Nelsons Pillar, erected in 1808 to honour Vice-Admiral Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson, was destroyed by members of the IRA half a century ago today.
In 1966, on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, a group of Irish Republican Army members plotted and carried out an operation to illegally demolish the pillar on O’Connell street, which was replaced with the Spire of Dublin in 2003.
In the early 20th Century, there were increased calls for the pillar to be removed from the capital’s main street, as it was seen as a symbol of the British Empire. In 1938, there was an unsuccessful attempt made by the IRA to blow up the pillar.
Well-known IRA member Liam Sutcliff spoke on RTE Radio 1 today to say that he had ‘no regrets’ for his actions, although he did think that the pillars replacement was uninspiring.
Sutcliff coyly confirmed the myth that Eamonn DeValera approved of the pillars demolition and said “I believe he was very happy about it.”
“It all happened when we were having a drink. The 1916 anniversary was coming up, and we decided it was time for it (Nelsons Pillar) to be gone” said Sutcliff, who was a studying military engineer at the time, training in the use of legal explosives.
Sutcliff also said that “every precaution” was taken to ensure the safety of people on O’Connell Street and that no one was killed in the explosion.
Imelda Keogh, who’s brother Steve Maughan was underneath the pillar at the time of the explosion said that “he could have been killed, his car was written off. I would be very offended that he just wanted to blow up Nelson. You chose to blow up something with no regard for people’s lives.”
Following the clear up, the head of Lord Nelson, which had previously sat atop the pillar, was stolen by a group of students from The National College of Art and Design. The head was leased to an antique dealer, appeared in a women’s hosiery advert, and appeared on stage with the Dubliners at the Olympia Theatre. The students returned the head six months later and it can now be viewed at Dublin’s Civic Museum.