Interviewed in 2020 by John Greene of C103FM
John O’Brien from Ballinhassig in Cork joined the Gardaí in 1968. On retiring almost 40 years later in 2006, he had reached the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent. He had also been Head of the National Office for Interpol and Europol. This recording was originally broadcast by John Greene on C103 as part of the radio series, Where the Road Takes Me and was since donated to the Capturing Our History Archive. In this piece of audio John, also a well known historian and commentator, recalls the 1st of December 1972, when two separate car bombs exploded in Eden Quay and Sackville Place. While no one was convicted of the bombing, it was believed to have been an Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), loyalist paramilitary group who were responsible. At the time, John was a young Garda working in Dublin.
John O’Brien (Interviewee): Fianna Fáil were in power and at that stage certain members of Fianna Fail were quite anti that legislation. Fine Gael were certainly against it as well, including Mr. Cooney, who became Minister for Justice a short time later, were against it, and that was being debated or the night of December 1st 1972. I was travelling from my home in Drumcondra to Dail Eireann, and I was travelling down Gardiner Street, going towards the Custom House, people will know where the Custom House is, and the Liberty Hall, and as I stopped at traffic lights close by, there was an enormous explosion. It was like the air had split before you. I drove around by Liberty Hall and saw that the car bombs, bomb or bombs, had exploded in front of Liberty Hall. The windows were blown out. Cars were on fire. Drove on, and only for the lights being red I would have driven right slam bang into it. I drove to Leinster House and took up duty there with some of my colleagues because there was a protection cordon there because of the legislation and protests, and almost within minutes another car bomb exploded, which was in Marlborough Street, just at the back of O’Connell Street. Now, the significance was, in political terms, immediately after that, the Dail had a change of heart and it voted through the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act, providing for increased powers. Was this serendipity that those bombs went off at that particular time, I think in the light of history would be, a step too far, and certainly outside influences benefited from that bomb because we had now tough legislation to deal with the Provos and that area. So that’s the context of ’72.