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Ar Son na Poblachta returns to RTÉ One as the decade of centenaries continues. Now we will address the next turbulent period of our history – Cogadh na Saoirse / The War of Independence, bringing some fresh insights, fresh narratives of real people that cast light and understanding on our past.

In this three part series Ar Son na Poblachta will explore the issues and forces at play as war unfolded on the city streets and country roads across Ireland. One important episode, which is seared into the public imagination, took place in the same streets, houses and in the same stadium where, 100 years on, we live out our 21st Century lives. That event is “Bloody Sunday” 21st Nov 1920.

The original “Bloody Sunday” is a stark example of the vicious nature of the military campaign for independence and the bloody counter-measures undertaken by the British Authorities, loathe to even acknowledge the “disorder” as a war.

“Bloody Sunday and the murder of 26 people in a single day was a microcosm of the War of Independence, in respect of the role of killing, the role of espionage, heavy civilian casualties, the taking of significant risks, a fiercely fought propaganda battle; its contribution to the building and sustaining of myths about key individuals, its relevance to the debate about whether the war was to be long or short.” Dr. Diarmuid Ferriter – Professor of Modern Irish History UCD.

Programme 2

“You’re talking about Vinnie Byrne, 19 years old, going to Mount Street putting two guys up against a bed and shooting them in the back of the head…”

Michael Foley, Author – “The Bloodied Field”

In the second of three episodes AR SON NA POBLACHTA reveals that killings in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday had followed the co-ordinated assasination of 14 British Officers in their beds across Dublin city earlier that morning. An attack which caused terror and panic at the heart of the British administration in Ireland ( Dublin Castle) and was a key moment in the intelligence war between Michael Collins’ IRA and the British who had committed increasing resources to a counter intelligence offensive – flooding the city with undercover intelligence officers. The noose was tightening on Collins’ operations and Collins’ himself felt that “He had to get them before they got him,”

“It was also a high stakes strategy – intention was to get rid of as many intelligence officers as he could but also to send out a message that the IRA was on top of British Intelligence.”

Prof Diarmaid Ferriter

The assasinations were brutal and the details became interwoven into the fabric of propaganda on both sides, indeed with fictionalised elements added or factual elements subtracted as the narrative required. With a death toll of 14 across the city from the officer ranks of the British Military by 10.00am – a decision to “search” Croke Park for likely culprits was taken in Dublin Castle. The targeting of Croke Park was not unexpected and Collins himself together with other IRA men had already warned of it and did so again on Sunday morning, after the assasinations.

“The British had a hugely important and very successful intelligence network. They never expected that the Republicans would use those tactics against them.” Liz Gillis

The Croke Park massacre is now examined in the light of these early morning assassinations and the subsequent British military and Government propaganda surrounding both attacks. Was it a deliberate reprisal attack on unarmed civilians? or a regrettable loss of military discipline in an extremely tense situation?

As Episode 2 draws to a close we reveal that there is another bloody story to be told – On the eve of Bloody Sunday in a series of raids in Dublin – Conor Clune a teacher & gaeilgeoir from Clare, Dick McKee IRA Dublin Brigadier and his deputy Peadar Clancy were picked up and held over night in Dublin Castle – it didn’t end well.

Contributors to the series include:

Eunan Ó hAilpín

Anthony Ryan

Ciara Breathnach

Richard Staveley

Diarmaid Ferriter

Aogán Ó Fearghaill

Tómas MacConmara

Michael Foley

Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh

Cormac Ó Comhraí

Liz Gillis

Presenter / Reporter : PÁDRAIG O’DRISCOLL


Executive Producer : KEVIN CUMMINS