Interviewed on 20 September 2021
BURNING OF THE BRITISH EMBASSY (1972)
Ann Reilly, a native of Tallanstown in County Louth, joined An Garda Siochána in 1968. In this audio segment, taken from a recording undertaken by Rita Delaney in September 2021, Ann recalls her memories of the burning of the British Embassy in February 1972. The embassy was burnt by a group of republicans following the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry on 30 January 1972, by the British Army’s Parachute regiment. She first reflects broadly on her experience as a Garda.
RITA DELANEY: Okay. It is obvious from the way you’re speaking that you really did enjoy your time in An Garda Síochána.
ANN REILLY: I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I loved it, and I didn’t not and we had some wonderful, wonderful times in it. Like, you know, I mean there were rough days doing when we were called out to the housing action demonstrations and to the burning of the British Embassy in 1972, and when the Brian Boru Harp was stolen from Trinity College for a ransom. All those things. But, you know, they were, they were well they weren’t great things to happen, but they were, they were really character building, you know, every bit of it was character building, you know.
MS. DELANEY: The burning of the British Embassy in 1972 must have been a terrifying experience?
MS. REILLY: It was absolutely … Yeah, it was absolutely horrendous. It was absolutely horrendous. Ehm, I just feel, you know, we didn’t have a hope in a way, you know, with it all.
MS. DELANEY: No. And that would include male and female.
MS. REILLY: Oh, absolutely.
MS. REILLY: Without a shadow of a doubt. Yeah. Yeah.
MS. DELANEY: And the they tried it again in 1981, and I saw that on television as well, and that was very, very nasty. But, you know, the political atmosphere had changed. Did you ever have any dealings with subversive people?
MS. REILLY: I didn’t really. I didn’t no, I didn’t, no. Not really, no, I didn’t. No, I never had. No, I suppose I was I was more for the inner city and, ehm, no, I never was sent on anything to do with subversives. Really, I wasn’t. So, there’s no point in saying it, you know.
MS. DELANEY: Did you ever escort prisoners to jail like when they were sentenced?
MS. REILLY: Oh, I would have not to jail, but I would have escorted them from Mountjoy down to Cork and up to Donegal if they were, if they were due to reappear in a court in. … And I went to Cork three times with the one, with the one prisoner, three times down to Cork and Clonakilty and Bandon. The courts were in different places, you know. And I had to head off there and come back, and as well as that to Donegal as well, up in the wintertime up across the Curlew Mountains.
MS. DELANEY: Oh! A dangerous place. Very dangerous place.
MS. REILLY: Very dangerous place. Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
MS. DELANEY: Did you have a good social life with your colleagues, male and female, during those years?
MS. REILLY: Yes, we did. We had a great social life. There was a lovely yes, there was a terrific social life really. There was, yeah. Yeah, no it was it was lovely. It was very much a family really, do you know, in its own way. It was and I suppose as that time, you know, you were either a civilian or you were a Guard, you know, and you know, as Guards, we kind of stayed a lot with our own really, do you know. So, yeah, it was wonderful.