‘It’s like yesterday’: Dublin city centre bombings remembered 50 years on

Three civilians died when bombs were planted on or near Sackville Place in 1972 and 1973, along with dozens injured

The terror that stalked the streets of Dublin 50 years ago was recalled by those who can never forget.

On December 1st, 1972 two huge car bombs exploded in Dublin city. The first at 8pm outside Liberty Hall on Eden Quay injured 30 people and blew out windows on every floor of the building.

Nineteen minutes later a second bomb went off, this one in the narrow laneway of Sackville Place off O’Connell Street. It killed two Dublin Bus workers – George Bradshaw (30) originally from Fethard, Co Tipperary but living in Sutton, Co Dublin and Tommy Duffy (24), originally from Co Mayo, but living in Artane.

A bronze plaque on the ground marks the exact location where the bomb went off. For the relatives of those bereaved by the bombing the passage of 50 years still brings a sharpness to the pain.


Thomas Duffy (49) never knew his father. He was born in April 1973, four months after his father was killed. His mother Monica was left as a 22-year-old widow with a daughter Caroline who also does not remember her father.

Thomas Jr was the one who designed the bronze plaque on the ground. “I’m a husband and a father as Tommy was when he was killed. I’m a brother, I’m a nephew, I’m a cousin, I’m a grandson and I’m an uncle to a family who live in the absence of his light, but remain warmed by his memory,” he told the large crowd assembled in Sackville Place.

For the sisters of George Bradshaw, Anna (82) and Rosie (89), the grief remains very real. George was a smiling beneficent presence in their lives and the father of two young children. He had moved from Tipperary to Dublin to better himself and was studying business in night school.

“He will always be 30 to us. It’s like yesterday. I can picture him now when he worked in the creamery in Fethard,” Anna said. “All those years have passed and government and government swept it under the carpet. For us it is in our hearts today.”

The worst year of the Troubles was 1972, when 479 people were killed and the violence regularly spilled over into the Republic.

There had been bombs in Dublin, Clones and Inishowen in October 1972. On November 26th, 1972 a bomb planted outside the rear exit door of the Film Centre Cinema by O’Connell Bridge injured 40 people.

It was the first of four huge bombs that scarred the centre of Dublin. The fourth bomb was planted in almost exactly the same place as the bomb in Sackville Place on January 20th, 1973. It killed a CIÉ bus conductor, 21-year-old Thomas Douglas from Stirling in Scotland.

Like so many other unfortunate victims of the Troubles, he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He had nipped out of his office to buy a copy of the Mayo News for his mother in Eason.

Three of his siblings attended. They carried a wreath with the images of the three men which was placed beside the plaque on the ground which marks the spot where the band.

The bombs could be said to have changed the course of Irish history. There were dire warnings that morning of an impending general election as the minority Fianna Fáil government was trying to get the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act Bill through the Dáil. Many commentators expected the Government to fall, but the bombs concentrated minds and Fine Gael, which had earlier objected to the legislation, abstained and the bill passed as emergency legislation.

Nobody has ever claimed responsibility for the bomb, but the suspicion has fallen on loyalist paramilitaries or British intelligence. The timing of the bombs, just as the Government was debating contentious security legislation, has renewed suspicion that this was an agent provocateur operation.

Speaking on behalf of the Government, the Minister for Education Norma Foley said it was a source of “enormous regret” that nobody has been convicted for these “brutal and callous killings”.

The fact that nobody was convicted has been compounded by the British government’s legacy bill which means there will be no further prosecutions in relation to the Troubles. “The bill, as it stands, is not fit for purpose,” she added.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times