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From: "Jean Rice" <>
Subject: [IRELAND] The Storming of Connolly House, Dublin, March 1933 - Anti-Revolutionary Workers Groups
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 22:21:16 -0800

HISTORY: Over several nights during late March 1933 crowds attacked buildings in Dublin associated with the far left. Connolly House on Great Strand Street, headquarters of the Communist party, or Revolutionary Workers Groups as they called at the time, was eventually stormed and set on fire on the night of Wednesday March 29th. Gardai estimated that the crowd numbered 5 or 6 thousand. Attempts were also made to attack the Workers' College in Eccles Street and the Workers Union of Ireland office in Marlborough Street. These events were a dramatic illustration of the strength of anti-Communist feelings in 1930s Ireland. Such feeling was not dependent on an actual Communist threat: the numbers involved in the Irish Communist movement were tiny. Nor was fervent anti-Communism the preserve of the extreme right -- it permeated almost all Irish political forces, including the mainstream Labor Movement... As early as October 1931 the Catholic hierarchy had issued pastor!
al warnings against the spread of left-wing ideas in Ireland. Its target was the IRA, which had just adopted the radical 'Saor Eire' programme, but its language conjured up images of Bolshevik hordes on the loose destroying the Irish people's faith and way of life. "You cannot be a Catholic and a Communist. One stand for Christ the other for Anti-Christ." In his Lenten pastoral for 1933, the Bishop of Kildare warned his flock: "Be prepared to fight...There is no reason why anyone who undertakes to propagate Communism should be allowed to do so." Also in the background was the campaign in Leitrim against James GRALTON, accused of introducing Communist ideas into his native Drumsna. That the siege of Connolly house was clerically inspired is confirmed by several very different sources. The first attack followed a particularly vitriolic sermon at Dublin's Pro-Cathedral on Monday 27 March. Unsuccessful, the mob returned on Tuesday evening, and finally sacked Connolly !
House on the Wednesday night. Nora Connolly O'BRIEN, daughter of James CONNOLLY and a left-wing activist in her own right, collected statements from churchgoers on sermons given in Dublin churches that week... Moss TWOMEY, the chief-of-staff of the IRA, noted that "in all the churches, at the Lenten lectures or missions, nine-tenths of the sermons are dealing with Communism..."

Gardai had already noted the large number of young people joining the newly formed St. Patrick's Anti-Communism League from Catholic young men's and women's societies. The League had been launched in early March by an 80-year-old former butler, Patrick GLENNON. Its main object was "to supply strenuous and efficient workers to (the) anti-Communism cause, these workers to rely on prayer and the sacraments to aid them in their heroic work." Members were encouraged to "publicly wear a distinctive badge...with the device of the Sacred Heart thereon." (It is important to note, however, the League condemned the violence in Great Strand Street, and it was still in his infancy when the attacks occurred. It was summer before the League held any public meetings, and these passed off peacefully).

Per an extensive article in the Summer 1999 issue of "History Ireland" magazine, we can assume that the organisation of the violence came from elsewhere. There must have been some level of organisation because, although thousands marched to Connolly House, cheered on the rioters and sang hymns while the fighting raged, only a hard-core of a few hundred were actively involved. Moss TWOMEY's opinion of those involved in the attack was low: 'such a gang of rowdies...they know how weak the Communist group here is and that they are safe. I must say the "storm-troops" I saw last night were the poorest stuff imaginable...twelve men would have scattered...the mob.' .. But the gangs were apparently capable of serious violence (even though injuries remained few) and even the Garda were shocked by the ferocity of the fighting. Bricks and slates were thrown down onto the crowd from those in the building, and the building next door was set on fire by the mob. A handful of arrests!
were made, mostly from the mob. Those who were besieged in Connolly House claimed that the Garda only intervened when the violence threatened to spill over into O'Connell Street. Apparently Garda resources had been stretched thin by a serious fire at the a furniture store and auction rooms on Bachelors Walk.... Garda reports stress that even a large force would have had difficulty controlling the mob: "It is clear that this movement against Communism is very strong in Dublin and elaborate police arrangements will require to be made to prevent the destruction of premises used by the Communist Party." Following the violence Garda protection of the next likely targets of the anti-Communists was stepped up, and gangs of youths were prevented from attacking Charlotte DESPARD's Workers' College on the Thursday night. Subsequent lack of hostile reaction to the storming of Connolly House serves as a reminder of how pervasive anti-Communist feeling was in the Ireland of the 19!
30s. Even the IRA were reluctant to defend those of their own members who had come to the Communists' aid... Neither did the Labour party or trade union leaderships speak out against the mob violence. Only a handful of Republican radicals, notably Maud GONNE and Hanna SHEEHY-SKEFFINGTON, had the courage to pubicly denounce the attacks. You can read more, if the subject interests you.

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