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Bloody Sunday in Dublin
Unpleasant scenes in Dublin yesterday as police baton-charged a group of labour demonstrators on O'Connell Street. Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 6 September 1913

Bloody Sunday in Dublin

One man dead, hundreds injured as police baton charge crowds in the Capital

Published: 1 September 1913

Dublin succumbed to heavy rioting for the second day in a row after police baton charged crowds gathered on Sackville Street. Already being described as ‘Bloody Sunday’, yesterday’s disturbances followed a series of violent clashes in and near the city the day before and they signal a serious escalation of the conflict between employers and trade unions arising out of the strike of the Dublin tram workers, which began on August 26th.

Padraig Yeates talks about the causes and consequences of the baton-charge in Dublin.
Bloody Sunday in Dublin [user-generated content online]
Creat. Century Ireland; Contrib. Padraig Yeates; 19/08/13; 3mins 24sec

What triggered yesterday’s appalling scenes was the public appearance and subsequent arrest of the trade union leader, Mr James Larkin, at the Imperial Hotel on Sackville Street. As Larkin, who was acting in defiance of a proclamation prohibiting any such meeting, was being led away to the police station, there was a liberal wielding of batons by the police on the crowds who gathered on Dublin’s main thoroughfare. 

The indiscriminate wielding of truncheons left many injured and requiring hospitalisation and has drawn serious criticism on the Police.

Today, in a letter published in The Freeman’s Journal, Count Casmir Dunin Markievicz has stated that violence perpetrated on the crowd was vicious and unwarranted. There had been, he stressed, no attempt to rescue Larkin and no breach of the peace. The excesses of the police were the equal of the events of Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg, he added. ‘Scores of well-fed metropolitan policemen pursued a handful of men, women and children running for their lives before them. Round the corner on Princess Street, I saw a young man pursued by a huge policeman, knocked down by a baton stroke, and then, whilst bleeding on the ground, batoned and kicked, not only by this policeman, but by his colleagues lusting for slaughter. I saw many batoned people lying on the ground, senseless and bleeding. When the police had finished their bloodthirsty pursuit, they returned down the street batoning the terror stricken passers-by who had taken refuge in the doorways. It was a complete triumph for the police. It was, indeed, a great day for the batons and the physical training of the metropolitan and constabulary forces. They overshadowed the deeds of Cossacks and Bashi-Bazouks. It was, indeed, a Bloody Sunday for Ireland.’

Another witness to the riot was the Mr Handel Booth, the Liberal MP for Pontefract, who likewise saw little justification for the brutality of the methods deployed. ‘I cannot under any circumstances understand why people when lying prostrate on the ground, should be kicked.’ Mr Booth remarked that his wife had witnessed more of the baton charges than he had and intended writing to the newspapers on the matter.

Yesterday’s rioting followed similarly ugly scenes in the Capital the day before. Trouble flared early on Saturday afternoon when trams were attacked in Ringsend. Motormen and conductors were jeered by strike supporters and the glass on a number of carriages was smashed. The police intervened with a series of baton charges and by making a number of arrests. At one point, a tramway official  jumped onto the road, drew a revolver and threatening the crowd.

A constable riding in the front of a tramcar to protect it from any potential threats from the disgruntled employees of the Dublin United Tramway Company.
(Image: Illustrated London News [London, England], 6th Sept 1913]

Later on Saturday, the focus of the disorder moved to the city centre. Clashes between police and crowds at Beresford Place began  sometime after 9pm and quickly spread and there were violent clashes at O’Connell Bridge and Eden Quay, with by-standers, including young girls, caught up in the mayhem. Several individuals were knocked to the ground and bleeding heads were common. By 10pm, it had spread further, to Talbot Street and up Marlborough past the Pro-Cathedral, where policemen’s truncheons were met with stones and bottles. 

In all, Saturday’s violence resulted in 320 people being treated at Jervis Street Hospital, but the most serious casualty was a 33 year-old labourer from 8 Spring Gardens, off North Strand, who died on Sunday morning from injuries sustained in the riots on Saturday. The deceased had been admitted to Jervis Street Hospital between 8pm and 9pm and treated fracture of the skull.

The city remains in a state of high tension and the Lord Mayor of Dublin has said that he will be seeking an immediate public inquiry into the general conduct of the police over the last two days. He has also said that he will instruct the law agents of the Corporation to attend the inquest. In the face of growing criticism, however, Mr Harrell, Assistant Commissioner of the Dublin Police, has claimed that reports of police misbehaviour have been exaggerated.


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