Armed men at customs. Dublin IRA collapse
CHOOSE A TARGET
From this meeting, two options emerged.
Beggar’s Bush Barracks was the headquarters of the Auxiliary Police. He was considered a target for a total attack. Then it was dropped, as it would have meant an immediate full-scale battle against hundreds of well-armed police.
Customs was the other target considered. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in Dublin, designed by architect James Gandon during the heyday of Georgian architecture at the end of the 18th century.
It was not the first time that the building had been seen as a target. Three years earlier, during the campaign against the introduction of conscription in Ireland, Dick McKee, an officer commanding the IRA brigade in Dublin, had suggested attacking it.
In the 1920s, the building was the heart of the administration of Ireland. Inside were: the offices of the Inland Revenue, local government, the inheritance tax register, the company share register and the wills office.
He had no military guard, despite regular pleadings from senior officials.
De Valera’s calculation was that the destruction of this building would inflict a loss to the British Treasury, of two million pounds (over 100 million euros in today’s money) as well as the destruction of the administration’s archives. British in Ireland.
The officers in charge of planning the operation estimated that to enter the building, take control of it, and then burn all the documents inside, it would take 120 men, then more men to watch outside, and even more to take over the city’s fire stations for a long time. enough to prevent firefighters from reaching the fire too early.
It is reported that de Valera believed that even though the entire contingent of volunteers carrying out the raid was lost, it was worth it if the contents of the building were successfully burned.
It was truly an operation far beyond anything the IRA had yet attempted. An operation that would expose handfuls of lightly armed IRA volunteers in the open air, in broad daylight, with all the risks of confrontation with the police and troops that this would imply.
While contemplating the attack on Customs at the end of a hundred years, two images dominate.
The burning building, the smoke and the flame spouting from every window; and the long lines of IRA men, unarmed, helpless, miserable, hands up, surrounded by heavily armed police and soldiers.
It was this last image (although at least one of the more famous photographs seems posed) that informed the public that the operation was a farce.
Yet what we usually forget is that on the way to this result, the preparations have been meticulous, the planning detailed. In that sense, de Valera’s request for the IRA to step in and show itself capable of waging war, designing and executing a huge daytime raid on an iconic target, has actually been met.
The IRA leadership made a conscious and informed tactical choice about how the operation would be organized, deliberately refusing offers of alternative plans made by the men assigned to the operation, who had a bad feeling about what was going on. would pass if everything went wrong. The flaw in the plan chosen was that it depended on split-second timing and an excessive amount of luck. There was no emergency plan to fall back on, no escape plan. When things started to go wrong, they got very bad, very quickly.