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GAA seeks apology for Croke Park massacre

(Valerie Robinson, Irish News)

GAA bosses have called on the British government to apologise for the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park.

Thirteen spectators and one player were killed when the Black and Tans burst onto the pitch and started firing into the crowd on November 21 1920 – half a century before British paratroopers opened fire on civil rights marchers in Derry.

An article published in the latest edition of History Ireland magazine has revealed that the official record of a British military inquiry into the Dublin killing has been released.

The secret inquiry blamed unknown civilians for firing the first shots, as a warning of the raid or to create a panic in the crowded grounds.

It admitted, however, that all the fatal shots were fired by the police from the canal bridge, claiming that officers had shot at people "trying to evade arrest".

Out of 30 statements given to the inquiry only three were provided by spectators.

GAA public relations manager Danny Lynch last night called on the British government to apologise to the families of those killed and injured during the attack.

"History has recorded precisely what happened, through literature, film and accounts by people who were in Croke Park that day," Mr Lynch said.

"It was indiscriminate firing at people attending a game and the players. It was a calculated reprisal for events that happened the previous day that had nothing to do with the supporters or the players."

Mr Lynch added that while more than 80 years had passed since the killings it would "be nice if an apology was issued to the relatives who still honour their dead".

And Matt Doyle, the Dublin-based spokesman of the National Graves Association, said the British had deliberately targeted "innocent civilians" in revenge for assassination of 13 undercover British intelligence agents by an IRA squad.

"The British government should now issue a formal apology for what happened," he said.

"It was completely wrong to attack ordinary people in revenge for the deaths of intelligence agents."

The massacre was sparked after Michael Collins ordered the assassination of the 'Cairo Gang' – British agents who were attempting to infiltrate the IRA.

The following day, 10,000 spectators had crowded into Croke Park to watch the Dublin vs Tipperary football match.

One of the soldiers who took part in the Bloody Sunday operation later recalled that they had tossed a coin over whether troops would go on a killing spree in Croke Park or loot O'Connell Street in revenge for the agents' deaths.

During the attack dozens of people were killed or injured as the crowd stampeded in a desperate attempt to escape.

The dead included Tipperary goalkeeper Michael Hogan – the Hogan Stand was later named in his honour – as well as Jeannie Boyle, who had gone to the match with her fiancee and was due to be married five days later.

Fourteen-year-old John Scott, was so badly mutilated that survivors thought he had been bayoneted to death. The youngest victims were aged 10 and 11.

In the wake of the massacre, British authorities in Dublin Castle issued a statement claiming that members of Collins's squad had been responsible for causing the stampede that led troops to open fire.

June 7, 2003

This article appeared first in the June 5, 2003 edition of the Irish News.

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