Fatalities at political demonstrations in Dublin are extremely rare. Bloody Sunday during the 1913 lockout being an obvious exception where two striking workers James Nolan (33) and John Byrne (50) were beaten to death by police. There have also been some notable incidents of British soldiers shooting dead civilians such at Bachelors Walk, after the Howth Gun Running, in July 1914 or at Bloody Sunday in Croke Park in November 1920 after the IRA’s operation against the Cairo Gang.
One incident that bypassed me until recently was the death of 78-year-old Anna-Maria Fitzsimons in June 1897 at an anti-Jubilee event in Rutland (Parnell) Square.
On 19 June, James Connolly and his Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP) organised an anti-Jubilee meeting, under the slogan ‘Down with the Monarchy: long live the Republic’, in Foster Place which was addressed by Maud Gonne. She told the crowd that the queen’s reign “had brought more ruin, misery and death” than any other period. Students from Trinity attacked the meeting singing ‘God Save The Queen’ but were repelled by the crowd.
The following evening, the day of the Jubilee itself, Connolly and Gonne organised a funeral procession through the streets of the city as the United Labourers’ Union band played the Dead March. They carried a coffin marked ‘British Empire and a black flag inscriptions giving the numbers who had perished in the Famine and the numbers who had emigrated and been evicted during Victoria’s reign.
A convention of the ’98 Commemoration Committee was being held in City at the same time and the chairman, veteran Fenian John O’Leary, suspended the meeting so delegates could watch the procession. Some of them, including WB Yeates, joined in.
By this stage, several hundred people were following the procession and there was a small confrontation with police at College Green, where the statue of William III was wrapped with a green flag.
Mounted police reinforcements arrived from Dublin Castle and the DMP tried to disperse the crowd. Afraid that it would be taken by the police, Connolly ordered the coffin to be cast into the Liffey, shouting: “Here goes the coffin of the British Empire. To hell with the British Empire!”. At one stage, Trinity students tried to grab the crowd’s black flag but, as reported in the New York left-wing Daily People, ‘the proletariat drove the bourgeoisie home in disorder’. Connolly was arrested and taken to the Bridewell.
Afterwards, Gonne conducted an open air-slide show of scenes of evictions from a window in the National Club, Rutland Square onto a specially erected large screen opposite.
A large group of women and children watched the show. Maud Gonne wrote in her memoirs, A Servant of the Queen:
We were having tea [in the club] when suddenly we heard outside and cries of the ‘The police!’. I rushed to the window. Some twenty policemen with batons drawn a few people, mostly women and children, were running in all directions; a woman lay on the ground quite still; a girl was bending over her; someone called out ‘The police have killed her’.
The dead woman was Anna-Maria Fitzsimons from Cabra Road.
At the City Coroner in Jervis Street Hospital the following Saturday, her daughter told the inquest that herself and her mother came into town to see the ‘illuminations’ at Rutland Square. They walked up from Nelson’s Pillar, crossed at Cavendish Row and up to Rutland Square. They saw a number of people carrying flags and coming up from the direction of Sackville Street. The police baton charged the crowd and Anna-Maria was knocked down in the disorder that followed. She died later in hospital.
Does anyone know of any other deaths at political demonstrations in the 19th or 20th centuries in Dublin?