In January 1971, Loyalist bombers from the Ulster Volunteer Force planted an explosion within the Daniel O’Connell tomb at Glasnevin Cemetery. This explosion caused significant damage to the stairwell of the impressive tomb, which removed one of the finest views of the city for many years. The windows and window frames of the tower were blown out by the explosion, and Gardaí kept a 24 hour watch on the monument for some time following the failed attempt at blowing it up. It was not the only important site to Irish nationalists which would be bombed by Ulster Loyalists. The final resting place of Protestant Republican Theobald Wolfe Tone was also bombed by Loyalists, as was the Daniel O’Connell monument on O’Connell Street.
This was not the first time the O’Connell tomb was damaged by bombers. In 1952, A Dublin schoolboy prank had seen an explosion in the famous Glasnevin Tower grab national media attention, and indeed a 15-year-old was dragged through the Children’s Court. On June 6th 1952, an explosion inside the Tower baffled authorities at first. The explosion damaged the windows of the tower, and the Irish Independent reported the following day that a “home-made bomb is thought to have been used.” Three boys were quickly arrested, one of whom was brought before the courts.
In a statement to police the boy said that “about two years ago I learned from other boys at school how to make explosions with potassium chlorate, charcoal and sulfur.” He was alleged to have told Gardaí he had set off some small trial bombs in the area, and had “purchased the ingredients for the bomb in small quantities in chemists’ shops for only a few pence.” On the afternoon before attempting his bombing at O’Connell’s tomb, the young 15-year-old used an old bicycle frame to pack in the required ingredients.
At 8.30pm on June 6th, the youngster climbed the O’Connell Tower, planting his crude explosion on the top storey with a lighted candle. When asked why he had done it, the lad remarked that “because it was so high”, he expected “a lot of noise and a big flash.” Unlike the bombing which would follow in 1971 then, this one was motivated mainly by boyhood boredom and curiosity! A punishment of 12 months probation was handed down.
On the day of the young teens appearance in court, the District Judge told him “you were before me two years ago for taking lead, was that to make bombs?”. He responded that “no, that was to sell!”