The two leaders of the 26 County government have been condemned for hypocrisy for piously marking the centenary of the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre in Croke Park despite previously commemorating those who carried out the atrocity.
Fourteen people were killed or fatally wounded by British forces during a Gaelic football match on November 21, 1920. Dozens more were injured in the massacre which came during Ireland’s War of Independence.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was “humbled and honoured” to attend the Bloody Sunday commemoration to remember the 14 who were gunned down 100 years ago last weekend. “They deserve their rightful place in the story of Ireland’s independence,” he wrote.
But Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín noted the poppy Martin wore last Sunday week in honour of British forces “commemorates the men who murdered indiscriminately in Croke Park 100 years ago”.
And Fine Gael leader, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, was ridiculed for his attempts to remember those who died. Earlier this year, he backed a proposal to specifically honour the forces blamed for the killings, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Auxiliaries. He spoke of those forces and the equally murderous Black and Tans as part of a “shared history” which should be “embraced” with a commemoration.
Posting a picture on Twitter of the official commemoration, he claimed on Sunday to be thinking of their victims “and the affect it had on our journey toward independence”.
Sinn Féin TD for Wicklow John Brady ridiculed the double standard. He wrote: “While laying a wreath to the Royal Irish Constabulary and Black and Tans today outside Croke Park, Leo Varadkar said he’d better stick his head inside just to be impartial.”
Irish President Michael D Higgins was among those who attended a dramatic and moving commemoration at Croke Park organised by the GAA, while outside the main gates of the stadium, an unofficial commemoration took place.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said that it was right to mark the anniversary “with respect and reverence” but also to look to the future with “confidence and hope” for the reunification of Ireland.
“One hundred years ago today, fourteen civilians were shot and killed in the massacre at Croke Park,” she said.
“Their cold and brutal murders were an act of vengeance by British forces enraged by the success of IRA counter-intelligence operations carried out in Dublin earlier that same day. These actions had dealt a massive blow to the British war machine in Ireland.
“The massacre was a pivotal moment in the Tan War. The indiscriminate, ruthless and frenzied nature of the killings signalled Britain’s weakening hold on Ireland. The savagery of these horrific reprisals merely served to increase support for the IRA and further fuelled the struggle for Irish freedom.”
She commended the GAA for the way that the association marked the centenary anniversary “during these very difficult times”.
But on Saturday, dozens of Saoradh activists gathered outside the O’Neills factory in Strabane in protest at the decision of the GAA-linked sportswear company to make training kits for the British Army and jerseys for British soccer clubs commemorating those forces.
“The same British Armed Forces that continue to hold the Six Counties under occupation, that have murdered, plundered, pillaged and butchered generations of Irish men, woman and children,” they wrote later.
“O’Neills have made their fortune from the loyalty of the local communities, it prides itself on the ethos of family. Well they may now throw that theory in the bin.”
They criticised the GAA for moves it said had helped to normalise British rule in Ireland.
“Make no mistake, the GAA and O’Neills are a vital cog in a British inspired normalisation process, with the GAA now receiving funding from the Brits and new business markets being opened for O’Neills.”
The following are those who died at Croke Park on November 21, 2020, and their ages:
Jane Doyle - 26
James Burke - 44
Daniel Carroll - 30
Michael Ferry - 40
Mick Hogan - 24
Tom Hogan - 19
James Matthews - 38
Patrick O’Dowd - 57
Jerome O’Leary - 10
William Robinson - 11
John William Scott - 14
Tom Ryan - 27
James Teehan - 26
Joe Traynor - 21