Gaelic Football: War of Independence & “Bloody Sunday”

On 20 February 2020 An Post issued a stamp to commemorate the War of Independence featuring the popular Seán Keating painting ‘Men of the South’. It portrays a ‘Flying Column’ of the IRA lying in wait to ambush British Crown forces.

The First Day Cover envelope (shown in the banner) featured a contemporary photograph of IRA volunteers and a specially designed cancellation mark.

The Irish War of Independence is generally accepted to have taken place between January 1919 and July 1921. The launch date of the stamp chosen as the effective midpoint of the War although violence extended before and after these dates.

Although the roll of the GAA in the war is contentious, Croke Park became the centre point on the 21 November 1920 on the day that became known as “Bloody Sunday”.

On the morning Michael Collins, an IRA Intelligence Officer, targeted a group of agents working for the British. They included Secret Service and MI5 officers. 14 were killed and 5 wounded.

Later on members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were sent in force to Croke Park in Dublin, where about 10,000 fans had gathered for a Gaelic football game between Dublin and Tipperary. Proceeds were to go to the Irish Republican Prisoners Fund.

The RIC had orders to surround the grounds. Confusion reigned when security forces announced that anyone leaving would be shot. The RIC is reported to have used rifles and handguns to fire inside the stadium and on the crowd. In the panic, people ran for their lives, which led to several people being trampled to death. Police apparently kept firing for about 90 seconds. Outside the park, machine guns fired an estimated 50 rounds.

In total, 14 sports fans were killed and 60-70 civilians injured.

The shooting in Croke Park of innocent civilians generated enormous support for the IRA in Ireland, and shocked the British public as well.

Another issue of two stamps for the War of Independence (Civil Society) was issued on the 24 September 2020.

Australia was due to play Ireland in an International Rules game on the 21 November at Croke Park but the series has been cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Bloody Sunday