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Irish President urges Britain to face up to bloody history on centenary of sacking of Balbriggan

IRISH President Michael D Higgins said that Britain must face up to its history of bloody reprisals as he marked the 100th anniversary of the sack of Balbriggan which fell today.

He warned that the imperialist strategy was not limited to Ireland and highlighted British actions in India, suppressing the 1952 Mau Mau uprising in Kenya and actions in Cyprus just four years later.

Mr Higgins described the sacking of Balbriggan as an “act of collective punishment, aimed at instilling fear into the public at a time when the Irish people were engaged in a struggle for independence from British rule.”

Two days of violence took place on September 20 and 21, 1920 in retaliation for the killing of two police officers by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Around 150 Black and Tans went on the rampage, burning down whole streets of houses, four pubs and the Deeds and Templar hosiery factory, the biggest employer in Balbriggan.

Men, women and children were forced to flee their burning homes and hundreds of people were left unemployed.

Two Republicans, Sean Gibbons and Seamus Lawless, were taken in for questioning. They were beaten and bayoneted to death and their bodies left in the street as a warning.

Labour’s deputy leader at the time Arthur Henderson demanded an independent inquiry, accusing British forces of operating “a policy of military terrorism” in Ireland.

But the government refused, insisting that Mr Henderson had been taken in by “IRA propaganda.”

Commemorations to mark the event, including a church mass, were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We must all acknowledge that such acts of violence would be judged illegal by today’s international standards of war and conflict,” the Irish President said.

Mr Higgins insisted that the British should recognise their actions in Ireland as “a prerequisite for any meaningful healing.”

“Let us all continue with, indeed embrace, the new beginning that the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement represented as we continue to carve out our peaceful co-existence on the island of Ireland.”

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