When the Irish Government Failed to Remove a Statue Symbolizing British Imperialism in Dublin, an IRA Splinter Group Blew it the Fuck Up

In 1805 Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson was shot and killed in the Battle of Trafalgar, where he led a fleet of British ships in victory, defeating France and Spain. In 1809 in celebration, Nelson’s Pillar was erected on Sackville Street in Dublin, Ireland, a city and country still under British rule.

As the Irish independence movement gained steam in the 19th century, Sackville Street became O’Connell Street, named after Dan O’Connell, the Irish political leader who campaigned for Catholic emancipation and Irish independence. A monument of O’Connell was erected there in 1882. In 1916, after a battle where parts of Dublin were left in rubble, Ireland won its independence and became known as the Irish Free State, and later the Republic of Ireland. Nelson’s Pillar still remained.

Throughout the 20th century calls to remove the statue, seen as a symbol of smug British imperialism, went unheeded.

From Wikipedia:

The chief legal barrier to its removal was the trust created at the Pillar’s inception, the terms of which gave the trustees a duty in perpetuity to preserve the monument. Successive Irish governments failed to deliver legislation overriding the trust.

In 1966, a group of former IRA members decided it was time to bring down Lord Nelson. Called “Operation Humpty Dumpty” the man who planted the bomb recalled to the BBC decades later:

“One girl said to me: ‘Here we are in the capital city and there’s still a big British Admiral in the middle of it.’ What are you going to do about it?'” he recalls.

“She kept it up for a while, until I told her to wait and see.”

Sutcliffe then approached Joe Christle, who revealed that a plan was already well-advanced, and invited him to be a part of it.

After the bomb failed to go off the previous evening, Sutcliffe again visited the following evening, 7 March 1966. At 1:30am on March 8th, the bomb went off. No one was killed, and the only property damage other than to Lord Nelson was to an empty taxi.

This event was met mostly with cheers, celebration, and jokes from Dubliners. From The Irish Times:

“Gaiety and joie-de-vivre prevailed throughout O’Connell Street,” The Irish Times reported the following day.

“There were happy, smiling faces everywhere and witticisms like ‘poor old Nelson’ were greeted with roars of laughter.

“Even an American tourist who went around explaining everything to everyone was kindly received.”

With the recent news about deadly clashes in Charlottesville, VA surrounding a statue of Robert E. Lee, and the pulling down of a statue of a civil war soldier in Durham, NC — This stance from the IRA, noted in an article by the author Donal Fallon who wrote The Pillar: The Life and Afterlife of the Nelson Pillar’, is important to think about:

The IRA moved to distance itself from the bombing, with a statement from the ‘Republican Movement’ claiming that their movement was concerned not with the destruction of the symbols of imperialism, but imperialism itself.

 

 

“Lord Nelson” by Tommy Makem

Lord Nelson stood in pompous state upon his pillar high
And down along O’Connell Street, he cast a wicked eye
He thought how this barbaric race had fought the British crown
Yet they were content to let him stay right here in Dublin town

So remember brave Lord Nelson boys, he had never known defeat
And for his reward, they stuck him up in the middle of O’Connell Street

Well for many years, Lord Nelson stood and no one seemed to care
He’d squint at Dan O’Connell, who was standing right down there
He thought “The Irish like me or they wouldn’t let me stay
That is except those blighters that they call the I.R.A.”

So remember brave Lord Nelson boys, he had never known defeat
And for his reward, they stuck him up in the middle of O’Connell Street

And then in 1966, on March the seventh day
A bloody great explosion made Lord Nelson rock and sway
He crashed and Dan O’Connell cried in woeful misery
“There are twice as many pigeons now will come and sit on me”

So remember brave lord Nelson boys, he had never known defeat
And for his reward, they blew him up in the middle of O’Connell Street

 

“Nelson’s Farewell” by The Dubliners

Oh, poor old Admiral Nelson is no longer in the air
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo
On the eighth day of March in Dublin City fair
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo

From his stand of stones and mortar he fell crashing through the quarter
Where once he stood so stiff and proud and rude
So let’s sing our celebration, it’s a service to the nation
So poor old Admiral Nelson, toora loo

Oh, fifty pounds of gelignite it sped him on his way
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo
And the lad that laid the charge, we’re in debt to him today
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo

In Trafalgar Square it might be fair to leave old Nelson standing there
But no one tells the Irish what they’ll view
Now the Dublin Corporation can stop deliberation
For the boys of Ireland showed them what to do

For a hundred and fifty seven years it stood up there in state
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo
To mark old Nelson’s victory o’er the French and Spanish fleet
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo

But one thirty in the morning without a bit of warning
Old Nelson took a powder and he blew
Now at last the Irish nation has Parnell in higher station
Than poor old Admiral Nelson, toora loo

Oh the Russians and the Yanks, with lunar probes they play
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo
And I hear the French are trying hard to make up lost headway
Toora, loora, loora, loora, loo

But now the Irish join the race, we have an astronaut in space
Ireland, boys, is now a world power too
So let’s sing our celebration, it’s a service to the nation
So poor old Admiral Nelson, toora loo

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