Dublin & Monaghan Bombings

Michael McKenna

‘KILLED IN AN INSTANT’ – THE O’BRIEN FAMILY

Interviewed on 1 June 2021

Retired Superintendent Michael McKenna was recorded on 1st June 2021 for the Capturing Our Story Oral History Project. As part of that interview, Michael recalled his personal memories of the Dublin bombings of May 1974, during which he was on duty in the city when the bombs detonated. In this segment, Michael speaks about the O’Brien family who were all killed by the explosion.

MR. McKENNA: What really hurt me the most, and I feel terrible sorrow for all the people who were killed in all of the explosions, but I feel a great affinity to the O’Brien family who were just walking by the car when it exploded, it was John O’Brien, who was only 24, Anna, was only 22, and their two daughters, Jacqueline I think was 16/17 months and Ann Marie was four months. To think that they had a lovely afternoon and walking down towards O’Connell Street and they were just killed in an instant when that bomb exploded. I think the only, what would I call it, sorrow, it is not sympathy, but the only feeling some of the families had was the fact that they feel that they don’t think they ever knew what hit them, you know that they didn’t suffer, they were there one minute, and they were gone the next.

MR. O’BRIEN: As you say, Michael, that poor family were wiped out in the blink of an eye, in the blink of an eye.

MR. McKENNA: It was totally horrific. How anybody could justify setting off a bomb to do that to anybody, to wipe out that little family how they could even feel joy or anything like that after their successful operation it was horrific. There could be no excuse for killing a little family like that or any of the other victims either. Lots of people I know, from talking to some of the people, mothers and fathers that never got over the killing of their children, wives that never got over the death of their husband or the husband that never got over the death of a wife. I know some died fairly soon after when their wife was killed.

RESEARCH NOTE: Michael is referring to the O’Brien family, John O’Brien, a twenty-four-year-old father of two. He along with his wife Anna O’Brien (22), daughter, Jacqueline (17 months) and Anne-Marie (5 months), were all killed in the Parnell Street explosion. They had lived just around the corner in Gardiner Street but were originally from Finglas. John worked in Palm Grove, the ice-cream factory.  Anna’s father could only identify his son in law John from a tattoo on his arm that read ‘Anna and Johnny’.  He was unable to recognize his own daughter.