On 21st November 1920, British troops, infuriated by the IRA’s assassination that morning of 14 British agents, retaliated by firing wildly into the Croke Park crowd during a Gaelic football match between Tipperary and Dublin. They killed 11 spectators and a player, Michael Hogan, while two other people were trampled to death. Later that night two IRA officers and a sympathiser were shot in the cells of Dublin Castle in shameful circumstances. Two subsequent British military courts of inquiry into the massacre were held. They found that the shooting “was carried out without orders and exceeded the demands of the situation.” Major-General Boyd, the officer commanding Dublin District, added that in his opinion, “the firing on the crowd was carried out without orders, was indiscriminate, and unjustifiable”. It was the first Bloody Sunday.
Lansdowne Road is being refurbished and so, for the first time, Croke Park, a place of Irish nationalist symbolism, is being used for international rugby. The location of today’s rugby match has acute political significance, Sinn Fein are trying to stir up trouble with a protest at the ground. It will therefore be an extremely emotional moment when the overwhelmingly Irish crowd hears the band play God Save the Queen.
Guido’s view is that this is rugby, and rugby fans will want to enjoy it without the historical politics. There is however a rumour going round that Peter Hain will lay a commemorative wreath at Croke Park. That would only serve to further politicise the event. It would reflect well on the crowd if the British national anthem was respected. But remember this is the ground where British bullets once reigned down on Irish civilians, there is not a hope in hell that they will like hearing Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us.
The Irish national anthem is no less militant, in fact it is implicitly anti-British, and tells of despots from “a land beyond the wave”. It is explicitly a soldier’s song “In Erin’s cause, come woe or weal, ‘Mid cannon’s roar and rifles’ peal” the Irish Rugby team will sing, in Gaelic, that they are sworn to be free.
Guido won’t be booing the British national anthem this afternoon, but he will be cheering O’Driscoll to victory…
UPDATE : 43 – 13 and the proper respect shown for the national anthems. Ireland can be proud.