Baptism of fire of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin

centro-español-dublin-irlanda-españa (1)
The Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin, Ireland

On 3 March 1974, an incendiary device was thrown at night against the door of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin, Ireland, in protest against the execution by garrotte vile of the young anarchist Salvador Puig Antich in the former Model Prison in Barcelona. 

The rapid intervention of neighbours, passers-by and the fire brigade prevented the building from burning down, except for the front door.  

The Spanish Cultural Institute had just been inaugurated by the Irish Minister of Education, Mr. Richard Burke, a few days earlier, on 11 February 1974. 

The main newspapers in the country carried the protest in front of the Institute as a front page story, which was not reported by the media in Spain. A person called the Irish Press newspaper in Dublin on behalf of the anarchist May First Group to report that they had been responsible for protesting the execution of the Spanish anarchist. 

As Director of the Institute I was in the city of Cork, a four-hour drive from Dublin in the south of the island, attending an annual conference for lecturers and students from the Hispanic Studies departments of all the universities in Ireland.

I was informed the next day of what had happened by the head of the Department of Spanish Philology at the University of Cork, and that my family, who were on the ground floor of the building, had not suffered any personal injury. 

When Spain rented the building at 58 Northumberland Road in Dublin in 1971 as the headquarters of the Spanish Cultural Institute, it reserved the ground floor as the home of its director. Following the attack on the Institute, the Spanish Embassy suggested that the Director's residence should be moved, and a year later the move took place, with the ground floor being used as a student cafeteria, storage space and later an art gallery for exhibitions of Spanish and Latin American art

José Antonio Sierra
José Antonio Sierra

The heads of the Hispanic Studies departments of Trinity College and University College Dublin collected signatures from teachers and students of the two departments to protest against the attack on the Spanish Cultural Institute, as well as against the execution of Salvador Puig Antich and another person in Barcelona, which were sent to the media and published in the main Irish newspapers. 

Personally, I received letters expressing interest in my family, including one from John de Courcy Ireland, a prominent historian, Spanish teacher and member of the Irish Labour Party, as well as one from a nun, a Spanish teacher, enquiring about the state of the audiovisual material provided by the Institute to the centres that taught Spanish. 

On the fiftieth anniversary of the official inauguration of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin on 11 February 1974, attached to the Instituto Cervantes since 1991, the execution in Barcelona of Salvador Puig Antich on 2 March 1974 is and was news in Spain and Ireland.  The attempt to set fire to the Spanish Cultural Institute in protest at his execution was also news in Ireland, but not in Spain. It was neither reported nor heard by Spaniards, except for the relatives of the Institute's director. 

José Antonio Sierra Lumbreras 

Founder and Director of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin 


Letter sent to the media and published by 



Sir, - To the long list of violent forms of political protest in Ireland it seems that we can now add the protrol-bombing of a cultural centre. As university students and teachers we are appalled by the recent attack on the Institute Cultural Espanol in Dublin while its Director was attending and all-Ireland congress of students of Spanish in University College, Cork, and his wife and their baby were alone in the building. 

The Institute, officially opened only a few weeks ago, is exclusively concerned with cultural activities, and thousands of people have already availed themselves of its services, and know that these are offered without any political strings. 

We hold no brief whatever for the Franco regime, political repression or any form of capital punisheman and deplore the execution of Spanish anarchists as much as any petrol-bomber thinks the does. It is true that the building was not badly damaged and nobody was killed. The only casualty is the language and culture which some students will not want to go on with if the premises in which they study are ever again attacked by individuals who clearly lack the guts to risk being caught with a box of matches in Barcelona or Madrid, and get God knows what kick out of causing distress to a woman and child in an unprotected house.- Yours, etc.," 

Signed by 62 lecturers and students from the Hispanic Studies departments of Trinity College and University College Dublin.