Today in Irish History: 21st November, 1920.
In response to the Irish Volunteers strike on British intelligence in Dublin (posted earlier), forces drove to Croke Park where a large crowd were watching a Tipperary V Dublin football game.
Mick Sammon, the Kildare referee, threw in the ball at 3.15pm. Accounts given by eye witnesses suggest that 5 minutes after the throw-in Croke Park was raided by British soldiers with shooting breaking out almost immediately. Auxiliaries entered the stadium at the canal end and as the shooting began the crowd surged away from that end of the stadium hoping to make it over the wall at the railway end of the stadium. The Auxiliaries fired 114 rounds of rifle ammunition, 50 rounds from a machine gun in an armoured car and an unknown amount of revolver ammunition at the penned spectators.
Ultimately fourteen people lost their lives as a result of the shootings in Croke Park. Included in the dead were Michael Hogan, a player on the Tipperary Team (whom the Hogan Stand is named after), Thomas Ryan who was shot on his knees whispering an act of contrition to Hogan, Jane Boyle due to be married five days later, fourteen year old William Scott who so badly mutilated that it was at first thought he had been bayoneted to death and two boys aged 10 and 11.
The British Brigadier Frank Crozier who was in command that day, later resigned over what he believed was the official condoning of the unjustified actions of the Auxiliaries at Croke Park. One of his officers told him that, "Black and Tans fired into the crowd without any provocation whatsoever".
The killings of men, women and children, both spectators and football players, made international headlines. The killings of British intelligence officers on the morning of the 21st dominated attention in Britain. When Joseph Devlin, an Irish Parliamentary Party MP tried to bring up the Croke Park killings at Westminster, he was shouted down and a scuffle broke out in the parliament and the sitting had to be suspended.
The combination of the killing of British Intelligence in Ireland and the outrage that was Bloody Sunday severely damaged British rule in Ireland and increased support for a new republican government. Assassinations by Irish Volunteers continued in Ireland for the remainder of the war, in addition to more large scale urban guerrilla actions by the Dublin Brigade. By the Spring of 1921, the British had rebuilt their Intelligence in Dublin and the Volunteers were planning another assassination attempt on British agents in the summer of that year. However, these plans were called off because of the Truce that ended the war on July 11th, 1921.