-- On Dec. 17, 1803
, rebel leader Michael Dwyer, whose guerrilla attacks had maddened British colonial authorities since 1798, surrendered. Dwyer was born in County Wicklow and he participated in the 1798 Rising
; however, unlike most of the leaders and soldiers in that Rising, he did not either leave the country or return to his normal life, nor was he captured. Dwyer retreated into the Wicklow Mountains with a band of men and drove the British to distraction in their attempts to apprehend him.
A reward was placed on Dwyer's head and another for each of his men, but he led the British authorities on a merry chase for 5 years, with many daring narrow escapes, each adding to his legend. Some called him the 'Outlaw of Glenmalure.' In 1803 he planed to assist Robert Emmet in his rising but he never received the signal to join the rising. At this point he recognized the futility of his situation, and he also wished to relieve the suffering of a number of his family members, including his sister, whom had been jailed for no offense other than their family relationship to him. Some claim that when he contacted the British to ask terms of surrender Dwyer was promised he and his men would be sent to the United States.
If so, and not for the first time, their word to an Irishman proved worthless. After 2 years of brutal treatment in Kilmainham Jail, under the infamous Edward Trevor, Dwyer was transported to Botany Bay
. Dwyer and his family, along with a number of his men, set sail for Australia
on board the Tellicherry
on August 25, 1805; however, the story of Michael Dwyer does not end there. In Sydney, Dwyer ran afoul of the Governor, a certain Capt. William Bligh, of Bounty
fame. Bligh accused Dwyer of being the leader of a rebellious plot involving other United Irishmen in the area, which, if true, would certainly not have been out of character.
Bligh shipped Dwyer off to Norfolk Island, one of the worst hellholes of the British penal system in Australia. After 6 months he was transferred to Tasmania, where he remained for another 2 years. In 1808 Bligh left the Governorship and Dwyer finally made it back to his family in Sydney and was granted 100 acres of land nearby. Like many transported Irish rebels, he eventually became part of the local establishment and, in a bit of irony, the 'Outlaw of Glenmalure' was appointed constable. Michael Dwyer died in 1825, but his wife lived to be 93, not dying until 1861. With her passed the last connection to the 'boys of '98' in Australia. Dwyer remains a legend among the people of the Wicklow Mountains to this day.
December 1980: Ongoing Hungerstrike.The Hungerstrike began on 29th of October 1980 and continued into the month of December. Seven Republican prisoners began a hungerstrike to protest the ending of special category status. One of their key demands was that they should be allowed to wear their own clothes rather than prison uniforms. The Republican prisoners viewed themselves as 'prisoners of war' and were refusing to be treated, as they saw it, as ordinary criminals.
In late October 1980, seven prisoners in the H/Blocks, led by Brendan Hughes, who was succeeded as O/C by Bobby Sands, began a hungerstrike for political status.
Hughes was joined on the on the strike by five other POWs; Tom McFeeley; Sean McKenna, Leo Green, Tommy McKearney and Raymond McCartney and an INLA Volunteer, John Nixon. In early December, as the hunger strike entered its sixth week, they were joined on the fast by three women in Armagh jail who had, along with their comrades, been on the no-wash protest since the previous February; Mairead Farrell, OC of the prisoners, Mairead Nugent and Mary Doyle.
However, despite huge protests throughout Ireland during November and early December, the British government refused to grant the prisoners' demands. In mid-December, as Sean McKenna neared death and as the prisoners prepared to escalate the hunger-strike, the British announced that they were prepared to concede the Prisoners' demands, on a phased basis, once the fast had ended.
Trusting that Humphrey Atkins, the then British Secretary of State, would not renege on this promise, Sands, having consulted his staff, the prisoners and those on the fast, reluctantly decided to end the hunger strike on Thursday, 18 December.
After weeks of delays by the British in implementing the promised changes, and confusion among the prisoners and their supporters, it became apparent in January 1981 that political status was not to be granted. The prisoners, faced with no alternative, would be forced to embark on a new fast that would have widespread repercussions in Ireland and abroad.