1939 – Christmas Raid: The IRA raided the Phoenix Park Magazine Fort.

Now’s here’s a proof of Irish sense
Here Irish wit is seen
When nothing’s left that’s worth defence,
We build a Magazine. –Jonathan Swift, Magazine Fort, c. 1737

The reason for Jonathan Swift’s ditty, in making light of the starfort, was that Dublin was relatively impoverished at that time: What is there to defend in such a situation, he wondered!

Phoenix Park Magazine Fort is located on the south side of the Park. The sprawling star-shaped fort — built in 1734 to store and guard hundreds of tonnes of gunpowder for use by the British Army all across Ireland — was garrisoned until 1922 by the British Army.

In use by British and Irish forces for 250 years, the fort was subject to two notable raids in the 20th century. During the 1916 Easter Rising, thirty members of the Irish Volunteers and Fianna Éireann captured the fort. Some of the first shots of the Easter Rising were believed to have been fired during this raid, when an unarmed member of the garrison household and an armed sentry were shot. The latter was seriously injured but apparently survived; the former died nine hours later. These marked the first shootings of the Easter Rising.

The second raid occurred on this date during the so-called ‘Christmas Raid’. The raid was immediately prior to the passing of the Emergency Powers Act in Ireland. A total of 1.084,000 rounds of ammunition were taken away in 13 lorries with no casualties. Most of the ammunition was recovered within 1-2 weeks turning it into a PR disaster for the IRA.

The fort is now managed by the Office of Public Works (OPW). As of 2015, it was in a derelict state and not open to the public, however some repairs were undertaken and the site partially opened for ‘limited guided tours’ during 2016, initially as part of 1916 Rising centenary events. As of November 2016, and with ‘conservation works on-going within the fort’ the OPW were operating guided tours of the site, with limited tours departing the Phoenix Park visitor centre at set times on Sundays.

Photo: Aerial view of the Magazine Fort, Dublin

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