Coroner condemns ‘extraordinary’ actions of British army
Inquest hears conflicting evidence from soldiers and officers
The inquest into the killing of three Dubliners in the aftermath of the Howth gun running has led to the Dublin Coroner condemning the actions of the British army.
Mary Duffy from Lower Liffey Street, Patrick Quinn from Gardiners Lane and James Brennan from Lower Buckingham Street were shot dead when British soldiers fired indiscriminately into a crowd on Bachelors Walk.
That crowd had been shouting abuse and throwing stones at the soldiers who were returning to barracks after a failed attempt to disarm Irish Volunteers returning to Dublin from Howth.
The Dublin coroner, Louis A. Byrne, said that it was extraordinary that the military authorities knew who had fired the shots, but that those soldiers had not been put under arrest.
This was particularly the case because so many lives had been lost and so many people had been injured.
The coroner was commenting on evidence given by Lieutenant Myles that the men who had ‘fired without orders’ were still going about their ordinary duties.
Evidence was also given to the inquest by soldiers who said they fired only when they heard the order ‘Fire!’ from the rear, where there were some officers positioned.
Privates Douglas, Port and Lennox all claimed to have thought they heard such an order come from officers.
By contrast, Captain Cobden told the inquest that he had given no such order to fire. He did say that he ordered his men to load their weapons and to fix bayonets following earlier consultation with Assistant Commissioner Harrell of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
In his evidence to the inquest, Major Alfred Haig said that on Bachelors Walk he had halted his party of troops, because they were under a hail of missiles: ‘When I halted them across the road, it was with the intention of opening fire on the crowd if they did not desist from further molestation or attack.’
He said that he had given no order to ‘Fire!’, however: ‘In the din somebody thought that I had given an order.’
He also said that he had spoken to his men after they had returned to barracks: ‘I informed the men that they had had a terribly rough experience. I told them that they had no business to fire without orders, and the fact that they had done so might bring discredit on the regiment.’
A Royal Commission has been established to inquire into the shootings.