Bloody Sunday 1920



Auxilliaries having a laugh in 1920’s Ireland

If any single day can sum up a war the events of Bloody Sunday in Dublin, 99 years ago today, do just that.

Early in the morning the Irish leaders of the War of Independence; Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha, despatched IRA squads to assassinate a list of 35 British Intelligence Officers and informers.

There were mistakes made, and many failures, but when the smoke settled 14 men were killed and six were wounded, one mortally.  Two of the killings were mistakes, what the military today terms “collateral damage”.  One IRA volunteer was captured, but later escaped.  Another was injured; shot in the hand.

The work of the morning was highly effective in dismantling the British Intelligence operation.  Many of the surviving intelligence agents holed up in Dublin Castle and were unable to carry out further work for fear of their lives.  The list of targets clearly demonstrated that the secrecy of the agents had been compromised.

The retaliation by the British was a complete and utter Public Relations disaster.   Dublin and Tipperary were playing a football match in Croke Park that afternoon.  The British forces thought that it would be a good idea to drive into a football stadium and announce by megaphone that all men were to be searched.

One and a half years previously the British under General Dyer slaughtered over 400 civilians in Amritsar in the Punjab, India.  In that context it is inconcievable to believe that British Authorities thought it might be a good idea to send armed men into a football stadium.  But they did.

They never got to announce their intention to the crowd.  A column of British soldiers approached from Clonliffe road to the North.  A mixed column of Black and Tans, regular RIC and led by Auxiliaries approached from the Canal end to the South.  The Black & Tans started shooting as soon as they entered the ground.

The result was predictable.  A mad scramble to safety by the crowd and loss of all control of both the crowd and of the Crown forces.  The combined troops and police fired 114 rounds of rifle ammunition, 50 rounds of machine gun ammunition from an armoured car stationed outside the ground and the revolver ammunition was not documented.  The machine gunner at least had wits enough to fire in the air over the heads of the crowd.

Seven were shot to death, one of whom was the Tipperary Goal Keeper; Michael Hogan.  Five more were mortally wounded and died later.  Two more were trampled to death.  Dozens more were shot, wounded and survived and many more were wounded in the scramble to safety.

None of the security forces was killed or wounded in the action.

Later that night three men who were being detained in Dublin Castle as suspects in planning the assassinations were shot to death, supposedly while trying to escape.

Bloody Sunday removed any final sympathy for the Crown position that might have lingered in even the most West British parts of leafy south county Dublin.  The behaviour of the Black & Tans was recognised as the actions of rabid dogs, unordered, and “exceeding the demands of the situation”.

The finding of the British military courts of enquiry were suppressed, and some of the senior British Officers on the ground resigned their commissions in protest at Government’s tacit support of the actions of both Military and Police forces on the day.

That was the day Britain lost Ireland.





Bloody Sunday


Eighty eight years ago for the admission price of a shilling, you could have participated in a massacre.  British Auxiliaries and RIC entered Croke Park in Dublin during the Tipperary V Dublin football match and opened fire indiscriminately at the players and spectators.

It was the lowest ebb of the British Empire and mirrored the Amritsar Massacre, also known as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in April 1919, only one and a half years before.

What led to British Irregulars taking such action?

On the morning of Sunday 21st November 1920, under the orders of Michael Collins, military commander of the IRA, 15 men were shot.  The assassinations wiped out the pride of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, the Cairo Gang.

The attack in Croke Park was a direct response to the IRA action.  It was followed later that night by the murder of three IRA prisoners held in custody by the British Security forces.

This day, like no other, undermined the legitimacy of British Rule in Ireland and led ultimately to a truce in July 1921 and the eventual end of British Rule in the Republic.

Over Seventy innocent bystanders were wounded or killed in the football ground, victims of anger and frustration.

The Hogan Stand in Croke Park is named after Michael Hogan who was shot and killed on that day.

Garth Brooks & the Cabinet Reshuffle


Can’t let this week go by without saying something about the vagaries of the political silly season.  When government goes on holidays every year the journalists have time to be more strategic about the issues they cover.  Instead of reacting to the hurdy gurdy of politics they can step back and analyse the direction of politics with a cold eye.

This is not good news for politicians.  In the moment the politician works hard to control the message, control the spin and manipulate events to suit their stated agenda.  If journalists step back from the day to day cut and thrust, and evaluate the last 100 days, the cracks in the spin are all to obvious.  Throw a microscope over any politicians track record and the flaws will appear.

So every year the political powers will attempt to engineer some current news story during the “silly season” to keep politicians in the here and now.  This year the government has manufactured a cabinet reshuffle, but has been handed a better distraction on a plate.  The Garth Brooks debacle is a solid gold gift for government in the height of the silly season.  The politicians can wash their hands of the affair, and throw the concert promoters, the GAA and the planning authorities to the wolves.

A lot of social media commentators have pointed out that this country has better things to focus on than the fate of a country music tour.  This is naive thinking.  Politicians can achieve nothing in the summer recess.  It is a time for holidays and for constituency relationship building.  The last thing they need is for journalism to focus on real political issues.  So Garth Brooks is manna from heaven.  They will do their level best to keep this story alive for as long as it can run.

September 1, 1939; by W. H. Auden, 1907 – 1973

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism’s face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
“I will be true to the wife,
I’ll concentrate more on my work,”
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.