Recent references to sectarianism in Limerick has aroused curiosity about what exactly happened here in 1935 – a date that deserves to go down in infamy in the history of Limerick. The really curious should consult Denis O’Shaughnessy’s Limerick: 100 stories of the century – if they are lucky enough to get their hands on a copy: the book sold out within days of publication two or three years ago. Meanwhile the casually curious might make do with these brief extracts.
“With Catholics being attacked and burned out of their homes in Belfast in the rioting that followed the Orange parades of that year, feelings ran high here and mobs started attacking Protestant property, culminating in the burning down of Kilmallock Parish Church of Ss Peter and Paul and damage to the houses of Canon Sackville Taylor and Mr Frederick Amon. When civic guards arrived on the scene the church was ablaze and the roof fell in. In Limerick a mob estimated to be in the region of 200 started to attack Protestant-owned shops and were broken up by repeated baton charges.
“So serious was the situation that Det Sgt Murphy decided to call out a detachment of the military from Sarsfield Barracks. The mob, considerably swelled, regrouped, and turned its attention on Protestant places of worship. A determined effort was made to set fire to the Presbyterian Church in Henry Street and one of the doors had actually been ignited before a mobile force of guards arrived and scattered the crowd.
“Attention was then turned on the residence of Canon Abbott in Barrington Street and, despite his appeals, large stones were hurled through the windows before the guards again came on the scene and broke up the mob as they were about to turn their attention on the nearby St Michael’s Protestant Church. Rev Fr Moriarty, CC St Michael’s, a neighbour of Canon Abbott, also appealed to the crowd to desist in their attack but he was ignored and again the guards, wielding batons, came in an broke up the mob. A crowd estimated to be in the region of four to five hundred regrouped outside the LPYMA building on O’Connell Street and attacked it . . . and when the crowd began to close in on the guards, detectives drew their revolvers and some shots were fired in the air.
“At this stage the military were called into action and in the height of the rioting cordoned off O’Connell Street. The guards made a determined baton charge and peace was eventually restored . . . Several incidents in the St Mary’s area were reported, with four Protestant-owned houses being attacked and in some instances the knockers being taken off doors and thrown through windows.”
Many arrests were made and two rioters were jailed but if some local people – a tiny minority – gave Limerick a cause for shame, others – the large majority – gave the county and city a cause for pride. The sympathy of the Catholic community generally – who had long lived in peace and harmony with their Protestant neighbours and continued to do so thereafter – was as deep as it was widespread.