Four German bombs are dropped on north Dublin at approximately 2:00 AM on May 31, 1941. One bomb falls in the Ballybough area, demolishing the two houses at 43 and 44 Summerhill Park, injuring many but with no loss of life. A second bomb falls at the Dog Pond pumping works near the zoo in Phoenix Park, again with no casualties but damaging Áras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the Irish President. A third bomb makes a large crater in the North Circular Road near Summerhill, again causing no injuries. A fourth bomb falls in North Strand destroying seventeen houses and severely damaging about fifty others, the worst damage occurring in the area between Seville Place and Newcomen Bridge. The raid claims the lives of 28 people, injures 90, destroys or damages approximately 300 houses, and leaves 400 people homeless.
The first bombing of Dublin during World War II occurs early on the morning of January 2, 1941, when German bombs are dropped on the Terenure area of south Dublin. This is followed, early on the following morning of January 3, 1941, by further German bombing of houses on Donore Terrace in the South Circular Road area of south Dublin. A number of people are injured, but no one is killed in these bombings.
After the war, what becomes West Germany accepts responsibility for the raid, and by 1958 it has paid compensation of £327,000. Over 2,000 claims for compensation are processed by the Irish government, eventually costing £344,000. East Germany and Austria, which are both part of Nazi Germany in 1941, make no contribution. The amounts are fixed after the 1953 London Agreement on German External Debts, allowing maximum compensation.
Several reasons for the raid have been asserted over time. German Radio, operated by the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, broadcasts that “it is impossible that the Germans bombed Dublin intentionally.” Irish airspace has been violated repeatedly, and both Allied and German airmen are being interned at the Curragh Camp. A possible cause is a navigational error or a mistaken target, as one of the pathfinders on the raid later recounts. Numerous large cities in the United Kingdom are targeted for bombing, including Belfast, which like Dublin, is across the Irish Sea from Great Britain. War-time Germany’s acceptance of responsibility and post-war Germany’s payment of compensation are cited as further indications that the causation is error on the part of the Luftwaffe pilots.
Another possible reason is that in April 1941, Germany has launched the Belfast blitz, which results in Belfast being heavily bombed. In response, Ireland sends rescue, fire, and emergency personnel to Belfast to assist the city. Éamon de Valera, the Taoiseach, formally protests the bombing to the German government, as well as making his famous “they are our people” speech. Some contend that the raid serves as a warning to Ireland to keep out of the war. This contention is given added credibility when Colonel Edward Flynn, second cousin of Ireland’s Minister for Coordination of Defensive Measures, recalls that Lord Haw Haw has warned Ireland that Dublin’s Amiens Street Railway Station, where a stream of refugees from Belfast is arriving, will be bombed. The station, now called Connolly Station, stands a few hundred metres from North Strand Road, where the bombing damage is heaviest. Flynn similarly contends that the German bombing of Dundalk on July 4 is also a pre-warning by Lord Haw Haw as a punishment for Dundalk being the point of shipment of Irish cattle sold to the United Kingdom.