ArticleAn Ill-Fated Wedding
On Sunday, November 21, 1920, in the small hours of the night, militants of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a well-planned attack on English secret agents in Dublin, killing 14 of them and effectively destroying the whole carefully planted spy network. Ten or so hours later, several trucks full of English regular troops and their local allies, known as Irish Constables, arrived at Croke Park where a Gaelic football match was taking place. In theory the squad commanding officer was supposed to come to the pitch and address the players and the spectators - to relate the morning incident and explain that several players were suspected IRA sympathizers or even operatives. In practice the soldiers burst out of the trucks, ran to the pitch and opened fire on the players and the spectators (most likely, unprovoked - despite occasional claims to the contrary). The shooting lasted less than two minutes but that was enough to kill - uncannily - exactly the same number of people, 14, among them two children (10 and 11 years old), a pregnant woman whose wedding was scheduled for the following Friday, and one of the teams' captain Michael Hogan (a stand in Croke Park was named after him soon thereafter). Even if enraged Englishmen didn't attach any particular significance to the actual target of their retaliatory effort but were just eager to avenge the death of their compatriots and colleagues, and it simply so happened that a match took place on that very day, the attack on the citadel of Gaelic sports was tantamount to an intent to destroy the very heart and soul of the Irish nation - and therefore, highly symbolic. Arguably, it might have prompted that one last supreme effort the Irish needed to eventually throw off the English yoke.
The tragedy remained in Irish history as “A Bloody Sunday”, and it happened to be one of the last acts of an intense, bitter and extremely violent drama that had started almost exactly 750 years earlier when a besieged local king reached out to a Welsh nobleman Richard de Clare, also known as Strongbow, to ask for help. In return for keeping the king on the throne, de Clare would marry his daughter, Aoife, and become his official heir to that very throne. For all we know, Strongbow might have even liked Aoife - and he definitely liked the prospect of becoming a king. That happened much quicker than he could possibly hope for, too, as the old king died only 9 months after his enemies were successfully defeated - so, the former mere nobleman promoted to kingship must have felt very lucky and even chosen. He began looking around, mostly eastward - and that, unsurprisingly, disagreed with Henry the II of England who wasted little time when faced with the necessity to deal with the problem. Henry planned to visit Ireland for just a couple of weeks but then, Strongbow promptly disposed of, he reconsidered.
What started as a routine local affair, and was supposed to end in a similarly routine marriage, turned into a centuries-long Struggle for Independence - and that struggle not only completely reshaped the way of life and the value system of Ireland as a country, and its people, but also affected the New World and even such a faraway country as India…