happened, as Owen Roe died a few weeks later. To quote a poem about him, published in the Ulster Journal of Archaelogy, 1856..

“Sagest in the council was he, kindest in the hall!
Sure we never won a battle – ’twas Eoghan that won them all.
Soft as a woman’s was your voice, O’Neill ! bright was your eye
Oh! Why did you leave us, Eoghan? Why did you die? ”


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