On October 21 1967, a group calling themselves the ‘North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement’ attempted a daring attack on the headquarters of Fianna Fáil in Dublin, with the aim of drawing attention to the plight of republicans imprisoned in Portlaoise and Limerick. Two petrol bombs were used in the attempt, but it was a night of high drama with a hijacked taxi thrown into the story for good measure, coupled with the firing of shots. Fianna Fáil HQ, or ‘Aras De Valera’ as it later became known, was located at 13 Upper Mount Street.
The Irish Press newspaper of October 23 noted that the petrol bombing of Fianna Fáil HQ at 9.30pm on the 21st coincided with the delivery of a letter to their editorial office claiming the attack for the ‘North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement’. Of course, The Irish Press was likely chosen owing to its having a long history of connection to the Fianna Fáil party. The very first editor of the publication was Frank Gallagher, a very capable writer who had worked alongside Erskine Childers on the Republican publicity staff during the War of Independence.
Prior to the attack, there had been a hijacking near Pearse Street public library, when a Dublin taxidriver found himself answering a call to a number of men armed with revolvers. The taxi was driven to the Fury Glen in the Phoenix Park, and the driver tied up and told to lie on the floor in the back of the taxi. The taxi was then driven back to the city by one of the attackers. Two petrol bombs were thrown into the premises, described in a later newspaper report at the time of the court cases which followed as “two-gallon tins containing a mixture of oil and petrol” A man who witnessed the attack chased a car driving off from the scene, and for his efforts shots were fired at him near Government Buildings.
The statement delivered to The Irish Press read, in full:
Saturday nights attack on the Government Party headquarters was carried out by the North Leinster Unit of the Republican Movement. Our objective is to focus attention to the cause of three Republican soldiers at present serving jail sentences because of their ideal of a ‘Free Ireland’. This should also be taken as an indication that militant Republicans will meet Fianna Fáil and its secret police with force. Militant republicans demand the release of H. Greensmith, H.A Grensmith and Joe Dillon.
The case quickly came to court, with four men in custody within an hour of the attack. Typically enough, this being Dublin, they were picked up in a city centre public house. Within weeks, two men were sentenced to six months in prison for their role in the attack. The men delivered defiant statements, with one saying:
I take full responsibility for the action carried out, which was to draw attention to the fact that there are political prisoners in Ireland at the moment.
Remarkably, in March of 1969, there was another less serious attack on Fianna Fáil HQ when a petrol bomb was again thrown at the building, though this time there was little damage, no hijacking and thankfully no shots fired!