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Hooligans attack Eucharistic Pilgrims PDF Print E-mail

IRISH NEWS                          27 June 1932 

by Eamon Phoenix


Utterly disgraceful scenes in many centres marked the departure and return of pilgrims from the north for the Eucharistic Congress on Saturday night and Sunday.

In Belfast determined attempts by a mob to interfere with the departing pilgrims were frustrated by the police, but in other places, notably Larne and Ballymena, gangs of hooligans got altogether out of hand and the Catholics were made the targets of all sorts of missiles and in many cases were brutally assaulted.

His Lordship Most Rev Dr Mageean and Mr Joseph Devlin MP sent messages to the Northern Ireland minister of home affairs, Sir Dawson Bates demanding adequate protection for the returning pilgrims.

The trains returning to Belfast were, however, subject to fusillades of stones as they passed through the Lurgan-Portadown area and many passengers sustained minor injuries.  One man was seriously injured.

A high official of the police, questioned by the ‘The Irish News’ early this morning as to why more adequate protection was not being afforded Catholic pilgrims, referred our representative to ‘The Irish News’ demand for economy in the police and pleaded that not enough men were available. 

Utterly disgraceful scenes marked the departure of a special excursion train carrying three hundred pilgrims from Ballymena to the Eucharistic Congress on Saturday night.  The train was due to leave at 12 45am and long before midnight crowds of hooligans paraded the principal streets carrying Union Jacks and singing party songs and cursing the Pope.

After Mass in All Saints chapel, a large party of the worshippers were quietly walking down the street on their way to join the excursion train when they were set upon by a crowd of about three hundred hooligans and many of the intending excursionists came in for a very severe beating.  The majority were mauled in a most savage manner and pelted with bottles and stones.  The woman pilgrims especially came in for cowardly and brutal attacks, several being thrown down, hats being pulled from their heads and umbrellas broken.  Many of those carrying luncheons had the parcels of food kicked or torn from their hands.

In Belfast after midnight a mob of hooligans assembled at the corner of Hope Street and Great Victoria Street and indulged in the singing of party songs and indulged in the most objectionable language.  A strong party of police were quickly on the scene and formed a cordon across Great Victoria Street to prevent any further attempt that might be made on the pilgrims.

Eventually orders had to be given to draw batons and disperse the mob.  This further incensed the crowd who commenced throwing bottles and other missiles at the police.

When attempts at attaching the pilgrims had been frustrated some members of the mob proceeded to the licensed premises of James Tohill,
Rowland Street, Sandy Row district, and smashed the windows.  The police were quickly on the scene and prevented further examples of blackguardism.

Taken from ‘The Irish News’ 27 June 2002

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