Analysis: for many years, the GAA showed an uneasiness about commemorating the 14 civilians killed in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday

The centenary of Bloody Sunday is being marked by the GAA with a programme of sensitively curated and diverse events which ensure that all victims are remembered with reverence. Many stakeholders are involved, including historians, artists and the local community.

But for many years, the GAA demonstrated an uneasiness in commemorating the 14 civilians who died in Croke Park at the hands of Crown Forces. Instead, they focused commemorations on Michael Hogan and overlooking the stories of other victims.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From British Pathé, report on the unveiling of a memorial to Michael Hogan at Croke Park 

At GAA Congress in 1925, a motion was proposed for that one of the Croke Park stands be named the Hogan stand in memory of the Tipperary footballer who was killed on Bloody Sunday. The motion was unanimously approved and the Hogan Stand was named with a plaque unveiled the following year. It is notable that Hogan had a stand named in his memory before Maurice Davin or Frank Dineen, who were pivotal figures in the early operation of the GAA and its development.

It was not until 1970 that the other victims of Bloody Sunday would be recognized in an official memorial at Croke Park. Even then, their memorialization was problematic. On the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, two memorial plaques were unveiled on the beams of the Hogan Stand. One plaque named the victims and the other named the members of both the Tipperary and Dublin teams. It is telling that the victims are given the exact same visibility and equal space as the Dublin and Tipperary teams.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, remembering the events of Bloody Sunday 1920

On the plaque that memorialized the victims, 13 were listed. Today, it is accepted that there were 14 victims: James Burke, Jane Boyle, Daniel Carroll, Michael Feery, Michael Hogan, Thomas (Tom) Hogan, James Matthews, Patrick O'Dowd, Jerome O'Leary, William (Perry) Robinson, Tom Ryan, John William (Billy) Scott, James Teehan and Joseph Traynor. On the plaque unveiled in 1970, Tom Hogan was omitted, possibly because his death was not immediate as he died in hospital a few days later of the injuries sustained on Croke Park. This memorial plaque was incorrect as it cited Seosamh O'Duadh, instead of Patrick O’Dowd or Padraig O’Duadh. A terrible mistake which misrepresents a lost life.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Archives, Dublin team captain Paddy McDonnell and Tipperary player Tommy Ryan give their memories of Bloody Sunday to Sports Desk reporter Liam Campbell in 1962

In 1995, a plaque was unveiled in Semple Stadium and Thurles inserted itself into the commemorative space around Bloody Sunday. However, it did so in a way that placed the players on the Tipperary and Dublin teams at the forefront of the memorial rather than the victims. By naming the players of both teams in the memorial and making only a cursory reference to any of the victims other than Hogan, the plaque in Thurles commemorates the match, rather than the tragedy itself. The present memorial plaque in Croke Park, located at Level 3 of the Hogan Stand, includes the names of the 14 victims, the starting 15 on both teams and the referee Mick Sammon.

The combination of these names on the memorial plaques, different and similar at the same time, tends to cancel out individual differences and gives back to the viewer only one face and one general type instead of a multitude of distinctive persons. Through the cancellation of images and personal life stories, only the endless horror of the past remains, as if it all happened without any individuality.

The Freeman's Journal report on the events at Coke Park on November 21st 1920

What does it mean to read a name? On one hand, it signals the life of the individual, on the other hand, it is a shallow evocation of their presence. The centenary of Bloody Sunday has brought a renewed desire to memorialise the dead with images, objects, stories, details and specifics, precisely because of the way in which the name provides only an empty shell of remembrance.

Aside from Michael Hogan, there is limited information on public commemorations of the victims of Bloody Sunday, if any happened in the first place. A plaque to Daniel Carroll was unveiled in his native Templederry last year on the wall of the community centre in the local GAA grounds and a memorial to Wexford man Tom Ryan will be unveiled soon at Oylegate GAA grounds. 

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Six One News, 14 plays based on Bloody Sunday to be performed at Croke Park

Eight of the 14 people killed at Croke Park lay in unmarked graves in Glasnevin Cemetery, with the exact location only known until recently to those who attended the funeral. As is the case in most graveyards at the turn of the 20th century, only the wealthier deceased were commemorated with permanent memorials and the vast majority of those buried there would have been too poor to afford anything other than temporary grave markers. Gravestones can serve as tools for presentation of self and identity, but any personal significance or individuality of the victims of Bloody Sunday was repressed by restricting distinctive identities to those who could afford a headstone.

In 2015, the GAA Bloody Sunday Graves Project began with relatives such as Richard Stavely in conjunction with the GAA and The Bloodied Field author Michael Foley, and with the support of the Glasnevin Trust, who undertook to verify final resting places. They made contact with victim’s relatives and provided assistance, where needed, to erect headstones and markers on these graves. 

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, author Michael Foley and Liam Dinneen, relative of Patrick O'Dowd, discuss the GAA Bloody Sunday Graves Project

Through the choice of language for the inscription on these stones, including a reference to Bloody Sunday, the victims become anchored in this particular event. While their gravestones are not placed side by side, their appearance taken together (similar in form, size and inscription) assemble the victims with a common identity and belonging to the events of Bloody Sunday. These people that were unrelated in life are now united in death as a collective of casualties of what happened on November 21st 1920. 

READ: The story of Bloody Sunday and Tipperary football's rise and fall

READ: Debunking some of the myths around Bloody Sunday

READ: How a French graphic novel tells the story of Bloody Sunday 1920

The GAA watched as the secure and predictable routine of a football match on a Sunday afternoon drastically changed into an unsafe and erratic experience. Perhaps it was a conscious decision by the Association to focus on commemorating one victim– Michael Hogan– in order to evoke an emotional reaction of awe or veneration and in doing so, distract from the sorrow and regret over the loss of 14 lives at a football match and in particular, the death of three children. Commemoration is always selective and reflects what society wants to remember and the commemoration of Bloody Sunday, 1920 is no exception.  


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ