Bloody Sunday: Queen Elizabeth II visits site of ‘orgy of assassinations’


Britain's Queen Elizabeth II walks out from the player tunnel with Irish President Mary McAleese (L) and Gaelic Athletic Association President Christy Cooney at Croke Park stadium in Dublin. (Peter Muhly/Getty Images)

At a Gaelic football game on Nov. 20, 1920, British soldiers opened fire on a crowd of 5,000 spectators. In the long, mournful fight between Ireland and England, it was considered one of the darker days in Anglo-Irish history.

A second Bloody Sunday, memorialized in U2’s song of the same name, marks the killing of 14 protesters in 1972. In that too, British soldiers opened fire on a crowd, killing 14 people. Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the incident in June, 2010.

Queen Elizabeth’s visit is seen as a continuing effort by the British government to make amends for the past. The queen is expected to make a speech later Wednesday, and the Associated Press says the press is waiting to see if it contains an apology for British actions in Ireland.

On Nov. 22, 1920, a brief notice appeared in the Washington Post. The short nature of the post is likely due to the fact the news was transmitted by telegraph.

“Heavy death toll as curb war rages in Dublin streets. Number of dead in attacks on officers in Dublin, 14. Estimate of men slain by police at football game, 10 to 30. Several are reported to have been trampled to death. Armored cars terrorize the city in the search for criminals. All tram service is suspended and motor traffic stopped. Precautions have been taken to prevent reprisals.”

A longer piece ran from the Associated Press. It read in part:

“Twenty-six persons are dead and 70 others are lying in hospitals as a result of Sunday’s orgy of assassinations and wholesale shooting in Croke Park where soldiers fired on the crowd which had gathered to witness a footbal game between the Dublin and Tipperary teams.

“The shooting in Croke Park is defended by the authorities on the ground that they had reason to believe that men from the provinces had participated in yesterday’s murders and were present at the football match. The design of the military, it was said, was to prevent their exit and search each individual as he passed through the turnstiles... No general firing preceded the discharge of volleys by the military.

“The impression prevailing last night that the park shooting was a reprisal was controverted by an official statement that it was an attempt to round up the morning murderers.”

Update: John wrote in to tell me soccer was not the correct term for the game played on Bloody Sunday. The teams were playing Gaelic Football, a sport closer to rugby than soccer. I’m sorry for the mistake.

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