On This Day – Nelson’s Column in Dublin Destroyed by IRA


On this day in 1966, a statue of Horatio Nelson in Dublin was destroyed by the IRA, an Irish revolutionary military organisation, after they planted a bomb. The IRA waged a guerrilla campaign against British rule in Ireland in the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence, since their establishment in 1916.

Built between 1808-09, the statue was one of the most grand depictions of Nelson in the United Kingdom, standing at 121 feet tall. For a long time it was regarded highly and became a must-see on tourists lists as they wanted to climb the 168 steps to the viewing point.

But in later years it drew criticism for being too big and intrusive, while others complained that it was an obstacle standing in the way of traffic, as complained in a history of Dublin that was written in 1818, [it] “not only obtrudes its blemishes on every passenger, but actually spoils and blocks up our finest street.”

In October 1955, a group of 9 University students locked themselves inside the pillar and attempted to melt it using flamethrowers, but the police forces intervened. It wasn’t until March 8 1966 that a bomb destroyed the upper half of the pillar, throwing the statue of Nelson into the street. It was planted by a group of former Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers, including Joe Christie who had been dismissed from the IRA 10 years previously and saw himself as a socialist revolutionary.

The identity of the other bombers remains a source of speculation today.