July 18. 1981. It was a beautiful summer's day in the leafy Dublin suburb of Ballsbridge. Yet within minutes the sky could no longer be seen with the hail of rocks and ammunition that was raining down on a force of Gardaí surrounding and protecting the British Embassy. Scenes reminiscent of the northern troubles were becoming a reality for the residents of affluent Dublin4.
Earlier that day a massive crowd of about 15,000 people had set out from St.Stephen's Green on a march to the British Embassy. They were protesting against the British Government's refusal to engage with the Republican Hunger Strikers in the Maze Prison. The Fine Gael / Labour Coalition Government wanted to avoid a repeat of the burning of the British Embassy in 1972, and was determined to prevent the march from reaching its destination. However the intensity of the riot which broke out caught the Gardaí, the residents of Ballsbridge, and even the majority of the demonstrators completely by surprise.
Over 100 members of the Garda Síochána were so severly injured they had to hospitalised - even the Chief Superintendent in charge suffered injuries that would lead to his early retirement. Garda Crowd control barriers placed to stop protestors' progress had actually blocked in the Gardaí and when they finally managed to break through their own barriers and charged the crowd there were shocking scenes of innocent bystanders, journalists and injured marchers being brutally batoned. In the aftermath of the riot there were accusations and counter accusations on all sides. Was this a deliberate and organised plot to attack the British embassy and destabilise the southern state? Did the Gardaí lose control of themselves and lash out at everybody in their path in an indiscriminate manner?
Scannal - looks back on a day when the troubles came to town and pieces together what happened on the day through eyewitness testimony from Gardaí, marchers, residents, journalists, and press photographers. The programme features interviews with, the then, Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald and film footage of shocking violence that came be be known as " The Ballsbridge Riot".
Láithreoir / Tuairisceoir: Fachtna Ó Drisceoil
Léiritheoir / Stiúrthóir: Niamh Ní Churnáin