December 4th, 1972: Nerves frayed in Dublin after fatal bomb explosions


BACK PAGES:TWO CAR bombs exploded at Sackville Place, off O’Connell Street, and Liberty Hall in Dublin in early December 1972, killing two bus conductors and hastening through the Dáil a controversial extension to the Offences Against the State Act. Dick Grogan described the mood in the city at the weekend following the Friday night bombings and the passage of the new Act in late-night sittings of the Dáil and Seanad.

TENSION, BOMB scares and rumours swept Dublin throughout the weekend, in the aftermath of the two car bombs which killed two people and injured more than 120 in the city on Friday night.

As the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill passed into law yesterday morning, giving the Government sweeping new powers, the mood changed to one of expectancy. The public, both wings of Sinn Fein and, presumably, the I.R.A., waited to see when the inevitable net would be cast by the authorities, and how fine would be its meshes.

Last night, as central Dublin remained subdued and almost deserted, many members of both wings of the Republican movement were not to be found at their homes. Even some members of the political arms of the movement, it appeared, had temporarily sought accommodation elsewhere, unsure of their position under the new law and fearing that they might be detained in any general roundup that ensued.

No further bombings or violent incidents were reported in the city up to late last night, and fresh statements from both wings of the I.R.A., from Sinn Féin leaders, student organisations and others, reiterated in stronger terms the opinion that Friday night’s explosions were a “once-off” action designed to achieve the political end of influencing public opinion and speeding the passage of the new legislation.

In the silent city, a rash of bomb scares and reports of suspicious vehicles on Saturday and yesterday kept Garda and Army authorities fully extended and there were appeals from garda officers for an end to bogus calls.

On Saturday morning the bomb scare calls and genuine reports of unattended suspicious cars began to come in at a rate of one every five minutes. Yesterday the torrent of calls eased off and bomb scares between midnight and 4 p.m. totalled about 60, Garda spokesmen said.

New security measures were announced by the authorities, and business and commercial concerns also began to plan a stepping-up in their security, as the task of repairing the extensive damage to buildings in the Liberty Hall and Marlborough Street areas got under way.

Garda spokesmen said that many members of the public had insisted on pressing forward dangerously close to places where suspected bombs were being investigated.

At lunchtime on Saturday, the Army detonated a charge under a car with an English registration outside the G.P.O. It did not contain a bomb.

Nerves were frayed, and gardai constantly urged people to move along. At one point shortly after 3 p.m. a man who appeared to be semi-conscious was carried by four gardai from the doorway of the G.P.O., and as a squad car arrived and he was pushed into it there was a shout of “They’re killing him.”

A section of the crowd surged forward, two or three men attacked the group of gardai, who retaliated sharply, drawing their batons. In a brief exchange of blows several people were injured, one youth being carried away by his friends, bleeding from a wound in his head.

The full report can be read at

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