The war had been typified by a brutal guerilla conflict of increasingly rabid tit-for-tat exchanges across the Irish countryside between the ruling British police force — supplemented by auxiliary forces fresh from World War I — and the Irish Republican Army IRA. Atrocities and reprisals stacked up, but November 21's bloodshed marked a dramatic turn in the war.
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At around am, an IRA cell launched a coordinated set of attacks on alleged British agents in Dublin, killing 14 men across the city — some in front of their wives and families — causing enormous panic to ripple through the British establishment. It was accepted by the IRA that striking at the heart of the British intelligence operation in such a dramatic way would surely invite a response. The large-scale gathering of GAA supporters at Croke Park that afternoon proved simply too large an event to ignore for the authorities.
Although the GAA was ostensibly an apolitical association, British authorities felt there was enough about its activities that showed it was partisan. The GAA remains to this day a preserve of Irish culture by promoting Ireland's domestic indigenous sports — most notably Gaelic football and hurling.
The association also existed to "actively support" the Irish language, Irish dancing, music and other elements of Irish culture. The IRA asked Luke O'Toole, general secretary of the GAA, to cancel the game, but he did not want to compromise the body's status as a sporting organisation by reacting to what was seen as a political issue. British soldiers — lead by the infamous Black and Tans — and Royal Irish Constabulary policemen were sent to Croke Park, where they were told to search the crowd for any members of the IRA cell that had perpetrated that morning's attacks and to confiscate any weapons.
However, instead of simply pausing the game as they were ordered, the soldiers opened fire. The official account said police were fired upon first, however modern research has found little evidence this was the case. When Irish MP Joe Devlin raised a question about the massacre in Westminster, the argument that followed descended into a fist fight.
Subsequent to the end of British rule, the country lurched into a full-blown Civil War between , the effects of which are still apparent today.
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Cian Murphy, the secretary of the GAA history committee, has helped plan the commemoration events for the centenary of Bloody Sunday. With a capacity of 82,, Croke Park is one of Europe's largest sporting venues. It has been the home of Gaelic games in Ireland since shortly after the GAA was formed in , with the first All Ireland final taking place there in — and almost every year since. We need to keep it and honour it for all its history.
The events of Bloody Sunday helped make Croke Park a revered venue in Ireland's sporting consciousness. However, there were concerns the venue's sanctity could become befouled when one of the GAA's most fundamental rules was relaxed in Rule 42 prohibits the use of GAA property for games with interests in conflict with the interests of the GAA — colloquially, this is known as a ban on "garrison games" such as rugby or football. One of the first matches Croke Park was set to host was Ireland against England — the most sensitive of fixtures, burdened with the weight of so much violent history.
Mr Murphy argues that the vote to open up Croke Park, which he said was driven by grassroots clubs within the organisation, was an important part of the healing process. The actual game went even better, as the Irish steam-rolled the English by a record score of He reveals the myriad of storylines that emerged from a complex and horrific day, be it the British soldier who was saved by Patrick O'Dowd before he was shot, through to Dublin goalkeeper Johnny McDonnell, who had been involved in the IRA attacks earlier that day.
The story that everyone knows is that of Michael Hogan, with one of the main grandstands named in his memory in Mr Murphy said he hoped that the research completed by Foley and the GAA in recent years had helped heal old wounds. It was the publication of Mr Foley's book in that promoted action from the GAA in terms of recognising the other victims of the tragedy. The relatives of one of the victims, Jane Boyle — who was due to be married the week after Bloody Sunday and was, instead, buried in her wedding dress — got in contact with the GAA to seek assistance in putting a headstone on her unmarked grave, something that was realised on November 21, , 95 years after she died.
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Eight of the victims were buried in unmarked graves, something the GAA has made a point of addressing in recent years. COVID has put paid to many of the GAA's plans for the centenary commemorations, but there will still be events taking place on the day. The GAA season would normally conclude in September.
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In lieu of that commemorative match against Dublin, Tipperary will wear a replica green and white kit in its Munster Senior Football Final against Cork on Saturday. The GAA also has dedicated a website to the victims, as well as commissioning podcasts, radio programs and a television documentary. The shootings at Croke Park as well as the later killing of three republican prisoners in Dublin Castle made the British the perpetrators rather than the victims of violence.
They were shot and possibly tortured by British authorities that evening.
It also fed into the growing awareness of the brutal actions of some in the British Army. Just a year and a half earlier, the world learned of the Amritsar massacre in India, when the British Indian Army killed almost people and injured more than 1, more. David Lloyd George, pictured here in Source: PA. Not only was this a win for those leading the fight for Irish independence at home and abroad, but it was a morale booster for those fighting on the ground. The British were making inroads, Moore said, and it was an increasingly tough battle, but the combined events of that day gave the IRA a better resolve to continue.
A simple example of this is the renaming of Hill 60, originally commemorating the Irishmen who died fighting with the Connaught Rangers, a British Army regiment, on a hill with the same title in Gallipoli during World War I, to what is now known as Hill 16, after the Rising.
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Bloody Sunday: How the senseless attack in Croke Park hastened the end of British rule
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The first thing that struck us, those of us with Volunteer training, was to lay prone on the ground, and following that, a [ We lay still prone, and our backs and the Dublin forwards rushed away from the firing end, from the canal end of it and rushed towards the railway exit. As the firing continued, both the Dublin and Tipperary players decided to leave in pairs. Two players left, Hogan was the third player that got up to go, and as he did, he fell forward.
I decided to rush for my life and try and get out. The boy had his dinner on Sunday and then hurried off to the match with a playmate, a little fellow named Daly. The father afterwards identified the body. There was a wound across the left breast, which had apparently been caused by a bullet. A number of men had sought shelter in her house and in other houses in the avenue. The little boy was placed on a table. Mrs Coleman and her two little girls knelt down by his side and said some prayers, and the poor boy made the responses.
All the time the rattle of shots was heard outside, some being fired up the Avenue, and they were unable to get out for a drink of water for the dying child. In the afternoon of the same day, I dressed two men who were wounded at Croke Park I was on duty in the area. I took part in the raids on Intelligence Officers on [Bloody Sunday] and was one of the firing squad.
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