IMPORTANT REMINDER: On the first anniversary of the Dublin carnage, the Tipperary team returned to Croke Park and stood vigilant at the spot where teammate Michael Hogan was shot dead by Crown Forces. Photo: GAA Museum, Croke Park
The bloody Sunday the 21st. November 1920 remains the most violent day in Dublin’s modern history. It is also widely viewed as a crucial turning point in the military struggle between the British armed forces and the IRA, the military wing of the Dáil underground government.
The tragic events were in fact three separate but related episodes. The first was the murder of 12 members of the Crown Forces by Michael Collins » Squad » and members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. All were shot, many in their beds, because they were believed to be British intelligence agents. In addition, two auxiliary police officers who came across one of the scenes were shot dead.
In the evening, two senior Dublin IRA officers, Brigadier Dick McKee and Vice Brigadier Peadar Clancy, along with Conor Clune, were killed at Dublin Castle. At least 31 people dead in 15 hours.
Of the events of that day, it is the Croke Park murders that have had the most resonance since then. You have almost come to define the day.
After the morning murders, a challenging Gaelic football match between Dublin and Tipperary that afternoon was an immediate spot of interest to the Crown Forces.
Although Croke Park was not bought by the GAA until 1913, it was already inextricably linked to the new violent Irish nationalist movement. The Irish volunteers who later became the IRA held meetings there, while regular games were held to raise funds for families of political prisoners.
Croke Park became part of the social life of those involved in the coming to power of the British Empire.
One would have thought that the obvious connection between the GAA and the revolutionaries would have meant that Croke Park would have been the last place they would have gone when the entire British military machine was in search of the killers. Surprisingly, however, many of those who had killed that morning were actually in Croke Park that afternoon.
Officially, the RIC and auxiliaries, with the assistance of the military, went to Croke Park to conduct a search and arrest operation. It is easy to imagine, however, that the police and auxiliaries are driving to Croke Park in revenge.
Violent reprisals by Crown Forces became the norm in the increasingly bitter and bloody conflict. These reprisals may have been largely « unofficial », but high-ranking officials did little to discourage their husbands, who felt entitled to take revenge on a population that protects what they consider to be a « gang of murder ». . Croke Park would have fitted this pattern perfectly.
The fact that Tipperary was playing would only have helped. It was the most violent county at the time.
They were, in fact, the first auxiliaries to be killed in the war, and were shot in the execution-style after being captured and questioned by the IRA.
Perhaps the only way to understand the sheer terror of the events in Croke Park is to look at the random terrorist attacks on civilians in recent years – think of the attacks on Bataclan and the surrounding streets of Paris in 2015 Day.
But instead of the terrorists who committed the murders, these were members of the government forces. In total, they fired 228 rounds of small arms ammunition at unarmed, defenseless civilians – 50 rounds were fired from a machine gun, but everyone agrees that these were shot into the air.
Within a few minutes, 14 people died from gunshot wounds or from panic. The only public statement the authorities made subsequently was one drawn up by Dublin Castle accusing the IRA of shooting at Crown Forces as they arrived to raid Croke Park.
A hastily conducted investigation was conducted in-camera, out of the public eye and press control. It took evidence from just over 30 witnesses – most of whom were members of the RIC and Auxiliaries – and delivered a largely predictable verdict, which concluded that the first shots were fired by the crowd at the Auxiliaries and the RIC which led to general panic.
Interestingly, the investigation found that, with the exception of the shootings inside the enclosure, essentially the field of play, the crowd shooting was conducted without orders and was indiscriminate and unjustifiable. While the response from the auxiliaries and police was excessive, they only shot when they were shot at.
However, when the military inquiry finally opened to researchers eight decades later, the evidence that civilians fire first is distributable.
There is one person who claims to have seen a civilian shot, but this evidence has not been confirmed at the time and has never been substantiated.
When all of the reasonable evidence is put together, it is clear that the onlookers did not fire any shots.
The sequence of events was that helpers fired at ticket vendors and other people who were at the entrance to the canal bridge and ran away when they saw the police coming. Aides fired at people in this area. The first victims were killed here.
General shots occurred during this period, with others including Tipperary player Michael Hogan being shot. More died in swarms as the crowd tried to escape the scene in the area behind Cusack Stand / Hill 16 Corner.
Of those who admitted gunshots were fired, a member of the Crown Forces was shockingly businesslike when he made his report: « I saw young men between the ages of 20 and 25 running and bending down among the crowd . . . I pursued and released my revolver in their direction . . . I aimed at individual young men who ran away and tried to hide in the crowd. I have a . 450 revolvers and service ammunition. I chased them across the ground almost to the wall on the east side. «
Filming at Croke Park lasted only a few minutes, but nearly 100 years later, the events of that day are still emotional and controversial.
It was six years before an official GAA event was held to mark the day. This could be due to a desire not to specifically remember those killed on Bloody Sunday, while ignoring many others who were unjustifiably killed during the conflict.
The reluctance to highlight an event, the brutality of which stood out among many horrific incidents, could well be due to the fact that the GAA felt uncomfortable with their actions that day.
By letting the game play, you are putting players and supporters at immense risk. Whatever the difficulty of canceling the game, the decision to continue it was clearly the wrong one.
When the GAA first commemorated Bloody Sunday in 1926, they named the main stand after Hogan and did not recognize the other 13 « patrons » who were killed.
There was no commemoration of the lives of John Scott, James Matthews, Jeremiah O’Leary, Patrick O’Dowd, Jane Boyle, William Robinson, Thomas Hogan, James Burke, Michael Feery, James Teehan, Joseph Traynor, and Thomas Ryan and Daniel Carroll.
In the run-up to the 100th. Birthday changed. One of the most important gestures of the GAA was the proper marking of the unmarked graves of many of those killed on Bloody Sunday.
The Hogan’s booth has become the most sacred part of the floor, the main booth, where the main changing rooms are, where dignitaries sit, and where mugs are displayed.
In a stadium steeped in history, Bloody Sunday remains its most important historical association.
In recent years, Bloody Sunday has passed the GAA. When Ireland hosted England in a rugby match at Croke Park in 2007, those moments of God Save the Queen played in complete silence while the players stood in front of the Hogan booth marked a landmark in the nation’s development.
There have been excellent documentaries, online events, and interviews over the past few days and weeks that have given this well-known but poorly understood event its appropriate historical treatment.
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Bloody Sunday, Gaelic Athletic Association, Croke Park, Irish Republican Army, Ireland
World News – CA – Croke Park is a stadium full of history, but Bloody Sunday casts the greatest shadow
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