Published: 09:00 | 19/7/21

Documentary: Bloody Sunday


There's another chance to see ‘Bloody Sunday’, a fascinating new documentary on the terrible events of November 21st 1920 this Wednesday from midnight on eir sport 1.

Made by Square One Productions, this documentary explores the story of Bloody Sunday, November 21st 1920 when 14 people were killed by British forces in Croke Park at the height of the War of Independence.

The attack was launched in reprisal for the assassination of a cohort of British spies in Dublin by the IRA earlier that day. It was condemned throughout the world and is still remembered to this day as one of the darkest days in Britain and Ireland’s centuries-old conflict.

The assassination of the 16 British spies, known collectively as ‘The Cairo Gang’ on account of the café they used to frequent at the top of Grafton St, was ordered by IRA Counter-Intelligence Chief Michael Collins who was keen to disrupt the flow of information from the capital regarding potential IRA operations throughout the country.

It was a hugely effective operation, but the price that was paid by innocent citizens in reprisal was even larger still.

Stunned by the events of that morning, the British decided to hit back and selected Croke Park as their target.

Dublin footballers were playing Tipperary in a challenge match in aid of the Republican prisoners’ dependents fund and they knew that the event would be attended by large numbers of people of nationalist disposition.

It was allegedly originally intended as a search and seize operation, but the situation quickly deteriorated into bloodshed.

The match commenced later than advertised and news quickly filtered through that the venue had been surrounded by armoured vehicles. Allegedly the plan was to set up pickets at various exit points to conduct stop and search operations.

However, British forces quickly entered the stadium and began firing wildly into the crowd which numbered between 5,000 and 15,000. Around 50 rounds were discharged from a machine gun situated at the St James’s Avenue exit and a further 228 rounds from smaller weapons.  

The whole thing lasted only a matter of minutes, but the effects were devastating and 14 innocent people lay dead including Tipperary captain Michael Hogan.

Other victims included Jane Boyle, a butcher’s assistant, had been standing near the half-way line on the terracing opposite the main grandstand when the match began.  She was holding onto the arm of Daniel Byron, her fiancé, when the bullet struck her. The pair were due to be married the following week.

Ten-year-old Jerome O’Leary was one of three schoolchildren to be killed after being struck by a bullet through the right side of the head while sitting on a wall at the Canal End of the ground. The others were 11-year-old William Robinson and 14-year-old William Scott.

One of the British commanders, Major Mills, later admitted that his men had gotten “excited and out of hand”.

This new documentary explores the terrible events of that day and its aftermath as international public opinion turned against Britain as they struggled to retain control over their troublesome neighbour.

The War of Independence would continue until July the following year before a ceasefire was agreed, but by then more than 2,000 people had died.

The Treaty which followed would prove even more divisive and launch a bitter civil war, many of the lines of which are still drawn to this day.

Image: Square One Productions

*** There are plenty of great documentaries to watch out for on eir sport every week.

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