Irish Volunteers Wynn’s Hotel Dublin Exhibition and Display September 28,2013

Irish Volunteers Wynn’s Hotel Dublin Exhibition and Display September 28,2013

We will be hosting an exhibition and display commemorating the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Irish Volunteers. The Irish Volunteers were instrumental in the rebellion of 1916 and in the Irish War of Independence 1919-1921. We invite all people from Ireland and overseas to attend, whether you have a direct connection or simply have an interest in this pivotal moment in Irish history.

Wynn’s Hotel Dublin,
35 39 Lower Abbey Street, Dublin City, Co. Dublin
28 September 2013, 11:00 – 17:00

http://irishvolunteers.org/

 info@irishvolunteers.org

Brian Crowley

0862-517954

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION/ DISPLAY

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION/ DISPLAY

The Irish Volunteer Commemorative Organisation is happy to announce an exhibition,  and display on Saturday,March 23, 2013.

This year 2013,marks the 100.th anniversary of the foundation of The Irish Volunteers.

The event will take place at the Middle Parish Community Centre,Grattan steet,Cork city.It is centrally located ,public car parking is across the road.

We will be remembering Fianna scout Patrick Hanley, killed in action by the RIC in Cork, 27 Nov. 1920 on on the day,a terrace of houses adjoining the Community centre are named in his honour. http://irishvolunteers.org/2012/04/old-na-fianna-eireann-4-th-battalion/

The event is open to the public.

The event opens on Saturday morning at 11. am and ends at 5.00pm.

Entry 5 euro per person.Family 10 euro.Members FREE .(Please bring your membership cards).

Enquiries. Phone Brian: (086) 2517954 .

An exhibition of Irish Volunteer items from 1913 to 1923 will be on display and we will have members on hand to answer any questions from the general public. Members wishing to help on the day , we require 10/12 members , please contact Brian on brianmardyke@hotmail.com

Dennis Barry,nephew of Commandant Dennis Barry and author of the Book “The Unknown Commandant” will give a talk.

http://irishvolunteers.org/2011/09/commandant-dennis-barry/

 

We request all members to attend.

Please address all enquiries to info@irishvolunteers.org

or see http://irishvolunteers.org/exhibitions-commemorations/ for details.

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION/ DISPLAY Dublin

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION/ DISPLAY

Dublin

The Irish Volunteer Commemorative Organisation http://irishvolunteers.org/is happy to announce an exhibition, and display on Saturday October 27, 2012.
The event will take place at the Teachers Club,36 Parnell square,opposite the Garden of Remembrance.The Teachers Club is centrally located and the train and bus stations are within reach.
The event is open to the public.
The event opens on saturday morning at 11. am and ends at 6:00 pm.

Above photo,   The Fianna Convention of 1912,100 years anniversary. The Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation will mark the centenary on October 27,2012.

Entry 5 euro per person.Family 10 euro.Members FREE .(Please bring your membership cards).
Special group rates available. Phone John: (086) 395-6642 .
An exhibition of Irish Volunteer items from 1913 to 1923 will be exhibited ,
ON DISPLAY WILL BE MEDALS,UNIFORMS ,DOCUMENTS AND MANY MORE ITEMS FROM THE PERIOD and we will have members on hand to answer any questions from the general public. Members wishing to help on the day , we require 10/12 members , please contact Brian on brianmardyke@hotmail.com

Las Fallon will give a talk on his new book
DUBLIN FIRE BRIGADE and the IRISH REVOLUTION

We request all members to attend.

A General meeting of Irish Volunteers members will take place the next day,Sunday, October 28,It will be in Dublin city centre, precise time and location will be announced soon.

Please address all enquiries to info@irishvolunteers.org or see http://irishvolunteers.org/2012/09/irish-war-of-independence-exhibition-display-dublin-october-272012/.

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION DISPLAY & LECTURE Limerick city

IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE EXHIBITION DISPLAY & LECTURE
The Irish Volunteer Commemorative Organisation is happy to announce an exhibition, lecture and display over 2 days on Saturday and Sunday, March 3rd and 4th, 2012.
The event opens each morning at 10:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm.
The event will take place at the Best Western Perys Hotel (Formerly Glentworth Hotel), Glentworth Street, Limerick City. http://www.perys.ie/ Tel (+353) 61 413822
The Hotel is centrally located and the train and bus stations are only 500 yards away. Parking is available.

The Glenwoth Hotel 1919-1922
An exhibition of Irish Volunteer items from 1913 to 1923 will be on display and we will have members on hand to answer any questions from the general public.
The lecture will be given by well known historian & author Tom Toomey, author of the excellent book “The War of Independence in Limerick 1912-1921”.
Entry will be 5 euro per person and 10 euro per family.
Special group rates available. Phone John: (086) 395-6642 or Garry (086) 873-1497.
Please address all enquiries to info@irishvolunteers.org or see http://irishvolunteers.org/exhibitions-commemorations/ for details.

Irish Volunteers Commemorative Society

The Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation were at the Killarney Outlet centre last weekend on Saturday November the 5.th. It was nice to visit Co.Kerry again, we hope to be back again and as soon as we we visit the remaining counties we hope to visit Tralee.
http://irishvolunteers.org/2011/11/irish-volunteers-at-the-irish-soldier-exhibition-at-the-killarney-outlet-centre/

Croke Park Massacre

Sent in by séamus ó murthaile

Croke Park Massacre
Kevin Myers
It’s more than possible that Queen Elizabeth will make an apology for what happened in Croke Park in November 1920, as desired by many people. But before one is entitled to have strong opinions on historical matters, one must at least go to some trouble to learn about them.
Otherwise, one is responding merely to historical mythology, of which the Irish have far too much, and the English (and I do mean English) have almost none at all. This imbalance is one of the many permanently destabilising factors in the relations between the two peoples: one has an energetic narrative, rich in dramatic (and usually inaccurately-recollected) events, and the other has almost a completely blank-sheet about even their own history, never mind Ireland’s.
In my childhood in Leicester, whereas the Irish Myers family were all fascinated by the history of the town — supposedly named after the local king named Lear (yes, the Shakespearian chap), it was where Richard III and Cardinal Wolsey spent their last nights on this earth — none of the local children appeared to have any interest whatever.
There seemed to be almost no communal memory of any event — not even the Luftwaffe bombings in 1940. This is probably true for most of the English — and I have a virtually untestable theory that during the quarter of a millennium of a brutal Norman economic and cultural subjugation of the Anglo-Saxons, ordinary English people learnt to forget as a psychological survival mechanism. But how does one then unlearn amnesia, when one never remembers that one has it?
The Irish, however, “remember” a great deal: the problem is that their narrative is often far worse than the English blank-sheet. The general Irish account for Bloody Sunday is that some 14 British secret agents got their thoroughly deserved come-uppance that morning, and that British soldiers later murdered 14 unarmed people in Croke Park in revenge. Any attempt to correct this compares with Mrs O’ Malley’s valiant efforts with her mop the day that the Ardnacrusha dam wall broke.
There’s a wonderful book about Bloody Sunday by Michael T Foy, ‘Michael Collins’s Intelligence War’ (Sutton) that I sincerely recommend, from which most of the following details are taken.
A Captain Newbury was staying with his wife at a ground-floor flat at 92 Pembroke Street that morning, when two IRA volunteers arrived at the front door. Still in his pyjamas, he fled to the back window, where a third volunteer was waiting: the three men cut him down in a ferocious volley of shots, while his wife screamed beside him.
After throwing a blanket on her husband’s corpse, she collapsed, and gave birth to a stillborn baby. Some days later she herself died. Michael Foy thinks that Captain Newbury was not an intelligence officer. Of the 13 defenceless men murdered in their bedrooms that morning, Foy reckons eight were intelligence-officers: the other five were “unlucky”.
These included two Irish Catholics, an RAF officer (and cousin of Oscar Wilde) Lt L E Wilde, and Captain Patrick McCormack, an army vet, who were both murdered in their beds in the Gresham Hotel.
It could have been far, far worse: many decent IRA men simply ignored their orders, and shot no one.
In the aftermath of this slaughter, Dublin Castle correctly sensed that many soldiers and RIC Auxiliaries would be thirsting for revenge, and confined as many as possible to barracks. Alas, some Auxiliaries, aided by untrained recruits from the Depot at Phoenix Park, arrived at Croke Park, and perpetrated the infamous and legendary slaughter.
But according to Michael Foy — and I am inclined to believe him — these RIC men were out of control. They were not following orders, nor were they implementing policy of any kind.
Six of the Croke Park dead were buried in Glasnevin Cemetery, along with the bodies of the innocent Wilde and McCormack.
These evil events now exist largely in a realm of legend, which states that the British secret service was crippled in one brilliantly organised stroke, and so the cruel British army got its revenge with a massacre of the innocents of Croke Park.
But no soldiers opened fire at Croke Park, just policemen — and most of the recruits doing the shooting were Irish. And if the British intelligence was so crippled by the assassinations, how come the terms of the Treaty 13 months later so comprehensively favoured Britain’s strategic interests?
Queen Elizabeth was not born when Bloody Sunday occurred, and neither she nor any of her family had any association with it. This cannot be said of the Irish State, of which the third Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, was involved in the shooting of an unarmed army officer that morning — the one-legged Captain Baggalay, who was not involved in intelligence, but in civil administration.
His murder was an atrocious affair, but no intelligent person would seek an apology for such a deed in the middle of a very dirty war so long ago.
For the queen to offer a one-sided sorry for Bloody Sunday would merely give a fresh and needless lift to the wings of nationalist mythology; while for the poor dead Newburys in their pitiful Pembroke Street flat, no one either knows or cares

Tom Conway, O/C Communications, from Tipperary No. 3 Brigade, Information Required,

Looking for information on my grandfather, Tom Conway, O/C Communications, from Tipperary No. 3 Brigade, shot & captured, then went to U.S. in 1925. to best of knowledge. any info would be appreciated – see page 197 of Florence O’Donoghue book “No Other Law” the story of Liam Lynch and the IRA. 1916 – 1923

Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation

The Irish War has been sponsoring the Irish Volunteers Commemorative Organisation, http://irishvolunteers.org/

This weekend, to mark the 1916 Easter week Rising,  the I.V.C.O. will be putting on a small display of Original Irish war of Independence items at the Metropole Hotel ,MacCurtain Street, Cork city on saturday April 23, 10 am to 4 pm.

The event takes place in the main ballroom and is part of the Munster Militaria fair.

We wish them luck and if you are in the area , please drop in.

The Irish War.

Sean Moylan Rebel Leader

Sean Moylan offers a close and personal look at the man and his life. A fearless fighter, he led a series of ambushes in Cork as Commandant of the Cork No. 2 Brigade. He was part of the team that captured the only British General to be abducted during the War of Independence. Following the truce he fought on the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War. He was elected to the Dáil in 1932 and served in various Cabinet posts until his death in 1957.
Featuring previously unpublished letters from key figures in the Republican movement, this new biography offers a crucial insight into the realities of the War of Independence, the Civil War and the foundation of Fianna Fáil.
By Aideen Carroll.
Shipping USA 15 Euro

ISBN 9781856356695    To purchase the Book go to:

http://theirishwar.com/irish-history-books/sean-moylan-rebel-leader/

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

By the Author:

Last year Mercier printed Sean Moylan Rebel Leader. I have to declare an interest, the subject was my grandfather.  Months after  the book went to print I found an archive of untapped material buried in my mother’s papers. The attached piece from this archive concerns an incident at Knocknagree  in 1921

A HURLING MATCH AT  KNOCKNAGREE,

In  the years leading up to the War of Independence,  Knocknagree was a thriving village on the edge of Sliabh Luachra  boasting over a dozen pubs, 14 grocers, a  draper, bootmaker, blacksmith and  baker.   There was a Post Office, an R.I.C. station and a  monthly fair and market serving a number of parishes in this part of North West Cork  near the Kerry border. The village also had a fine tradition of poetry and music going back to 1783 when the poet and genius Eoin Rua Ó Súilleabháin set up a short lived  hedge school at the  cross-roads.  We might be disposed to believe that another man of this parish, Ned Buckley, was influenced by  the teachings of Eoin Rua as  passed down to him by his own people.  Ned’s  finely crafted lampoons on the political shibboleths of the post civil war era became  known  the length and breath of north Cork and Kerry.

In October 1920, the RIC barracks at Knocknagree was evacuated due to the escalating violence against the Constabulary.   Its location was vulnerable to attack as the Volunteers  pursued every opportunity to capture guns and burn out isolated barracks.   Across the region, winter progressed in a downward spiral of violence.   The villagers read about the  burning of  Cork city on December 10th which   was  described  in the papers  as a  truly staggering reprisal.   The British Cabinet introduced Martial Law  in Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary and  the heavy hand of the Army was evident in every dwelling where the householder was obliged to pin a list of  occupants on their front door.  The curfew was another strategy  employed by the Crown to  tighten its grip on the Nationalists.  In the area around Kanturk, curfew was strictly  enforced  and anyone found outside was ‘invited’  to either march all night with the  patrol  or spend 12 hours  in the barracks lockup.  As the violence intensified, Martial Law was extended throughout Munster;  many districts were proclaimed and  the suppression of monthly  fairs and markets  affected both the local farmers and the economy at large.  Nevertheless, in the early months of 1921, while the sale of livestock  was troublesome to say the least, normal life continued for the villagers of Knocknagree, at least  during daylight hours.  Nothing  could have prepared the parish  for the tragedy  and sadness that engulfed the community on 6th of February 1921.

There was a whiff of spring on Sunday morning  as the locals and farming families from the surrounding hinterland made their way to the Church of Christ the King for 11 o’clock Mass. Spilling into the 100 year old church the most devout parishioners wearing their Sunday best  filled the front pews. The latecomers shuffled at the back holding their caps.  After Mass, neighbours lingered and gossiped at the church wall.  The recent Tureengariffe ambush and the  military reprisals at Kingwilliamstown (now Ballydesmond) were  the subject of much discussion.   Some of the men continued the debate  over a bottle of stout down the village.  Families in their pony and traps departed for home to prepare the Sunday dinner and the young hurlers readied themselves for the match in Cronin’s field.

The following account by a local man, Diarmuid Moynihan, written to the Minister for Lands Seán Moylan in March 1947, describes the unfolding events as they occurred that afternoon.  Tragically, a 17 year old youth was killed, the only son of a widower.  Two other boys aged 12 and 13 were wounded, one of them seriously.

“The afternoon was bright and sunny.  About 40 boys and youths from the neighbouring townlands of Knocknagree and Nohoval assembled to play a challenge hurling match in Mr. Sylvester Cronin’s field at Knocknagree.  The field is north of Mr. Cronin’s dwelling house, one field removed from the Gneeveguilla-Knocknagree road and a similar distance from the Knocknagree-Rathmore Road.  A small number of adults were with the boys while in the village at the ‘Cross’, the usual Sunday afternoon group of loiterers assembled.

Rumours had been afloat earlier in the day that a  military patrol was in Gneeveguilla approximately three miles west, but as the Crown Forces had been paying particular attention to the said area for some time previous to this, the people of Knocknagree did not anticipate a visit.  Only when the patrol was sighted at Lisheen, 1 1/4 miles west of the village did some of the men at the ‘Cross’  bestir themselves.  Some few of the men rushed towards the playing field probably with the intention of warning the youths there, some few others dallied at the ‘Cross’ through sheer curiosity  until the patrol swept towards the village.  The boys in the field were warned of the approach of the military but as this was the first occasion that a military patrol or convoy visited the area, the children did not appreciate the danger.  With men moving from the ‘Cross’ to the field and others who had dallied rushing for the shelter of houses while the youths clustered around the playing pitch, the military careered into the village.  Two bursts of machine gunfire directed towards the youths was the taste of what was to be a terrifying and tragic evening.
The youths rushed southwards but by this time three lorries had drawn up on the public road to the east and the military advanced towards the field, while another section advanced from the North.  Some of the youths made their escape south westwards as also did all the men, but a goodly part of the group of boys threw themselves near fences or in hollows and cart tracks in the field.
Volley after volley was poured into the pitch and in the direction of the others escaping.  After some   10 or 12 minutes, Michael John Herlihy who was lying prone in the field was hit.  A little comrade (Johnny Cronin)  saw the blood, immediately jumped to his feet and raised his hands. The military fire on the field ceased but some further shots were fired after those who had made their escape.
The boys were rounded up and only then was it discovered that Michael John Kelliher was dead.  He had been shot through the left side, the bullet entering the heart as he tried to pass through a gap in the fence on the southern side of the field.  Donal J. Herlihy did not know he had been wounded until he tried to rise from the ground.   The wounded boys received attention from the military in the field.  Their uncle Michael Herlihy who came on the scene, soundly abused the officer in charge for his dastardly act.  The officer who intended taking the wounded boys to Killarney eventually handed them over to their uncle.  Donal was nursed back to health in the uncle’s house while his brother Michael was accommodated in the one-time RIC barracks owned by his father in the village.  The Barracks had been evacuated in October 1920.
The clothing was removed from young Kelliher’s body, it was wrapped in a military blanket and removed to the Rathmore R.I.C. Barracks.  The Sergeant in charge there refused as he said ‘to handle the dirty work of the military’.
A search of houses in the neighbourhood of the village was made before the patrol left with the youth’s dead body and two men, James O’Connell and Con Mahony who were in Mr. S. Cronin’s house.  They were taken to Killarney and held for one month.

Eventually the patrol returned to Knocknagree where the body was handed over to the boy’s widower-father.

Various rumours and whisperings were afloat in the village after the sad occurrence.
It was said that one of the boys in the field pointed a hurley, rifle fashion, at the lorries as they sped into the village from the Gneeveguilla area.  This has not been confirmed.  It should be noted that the road at that point, north of the playing field, is very much higher than the field so that the military had a full view of the boys and adults.  It was also suggested that the men at the ‘Cross’ rushed in the direction of the playing field.  It would appear that this is true and the silly action of those guilty gave the military an opportunity of opening fire.  It was also said that those who lingered at the ‘Cross’ ran when called upon to ‘Halt’.  Those at the ‘Cross’ did run, but as far as I can glean, they had done so before the military arrived or sighted them.  There was no such thing as an order to ‘Halt’

It is well to note too that Banard Height, 1 3/4 miles west of Knocknagree affords a clear view of Knocknagree and its surroundings.  The military undoubtedly saw those boys with hurleys in that field a long time before they moved towards Knocknagree.  Whether they mistook the hurleys for rifles is a conjecture but judging by the speed with which they surrounded the grounds on the North and East, they must have given some study to their maps beforehand and came prepared to terrorise the village.’

Diarmuid Moynihan’s account of this chilling incident  belies the Official Military H.Q. Report which appeared in the Irish Independent on February 8/1921 stating:  ‘A military patrol saw a body of armed civilians in a field near Knocknagree.  Fire was opened and replied to resulting in the death of one youth and the wounding of two others.’   In another section of the same issue, the names and ages of the boys were given with a report that ‘The Crown Forces entered the village in the afternoon and shouted to some men who were at the corner of the street to ‘Halt’.  The young men immediately stampeded round the corner, whereupon machine gunfire was opened from the lorry.’

In a letter to the Irish Independent  published the following Saturday,  J.J. Herlihy,  an outraged  cousin of the boys  stoutly contradicted  the Military Report.

There was no ambush he wrote,  ‘nor was there the remotest attempt to carry out one in the district.  Neither was there the slighted preparation for nor anticipation of  such a thing.  Not a single shot was fired by a civilian.  There was no interference whatever with the Crown forces and they were subject to no provocation in any shape or form’.  He  went on to describe what happened in the village and at the game itself where a small number of  supporters were watching the match.  Hearing the rifle fire at the ‘Cross’  they ran into the fields whereupon the soldiers mounted a machine-gun and trained it in the direction of the fleeing men.  Children aged between 7 and 14  ‘ran towards the fences for safety, some stood as if paralysed,  others with their arms over their heads.’

The 6th Division Record of the Rebellion which carefully logged all  engagements during this period,  makes no mention of  the shootings at Knocknagree.  The only humanity demonstrated during the sad debacle was  the efforts of the military doctor accompanying the convoy  who administered  first aid to the Herlihy boys.   His dismay at the shooting of  the children and young Kelliher  must have communicated itself  to his superiors.  The following day, the military  revisited the village to convey their sympathy to the  bereaved and traumatised parents.

The aftermath

Donal J. Herlihy, aged 12 was  shot through the right lung and seriously wounded.
Michael John Herlihy, aged 13, was shot through the thigh.
The  wounded children were the sons of  John and Catherine. Herlihy,  National Teachers of  Farrankeal, Knocknagree.  Both made a full recovery  under the care of Prof. John Dundon  from Cork and  the local G.P.  Dr. Collins from Rathmore who provided constant  medical attention during those critical weeks.

Michael John Kelliher, aged 17, was the only son of Michael Kelliher, carpenter, Knocknagree, Co. Cork.  The  1911 Census record for this family shows 13 children born to Michael and Mary Anne Kelliher. Seven children survived, a boy and six girls.

In the days following the shooting, the community stood united with the Kelliher family in  a show of sympathy and solidarity.  They attended the wake, funeral  and burial of this young man.  Standing at the graveside, his elderly  father and  his grief stricken  sisters  were inconsolable. The arbitrary violence inflicted on this quiet village in north west Cork was one of many such outrages during a bloody and bitter conflict which  saw the moral authority of  the Crown seep into the bogs  and British rule in Ireland disintegrate.

© Aideen Carroll, 2011

A HURLING MATCH AT KNOCKNAGREE

Many thanks to Aideen Carroll for sending in this article,

A HURLING MATCH AT  KNOCKNAGREE

In  the years leading up to the War of Independence,  Knocknagree was a thriving village on the edge of Sliabh Luachra  boasting over a dozen pubs, 14 grocers, a  draper, bootmaker, blacksmith and  baker.   There was a Post Office, an R.I.C. station and a  monthly fair and market serving a number of parishes in this part of North West Cork  near the Kerry border. The village also had a fine tradition of poetry and music going back to 1783 when the poet and genius Eoin Rua Ó Súilleabháin set up a short lived  hedge school at the  cross-roads.  We might be disposed to believe that another man of this parish, Ned Buckley, was influenced by  the teachings of Eoin Rua as  passed down to him by his own people.  Ned’s  finely crafted lampoons on the political shibboleths of the post civil war era became  known  the length and breath of north Cork and Kerry.

In October 1920, the RIC barracks at Knocknagree was evacuated due to the escalating violence against the Constabulary.   Its location was vulnerable to attack as the Volunteers  pursued every opportunity to capture guns and burn out isolated barracks.   Across the region, winter progressed in a downward spiral of violence.   The villagers read about the  burning of  Cork city on December 10th which   was  described  in the papers  as a  truly staggering reprisal.   The British Cabinet introduced Martial Law  in Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary and  the heavy hand of the Army was evident in every dwelling where the householder was obliged to pin a list of  occupants on their front door.  The curfew was another strategy  employed by the Crown to  tighten its grip on the Nationalists.  In the area around Kanturk, curfew was strictly  enforced  and anyone found outside was ‘invited’  to either march all night with the  patrol  or spend 12 hours  in the barracks lockup.  As the violence intensified, Martial Law was extended throughout Munster;  many districts were proclaimed and  the suppression of monthly  fairs and markets  affected both the local farmers and the economy at large.  Nevertheless, in the early months of 1921, while the sale of livestock  was troublesome to say the least, normal life continued for the villagers of Knocknagree, at least  during daylight hours.  Nothing  could have prepared the parish  for the tragedy  and sadness that engulfed the community on 6th of February 1921.

There was a whiff of spring on Sunday morning  as the locals and farming families from the surrounding hinterland made their way to the Church of Christ the King for 11 o’clock Mass. Spilling into the 100 year old church the most devout parishioners wearing their Sunday best  filled the front pews. The latecomers shuffled at the back holding their caps.  After Mass, neighbours lingered and gossiped at the church wall.  The recent Tureengariffe ambush and the  military reprisals at Kingwilliamstown (now Ballydesmond) were  the subject of much discussion.   Some of the men continued the debate  over a bottle of stout down the village.  Families in their pony and traps departed for home to prepare the Sunday dinner and the young hurlers readied themselves for the match in Cronin’s field.

The following account by a local man, Diarmuid Moynihan, written to the Minister for Lands Seán Moylan in March 1947, describes the unfolding events as they occurred that afternoon.  Tragically, a 17 year old youth was killed, the only son of a widower.  Two other boys aged 12 and 13 were wounded, one of them seriously.

“The afternoon was bright and sunny.  About 40 boys and youths from the neighbouring townlands of Knocknagree and Nohoval assembled to play a challenge hurling match in Mr. Sylvester Cronin’s field at Knocknagree.  The field is north of Mr. Cronin’s dwelling house, one field removed from the Gneeveguilla-Knocknagree road and a similar distance from the Knocknagree-Rathmore Road.  A small number of adults were with the boys while in the village at the ‘Cross’, the usual Sunday afternoon group of loiterers assembled.

Rumours had been afloat earlier in the day that a  military patrol was in Gneeveguilla approximately three miles west, but as the Crown Forces had been paying particular attention to the said area for some time previous to this, the people of Knocknagree did not anticipate a visit.  Only when the patrol was sighted at Lisheen, 1 1/4 miles west of the village did some of the men at the ‘Cross’  bestir themselves.  Some few of the men rushed towards the playing field probably with the intention of warning the youths there, some few others dallied at the ‘Cross’ through sheer curiosity  until the patrol swept towards the village.  The boys in the field were warned of the approach of the military but as this was the first occasion that a military patrol or convoy visited the area, the children did not appreciate the danger.  With men moving from the ‘Cross’ to the field and others who had dallied rushing for the shelter of houses while the youths clustered around the playing pitch, the military careered into the village.  Two bursts of machine gunfire directed towards the youths was the taste of what was to be a terrifying and tragic evening.
The youths rushed southwards but by this time three lorries had drawn up on the public road to the east and the military advanced towards the field, while another section advanced from the North.  Some of the youths made their escape south westwards as also did all the men, but a goodly part of the group of boys threw themselves near fences or in hollows and cart tracks in the field.
Volley after volley was poured into the pitch and in the direction of the others escaping.  After some   10 or 12 minutes, Michael John Herlihy who was lying prone in the field was hit.  A little comrade (Johnny Cronin)  saw the blood, immediately jumped to his feet and raised his hands. The military fire on the field ceased but some further shots were fired after those who had made their escape.
The boys were rounded up and only then was it discovered that Michael John Kelliher was dead.  He had been shot through the left side, the bullet entering the heart as he tried to pass through a gap in the fence on the southern side of the field.  Donal J. Herlihy did not know he had been wounded until he tried to rise from the ground.   The wounded boys received attention from the military in the field.  Their uncle Michael Herlihy who came on the scene, soundly abused the officer in charge for his dastardly act.  The officer who intended taking the wounded boys to Killarney eventually handed them over to their uncle.  Donal was nursed back to health in the uncle’s house while his brother Michael was accommodated in the one-time RIC barracks owned by his father in the village.  The Barracks had been evacuated in October 1920.
The clothing was removed from young Kelliher’s body, it was wrapped in a military blanket and removed to the Rathmore R.I.C. Barracks.  The Sergeant in charge there refused as he said ‘to handle the dirty work of the military’.
A search of houses in the neighbourhood of the village was made before the patrol left with the youth’s dead body and two men, James O’Connell and Con Mahony who were in Mr. S. Cronin’s house.  They were taken to Killarney and held for one month.

Eventually the patrol returned to Knocknagree where the body was handed over to the boy’s widower-father.

Various rumours and whisperings were afloat in the village after the sad occurrence.
It was said that one of the boys in the field pointed a hurley, rifle fashion, at the lorries as they sped into the village from the Gneeveguilla area.  This has not been confirmed.  It should be noted that the road at that point, north of the playing field, is very much higher than the field so that the military had a full view of the boys and adults.  It was also suggested that the men at the ‘Cross’ rushed in the direction of the playing field.  It would appear that this is true and the silly action of those guilty gave the military an opportunity of opening fire.  It was also said that those who lingered at the ‘Cross’ ran when called upon to ‘Halt’.  Those at the ‘Cross’ did run, but as far as I can glean, they had done so before the military arrived or sighted them.  There was no such thing as an order to ‘Halt’

It is well to note too that Banard Height, 1 3/4 miles west of Knocknagree affords a clear view of Knocknagree and its surroundings.  The military undoubtedly saw those boys with hurleys in that field a long time before they moved towards Knocknagree.  Whether they mistook the hurleys for rifles is a conjecture but judging by the speed with which they surrounded the grounds on the North and East, they must have given some study to their maps beforehand and came prepared to terrorise the village.’

Diarmuid Moynihan’s account of this chilling incident  belies the Official Military H.Q. Report which appeared in the Irish Independent on February 8/1921 stating:  ‘A military patrol saw a body of armed civilians in a field near Knocknagree.  Fire was opened and replied to resulting in the death of one youth and the wounding of two others.’   In another section of the same issue, the names and ages of the boys were given with a report that ‘The Crown Forces entered the village in the afternoon and shouted to some men who were at the corner of the street to ‘Halt’.  The young men immediately stampeded round the corner, whereupon machine gunfire was opened from the lorry.’

In a letter to the Irish Independent  published the following Saturday,  J.J. Herlihy,  an outraged  cousin of the boys  stoutly contradicted  the Military Report.

There was no ambush he wrote,  ‘nor was there the remotest attempt to carry out one in the district.  Neither was there the slighted preparation for nor anticipation of  such a thing.  Not a single shot was fired by a civilian.  There was no interference whatever with the Crown forces and they were subject to no provocation in any shape or form’.  He  went on to describe what happened in the village and at the game itself where a small number of  supporters were watching the match.  Hearing the rifle fire at the ‘Cross’  they ran into the fields whereupon the soldiers mounted a machine-gun and trained it in the direction of the fleeing men.  Children aged between 7 and 14  ‘ran towards the fences for safety, some stood as if paralysed,  others with their arms over their heads.’

The 6th Division Record of the Rebellion which carefully logged all  engagements during this period,  makes no mention of  the shootings at Knocknagree.  The only humanity demonstrated during the sad debacle was  the efforts of the military doctor accompanying the convoy  who administered  first aid to the Herlihy boys.   His dismay at the shooting of  the children and young Kelliher  must have communicated itself  to his superiors.  The following day, the military  revisited the village to convey their sympathy to the  bereaved and traumatised parents.

The aftermath

Donal J. Herlihy, aged 12 was  shot through the right lung and seriously wounded.
Michael John Herlihy, aged 13, was shot through the thigh.
The  wounded children were the sons of  John and Catherine. Herlihy,  National Teachers of  Farrankeal, Knocknagree.  Both made a full recovery  under the care of Prof. John Dundon  from Cork and  the local G.P.  Dr. Collins from Rathmore who provided constant  medical attention during those critical weeks.

Michael John Kelliher, aged 17, was the only son of Michael Kelliher, carpenter, Knocknagree, Co. Cork.  The  1911 Census record for this family shows 13 children born to Michael and Mary Anne Kelliher. Seven children survived, a boy and six girls.  

In the days following the shooting, the community stood united with the Kelliher family in  a show of sympathy and solidarity.  They attended the wake, funeral  and burial of this young man.  Standing at the graveside, his elderly  father and  his grief stricken  sisters  were inconsolable. The arbitrary violence inflicted on this quiet village in north west Cork was one of many such outrages during a bloody and bitter conflict which  saw the moral authority of  the Crown seep into the bogs  and British rule in Ireland disintegrate.

© Aideen Carroll, 2011

British Military Operations in Ireland-House of Commons Debate June 1921

Courtesy hansard.millbanksystems
1 June 1921 → Commons Sitting → ORDERS OF THE DAY.
MILITARY OPERATIONS, IRELAND.
HC Deb 01 June 1921 vol 142 cc1153-98 1153
Major-General SEELY I beg to move, “That this House do now adjourn.”
I move the Adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of His Majesty’s Government to issue orders prohibiting the destruction of houses or buildings in Ireland except where necessary on purely military grounds, and the urgent necessity for putting a stop to such actions as the burning of Tincurry House, County Tipperary, on 15th May, The issue which I put to the House to-night is quite clear and definite, and has not been discussed by the House before. As will be seen, we raise here no question of the conduct of troops. There is no allegation here that the Regular troops, Auxiliaries or police have acted with lack of discipline. On the contrary, as will be seen from the concrete case which I shall put before the House, the troops throughout acted strictly in accordance with orders, and if I may use the phrase of so lamentable an occurrence, in an entirely proper manner. We raise two issues to-night. I can conceive that when the case is put, the great majority will support the view we express. We say, first, that His Majesty’s 1154 Government have failed to issue orders in accordance with the general principles laid down by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary in various answers to questions and various speeches in this House, namely, that there shall be no destruction of the homes of the people except on purely military grounds—that is to say, either when a house is used as cover for an ambush, or when the residents of the house may reasonably be supposed to be participators in the outrages which we so much deplore. Although that is the policy of my right hon. Friend, he does not see his way to issue definite orders to that effect, and one can gather from certain answers he has given that the view taken is that this must be left to the military authorities in a martial law area. That is the first point we definitely challenge. On a matter of high policy—there can be no higher policy than this—the Chief Secretary must be supreme, and so long as this House supports him his will in matters of high policy like this must be law.
The second point we challenge is the actual method adopted, namely, the destruction of people’s homes, presumably by way of reprisal, but in the absence of the incriminating reasons to which I have referred. As to the responsibility of the Chief Secretary to this House and his bounden duty to see that his policy and not the policy of anyone else is carried out, everyone here who cares for our method of constitutional government will 1155 be disposed to agree that the last word must rest with the Chief Secretary responsible to this House. He cannot shelter himself, and I trust he will not shelter himself, behind the supposed necessity of listening to the advice of anyone, whether soldier, policeman, or civilian in Ireland, who wishes to pursue a different policy. The second point is that we challenge the policy of the burning of people’s homes except for purely military necessities. The phrase I have used is, I think, a fair transcript of the policy of my right hon. Friend, as I understand it. It means that homes are to be destroyed only where a house is used as cover for an ambush or where the residents may reasonably be supposed to be parties to an outrage. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Lieut.-Colonel Guinness), who, I under-stand, will second this Motion, holds the view that instead of “or” we should say “and” in the Motion. It will no doubt be urged that constantly the houses of loyalists will be destroyed because they will be deliberately used by our enemies as fortresses from which to fire, with a view to the houses being burnt down. My hon. and gallant Friend will develop that case. I will come to the concrete case on which I rest this Motion.
There is resident in Derbyshire a man whom I know very well and whom everyone knows, a Dr. Tobin, who has been a magistrate for about 20 years, who is universally respected, and who, for more years than I care to count, has been the foremost medical man in the central part of Derbyshire. I say all this to show that such a man may be reasonably supposed, and certainly supposed, to tell one nothing but the truth. I will read to the House his account of what took place, and as will be seen it is only one of many similar occurrences on the same day. I know the House will be shocked. This Dr. Tobin is the brother of a man who lived in Tincurry House. His brother is now dead and there remain the widow and a young daughter of 13 years. There were two nephews living there before the War. They both joined up as loyal subjects soon after the outbreak of war. One, a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, was shot down in an aerial combat at Ypres; the other, an officer in the Royal Navy, was drowned in the operations at Gallipoli, while serving with His Majesty’s Ship “Triumph.” There were in the 1156 house at the time of the occurrence I shall describe, only Dr. Tobin’s sister-in-law and her little daughter. Two other children were at school. This is what happened. Dr. Tobin writes: Our old house and home in Ireland was blown up by the military on Saturday last, the 14th May, 1921—Tincurry House, Cahir, Co. Tipperary. It was an old country house, pre-Cromwellian, with additions and alterations from time to time. You can see it marked on any of the old ordnance maps. It was in occupation of my brother’s widow and her youngest daughter, 13 years of age. My brother died about 3 years ago. My brother’s two other children, 15 and 16½ years of age respectively, are away at school, one, a girl, in England, and the boy, 15 years of age, in Dublin. They, of course, go to the old home for school holidays only. No occupants of the house except the widow, Mrs. Marion Tobin, and her daughter, Eva, 13 years of age, and the servants. The widow writes me that on Saturday last the military arrived and gave her an hour’s notice to clear out her family, that the house was to be demolished. No furniture to be removed, only sufficient clothing, etc. No reasons given—nothing incriminating found, nor ever had been, though the house and plate had been searched and raided a dozen times or more night and day during the last 12 months or so. Before placing the bombs the house and all its rooms were thoroughly searched, and every article of furniture was smashed with picks and hatchets. The beds and bedroom furniture, as well as all the old mahogany chests, were all broken into matchwood. The new bathroom and bath and its basins, etc., were broken to bits. In fact, everything in the house upstairs and down was broken with picks and hatchets, so that nothing could possibly be saved or restored. Having thoroughly completed this wreckage, then the bombs were placed in the principal rooms and fired, and the dear old house and home blown to the four winds of heaven. Meanwhile, the widow and her little daughter, Eva Tobin, stood on the lawn as grim witnesses, carefully surrounded by the armed forces of the Crown. Incidentally this was also the home of my two nephews, who were killed in France and Gallipoli during the Great War. It seems that on the same day, 14th May, 11 other houses were demolished in the same beautiful valley of the Galtees, but none of them was as old or as big as Tincurry House—not that such a comparison is of the least consequence. In fact, it only goes to show how cruelly impartial and haphazard military reprisals are in Ireland. Then he proceeds to refer to the demeanour of the troops. He says they said it was a shame to treat the widow and the child in such a manner, and he goes on to say that when the deed was done the soldiers were exhausted for want of food and begged the widow to give them some, which she did. She and her 1157 servants made tea for them in the kitchen, and gave them a good feed. The house of this poor lady and her little daughter was deprived of its furniture and its contents, these were smashed and it was then blown up. It cannot be alleged that this lady or her daughter were participants in any outrage. It would seem unlikely that the home of two officers who fell fighting for us in the Great War would be the home of participants in outrages. It could not be used for the purposes of an ambush on the roadside, because I understand it is not on the road. What reason can be given for this action I do not know, but whatever reason may be given, I ask this House to say that such proceedings as these are wrong.
On the general question of these formal reprisals, I do ask the House to say that they wish to put an end definitely to this kind of thing. Whatever anybody else may say, this House should say: “This thing must stop,” and for more than one reason. The first reason, and the lower reason, is that it is so idle and inexpedient. It is very obvious that those on what may be called the loyal side of this matter, offer an incomparably bigger target. From the lower point of view it is foolish to take such steps as this, because brutal crimes have been committed, when the other side can burn down houses which are of so much more value—except, of course, from the sentimental point of view, to those immediately concerned. It is foolish for another and more important reason. Everybody must have been shocked this morning—and as one occupying an official position in Hampshire and having a close association with Hampshire, I was particularly shocked—at the news of the frightful crime by which the Hampshire Regiment, marching peace-fully along the road with its band, was blown up, and unfortunate bandsmen, some of them only little boys, blown to bits and many wounded. These are dreadful crimes which we reprobate, and to stop which we will help in every possible way. But are these crimes not made easier, instead of more difficult, by this kind of thing? In the first place, you must set more and more of the in-habitants against you by such procedure. The people, in what is here called the beautiful valley of the Galtees—and it 1158 is a most beautiful valley—may not have been all of one political view, but the great majority must have been on our side in reprobating murder. One can well imagine the bitterness of seeing one’s home destroyed, and by doing such acts you turn many of these people from being supporters of law and order, whatever their political views may be, towards the other side. Furthermore, and this is a view that will be shared in by many experienced soldiers, while troops are engaged on acts of this kind, they are necessarily withdrawn from their real duty, which should be to try to track down the assassin by every means known to the skilful and resourceful soldier. There is another aspect of this. Who is it orders these reprisals?
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS Not this House, anyway.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK Who ordered the torture of the prisoners the other day?
Major-General SEELY I should be glad if hon. Members would stick to this one point of who orders such reprisals as this. Other questions are contentious. I have taken the opposite side to many of my hon. Friends on the question of the behaviour of the troops, but this particular question I believe is one on which Members of the House on both sides will be of one mind. I repeat the question: Who orders these reprisals? There are two authorities and I know they do not pursue identical policies. I know in matters of this kind one favours one way and the other favours another. One commands the troops and the other commands the police. There is no proper co-ordination between them. Unless my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary boldly says what is the policy to be carried out, he shall merely be regarded as the servant of both of these in carrying out this detestable policy at the behest of one of them or some other policy at the behest of the other. We want this question of authority made defintely plain if we are to avoid disastrous effects. We want one supreme civilian head, responsible to this House, and under him we want a man who will loyally obey his orders and who will be himself supreme over others. We want to know by whom different policies are authorised in the same area with these deplorable consequences. It may be said 1159 by somebody that while the destruction of property is very sad, it is nothing compared with the destruction of life. That is not quite true. It is a strange thing, but it is true that there are many people who love their homes even better than their lives, and when you seek to destroy people’s homes you cut deep down into vital things in human thought with consequences more far-reaching than you can deal with. I can prove this to the House from my own experience. This same policy was adopted for a brief period during the South African War. I happened to be there at the time when the farm-burning policy began. It lasted a very short time, for the almost unanimous opinion of all thoughtful soldiers, and certainly of the soldiers at the front condemned it, and it was abandoned.
§Colonel P. WILLIAMS And the present Prime Minister helped to kill it.
Major-General SEELY While it was going on, I happened to be there and with many others of the officers and men protested against it. We were more anxious than anybody to defeat our enemies if only for the sordid reason of getting home. But when in the course of an attack on a commando we burned down a house, and it was supposed that we were burning down the house of the man we were attacking, he, as a matter of fact, was very likely some determined free-booter from Cape Colony and probably nobody laughed more then he did when he saw the house go up to the sky, well knowing that probably it belonged to a sympathiser with our cause. The same thing is happening in Ireland. Do you suppose these brutal assassins who blew up the Hampshire Regiment cared one scrap for the burning of Tincurry House, the residence of these two officers who were killed on our side in the War? No; but I am quite sure they will go to Mrs. Tobin. I have no doubt they have gone to her and said to her, “You see what comes of being on the English side. You allowed your men protectors to go off to the War. You are proud that one should be an officer in the British Navy and the other an officer in the British Flying Corps, and they both get killed in fighting for their cause. What do you get for it? They come and burn your house down and blow your 400-years-old house to smithereens.” It is a foolish policy. The 1160 soldiers in South Africa protested against such a policy, but when that war was over, and when the task of reconciliation began, when all those who had been most bitter against each other were trying to come to an agreement, when great men like General Botha and Lord Milner were trying to repair the ravages of the war and bring back the South African Dutch to friendship with us, and to form, as we ultimately did, a South African Union under the British flag, what was the principal difficulty? General Botha told me himself, in the presence of my Liberal colleague of that day—and I have no doubt he must have told Conservative ex-Cabinet Ministers; in fact, I know he did—he said to me, “My chief difficulty in bringing about reconciliation, the difficulty that met me at every turn, the difficulty that at all stages and even at the very last nearly wrecked the scheme, was the bitterness of the men whose houses had been burned.”
Is not that a lesson for us here? Ought we not now at once to say from this House that this foolish and wrong policy of destroying people’s homes that they love for any reason short of the direst necessity shall be put a stop to? We hear a great deal of the hostility even now to an approach to better things in Ireland. I know there are forces at work, unexpected forces, which may bring about a reconciliation between what are after all two very brave and determined nations. Surely the first and the best step we can take, if there be any chance of reconciliation, is to say now, as from this House of Commons, and with the support of my right hon. Friend, “We will take charge of this; whatever else may be done, whatever it may be necessary to do, to track down assassins and prevent brutal murders and outrages which we all deplore, we will respect the homes of the Irish people and thus give an earnest of our intentions, that one day we may be reconciled with Ireland.”
Lieut.-Colonel W. GUINNESS I beg to second the Motion. I think everyone who has the interests of Ireland at heart must be grateful to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for having brought this matter forward in the very temperate speech to which we have just listened, and if as a result of this Debate he can get some improvement in the military administration and greater wisdom in the 1161 action that the military authorities are now taking, I think he will be able to congratulate himself on having done work of enormous benefit to both countries. My hon. Friends and I have long urged that the suicidal contest of authority in Ireland between the civil and military powers should come to an end, and I listened to no part of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech with greater pleasure than to the words which he said on that matter and in favour of the whole of the responsibility for operations against the rebels in Ireland being put under one military guidance, but I am not going to elaborate that question now, because our views are very well known already. I want rather to deal with the smaller question of the burnings which have been taking place all over Ireland, and for which both sides are responsible. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that burnings might be right during military operations and where the owner or the occupant of the house might be reasonably suspected of being in sympathy with Sinn Fein—I am not quite sure of his exact words.
§Major-General SEELY Participators in outrages.
Lieut. – Colonel GUINNESS While there is no doubt that if a house is being occupied by people ambushing the troops of the Crown, the troops must be allowed to destroy that house if necessary during the action, I do not agree with the view that once the action is over the troops should be allowed to destroy even a house from which they have been fired at. If the action is finished there is no reason to have recourse to these violent methods. If there is just suspicion against the owner or occupier of the house, why not bring him before a court-martial and deal with him after hearing his case? If you do not discourage the troops from burning down houses after an action is over, you play into the hands of the Sinn Fein habit of selecting loyalist houses, the houses of men whom they are fighting, taking them aside and threatening them with violence if they make the slightest attempt to communicate with the Crown forces, knowing that by choosing such a house they are going a good way to work to get it destroyed by the friends of those who own it. I cannot give chapter and verse for that kind of case, but I can 1162 say that I have been told by officers in the Auxiliary Division that that is what happens, and they themselves, though they admit that in some cases it is necessary to destroy a house during the fighting, do not agree with the policy of burning a house down afterwards as a lesson to the population.
Now I come to the other case, where the right hon. Gentleman had, I think, the whole House with him, and that is where the house is burned down on the orders of the competent military authority in vengeance for some outrage upon the Crown forces. I think that is not only unjust, but most ineffective. It is absolutely repugnant, to anyone who is familiar with the conditions of British justice, that anyone should be punished unheard. The burning of property in this way is a very serious penalty, and, however anxious those who advise the competent military authority may be to select the right houses, it is inevitable that there must be mistakes. There is so much terrorism in Ireland to-day that I defy anybody to know which way the man who does not take an active part in politics on one side or the other really sympathises with. He dare not express his opinions, and how are the police, or whoever advise the competent military authority as to which houses are suitable to be burned down, to gauge the criminality of the owner? Of course, the military authorities probably take the line that this is a sound military method. I do not believe it is. As any soldier knew in the last War, it needs no military knowledge to inflict damage on the enemy if you do not care about the cost. A soldier must count the cost of his operation, and this particular government in Ireland is costing far more to your friends than it is to your enemies, and for that reason it seems to me absolutely suicidal. I do not think I can do better than read a letter which I got from a very well-known loyalist in the County of Cork: Can you do nothing to get the authorised military reprisals stopped? They are doing no good, and an infinity of harm; e.g., last Saturday night ‘Convamore,’ Lord Listowel’s house; ‘Ballywalter,’ Mr. Penrose Welsted’s, and ‘Rockmills,’ Mr. C. D. Oliver’s, all within a few miles of Castletownroche, in the Fermoy Military District, were burnt, I understand, as a counter-reprisal to the burning by the military of Sinn Fein houses in the neighbourhood. The Sinn Feiners have said so. The soldiers burn a cottage worth, perhaps, £300, and the Sinn 1163 Feiners retaliate by burning a house worth £50,000. I do not think £100,000 would pay for ‘Convamore’ and its contents. If the military reprisals go on, there will soon be no loyalists’ house left. The authorities do not appear to understand the state of the country even now. Soldiers expect country people to help them to bring criminals to justice. Under present conditions, this is too stupid. Everyone is terrorised. The Government can protect no one. If a man is even suspected of having given any information to the police, he is shot by the Sinn Feiners and labelled ‘spy.’ He adds as a postscript: I see that Listowel has applied for £150,000 compensation, and that a military proclamation has been posted about Fermoy that if the burning of loyalists’ houses is repeated, more than two Sinn Feiners’ houses for each will be destroyed. What is the good of destroying two houses, worth £300 apiece, which perhaps belong to a loyalist landlord, as vengeance for burning down a house worth £100,000? My friend adds: This will be regarded as mere bluff, which it is, and do more harm than good. I think it is mere bluff, because the other side in this matter hold the bigger cards. They can burn down houses which this House has to pay for, or else see the owner put to permanent loss, and the burning down of Sinn Feiners’ houses really inflicts no proportionate penalty upon the other side. There is another case which happened last week. Mr. Ebenezer Pike, of Kilcrenagh, County Cork, was on Thursday midnight awakened by people knocking up the house, and men came in and said he could have a quarter of an hour to clear out and take anything he liked. He is an old man. He was living with his daughter, and was so bewildered that, even if he had had more time, I do not suppose he could have taken all the valuable things away with him. Anyhow he lost both his house and all the valuables which it contained. He asked them why they were burning his house, as he had taken no part one way or the other, and he was told his house was to be burnt down as a reprisal for houses burnt down by the troops. He was then locked in the stable with his daughter, and when let out his house was in ruins. The competent military authority can do nothing to prevent such cases. It is they who order these reprisals, and I submit it is absolutely monstrous to go on with this policy, unless you are prepared to secure that it does not 1164 do more harm to your friends than it does to those against whom it is directed.
I say the competent military authority cannot protect loyalists’ houses, judging by their extraordinary performance last week in Dublin. They were not able to protect even the Customs House. I believe the competent military authority only a short time ago removed the guard from the Customs House, and it has not yet been explained in this House what induced them to pursue that fatuous policy. There had been a long controversy about that guard. They tried, I believe, to get the Auxiliaries to do it, but naturally the Auxiliaries are not a suitable kind of force to undertake work of that kind, and, finally, the military did find a small guard. They then proceeded to withdraw this guard altogether, with the result that the most important building, from the point of view of Government records, was burnt down in broad daylight. I agree it is a building which cannot be replaced. We have heard a lot about that, but we have not heard about the almost more valuable records and papers which perished in that building. If that happens in Dublin, where there are troops, and where there is a competent military authority on the spot, what must happen in the country districts to which I have referred? The competent military authority, who orders this kind of proceeding, perhaps bases his action on psychological grounds. If so, it shows a singular ignorance of Irish mentality.
This policy is driving the few friends this country had in Ireland into the arms of Sinn Fein. It is causing intense bitterness in the eyes of every man who has kept neutral, and it is causing disgust and fear among your friends. During the present nightmare everybody feels that whichever side he takes he has got an equal chance of having his house burnt down, but he knows that when this nightmare comes to an end, if he takes part against Sinn Fein, then when that party comes to govern the country, he is more likely to suffer. Therefore, it is only human nature if these unprotected men go over day by day and join the ranks of Sinn Fein. I say it is absolutely unfair to put this work upon your troops. My Noble Friend (Earl Winterton) was present when Auxiliary officers in Dublin in high command told us they detested this policy, that there was nothing their men 1165 disliked more than to get orders from the competent military authority to burn, in cold blood, houses, and turn out their occupants. I have given the right hon. Gentleman the reasons—one on the high ground of principle, and the other on the lower ground of expediency—why this policy should be stopped, and I hope he will choose either or both of them. I believe the right hon. Gentleman cannot know really what is going on.
Mr. MOSLEY Oh, yes he does!
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS I believe these orders must come on the decision of soldiers, who are guided only by the military expediency of the moment, and are thinking only in terms of force. They seem to forget that the country has got to be lived in after the Government has pacified it. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to bring this policy to an end, and while punishing murder to cease to inflict these penalties which, apart from causing senseless loss to the community, are stirring up bitterness in Ireland which will not die out in our lifetime.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK The speeches which have just been made are a remarkable testimony to the blundering and brutality of the Government’s rule in Ireland. The speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely), gives a very good instance of the crowning folly of the Government. Though I am deeply and bitterly opposed to the policy of His Majesty’s Government, I do not wish to approach this subject to-night in a violent or controversial spirit. I rise merely for the few moments I desire to address the House to beg the House and the Government to reflect whether there is any good to be obtained by the pursuance of a policy which has been pursued for the last two years. Take this question of burnings. What good really does the right hon. Gentleman think he is doing by burning the houses of people who, for all he knows, are perfectly innocent? Does he really think he is discouraging the rebels? Does he think he is detaching one single rebel from the Irish Republican Army? Does he think he is cowing the Irish people into submission? Is he not rather encouraging the rebels? Is he not rather adding to their ranks, and increasing the disgust and terror with which his rule is regarded in Ireland? As my hon. and 1166 gallant Friend opposite has said, the people in Ireland are not under the slightest delusion on this head. I was talking only the other day with a distinguished soldier who lives in Ireland, and he told me that for every cabin the right hon. Gentleman burns down the rebels burn down either a country house, or a mansion, or a castle. The only result of the right hon. Gentleman’s competition in arson is that he gets scored off in the end. After all, the burning down of the Dublin Customs House is only the logical outcome of his own competition. May I in all humility ask the House, and the Government, to take stock of where we are, and what we have achieved by our policy? We have got an army in Ireland of over 60,000 men, costing anything from £1,250,000 to £1,500,000. We have a body of police which, I believe, are costing £7,000,000. Property has been destroyed, I believe, to the amount of £5,000,000. You have lives lost to the number of 700 since 1st January. What have you got to show for it all? The right hon. Gentleman himself has confessed that the thing is a failure. The Prime Minister has also confessed that the right hon. Gentleman is a failure. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that a commanding officer, when he is a failure, has to be removed to some other sphere of activity, and somebody else is put in his place. I submit it is high time that that which is a sound rule in military matters should be applied to the office of the right hon. Gentleman. The Prime Minister has announced that he is going to increase the number of soldiers in Ireland. What good is it going to do to increase the number of soldiers? What good has the army of 60,000 done? What has it done for peace?
§ 9.0 P.M.
§Mr. SPEAKER The Noble Lord forgets that in the Motion for the Adjournment of the House we are confined to the definite, urgent, and particular matter raised in it. The Debate was opened by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Ilkeston Division (Major-General Seely), but the Noble Lord must not review the whole field of Irish affairs; he must keep to the question—that of the burnings as set forth in the Motion.
Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK I am sorry I have strayed from the point. What I desire to say is that you are never going to get peace in Ireland by pursuing a policy of arson. The only way to get 1167 peace in Ireland is to do as in this country—to get the goodwill of the people. You will never get the goodwill of the people except you rely upon those principles upon which, at all events before the War, we relied in this country: that is to maintain the majesty of the law, and to promote the happiness and contentment of the people. You will only get peace in Ireland if you rely on those principles which underlie our religion and our great and glorious Empire. You are only going to get peace in Ireland when you have faith in the goodness of humanity and the efficiency and virtues of the principle of self-government. You are only going to get peace in Ireland when you cease your burning down of Irish houses, cease from bullying and knocking the people about, treat the Irish people as human beings, and leave liberty and self-government to do the rest.
The tragic part of the whole of this deplorable situation in Ireland is that the Irish people are asking for nothing more than that which I believe the British people are prepared to give them. They ask for nothing more than we have given the South Africans, the Canadians, and the Australians—that is, to make them a free country and a free people in the British Empire. I agree with the remarkably interesting article written by a very well-known gentleman in the “Round Table” the other day, that the only solution of this problem is to give the Irish people fiscal autonomy. There are, of course, risks in that policy. There are risks in any policy. The risk of the policy you are pursuing is that you have more and more added to the disgrace and dishonour of this country, and to the confusion and anarchy in Ireland. I do beg the Government to pursue a policy which is consistent with the traditions of this great and glorious Empire, and by which we can turn the Irish people, if we like, from rebels into happy and contented members of the British community.
Colonel ASHLEY I am sure the whole House was deeply impressed by the very excellent and moderate speech made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Major-General Seely). Above all they welcomed his speech because he very carefully kept it free from any extravagant utterances and any suspicion of party bias, which, Heaven knows, has been the ruin of Ire- 1168 land. He put before us what I am sure everybody in their heart of hearts agrees with, namely, that we wish to treat our Irish fellow-subjects in the same way, if possible, as people are treated here in England. He also bore truthful witness to the most excellent discipline maintained by the British forces in Ireland. Our soldiers have carried on under tremendous provocation. They have seen their fellow-men shot down from behind hedges, and they have seen them mutilated, and yet with very few exceptions thy have maintained a discipline which has always been characteristic of a British Tommy in all parts of the world. I hope the Chief Secretary will realise that in criticising this aspect of his administration we are not criticising the individual soldier who carries out his orders, but we are criticising simply the fact that such orders are given to him.
Let us be fair to the Chief Secretary and let us put ourselves in his position. The right hon. Gentleman was called to his task at a time when British authority was practically non-existent in Ireland. He had to reconstruct the Royal Irish Constabulary and strongly reinforce the Army. He had to deal with county councils and borough councils who had defied the British Crown, and, indeed, he had in a sense to reconquer Ireland for the British Crown and the British nation. Let us recognise, in justice to the right hon. Gentleman, the very grave difficulties which he has had to face, and also the large measure of success he has met with in his attempts to restore law and order. He has reconstituted the Royal Irish Constabulary, and there are few people who criticise that Constabulary now. Most of the county councils have agreed to acknowledge their authority, and outside the martial law area, generally speaking, in a very large measure law and order has been restored. Let us give credit where credit is due.
May I state why, in my humble opinion, the Chief Secretary and His Majesty’s Government have not more largely succeeded in bringing about a better state of affairs in Ireland? It is because of this policy of reprisals with official sanction. I understand that outside the martial law area reprisals have been abandoned. What is the root trouble of these reprisals in the martial law area? It is that we have not a civilian responsible to this House to direct policy, but 1169 that His Majesty’s Government have deliberately handed over in the martial law area not only executive action, but policy, to soldiers. I do not wish to criticise a distinguished general, but he is trained to do a certain thing in order to win battles, destroy the enemy and the armed forces of his enemy. He has not to consider the consequences of those actions. It may be right to do these things in a foreign country, but it is all wrong to do them in our own country where the people have to live together. This policy of reprisals which is being permitted by the Government to be carried out by the competent military authority is, in my opinion, the reason why my right hon. Friend’s policy has not been more successful, although I know he has worked very hard. As a humble Back Bench Member, may I urge the Government at once to take steps to bring their policy in the martial law area into line with their policy outside, which is that these official reprisals, except under the circumstances named by my right hon. Friend, shall cease at once and cease altogether.
With regard to Ireland, I have connections out there, and I do feel most deeply that we should do all we can to bring about reconciliation in Ireland, and these reprisals are an absolute bar to any idea of reconciliation. They are against all the laws taught us in the Bible; they are against the laws of God and all the laws we have held sacred in this country in the past; they are against all our constitutional practice which has made this country great and has made up our Empire. They have proved themselves to be actually ineffectual, and if a thing is ineffectual you had better scrap it. Last but not least, this policy has given our enemies in foreign countries occasion to say very unpleasant things about this country which certainly have a very sound substratum of truth. After all, this House claims, and always has claimed, to be the controlling authority in this country. I am sure anybody listening to the cheers of hon. Members when they hear these sound principles being laid down must realise that every-body here is unanimous that these things are wrong and must cease. If that is so, may I ask the Chief Secretary to at once see that the competent military authorities in martial law areas shall cease these official reprisals, and if any more 1170 take place let him see that the military authorities in those areas shall at once be removed.
§Earl WINTERTON I am aware that on this question I have very strong feelings, which are not shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I do not wish to travel outside the limits which have been set by the right hon. Gentleman in the persuasive speech with which he opened this Debate. May I state here that I regret I was led to use some disorderly expression a short time ago when we were discussing another aspect of this question. The only quarrel I have on this occasion is that the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) introduced matter which seemed to me to be somewhat extraneous to this Resolution. I do not know that my views upon the action of the Government in Ireland are of much interest to the House, but I have always been in favour of taking the strongest military action, because the situation is at such a pitch in Ireland that it can only be settled by force of arms. That is my private view. I have always taken the view, and it requires some boldness to put it forward, that certain issues in Ireland can only be decided by force of arms. I do not mean the whole issue as between the Irish people and this country. I am referring to the issue as between those who commit assassination and the armed forces of the Crown. Clearly an immense number of the people of this country agree that the Government have to take military action, but I cannot conceive anything more serious than to have to take military action against any portion of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
What is inconceivable to me with my knowledge of the state of affairs is that there should be so much apathy and indifference on the part of this House in the treatment of this question. We have neither the Leader of the House nor the Prime Minister here. It is inconceivable that the Front Bench should be occupied as it is at this moment. Every Member of the Government ought to be present. It is all very well for the Home Secretary to smile. I can assure him that nobody in Ireland smiles at the situation or at the action which the Government has taken there. All over Ireland it will be mentioned that, on the occasion of a 1171 Debate in which there is a remarkable unanimity of opinion on a particular question, neither the Leader of the House nor the Prime Minister attended, and the only contribution made by the Home Secretary was a feeble smile. Those who hold the views I do will agree that if military action is taken it should be sharp, short, and effective. It is intolerable that you should continue to carry on a dragging guerilla warfare. If the right hon. Gentleman’s Chief Secretaryship does not succeed he should give way and make room for someone else, and so, too, should Sir Nevil Macready. How long has this guerilla warfare been going on, and how many more years will it continue before it is brought to an end? So much for the general aspect of the policy.
On the particular question of the burnings I repeat that anyone holding the views I do will demand that military action shall be sharp and effective. Can the right hon. Gentleman maintain for one moment that the burning of Condamore, the property of a family whose loyalty nobody questions, is going to have the slightest effect in stopping assassination? Of course, it will not. I cannot conceive why such action has been taken at all, except on the ground that the military policy of the Government in the South of Ireland has largely failed up to the present. It has failed because we have not sufficiently good leaders. Look at the kind of gentlemen who are supposed to be competent military authorities in the South of Ireland. Some of them would certainly never have commanded a brigade in the War. Some who did so were sent home. Surely the right hon. Gentleman should select for the difficult and delicate task which the troops in Ireland have to undertake the very best men available. There are men like the gallant and distinguished officer in command of the Archangel Expedition. There are men who in the War did difficult and delicate work, quite as difficult and as delicate as anything requiring to be done in Ireland, who might have been chosen. It was absurd to choose such men as have been selected for the work. I know what the usual line of defence of the right hon. Gentleman is, but I want to see our gallant soldiers led by competent leaders and not by men who would be better if sent back 1172 to their comrades at the War Office. You want for this kind of work the very best men possible, and I am sure if you had such men in charge they would not for one moment be in favour of the policy which is being pursued, or, at any rate, they would not carry it out without making strong recommendations to the contrary.
I want to put three questions to the Government. In the first place who gives the orders for individual reprisal burnings? Who, for instance, gave it in the case of the house to which reference has been made this evening? Was it General Strickland? Was it a brigade commander? Was it the colonel in charge of the battalion? Or who was it? It is not necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to mention the actual name of the officer, but we want to know what is the rank of the officer who is responsible for giving the orders.
§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY And to what branch of the Service he belongs.
§Earl WINTERTON I do not think that that is important. We know the policy is carried out by the military. I have always refrained from asking questions which, I think, might be mischievous, but I feel it is desirable, in view of what is gong on in the South of Ireland, that we should know exactly under what law or regulation these burnings are carried out. Are they carried out under martial law, or are they carried out under civil law? Is there any process by which the person who owns the property—it is only by the mercy of the Almighty that I own none in the South of Ireland—can protect himself or by which he can claim compensation if he thinks his horse has been improperly burned? Is there any channel through which he can make an appeal? Even in the case of an enemy country, say in the occupied districts of Germany, persons thinking themselves aggrieved by any action of the Allied troops have the fullest opportunity for appeal to some tribunal. Finally, I would like to know, is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to review in any way these burnings after they have been carried out and to consider the effect of them and the reason for them? A most serious charge was made by the last speaker. He said, and it was news to me, 1173 that the Chief Secretary has no control or power over what is done by the constituted military authorities. If that is so, I say frankly it alters my view of the whole subject. I am inclined to think that a larger portion of Ireland may have to be brought under martial law than is at present the case, and if the military authorities are to be made entirely responsible there ought to be some channel by which the Government in this country can be made fully aware of all the circumstances under which reprisals are carried out. That is to say, where there is a case—and I think the House will assent to this—in which there is a question whether there was any reason why a burning should have taken place as, for example, the case mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the Debate—the Chief Secretary should have the fullest opportunity at the earliest possible moment of deciding whether the action of the Crown forces in Ireland was justified or not. Seeing that that is not so, he is placed in a very unfortunate position. At Question Time to-day he was subjected by hon. Gentlemen opposite to an attack upon him personally for his administration in Ireland. Quite obviously, if he is not responsible for that administration, it is unfair to attack him, but somebody must be responsible. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer that question, and will give us an assurance that in the last resort and quickly, he is responsible, and is in full possession of the facts. I am bound to confess that, if he is fully responsible I think it will require very great parliamentary dexterity on his part, which I know he possesses, to make out a good case for such burnings as those mentioned in the course of this Debate, and for the continuation of those burnings, whether on a smaller or a larger scale, in the South of Ireland.
§Mr. MOSLEY I fear that the Noble Lord was rather more than half way on the road to Damascus before he saw the great light. Things being as they are, however, may I hope that in the near future those of us who have wandered forth into the desert on this subject may have the opportunity of offering him a respectful welcome. A pang of regret inspired me to-night in listening to some of the speeches of hon. Members opposite. I wish we could have commanded such support in October last, when we ven 1174 tured to protest against the sacking of Balbriggan when a whole community was destroyed by the agents of the right hon. Gentleman in the middle of the night, without even the warning that is extended under the system of official reprisals; against a reprisal that resulted in two women in child-birth and four little children suffering from measles perishing in the cold of the fields. I wish that, on that occasion, when we ventured to protest against a policy which far transcends anything mentioned in this Motion, we could have commanded the support of hon. Members. I quite realise, however, that it is inexpedient on this occasion that I should wander into the wider issues raised by such considerations. The right hon. Gentleman will certainly answer one day at the bar of history for these proceedings. I trust he may one day answer before a tribunal of his fellow-countrymen, but I have no wish to raise any controversy beyond the Motion advanced by my right hon. Friend this evening.
Unofficial reprisals, privately inspired and subsequently condoned, we are told, are at an end. To-day we find ourselves in the era of official reprisals. They began, as far as I understand, on the 27th April last, when, in Listowel, a proclamation was posted by the military stating that in future reprisals for any outbreak against the lives and property of officials would be taken against the property of selected persons without proof of their implication in the outrage. That, I understand, is in direct contravention of the right hon. Gentleman’s previous assurances in this House that, in all cases of official reprisals where houses were burned down, there should be at least very good grounds of suspicion that the inhabitants of those houses were actually implicated in the outrages which instituted the reprisals. We now find the right hon. Gentleman quite frankly moulding his policy on the Prussian model. This policy is copied and taken en bloc from the doctrines of the German military writers which were closely pursued by that nation throughout the War. It is the old, well-known system, outlined in the doctrines of Clauswitz and others, of collective punishment. The principle is that if an outrage is committed in the neighbourhood where the troops of a hostile country are billeted, and the inhabitants of that 1175 neighbourhood support and sympathise with the assassins, and consequently information cannot be obtained, an indiscriminate vengeance should be wreaked on the locality and that the sins of the guilty should fall on the innocent in the hope that a blind shot would catch the guilty party and thus discourage potential assassins in the future.
In Belgium, during the War, that system worked. I am dealing with it purely pragmatically; it is no use to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman on any other ground. That system worked in Germany because the Germans were efficient. The right hon. Gentleman is not efficient. If it did not carry such a ghastly tragedy in its wake his administration in Ireland would be the joke of history. The Prussians in Belgium were able to prevent the people travelling from one village to another. The people were segregated, the men were forced to remain in the villages in which they were born, and under the military system of Germany they could not wander about the country. Consequently, if a village were sacked when outrages took place against the Germans, and the outrages had been committed by a Belgian, then that Belgian knew that his own native community would be destroyed, and that probably his own mother, sisters, wife or children would have their house burned over their heads. Consequently he was deterred from committing what were crimes in the eyes of the Germans. Those conditions do not prevail at all in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely incompetent to prevent Irish assassins travelling from one end of the country to another. They do it at will, as he has assured us over and over again in this House. They are not living in the villages, but on the bogs and in the hills, on the run, and his administration can never get them.
Therefore, what conceivable object is there in this inefficient reproduction of Prussianism? The only effect it can have is once more to give Sinn Fein the propaganda that it needs in America. The news of these acts are cabled to the United States and more money pours into the coffers of Sinn Fein. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion that, so far from being deterred by these outrages, the active, militant band of Sinn Fein are delighted 1176 when they see the houses of innocent people burned down. The right hon. Gentleman is merely visiting the spleen of his inefficiency, because he cannot catch the guilty, upon the heads of the innocent. That is the system which the right hon. Gentleman is constituting in Ireland. It is not even an efficient Prussianism. That is the system which has to-day evoked against this country a howl of indignation all over the world, our own Colonies included—a howl of indignation which eclipses the indignation felt against the Germans in regard to their action in Belgium. The right hon. Gentleman has attempted a task which has defeated infinitely greater men than himself. Napoleon attempted a system not nearly so onerous as the right hon. Gentleman’s in Ireland, not nearly so repressive, but the same kind of thing—visiting the sins of the guilty upon the innocent, collective punishment, militarist repression. He tried that in Germany and in Spain, and the national sentiment which he conjured up in those countries was responsible for his downfall in 1814. It broke Napoleon, and it has broken already the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The same system was employed by the Austrians in Italy, and it was entirely responsible for the creation of Italian nationality. Indeed, the only way of creating nationality, in these days of economic internationalism, is by political repression of this sort. The right hon. Gentleman is perpetuating that disastrous, exaggerated, egotistical nationalism in Ireland which is responsible for all our difficulties there to-day. He cannot claim that his administration has been a success. He cannot claim at the best that it is anything but a feeble imitation of his Prussian model. He cannot claim that he has not brought upon the name of this country abroad an execration which will live throughout this generation. He cannot even have the courage to submit the whole question to an impartial tribunal of his fellow-countrymen.
§Mr. CLYNES All of the speeches to which the House has listened in this short Debate have been very brief, and in that I propose to imitate them, but I cannot hope to imitate them in their fervour and in the qualities of eloquent appeal which have distinguished them among most of the speeches that we have heard for a very long time on Irish questions. I cannot 1177 hope, either, that we shall have any proof to-night that the Chief Secretary will have learned anything from the lessons of history. Indeed, had this country been capable of learning anything from the lessons of history in relation to Irish government, we should not now be debating this aspect of the Irish Question which my right hon. Friend has brought before us. I rise mainly to suggest to the Chief Secretary that he should keep faith in his answer to-night with the definite assurance, which he has often repeated, with regard to the discharge of his duties. He has assured the House that he would continue to discharge his duty, as he saw that duty, so long as he should have the support of the House of Commons. There have been some half-dozen speeches since this Debate began, and each one of them has been an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at least to depart from or reverse one part of his settled military policy in the martial law area. Not a single hon. Member has said a word in support of that policy. On the contrary, every hon. Member who has so far addressed the House has reflected what I am certain is the view of every man who hears this case stated. We put to the right hon. Gentleman the view that this line of trying to govern Ireland is not supported by the House of Commons, and is not in keeping with the collective will of the Members of this House of all parties. It is clear that no one, unless it be, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman himself, will rise in defence of what is now being done.
If we cannot say anything whatever for a particular line of military action or civil government in Ireland, we ought, at least, to be able to claim for it that it has the support of the majority of this House. Apparently, this particular part or feature of Irish policy has no support here whatever, and I claim that on that ground the Chief Secretary is no longer entitled to continue this method of governing Ireland in the martial law area. There is, perhaps, a stronger reason why it should be discontinued. I can only reinforce the reason which has been so eloquently expressed by the two or three hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. It is futile and wicked to inflict such severe physical privation and loss upon innocent people. You could, perhaps, justify the wickedness and wrong on the ground that the 1178 end justifies the means, if it could be shown that this plan had been a success. It has not, and, for my part, I hope it will not. But I cannot conceive of any line upon which conduct of this kind on the part of a civilised Government can be excused or defended. Some of us who have expressed ourselves strongly on some features of Irish government have been reproached on occasion with the statement that what we say is an encouragement to the commission of crime and to wrongdoing in Ireland. On the contrary, I believe that the continuance of the methods to which we are now objecting is the most express and assured encouragement that could be given to those who find the justification for their acts in the very act of the Government itself.
Nothing will please the extremists, the rebels, the physical force element in Ireland more than to know that this particular line of Irish policy is to be continued by the British Government. That will strengthen any act of rebellion or reprisal that they may be disposed to take. It is, therefore, not only wrong and unjust to the innocent sufferers, but it strengthens the hands of the rebels who, on the other hand, are being pursued by the right hon. Gentleman with a view to their destruction. I have only risen to associate myself and those for whom I can speak with the expressions of opinion which have been couched in such terms of melancholy with regard to the outlook in Ireland. We are possessed by a feeling of the greatest dejection and bewilderment as to where we are being led. I can recall when, 12 months ago, the right hon. Gentleman joyously expected that after a few months, by a show of military strength or increased police forces, he would be able to claim a success for his policy. He has recently confessed that it is a failure—at least that it is a failure up to a point of time within which he concluded that he would meet with success. Whatever he thinks he may have in store for the broad lines of his policy, he surely cannot hope for any elements of success whatever from the particular line against which this Motion is directed. I ask his attention to the fact that this line of policy is unanimously reprobated and condemned by Members of this House attached to all parties, and, in keeping with his own declarations in his previous speeches, his announcement to the House ought to be that of a depar- 1179 ture from a policy which has been ruinous so far as it has been tried.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL I have a feeling that it is imprudent for a new Member who has never before spoken on the Irish Question to intervene in a discussion of this kind, because we have been accustomed so often to hear the same men repeat the same speech that we do not take it seriously. We send a soldier over to Ireland to do our job. I want to know how we are supporting him in doing it. If I had charge of a job of this kind I should select the best man I could get and give him all the force he wanted to do it, and give him all the backing he wanted, and if he did not do it I would clear him out and get someone else. I want the job done. What do I mean by the job? It is not the kind of Parliament Ireland is going to get. It is not a question of self-government. That is not what is before you now. What is before you is that ever since this Parliament came into being you have had rebellion in Ireland, and you have been tinkering with it from one time to another, and every time any force has been sent to put it down you start to weaken the hand that is doing it and do all you can to stop it being brought about.
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS We want troops to put down murder.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL You have all criticised the Government.
§Earl WINTERTON Will the hon. Member allow me to interrupt?
§Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope) The Noble Lord has already spoken. Now we are getting another view.
§Mr. LANE-MITCHELL I am in absolute agreement with the Noble Lord that we have to get on with it and get it done somehow or another. It has been established in the discussion that in the military area the competent military authority is supreme, and he acts on his own authority, independent of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman (Major-General Seely) asked definitely whether a specific order was given for a reprisal by the Chief Secretary. I have gathered that the Chief Secretary never gives an order for reprisals. It comes from the com- 1180 petent military authority, the man who was sent there to do the job, who in the exercise of his judgment does it in a particular way. Outside the military area the Chief Secretary has been ruthlessly putting down any attempt at reprisals. If that is the position what more do you want? The House has a right to say that until we get law and order restored in Ireland every man of right mind ought to support the military authority over there in getting the job done.
§Lord EUSTACE PERCy In rising to address the House for the first time I should, perhaps, apologise for intervening in a Debate on so serious a question, but after the speech to which we have just listened I feel especially that some reply is needed and that perhaps a reply will come not unfittingly from someone who has just had to fight an election and has been elected as a supporter of the Government. In my election address I strongly supported the necessity of holding up the hands of the Government in enforcing the authority of the Crown in Ireland, and I am perfectly prepared to trust the man chosen by this House to enforce law and order in Ireland. But I also said in my election address that it was absolutely necessary to have unity of command. I do not understand how the right of this House to inquire into the facts, which we are now doing, can be put off by a kind of House-that-Jack-Built policy, that because the Chief Secretary has appointed some-one else who has appointed someone else to be responsible for a particular area, therefore we must not ask the Chief Secretary for an explanation or hold him responsible for what occurs in that area. If I may give my impression of what the actual feeling in this country is at present about the situation in Ireland, a very humble impression gathered only from a somewhat recent experience, I have always found very little support in the country for the extreme view of the moral obliquity of the Government. Still less have I found any support for the view of their moral obliquity and indiscipline of the soldiers of the Crown. The position of the Government in regard to this question would have been very much less strong than it is to-day if some of its opponents had not so constantly delivered these extreme attacks upon them.
1181 What I did find was a strong feeling that the administrative system of restoring order in Ireland has been incoherent, and therefore weak. It is because 1, and I believe all those who sit near me, are anxious to strengthen the hands of the Government that we ask whether the present system of a divided command in Ireland, as manifested in these reprisals, these burnings of homes, is a system to which the Government can point as a coherent system adapted to the restoration of order, nay, I would put it even as implying a coherent system adapted to bring pressure upon those upon whom you wish to bring pressure. The whole point of repression must always be that it shall proceed with the greatest possible precision, and that therefore those at whom you strike shall know for what offence you have struck and why it is they who are struck and not someone else. If there be anything incoherent or hap-hazard or indiscriminate in the action of a repressive authority, it will not repress, and it is from that point of view that I have intervened to say that if the right hon. Gentleman can convince this House that the system of administration is so conducted, under such centralised control, under such a tight rein, that it can be directed to certain definite ends of repression, then I shall be prepared to support the Government. If, as I fear, it is a question of incoherence of administration, resulting in indiscriminateness of repression, then I think there is only one course before anyone who gave the election pledges which I gave, on the one hand to support the Government in suppressing disorder, and on the other hand to see that the administration for that purpose reaches the highest possible level of efficiency.
§The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Colonel Sir Hamar Greenwood) I congratulate the Noble Lord who has just spoken on his success at the poll, and on taking part in our Debate on a very vital issue such as that raised to-night. I appreciate very much what he has said, and in principle I am absolutely in agreement with him. I appreciate the temperate and effective speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Resolution (Major-General Seely). There is nothing in this Resolution, in substance, which I have not already acted upon, or could not accept. Before I deal with the Resolution, however, may I refer 1182 to those hon. Gentlemen who spoke of officers, I think most unfairly. I must make a protest against calling the Competent Military Authority of Dublin an incompetent military authority, and against the suggestion that certain competent officers in the martial law area are not fit for their command. Those officers cannot answer except through me. If they are incompetent they must be removed; but to make an accusation of incompetence, without any proof whatever—
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS The right hon. Gentleman says that I made an accusation of incompetence without proof. If he can explain why the military guard was withdrawn from the Customs House after many representations and many negotiations had gone on I will gladly withdraw my expression.
§Earl WINTERTON If the right hon. Gentleman will undertake to find out who is responsible for the situation by which a band was blown up in the South of Ireland, and no precaution taken to send an advance guard to look at the road beforehand, I will withdraw my accusation against the competent military authority in the South of Ireland.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I think these two questions are quite irrelevant to the Resolution, but I will deal with them The Customs House in Dublin had no special guard except the ordinary military and police patrol, for various reasons. In the first place the number of troops in Ireland is so short of requirements that it is impossible to provide guards for all public buildings. That is a military consideration. In the second place it was not considered credible that even the extremist Sinn Feiner would burn this great national possession, namely, the Customs House. They have burned it, and the loss will fall on Ireland and nowhere else. I do not consider in these circumstances that the competent military officer in Dublin can be accused of incompetence. I still say that it is a most unfair slur on an officer who can only speak through me. I am satisfied that he is one of the ablest officers in the British Army. Although there have been many brutal murders in Dublin, including the murder of 12 officers one morning, on November 21st last, so great was the control of that officer over the soldiers and the police under him that 1183 there has never been a reprisal of any shape or kind.
§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY Croke Park!
§Sir H. GREENWOOD As to the question of the blowing up of the band and some soldiers of the gallant Hampshire Regiment at Youghal, I can assure the Noble Lord that if it is a test of the competency of the commander at Cork I have no doubt that every precaution was made to find out whether the way was clear for the advance of the battalion that was marching towards the rifle butts, and I do not think it is a sign of incompetency in a General Officer if a concealed mine is exploded by an electric wire, running from a battery 60 or 70 yards away from the road. I do not think that is a sign of an incompetent officer.
§Earl WINTERTON Was there an advanced guard?
§Major-General Sir NEWTON MOORE They would not have found it if there had been.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I have no doubt that the regiment was marching according to rule in an area such as Youghal. I have no evidence to the contrary. With reference to the officers of the police and the military, I am responsible for them and their conduct, and I am sure the House will agree with me that if things are wrong I must take the blame, which I do cheerfully, and I am proud of it. [HON. MEMBERS: “Oh!”] Yes, and on balance the record of these men in Ireland will shine brightly in the history of this country. That brings me to a very important point of principle raised by the right hon. Gentleman, namely: “Is the Chief Secretary responsible for everything that goes on in Ireland?” He is. Let there be no doubt about that. I am responsible. In the normal way when a part of a country is under martial law the officer commanding is the sole authority and is responsible to the Secretary of State for War, but in this case I am responsible. Let there be no doubt about that. Therefore, if any military or other officer is incompetent it is my business to dismiss him, and if the House feels strongly that anyone is not competent and is not dismissed they must vent their displeasure on me. I think that is the 1184 proper constitutional position. It adds to my difficulties, but it is essential that the Chief Secretary should speak for the whole of Ireland, of which he is the representative in this House.
On the point of unity of command in the martial law area there is absolute unity of command under the senior officer, General Sir Peter Strickland. He has absolute command over civilians, police, and military. There is no question about that. He can deal with them exactly as he likes, under the proclamation agreed to by the Commander-in-Chief and myself. Of course, all proclamations issued by the Commander-in-Chief are issued in agreement with myself. As to unity of command in the rest of the country that is only possible under martial law. The question of the extension of martial law is frequently before the Government. It may be necessary to extend the martial law area. It may not be necessary. We have had two Parliaments elected in Ireland since we last had an Irish Debate. That is an historical constitutional event. The authority given under the Government of Ireland Act will soon, I hope, pass to the two Parliaments in Ireland. The Ulster Parliament has been elected, and will be constituted in a very short time and will operate. It would be impossible to extend martial law to that area without the consent of that Parliament. I still hope that the Southern Parliament will meet and operate. At any rate, it is our business to give them the opportunity to do so. If they fail to take advantage of that opportunity and assume responsibility for the good government of Ireland, a new set of circumstances arise, and the Government must simply in these circumstances apply all the remedies in their possession. So when we are pressed for unity of command and drastic measures, while I appreciate the feelings of hon. and right hon. Members they must remember that we have the political remedy in Ireland and we must give that remedy an opportunity to operate.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK There is nothing to prevent you stopping burning down houses.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) asked who gives the order for official reprisals in the martial law area. 1185 The answer is no officer below the rank of Brigade Commander.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY On whose advice?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD He acts on the advice of those serving under him.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY Is not the actual advice as to whose houses are to be burned given by the Intelligence Department? Is that a military department or a civil department?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD He must get his advice where he can, and will only act On it when he is convinced that it is good. Every military area has its Intelligence staff, but who are the particular person or persons on whose advice the Brigade Commander will act it is impossible to say. The second question is—is there any review of the what are called official reprisals by the Commander-in-Chief and by myself? There is a review of them. They are treated as most serious and abnormal acts, and I must say here if there is any case where innocent persons have suffered by reason of the orders given by a Brigade Commander I certainly would consider that that was a case for compensation out of the Exchequer.
§Captain W. BENN For loss of life?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD As far as you can compensate for that by money. That is the one irrevocable thing; but the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that life is not involved in what we are considering to-night. The report goes at once from the Brigade Commander to the Divisional Commander in Cork. From that commander it is sent on to General Head-quarters in Dublin, to the General Officer Commanding in Dublin, General Sir Nevil Macready. He and I are in daily contact when we are in Ireland together, and we are in constant contact when I am here and he is in Ireland.
§Earl WINTERTON Are these reprisals taken under martial law or under the ordinary law—the Restoration of Order Act?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I will develop that as I go on. I am dealing with reprisals in the martial law area. The Resolution before the House is to move the adjournment to call attention to a, definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, the failure of the military 1186 authorities to issue orders prohibiting the destruction of houses and buildings by Crown forces in Ireland, except where necessary on purely military grounds. There is nothing in the substance of that which I do not accept. Orders have been issued to servants of the Crown and I shall read an Order which was issued to the police and agreed to by myself not recently but on 4th December last year: There have been recently large numbers of reports of arson. While it is by no means clear that this is done by forces of the Crown I wish again to impress on all members of the police force the absolute necessity for stopping burnings, whatever the provocation. The only profitable burnings are the destruction of buildings which have been used to shelter ambushers or from which fire is opened on forces of the Crown. The burning of houses or buildings not directly connected with assassination or attempted assassination is indefensible. I appeal to the police of all ranks to repress all destruction of property in Ireland, even of notorious Sinn Feiners. The force will now fully recognise that the Government is giving them strong support, and I feel sure that they will not wish to embarrass the Government in their very difficult task. I can assure them that incendiarism tends to alienate sympathy of many right thinking and law abiding citizens of the Empire, and does harm to the cause of right for which we are fighting.
§Colonel ASHLEY Does that apply to the martial law area?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD To all Ireland.
§Mr. LUNN How far is that efficacious? Is it not the fact that Cork City was burned down six days after the issue of the Proclamation?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD It is very easy when a country is in a state of rebellion to find exceptions to every rule. I am dealing with the question in the Resolution about the Government failing to issue Orders prohibiting the destruction of houses or buildings. This Order was issued to the police on 4th December last year for the whole of Ireland.
§Major-General SEELY In order that we may not proceed on different lines of thought, does the right hon. Gentleman mean to explain whether this Order of 4th December applies to the martial law area under General Strickland?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I will deal with that. This Order shows that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is in error when he says that the Government has not issued any Order. The Government has. I have said at this Box time and again, in reference to reprisals, that no 1187 one has tried more strenuously than I have to put them down, and I think that I have succeeded in doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: “Resign!”]
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS rose—
§Mr. SPEAKER We have had no fewer than eight speeches in criticism of the Government, and it is only fair that the Government should be allowed to put its case without interruption.
Lieut.-Colonel GUINNESS May I ask whether this Order did not deal merely with unofficial reprisals, as to which we all recognise the strong action which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, while we are now dealing with official reprisals by order of the competent military authority.
§Mr. SPEAKER Hon. Members should give the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to develop a continuous argument. They all seem to want to get their points in. He should have a chance.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The Irish Secretary is accustomed to be shot at. I quite understand the keenness with which everybody is using this question, but I am developing it and I will cover all the points that have been raised. I have to repeat that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in his first hypothesis, namely, that the Government has not dealt with this question by order. This was issued on 4th December of last year. Martial law was imposed upon four counties, I think, on 10th December of last year, and on four further counties in January of this year. In the non-martial law area, which comprises the greater part of Ireland, there have never been official reprisals. Reprisals have never been encouraged or condoned, but have always been condemned, and many people have been severely disciplined because of unofficial reprisals, although the provocation has been almost superhuman. In spite of that—I think I shall carry the whole House with me—reprisals are rare, unofficial reprisals are now rare. Indeed, so rare are they that we may say they never occur in Ireland. If they did occur there would be questions on the Paper every day.
In addition to the Orders, I have myself on more than one occasion summoned all the senior police officers to Dublin 1188 and told each one in turn that I would hold him personally responsible for re-prisals in his particular police area. Splendidly have these gallant men—they are not all there now whom I addressed in this matter, because some of them have been murdered—gallantly have they held their men in check, in spite of murders so awful that no one in this House, to my mind, would face them with the same self-control and discipline, or, rather, I should say with greater self-control and discipline. Martial law was imposed subsequent to this Order because the martial law area was considered, and rightly considered, the most disturbed and rebellious area in Ireland. As soon as you impose martial law you hand over to the Commander-in-Chief absolute control of everybody in that particular area. He and his commanders dislike any form of reprisal as much as the most severe critic of the Government dislikes it, but they have laid down certain rules, military grounds I call them, within which they believe that in certain specified cases and under certain circumstances—there are not many such cases—the destruction of property is justifiable. These are the grounds: In every case where the official punishment is the destruction of a building, that building itself has been used in connection with rebel action, for instance, as the basis from which an ambush was prepared, or the owners have aided and abetted rebels in their campaign of outrage and murder. Those are the grounds drawn up by military men to be applied in these limited and clearly defined cases. It is true, and it must at times happen, that when the local military commander has the best reason for thinking that the occupants of any given house come within these rules, he may be mistaken. Innocent people may suffer and the houses of innocent people may be destroyed. I admit it at once. In a state of rebellion the greatest tragedy of all is that the innocent do suffer. I have told the House I shall try to meet these cases as far as I can. I will go further and say it is open to question whether reprisals generally in a martial law or other area are ever satisfactory in the long run. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has had experience in South Africa, where that policy was tried. I have heard some people say it was successful and I have heard him say it was not. It is open to doubt, but as far as his Motion is con- 1189 cerned, what I have read shows that when reprisals are taken they are taken on necessary and purely military grounds, so that anyone who supports the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will support the policy of the Commander-in-Chief in the martial-law area, who only agrees to reprisals on military grounds.
§Mr. T. P. O’CONNOR Is that the explanation of the burning of Cork?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD No, it is not the explanation.
§Mr. MOSLEY I am very sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: “Order, order!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER The right hon. Gentleman should be allowed to proceed with his speech.
§Mr. MOSLEY I want to challenge him on this point—
§Mr. SPEAKER The hon. Member has spoken already.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD Yes, the hon Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) has made a speech. He wished to commit a reprisal on me of the most violent kind by handing me down as standing at the bar of history. But I am now at the bar of the House of Commons, and that is sufficient for the day. I say it is open to question whether reprisals under the strictly limited rule laid down by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Motion are successful or not. On that point let me say this: I am prepared to discuss the question with the Commander-in-Chief and to bring before him what has been said on the subject by undoubted supporters of the Government and of the soldiers and police in their endeavour to put down crime in Ireland, and to go into conference with him on this question. That being so, I am going further than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I hope he accepts that on the general principle of reprisals. Let me give the House an idea of what causes these reprisals. They are not done in an indiscriminate and promiscuous way. British generals, colonels, majors, and soldiers do not wander about Ireland like bandits let loose. They are under the strictest discipline. They suffer untold agonies owing to provocative and brutal murders, and a reprisal is only taken in the martial-law area, when no 1190 other remedy seems possible and when the commander of the area thinks it is necessary to meet the ends of justice.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK Why not try Liberal principles for a change? [An HON. MEMBER: “What do you know about them? “]
§Sir H. GREENWOOD This is a most serious matter, and I wish the House to realise what leads up to the few reprisals, under carefully defined military conditions, in the martial-law area. I am going to read one letter, and one letter only, from a very gallant officer, murdered under the most distressing circumstances, and if this document does not touch the heart of everyone here, I am surprised. It is a letter that speaks for itself. It is, from a D.S.O. of the British Army, a man mentioned six times in despatches, murdered at the age of 52, leaving a wife and a little girl, aged three. It is from near Limerick, where he was in the custody of Sinn Feiners who kidnapped him: My own darling little wife,—I am to be shot in an hour’s time. Dearest, your hubby will die with your name on his lips, your face before his eyes, and he will die like an Englishman and a soldier. I cannot tell you, sweetheart, how much it is to me to leave you alone, nor how little to me personally to die. I have no fear, only the utmost, greatest, and tenderest love to you, and my sweet little Anne. I leave my cigarette case to the Regiment, my miniature medals to my father, whom I have implored to befriend you in everything, and my watch to the officer who is executing me, because I believe him to be a gentleman, to mark the fact that I bear him no malice for carrying out what he sincerely believes to be his duty. Good-bye, my darling, my own. Choose from among my things some object which you would particularly keep in memory of me. I believe that my spirit will be in it to love and comfort you. Tender, tender farewells and kisses.—Your own, Geof. That was Major Compton Smith, D.S.O., of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, of Limerick. He is dead, done to death by Sinn Fein murderers. What would we do if we were in his regiment? This is the kind of case that leads to an official reprisal. I want to bring home to the House the difficulties that have to be faced. Here is a regiment on edge; it has seen his letter in the Press or it the regimental headquarters. The brigade commander must say to himself: “How can I show these men that we are trying to track down the assassins of their gallant commander?” In a case of this kind he takes certain houses which come 1191 within the category of reprisals that the Commander-in-Chief has laid down, namely, that they were used as a basis for which an ambush had been prepared or the owners of which had aided and abetted the rebels in their campaign of outrage and murder. In such a case, certain houses are taken. I want the House to understand that that is the kind of case that leads to a reprisal. Whether they are right or not is open to question. The point to remember is, do not judge the conduct of these soldiers in the martial law area from the cool, un-impassioned atmosphere of this House, but judge it by the conflict, the murder, and the mutilations that go on in certain parts of the martial law area. I come to the particular case raised by the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate, namely, that of Tincurry House, in Tipperary. He said himself that he supported a reprisal if there were reasonable grounds for thinking the occupants were consorting with the rebels.
§Major-General SEELY The words I used were, that the residents were participating in outrages and murder.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman said. He read a letter from Dr. Tobin about the burning of the house. It of course made a great impression upon anyone, but you cannot deal with a case of burning, or any other action of that kind in Ireland as an isolated instance in a law-abiding community. Tipperary, where this burning took place, is one of the most disturbed areas in Ireland, and always has been. It is a common Irish saying that the Tipperary people are descended from Cromwell’s Ironsides, who were disbanded, and married Irish girls, and the descendants are the wild men.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK They were peaceable enough before you came.
§Mr. SPEAKER The Noble Lord has had a full opportunity.
§Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK The right hon. Gentleman has no right — [HON. MEMBERS: “Order!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER Unless the Noble Lord listens as well as speaks he ought not to sit in this House.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I was not saying anything to cause an interruption.
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§Lieut. – Commander KENWORTHY The usual tactless speech.
§Sir H. GREENWOOD I am sorry I have not the tact of the hon. and gallant Member. However, in Tipperary there have been 40 police and soldiers murdered in the last two years, and some six law-abiding citizens have been assassinated. It is a very mountainous part, and it lends itself, therefore, to the peculiar kind of guerilla warfare followed by the Irish Republican Army. That is Tipperary generally. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to the case of Tincurry House, I am bound to say he made, as he always does, a great impression upon me, and I dealt with it at once, through the Commander-in-Chief, who sent a special messenger to Tipperary from Dublin to inquire into the facts. The first letter was so remarkable that I asked for further facts, and I am compelled now to read the official reply I have received from the Commander-in-Chief in reference to Tincurry: I have discovered already that the house is marked ‘Divisional Headquarters, I.R.A.,’ on one of their own maps, and that they have an eye on the butts of the rifle ranges nearby. Tincurry House was destroyed on 14th May, together with several others as punishment for the murder of District Inspector Potter. It was very similar to that of Major Compton-Smith.
Sir T. POLSON May I say that officer was my first cousin?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD The letter goes on to say that they had a strong suspicion that Mrs. Tobin, who had strong Republican sympathies, was suspected of having harboured rebels. That is the official reply of the Commander-in-Chief. His opinion may be wrong. I do not think it is, but it may be. It only shows that in dealing with these Irish questions and disturbed areas like Tipperary, or any military-law area, it is extremely difficult to take the first statement of facts as absolutely correct. It may be that a great blunder has occurred here. It may be, and I promise the right hon. Gentleman that if there has been I will do my best to take into my most sympathetic consideration the question of compensating any innocent sufferer. I cannot do more. I will, however, put it to the House that there was a justifiable suspicion, from what I have read, on which the brigade commander—presum- 1193 ing the official reprisals were right—could fairly act. That is the view of the Commander-in-Chief. It was carried out. The destruction was regrettable, distressing, deplorable, I agree. But it was carried out under discipline. No one was insulted. I am bound to say that the scene described by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman of the hostess entertaining on the lawn the destroyers of her household was a thing that could only happen in Ireland.
§Major-General SEELY The destruction of the house where two lads laid down their lives for us during the War!
§Sir H. GREENWOOD That adds to the tragedy of it. But had the destruction anything to do with the sacrifice of gallant officers! I am giving the House the exact facts as they came to me. I think I have dealt with the various questions that have been raised in the Debate. My submission is that I can accept in substance the Resolution of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, namely, that reprisals should not be carried out except on purely military grounds. I go further, and say that they are not carried out in any form except in the martial-law area, and in that area never carried out except on military grounds. I think I have shown that orders have been issued in reference to reprisals, and have been successful. Let us face realities. Hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway have criticised me very severely, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. One must do the best one can having regard to the political remedy of this House which is applied to Ireland in the face of rebellion in a considerable part of the country. We are faced with that re-bellion. The military have been criticised—I think very unfairly. The police of the Auxiliary Division come in very often for a very great deal of criticism—again, I think, unfairly. What are the facts? Within a few miles of this House there is a sinister and highly-paid rebellion going on, carried on with the object of separating for ever Ireland from the United Kingdom. That object is being carried out by the Irish Republican Army, as it is called. It consists of men who wear no uniform and no distinctive mark; they generally carry concealed weapons as civilians one minute, and they are murderers the next, 1194 contrary to all the laws of civilised warfare. The object of this Irish Republican Army—which is a negligible minority of the Irish people, who would be grateful to the Government if they could rid the country of this terror—is to intimidate this House and the British people into a surrender to Irish independence. I shall never consent to that. The Government will never consent to even argue it. The hope of Ireland, to my mind, is first of all to defeat this Irish Republican Army, and then encourage the coming together of the North and South, which has happily commenced, and leave Ireland to the Irish leaders themselves to settle within the limits defined by the Government. In that way only will you, bring peace to that distracted country and enable the vast majority of the people there to become happy and contented partners with us in the United Kingdom.
§Captain W. BENN I propose to confine myself quite narrowly to the terms of the Adjournment Motion without dealing with the wider issues which the Chief Secretary has opened. I should like to respond to the appeal made by earlier speakers to confine this Debate to a discussion of the policy of burning and reprisals and leave alone the wider issues, upon which I should only excite controversy in the minds of hon. Members. The question is, first, Is the burning of houses a policy which should be pursued by the Government, and is it likely to be successful? The Chief Secretary has told us that he accepts the sub-stance of the Motion which has been moved by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ilkeston (Major-General Seely). It lays down, that reprisals can only be justified on the ground of military necessity.
The Chief Secretary says that is, in effect, the policy which the Government are adopting in Ireland. That is the impression which he is giving us here in the House of Commons, but it is a totally different policy from the one he is pursuing in Ireland and it does not correspond in the least with the policy being carried out in Ireland under his administration. Take quite a recent case a few days ago. There was a Proclamation issued officially by the military in Cork. The Chief Secretary says that the policy of reprisals 1195 is merely the burning of houses as a military operation. This is the Proclamation in Cork: Owing to the burning of the houses of two loyalist farmers, three farm houses of active Sinn Feiners were burned as a military operation. That is not a military operation. [An HON. MEMBER: “Why not?”] Because these houses are not shown to be houses in which military offences were committed. They were not centres of attack. It is simply vengeance. Then the Proclamation goes on: It is intended to carry out further reprisals in that proportion, or if that proportion does not have the desired effect in a greater proportion. Hon. Gentleman cheer that. Exactly. It is to say that if they continue to burn two houses we will burn three, and if that does not stop them we will probably burn six. That is the Proclamation of the military in Cork. The Chief Secretary tells us that the burning of houses is merely to be carried on as a military operation in cases of military necessity. The two statements are in flat contradiction. The Chief Secretary says the reprisals are only carried out as a military necessity. What does he think of this Tralee Proclamation, which states that as a result of the murder of a sergeant certain houses, of which a list is given, were destroyed, and nine houses were bombed. Does this Proclamation square with what the Chief Secretary has told us to-night? The document gives a long list of houses and stores damaged, and it tells further how a woman and her child had a marvellous escape from a bomb which destroyed the piano and ceiling in a room in which they were. I do not desire to read touching instances. Heaven knows there are such instances on both sides. The Chief Secretary has read one of the most touching documents I ever heard in my life. That is the tragedy of it. The policy of the Chief Secretary produces heroes on both sides. [HON. MEMBERS: “No, no!”] The right hon. Gentleman is exciting feeling in this country by reading that letter, but other people in Ireland are exciting feelings of the people there and we are getting no nearer a solution of the problem. [An HON. MEMBER: “They should stop the murders!”] The right hon. Gentleman says that reprisals can only be justified by success. But 1196 he does not pretend that his policy is a success: he has just told us he is unable to carry it out with success because he has not troops enough to do it. The Chief Secretary has led the House to believe that a policy is being carried out in Ireland which, in fact, is not being carried out, and therefore I shall vote for my right hon. Friend’s motion.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the burning of the house and grocer’s shop of Mr. Honan, the Chairman of the Ennis Urban Council, as to which we have his own admission. It has been impossible [HON. MEMBERS: “Divide, divide!”]
§Mr. SPEAKER I am afraid the hon. and gallant Member’s habit of interruption makes it difficult for him to obtain a hearing. Might I appeal to hon. Members to allow him to deliver his speech. Perhaps that will teach him to extend the same forbearance to other hon. Members.
§Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY I make no complaint, Sir. I am much obliged for your protection. This man Honan had been in hospital for three weeks—that is the right hon. Gentleman’s own admission. He was a widower, with six children, the eldest of whom was his daughter, aged 13. This man’s shop was blown to atoms as a reprisal by the military authorities, for an ambush and for the very dastardly assassination, which I condemn as heartily as the right hon. Gentleman or any of his supporters, of Sergeant Rew, of the Royal Scots Regiment. I deplore these murders; they make our task increasingly difficult. This man Honan had been in hospital for three weeks before that time, and was in hospital in bed at the time of the blowing up of his shop. His motherless children were in the house. They were bundled out, and the right hon. Gentleman gives, as an excuse, that Mr. Honan was one of the people known as the chief organisers of rebel activities. Yet he was in hospital for three weeks before the ambush. Is there any hon. Gentleman who can justify that? Can the right hon. Gentleman himself justify it? That is my first question.
My second question is in regard to the burnings of the farmhouse of Miss Fitzgerald. Her son served right through the 1197 War. It is in a lonely mountainous district. She protested to the Military Governor that she had no means of preventing an ambush some miles from her farmhouse, but the house of this lonely woman was burned down in revenge for the ambush. The third question is: what justification was there for the destruction of the house belonging to Madge O’Daly? She had gone to Dublin—that is admitted by the military authorities—to visit her doctor, and was far away from the premises when the ambush occurred. In spite of protests, her house was destroyed for military necessities. If that is the policy that the Government have adopted in Ireland, I consider they are damned before the civilised world. We have heard nothing worse than this in the trials of the German War criminals at Leipzig. If hon. Members are prepared to justify war on women and children and widows—[HON. MEMBERS: “Oh, oh!”]—and the destruction of their houses, if they are prepared to encourage the Government then let them vote for the Government. I only hope, however, that Members who were loud in condemning very similar occurrences in Belgium, committed by our enemies during the War, will attempt to make one protest to-night, when the opportunity occurs, against this inhuman and uncivilised action.
§Major-General SEELY I am placed in some difficulty in regard to one thing that has happened during this Debate. My right hon. Friend has said that he accepts the substance of my Motion, which has been almost unanimously supported in this House in the form in which I moved it. Then there is a point with which I was fully conversant before. The right hon. Gentleman’s Order has been quoted in an exactly contrary sense, namely, where two houses will not do, burn four, and where four will not do, burn six. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he disavows what has been done. No man in his position could do that. But I want to know whether what he has said amounts to a direct condemnation of an Order of that kind, which means indiscriminate reprisal in order to try to stop murder by burning houses. That is a perfectly clear question, and one to which we are entitled to an answer in order to guide us as to how we should vote.
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§Sir H. GREENWOOD I should be only too glad to guide my right hon. Friend as to how he should vote. Of course, I condemn indiscriminate burning. I do not believe that it brings to an end this campaign of assassination against the forces of the Crown and law-abiding citizens. I cannot deal across the Table with any particular case that has been raised in Debate, because I shall have to communicate with the military authorities on the spot to get their point of view. My right hon. Friend himself is an ex-Cabinet Minister, and knows that one can only speak with the knowledge supplied by those responsible for carrying out the orders of the Government. But I condemn, and have at this Box again and again condemned, any form of indiscriminate reprisal against houses or any other form of reprisal. The Motion states that reprisals in Ireland should be carried out only in the martial law area under an officer of not lower rank than a brigade commander, on military grounds, and within a certain limited period. That is why I said that I accepted the substance of that part of the Motion of my right hon. Friend.
§Major-General SEELY Could the right hon. Gentleman cancel any Order which appears to conflict with what he has said to-night?
§Sir H. GREENWOOD Of course I could.
§ Question, “That this House do now adjourn,” put, and negatived.
§ 11.0 P.M.
§Mr. T. P. O’CONNOR (seated and covered): On a point of Order. Did not the Chief Secretary declare that he was ready to accept the Motion? Why therefore does he now demand a Division?
§Mr. SPEAKER There is not a Division.
§The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
c1198
ADJOURNMENT. 17 words
Back to HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Forward to ADJOURNMENT.

Irish War of Independence

The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse, also known as the Anglo-Irish War or Tan War) was a guerrilla war mounted against the British government in Ireland by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic’s declaration of independence, and ended with a truce in July 1921. The subsequent negotiations led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which ended British rule in most of Ireland and established the Irish Free State. However, six northern counties would remain under British rule.

The IRA that fought in this conflict is often referred to as the Old IRA to distinguish it from later organisations that used the same name.

Origins

The Home Rule Crisis

Since the 1880s, Irish nationalists in the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) had been demanding Home Rule, or self-government, from Britain. Fringe organisations, such as Arthur Griffith’s Sinn Féin instead argued for some form of Irish independence, but they were in a small minority at this time.

The demand for Home Rule was eventually granted by the British Government in 1912, immediately prompting a prolonged crisis within the United Kingdom as Ulster Unionists formed an armed organisation—the Ulster Volunteers — to resist this measure of devolution. In turn, Nationalists formed their own military organisation, the Irish Volunteers.

The British Parliament passed the Third Home Rule Act with an amending Bill for the partition of Ireland introduced by Ulster Unionists, but the Act’s implementation was postponed by the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The majority of Nationalists followed their IPP leaders and John Redmond’s call to support Britain and the Allied war effort in Irish regiments of the New British Army, the intention being to ensure the commencement of Home Rule after the war. But a significant minority of the Irish Volunteers opposed Ireland’s involvement in the war. The Volunteer movement split, a majority leaving to form the National Volunteers under John Redmond. The remaining Irish Volunteers, under Eoin MacNeill, held that they would maintain their organisation until Home Rule had been granted. Within this Volunteer movement, another faction, led by the separatist Irish Republican Brotherhood, began to prepare for a revolt against British rule.

The Easter Rising

The plan for revolt was realised in the Easter Rising of 1916, in which the Volunteers, now explicitly declaring a republic, launched an insurrection whose aim was to end British rule and to found an Irish Republic. The rising, in which over four hundred people died, was almost exclusively confined to Dublin and was put down within a week, but the British response, executing the leaders of the insurrection and arresting thousands of nationalist activists, galvanized support for the separatist Sinn Féin — the party which the republicans first adopted and then took over. By now, support for the British war effort was on the wane, and Irish public opinion was shocked and outraged by some of the actions committed by British troops, particularly the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and the imposition of wartime martial law.

Secondly, the British, in the face of the crisis caused by the German Spring Offensive in April 1918, attempted to introduce conscription into Ireland combined with Home Rule outlined at the Irish Convention. This further alienated the Irish electorate and produced mass demonstrations during the Conscription Crisis of 1918. By the time of the November 1918 election, alienation from British rule was widespread.

To Irish Republicans, the Irish War of Independence had begun with the Proclamation of the Irish Republic during the Easter Rising of 1916. Republicans argued that the conflict of 1919-21 (and indeed the subsequent Irish Civil War) was the defence of this Republic against attempts to destroy it.

The First Dáil

In the 1918 general election Irish voters showed their disapproval of British policy by giving Sinn Féin 70% (73 seats out of 105) of Irish seats, 25 of these unopposed. Sinn Féin won 91% of the seats outside of Ulster on 46,9% of votes cast, but was in a minority in Ulster, where Unionists were in a majority. Sinn Féin pledged not to sit in the UK Parliament at Westminster, but rather to set up an Irish Parliament. This parliament, known as the First Dáil, and its ministry, called the Aireacht, consisting only of Sinn Féin members, met at the Mansion House on 21 January 1919. The Dáil reaffirmed the 1916 declaration with the Declaration of Independence, and issued a Message to the Free Nations of the World, which stated that there was an “existing state of war, between Ireland and England”. The Irish Volunteers were reconstituted as the ‘Irish Republican Army’ or IRA. The IRA was perceived by some members of Dáil Éireann to have a mandate to wage war on the British administration based at Dublin Castle.

The years between the Easter Rising of 1916 and the beginning of the War of Independence in 1919 were not bloodless. Thomas Ashe, one of the Volunteer leaders imprisoned for his role in the 1916 rebellion died on hunger strike, after attempted force-feeding in 1917. In 1918, during disturbances arising out of the anti-conscription campaign, six civilians died in confrontations with the police and British Army and over 1,000 were arrested. Armistice Day was marked by severe rioting in Dublin, which left over 100 British soldiers injured. There were also raids for arms by the Volunteers, at least one shooting of an Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) policeman and the burning of an RIC barracks in Kerry. However, there was as yet no co-ordinated armed campaign against the British presence in Ireland.

Chronology

Initial hostilities

While it was not clear in the beginning of 1919 that the Dáil ever intended to gain independence by military means, and war was not explicitly threatened in Sinn Féin’s 1918 manifesto, an incident occurred on 21 January 1919, the same day as the First Dáil convened. Several IRA members acting independently at Soloheadbeg, in County Tipperary, led by Seán Treacy and Dan Breen, attacked and shot two Royal Irish Constabulary officers who were escorting explosives. Breen later recalled:

… we took the action deliberately, having thought over the matter and talked it over between us. Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war, so we intended to kill some of the police whom we looked upon as the foremost and most important branch of the enemy forces. The only regret that we had following the ambush was that there were only two policemen in it, instead of the six we had expected.

This is widely regarded as the beginning of the War of Independence, and the men acted on their own initiative to try to start a war. The British government declared South Tipperary a Special Military Area under the Defence of the Realm Act two days later. The war was not formally declared by the Dáil until well into the conflict, however. On 10 April 1919 the Dáil was told:

As regards the Republican prisoners, we must always remember that this country is at war with England and so we must in a sense regard them as necessary casualties in the great fight.

In January 1921, two years after the war had started, the Dáil debated “whether it was feasible to accept formally a state of war that was being thrust on them, or not”, and decided not to declare war. Then on 11 March, Dáil Éireann President Éamon de Valera formally ‘accepted’ the existence of a “state of war with England”. The delay allowed a balancing of the military and political realities.

Violence spreads

Volunteers began to attack British government property, carried out raids for arms and funds and targeted and killed prominent members of the British administration. The first was Resident Magistrate John C. Milling, who was shot dead in Westport, County Mayo, for having sent Volunteers to prison for unlawful assembly and drilling. They mimicked the successful tactics of the Boers, fast violent raids without uniform. Although some republican leaders, notably Éamon de Valera, favoured classic conventional warfare in order to legitimise the new republic in the eyes of the world, the more practically experienced Michael Collins and the broader IRA leadership opposed these tactics as they had led to the military débacle of 1916. Others, notably Arthur Griffith, preferred a campaign of civil disobedience rather than armed struggle. The violence used was at first deeply unpopular with the Irish people and it took the heavy-handed British response to popularise it among much of the population.

During the early part of the conflict, roughly from 1919 to the middle of 1920, there was a relatively limited amount of violence. Much of the nationalist campaign involved popular mobilisation and the creation of a republican “state within a state” in opposition to British rule. British journalist Robert Lynd wrote in the Daily News in July 1920 that:

So far as the mass of people are concerned, the policy of the day is not active but a passive policy. Their policy is not so much to attack the Government as to ignore it and to build up a new government by its side.

The IRA’s main target throughout the conflict was the mainly Catholic Irish police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), which were the British government’s eyes and ears in Ireland. Its members and barracks (especially the more isolated ones) were vulnerable, and they were a source of much-needed arms. The RIC numbered 9,700 men stationed in 1,500 barracks throughout Ireland.

A policy of ostracism of RIC men was announced by the Dáil on 11 April 1919. This proved successful in demoralising the force as the war went on, as people turned their faces from a force increasingly compromised by association with British government repression. The rate of resignation went up, and recruitment in Ireland dropped off dramatically. Often the RIC were reduced to buying food at gunpoint as shops and other businesses refused to deal with them. Some RIC men cooperated with the IRA through fear or sympathy, supplying the organisation with valuable information. By contrast with the effectiveness of the widespread public boycott of the police, the military actions carried out by the IRA against the RIC at this time were relatively limited. In 1919, 11 RIC men and 4 Dublin Metropolitan Police were killed and another 20 RIC wounded.

Other aspects of mass participation in the conflict included strikes by organised workers in opposition to the British presence in Ireland. In Limerick in April 1919, a general strike was called by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council, as a protest against the declaration of a “Special Military Area” under the Defence of the Realm Act which covered most of Limerick city and a part of the county. Special permits, to be issued by the RIC, would now be required to enter the city. The Trades Council’s special Strike Committee controlled the city for fourteen days in an episode that was nicknamed the Limerick Soviet.

Similarly, in May 1920, Dublin dockers refused to handle any war matériel, and were soon joined by the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, who banned railway drivers from carrying British forces. Train drivers were brought over from England after drivers refused to carry British troops. The strike badly hampered British troop movements until December 1920 when it was called off. The British government managed to bring the situation to an end when they threatened to withhold grants from the railway companies, which would have meant that workers would no longer have been paid.

Violent attacks by the IRA also steadily increased, however. By early 1920, they were attacking isolated RIC stations in rural areas, causing them to be abandoned as the police retreated to the larger towns.

Collapse of the British administration

In early April 1920, 400 abandoned RIC barracks were burned to the ground to prevent them being used again, along with almost one hundred income tax offices. This had two effects. Firstly the RIC withdrew from much of the countryside, leaving it in the hands of IRA. In June–July 1920, assizes failed all across the south and west of Ireland. Trials by jury could not be held because jurors would not attend. The collapse of the court system demoralised the RIC, and many police resigned and retired. The Irish Republican Police (IRP) was founded between April and June 1920 under the authority of Dáil Éireann and the former IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Brugha to replace the RIC and to enforce the ruling of the Dáil Courts, set up under the Irish Republic. By 1920, the IRP had a presence in 21 of Ireland’s 32 counties. The Dáil Courts were generally socially conservative, despite their revolutionary origins, and halted the attempts of some landless farmers at redistribution of land from wealthier landowners to poorer farmers.

Secondly, the Inland Revenue ceased to operate in most of Ireland. People were instead encouraged to subscribe to Collins’ “National Loan”, set up to raise funds for the young government and its army. By the end of the year the loan had reached £358,000. It eventually reached £380,000. An even larger amount, totalling over $5 million, was raised in the United States by Irish Americans and sent to Ireland to finance the Republic. Rates were still paid to local councils, but nine out of eleven of these were controlled by Sinn Féin, who naturally refused to pass them on to the British government. Thus, by mid 1920, the Irish Republic was a reality in the lives of many people, enforcing its own law, maintaining its own armed forces and collecting its own taxes. The British Liberal journal, The Nation, wrote in August 1920 that “the central fact of the present situation in Ireland is that the Irish Republic exists”.

The British forces, in trying to re-assert their control over the country, often resorted to arbitrary reprisals against republican activists and the civilian population. An unofficial government policy of reprisals began in September 1919 in Fermoy, County Cork, when 200 British soldiers looted and burned the main businesses of the town, after one of their number had been killed in an arms raid by the local IRA.

Arthur Griffith estimated that in the first 18 months of the conflict, British forces carried out 38,720 raids on private homes, arrested 4,982 suspects, committed 1,604 armed assaults, carried out 102 indiscriminate shootings and burning in towns and villages, and killed 77 people including women and children.

In March 1920, Tomás Mac Curtain, the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork, was shot dead, in front of his wife at his home, by men with blackened faces who were later seen returning to the local police barracks. The jury at the inquest into his death returned a verdict of wilful murder against David Lloyd George (the British Prime Minister) and District Inspector Swanzy, among others. Swanzy was later tracked down and killed in Lisburn, in County Antrim. This pattern of killings and reprisals escalated in the second half of 1920 and in 1921.

IRA organisation and operations

Michael Collins was the main driving force behind the independence movement. Nominally the Minister of Finance in the republic’s government, and IRA Director of Intelligence, he was actively involved in providing funds and arms to the IRA units that needed them, and in the selection of officers. Collins’ natural intelligence, organisational capability and sheer drive galvanised many who came in contact with him. He established what proved an effective network of spies among sympathetic members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) “G division” and other important branches of the British administration. The G division men were a relatively small political division active in subverting the republican movement, and were detested by the IRA as often they were used to identify volunteers who would have been unknown to British soldiers or the later Black and Tans. Collins set up the “Squad”, a group of men whose sole duty was to seek out and kill “G-men” and other British spies and agents. Collins’ Squad began killing RIC intelligence officers from July 1919 onwards. Many G-men were offered a chance to resign or leave Ireland by the IRA, and some chose to leave Ireland.

The Chief of Staff of the IRA was Richard Mulcahy, who was responsible for organising and directing IRA units around the country. In theory, both Collins and Mulcahy were responsible to Cathal Brugha, the Dáil’s Minister of Defence. However, in practice, Brugha had only a supervisory role, recommending or objecting to specific actions. A great deal also depended on IRA leaders in local areas (such as Liam Lynch, Tom Barry, Seán Moylan, Seán Mac Eoin and Ernie O’Malley) who organised guerrilla activity, largely on their own initiative. For most of the conflict, IRA activity was concentrated in Munster and Dublin, with only isolated active IRA units elsewhere, such as in County Roscommon, north County Longford and western County Mayo.

While the paper membership of the IRA, carried over from the Irish Volunteers, was over 100,000 men, Michael Collins estimated that only 15,000 men actively served in the IRA during the course of the war, with about 3,000 on active service at any time. There were also support organisations Cumann na mBan (the IRA women’s group) and Fianna Éireann (youth movement), who carried weapons and intelligence for IRA men and secured food and lodgings for them.

The IRA benefited from the widespread help given to them by the general Irish population, who generally refused to pass information to the RIC and the British military and who often provided “safe houses” and provisions to IRA units “on the run”. Much of the IRA’s popularity arose from the excessive reaction of the British forces to IRA activity.

When Éamon de Valera returned from the United States, he demanded in the Dáil that the IRA desist from the ambushes and assassinations that were allowing the British to successfully portray it as a terrorist group, and to take on the British forces with conventional military methods. The proposal was immediately dismissed.

Martial law

black_tans_auxiliaries

The British responded to the escalating violence in Ireland with increasing use of force. Reluctant to deploy the regular British Army into the country in greater numbers, they set up two paramilitary police units to aid the RIC. The “Black and Tans” were set up to bolster the flagging RIC. Seven thousand strong, they were mainly ex-British soldiers demobilised after World War I. First deployed to Ireland in March 1920, most came from English and Scottish cities. While officially they were part of the RIC, in reality they were a paramilitary force. After their deployment in March 1920, they rapidly gained a reputation for drunkenness and ill discipline that did more harm to the British government’s moral authority in Ireland than any other group. In response to IRA actions, in the summer of 1920, the “Tans” burned and sacked numerous small towns throughout Ireland, including Balbriggan, Trim, Templemore and others.

In July 1920, another quasi-military police body, the Auxiliaries, consisting of 2,215 former British army officers, arrived in Ireland. The Auxiliary Division had a reputation just as bad as the Tans for their mistreatment of the civilian population but tended to be more effective and more willing to take on the IRA. The policy of reprisals, which involved public denunciation or denial and private approval, was famously satirised by Lord Hugh Cecil when he said: “It seems to be agreed that there is no such thing as reprisals, but they are having a good effect.”

On 9 August 1920, the British Parliament passed the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, which suspended all coroners’ courts, because of the large number of warrants served on members of the British forces. They were replaced with “military courts of enquiry”. In addition, the powers of military court martials were extended to cover the whole population and were empowered to use the death penalty and internment without trial. Finally, government payments to local governments in Sinn Féin hands were suspended. This act has been interpreted by historians as a choice by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to put down the rebellion in Ireland rather than negotiate with the Republican leadership. As a result, violence escalated steadily from that summer, and sharply after November 1920 until July 1921.

It was in this period that a large-scale mutiny broke out among the Irish Connaught Rangers, stationed in India. Two were killed whilst trying to storm an armoury and one was later executed.

A number of events dramatically escalated the conflict in late 1920. First the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison in London in October, while two other IRA prisoners on hunger strike, Joe Murphy and Michael Fitzgerald, died in Cork Jail.

Then, on 21 November 1920, there was a day of dramatic bloodshed in Dublin. In the early morning, Collins’ IRA “Squad” attempted to wipe out the British Intelligence operatives in the capital. The Squad shot 19 people, killing 14 and wounding 5. They consisted of British Army officers, police officers and civilians. The dead included members of the so-called “Cairo Gang” and a Courts-martial officer at different places around Dublin.

The Cairo Gang provided information to the British on the activities of the Irish Republican Army. Most were assassinated on 21 November 1920

The Cairo Gang provided information to the British on the activities of the Irish Republican Army. Most were assassinated on 21 November 1920

Escalation, October-December 1920

In response, Auxiliaries drove in trucks into Croke Park (Dublin’s GAA football and hurling ground) during a football match, shooting into the crowd. Fourteen civilians were killed, including one of the players, Michael Hogan and a further 65 people were wounded. Later that day two republican prisoners, Dick McKee, Peadar Clancy and an unassociated friend, Conor Clune who had been arrested with them, were killed in Dublin Castle. The official account was that the three men were shot “while trying to escape”, which was rejected by Irish nationalists who were certain the men had been tortured then murdered. This day became known as Bloody Sunday.

On 28 November 1920, only a week after Bloody Sunday in Dublin, the west Cork unit of the IRA, under Tom Barry, ambushed a patrol of Auxiliaries at Kilmichael in County Cork, killing all but one of the 18-man patrol.

These actions marked a significant escalation of the conflict. In response, counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary—all in the province of Munster— were put under martial law on 10 December. Shortly afterwards, in January 1921, “official reprisals” were sanctioned by the British and they began with the burning of seven houses in Midleton in Cork.

On December 11, the centre of Cork was burnt out by British forces, who then shot at firefighters trying to tackle the blaze, in reprisal for an IRA ambush in the city on 11 December 1920 which killed one Auxiliary and wounded eleven.

Peak of violence, December 1920-July 1921

During the following eight months until the Truce of July 1921, there was a spiralling of the death toll in the conflict, with 1,000 people including the RIC police, British military, IRA volunteers and civilians, being killed in the months between January and July 1921 alone. This represents about 70% of the total casualties for the entire three-year conflict. In addition, 4,500 IRA personnel (or suspected sympathisers) were interned in this time. In the middle of this violence, the Dáil formally declared war on Britain in March 1921.

Between 1 November 1920 and 7 June 1921 twenty four men were executed by the British. The first IRA volunteer to be executed was Kevin Barry, one of The Forgotten Ten who were buried in unmarked graves in unconsecrated ground inside Mountjoy Prison until 2001. On 1 February, the first execution under martial law of an IRA man took place. Cornelius Murphy of Millstreet, Cork was shot in Cork city. On 28 February, six more were executed, again in Cork.

On 19 March 1921, Tom Barry’s 100-strong West Cork IRA unit fought a large-scale action against 1,200 British troops – the Crossbarry Ambush. Barry’s men narrowly avoided being trapped by converging British columns and inflicted between ten and thirty killed on the British side. Just two days later, on 21 March, the Kerry IRA attacked a train at the Headford junction near Killarney. Twenty British soldiers were killed or injured, as well as two IRA men and three civilians. Most of the actions in the war were on a smaller scale than this, but the IRA did have other significant victories in ambushes, for example at Millstreet in Cork and at Scramogue in Roscommon, also in March 1921 and at Tourmakeady and Carowkennedy in Mayo in May and June. Equally common, however, were failed ambushes, the worst of which, for example at Upton and Clonmult in Cork in February 1921, saw three and twelve IRA men killed respectively and more captured. The IRA in Mayo suffered a comparable reverse at Kilmeena. Fears of informers after such failed ambushes often led to a spate of IRA shootings of informers, real and imagined.

The biggest single loss for the IRA, however, came in Dublin. On 25 May 1921, several hundred IRA men from the Dublin Brigade occupied and burned the Custom House (the centre of local government in Ireland) in Dublin city centre. Symbolically, this was intended to show that British rule in Ireland was untenable. However, from a military point of view, it was a catastrophe in which five IRA men were killed and over eighty were captured. This showed the IRA was not well enough equipped or trained to take on British forces in a conventional manner. However, it did not, as is sometimes claimed, cripple the IRA in Dublin. The Dublin Brigade carried out 107 attacks in the city in May and 93 in June, showing a falloff in activity, but not a dramatic one. However, by July 1921, most IRA units were chronically short of both weapons and ammunition. Also, for all their effectiveness at guerrilla warfare, they had, as Richard Mulcahy recalled, “as yet not been able to drive the enemy [the British] out of anything but a fairly good sized police barracks”.

Still, many military historians have concluded that the IRA fought a largely successful and lethal guerrilla war, which forced the British government to conclude that the IRA could not be defeated militarily. The failure of the British efforts to put down the guerrillas was illustrated by the events of “Black Whitsun” on 13–15 May 1921. A general election for the parliament of Southern Ireland was held on 13 May. Sinn Féin won 124 of the new parliament’s 128 seats unopposed, but its elected members refused to take their seats. Under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act, the Southern Parliament was dissolved, and Southern Ireland was to be ruled as a crown colony. Over the next two days (14–15 May), the IRA killed fifteen policemen. These events marked the complete failure of the British Coalition Government’s Irish policy—both the failure to enforce a settlement without negotiating with Sinn Féin and a failure to defeat the IRA.

By the time of the truce, however, many Republican leaders, including Michael Collins, were convinced that if the war went on for much longer, there was a chance that the IRA campaign as it was then organised could be brought to a standstill. Because of this, plans were drawn up to “bring the war to England”. The IRA did take the campaign to the streets of Glasgow. It was decided that key economic targets, such as the Liverpool docks, would be bombed. Nineteen warehouses there had been burned to the ground by the IRA the previous November. The units charged with these missions would more easily evade capture because England was not under, and British public opinion was unlikely to accept, martial law. These plans were abandoned because of the truce.

The north-east

In the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (enacted in December 1920), the British government attempted to solve the conflict by creating two Home Rule parliaments in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. While Dáil Éireann ignored this, deeming the Irish Republic to be already in existence, Unionists in the north-east accepted it and prepared to form their own government. In this part of Ireland, which was predominantly Protestant and Unionist, there was, as a result, a very different pattern of violence from the rest of the country. Whereas in the south and west, the conflict was between the IRA and British forces, in the north-east and particularly in Belfast, it often developed into a cycle of sectarian killings between Catholics, who were largely Nationalist, and Protestants, who were mostly Unionist.

Summer 1920

While IRA attacks were less common in the north-east than elsewhere, the unionist community saw itself as being besieged by armed Catholic nationalists who seemed to have taken over the rest of Ireland. As a result, they retaliated against the northern Catholic community as a whole. Such action was largely condoned by the unionist leadership and abetted by state forces. James Craig, for instance, wrote in 1920:

The Loyalist rank and file have determined to take action… they now feel the situation is so desperate that unless the Government will take immediate action, it may be advisable for them to see what steps can be taken towards a system of ‘organised’ reprisals against the rebels.

The first cycle of attacks and reprisals broke out in the summer of 1920. On 19 June a week of inter-sectarian rioting and sniping started in Derry, resulting in 18 deaths. On 17 July 1920, a British Colonel Gerald Smyth was assassinated by the IRA in the County Club in Cork city in response to a speech that was made to police officers of Listowel who had refused orders to move into the more urban areas, in which he stated “you may make mistakes occasionally, and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped. No policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man”. Smyth came from Banbridge, County Down in the north-east and his killing provoked retaliation there against Catholics in Banbridge and Dromore. On 21 July 1920, partly in response to the killing of Smyth and partly because of competition over jobs due to the high unemployment rate, loyalists marched on the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast and forced over 7,000 Catholic and left-wing Protestant workers from their jobs. Sectarian rioting broke out in response in Belfast and Derry, resulting in about 40 deaths and many Catholics and Protestants being expelled from their homes. On 22 August 1920, RIC Detective Swanzy was shot dead by Cork IRA men while leaving church in Lisburn, County Antrim. Swanzy had been blamed by an inquest jury for the killing of Cork Mayor Tomás Mac Curtain. In revenge, local Loyalists burned Catholic residential areas of Lisburn – destroying over 300 homes. While several people were later prosecuted for the burnings, no attempt seems to have been made to halt the attacks at the time. Michael Collins, acting on a suggestion by Seán MacEntee, organised a boycott of Belfast goods in response to the attacks on the Catholic community. The Dail approved a partial boycott on 6 August and a more complete one was implemented by the end of 1920.

Spring 1921

After a lull in violence in the north over the new year, killings there intensified again in the spring of 1921. The northern IRA units came under pressure from the leadership in Dublin to step up attacks in line with the rest of the country. Predictably, this unleashed loyalist reprisals against Catholics. For example, in April 1921, the IRA in Belfast shot dead two Auxiliaries in Donegal Place in Belfast city centre. The same night, two Catholics were killed on the Falls Road. On 10 July 1921 the IRA ambushed British forces in Raglan street in Belfast. In the following week, sixteen Catholics were killed and 216 Catholic homes burned in reprisal. Killings on the loyalist side were largely carried by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), allegedly with the aid of the RIC police and especially the auxiliary police force, the Ulster Special Constabulary or “B-Specials”. The Special Constabulary (set up in September 1920), was largely recruited from Ulster Volunteer Force and Orange Lodges and, in the words of historian Michael Hopkinson, “amounted to an officially approved UVF”. In May James Craig came to Dublin to meet the British Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Fitzalan, and was smuggled by the IRA through Dublin to meet Eamon de Valera. The two leaders discussed the possibility of a truce in Ulster and an amnesty for prisoners. Craig proposed a compromise settlement based on the Government of Ireland Act, with limited independence for the South and autonomy for the North within a Home Rule context. However, the talks came to nothing and violence in the north continued.

The propaganda war, Summer 1921

Another feature of the war was the use of propaganda by both sides. The British tried to portray the IRA as anti-Protestant in order to encourage loyalism in Irish Protestants and win sympathy for their harsh tactics in Britain. For example, in their communiqués they would always mention the religion of spies or collaborators the IRA had killed if the victim was Protestant, but not if they were Catholic (which was more often), trying to give the impression, in Ireland and abroad, that the IRA were slaughtering Protestants. They encouraged newspaper editors, often forcefully, to do the same. In the summer of 1921, a series of articles appeared in a London magazine, entitled “Ireland under the New Terror, Living Under Martial Law”. While purporting to be an impartial account of the situation in Ireland, it portrayed the IRA in a very unfavourable light when compared with the British forces. In reality the author, Ernest Dowdall, was an Auxiliary and the series was one of many articles planted by the Dublin Castle Propaganda Department (established in August 1920) to influence public opinion in a Britain increasingly dismayed at the behaviour of its security forces in Ireland.

The Catholic Church hierarchy was critical of the violence of both sides, but especially that of the IRA, continuing a long tradition of condemning militant republicanism. The Bishop of Kilmore, Dr. Finnegan, said: “Any war… to be just and lawful must be backed by a well grounded hope of success. What hope of success have you against the mighty forces of the British Empire? None… none whatever and if it unlawful as it is, every life taken in pursuance of it is murder.” Thomas Gilmartin, the Archbishop of Tuam, issued a letter saying that IRA men who took part in ambushes “have broken the truce of God, they have incurred the guilt of murder.” However in May 1921, Pope Benedict XV dismayed the British government when he issued a letter that exhorted the “English as well as Irish to calmly consider . . . some means of mutual agreement”, as they had been pushing for a condemnation of the rebellion. They declared that his comments “put HMG (His Majesty’s Government) and the Irish murder gang on a footing of equality”.

Desmond FitzGerald and Erskine Childers were active in producing the Irish Bulletin, which detailed government atrocities which Irish and British newspapers were unwilling or unable to cover. It was printed secretly and distributed throughout Ireland, and to international press agencies and American, European and sympathetic British politicians.

While the military war made most of Ireland ungovernable from early 1920, it did not actually remove British forces from any part. But the success of Sinn Féin’s propaganda campaign did remove the option from the British administration to deepen the conflict. The British cabinet had not sought the war that had developed since 1919. By 1921 one of its members, Winston Churchill, reflected:

What was the alternative? It was to plunge one small corner of the empire into an iron repression, which could not be carried out without an admixture of murder and counter-murder…. Only national self-preservation could have excused such a policy, and no reasonable man could allege that self-preservation was involved.    

The Crossbarry Ambush

Tom Barry

Tom Barry

In the days leading up to the ambush at Crossbarry (March 19th, 1921) British forces were still on the increase as there was a growing need for their presence in the area. A document later captured by the I.R.A. showed that there were 8,800 front line infantry troops, 1150 Black and Tans, 540 Auxiliaries, 2080 machine gun corps, artillery and other units, a total of over 12,500 men. There was also the additional RIC (armed) police force. The Irish Army Volunteers had acquired arms over many months through ambushes and the men of the 3rd West Cork Brigade received training from their commandant general Tom Barry. Barry had served in the British army during The Great War and had strong republican ideals. Barry soon proved himself as a very able commander, fighting for Irish independence and carrying out many ambushes and assaults on the occupation forces, who carried out strict reprisals for such attacks and harassed the local population on a continual basis. The 3rd Brigade operated as a flying column with a single leader and drew its volunteers from the local population. Due to their ability to operate completely independently from other flying columns, the British were finding it hard to break these groups down. By March 1921 the 3rd West Cork flying column had 104 officers and men, armed with rifles or revolvers with approximately 36-40 rounds per man.  The column was split into 7 sections of 7 men each commanded by a section commander each. These were Sean Hales, John Lordan, Mick Crowley, Dennis Lordan, Tom Kelleher, Peter Kearney and Christy O’ Connell. Columns such as this relied on local sympathies to stay operational which lead to reprisals for anyone harbouring volunteer forces.

The British relied heavily on intelligence and sources had located the whereabouts of the column on the 16th and sent a reconnaissance plane to investigate. The British then set out quickly to circle the column. The IRA’s counter intelligence later reported British troop movements on the 19th to the area at roughly 1 a.m.; 400 left Cork, 200 left Ballincollig, 300 left Kinsale, 350 left Bandon, 120 Auxiliaries later left Macroom and still later more left Clonakilty and Cork. Sources one and two agree on this information however it is arguable whether such large professional forces of the British Army could have been deterred by just over 100 volunteers. However investigation into the ambush reveals how this came about.

At 2.30 a.m. while billeting at Ballyhandle, Barry received reports from his men of lights and lorries some miles to the west. 2 more reports came in simultaneously of enemy movements to the east and of lights and dogs barking to the south. Barry quickly came to the conclusion that they were to be surrounded and needed a quick break out of the encirclement as their lack of manpower and ammunition did not permit a prolonged engagement. Some of the British units dismounted and proceeded on foot to raid the surrounding country houses. It was in one of these raids 3 miles north of Crossbarry in which the British came across the wounded Charles Hurley who was recovering from a bullet wound received in a previous ambush (Upton ambush). He was killed at roughly at 6.30 a.m. by officers of the 1st Essex but was reported to have killed one and wounded two in the process. By this time Barry had the column in position to ambush British forces to the west as reports had suggested they were much closer than the other encircling troops and so could be engaged on their own.  Barry had sent a pair of volunteers to retrieve Charlie when the first reports of the British in the area came to him but these men were subsequently captured.

Barry’s ambush was meticulously organised. Mines were laid down by Capt. McCarthy, who had served in the Royal Engineers. Two small stone walls were built along the ambush site to prevent armoured cars from infiltrating the I.R.A. lines, as the volunteers could not deal with such an armoured threat directly if it were to come due to their sole possession of small arms. The ambush site was chosen west of the double crossroads at Crossbarry. The old Cork-Bandon road runs from west to east and is met by two roads running north-south creating a double crossroads 30 yards apart.  All seven sections were posted west of these crossroads. Hales’ Section was placed N of the road on the west side in a ditch which ran along the road.  This was capable of moving in behind the British once the ambush started. Christy O’ Connell’s Section was situated 600 yards west of Hales’ and was responsible for holding the right flank as it was the western most section. The four Sections belonging to the two Lordans, Crowley, and Kearney were posted east of Hales’ Section at two farmhouses along the road side. The last Section was that of Tom Kelleher placed in a field 600 yards to the rear of the four main Sections of the ambush. The mines were placed between these four sections. Three riflemen were detached from these four Sections and placed a half mile to the rear to delay enemy flank manoeuvres and prevent the enemy sneaking up on the column. It also provided the main ambushers with time to redeploy to face a new threat. So according to Barry, there were now 73 officers and men in the main ambush sector with 31 others protecting flanks and the rear. In addition to this, Flor Begley, an Intelligence Officer, brought had his pipes and was instructed to play traditional Irish war songs on his pipes in the farmyards among the main ambush force. Barry gave strict orders that no volunteer was to show himself until the fighting had begun. In addition to his no Section was to come to the aid of those fighting unless ordered, even if they themselves were not engaged, as the enemy was approaching fast from all directions and would infiltrate the column if this were to happen. Communication between Barry and his Sections was made via runners and the command post was between the centre Sections.

At 8 a.m. the convoy from the west approached, however a volunteer in the central farm houses exposed himself briefly and the British immediately saw an ambush and opened fire. The ambush had begun as Flor Begley’s pipes began to ring through the air. The fire fight was predominantly at less than ten yards due to the ambushers’ positions. The British soldiers confused and disorganised were routed quickly, running to the south across the fields. Three Sections were detached to pursue but returned after according to Barry felling “many men”. Barry had now the option to escape the noose as the west side had been obliterated but now stayed to engage the other British forces. The enemy arms and ammunition was seized along and an Irish hostage by the name of Edward White rescued. According to General Strickland hostages were often taken along as means of deterring an ambush. This apparently had no effect given the current situation.

The order to destroy the lorries was given and three were in flames when fighting broke out on the left flank. After brief intense fighting the British soldiers withdrew due to the strategic advantage of the defenders’ position. Following this fire broke out on the right flank, where apparent British raiding parties were taken surprise by O’ Connell’s Section as the British advanced cross country. These units also withdrew. Ten minutes later a British unit of 200 (according to Barry and Ryan) arrived to the flank at Tom Kelleher’s Section. Creeping along a ditch they had hoped to hit the column from behind, which would surely have caused chaos in the column. However Barry’s strategic positioning of Kelleher’s Section, who did not move despite seeing no action until this point, were waiting for the British. Allowing the British to come within fifty yards, they opened fire and these British units retreated after Barry had sent Jim “Spud” Murphy with eleven additional riflemen to reinforce this position. Barry then extended his men northwards to meet a possible flanking action from the British which came but was quickly repulsed.

Barry then moved the whole column except O’ Connell’s Section to Tom Kelleher’s position to rid the enemy of the rear and by the time Barry himself at arrived the enemy had retreated. The I.R.A. laid out their dead and the order to move out was given. Shortly following this a group of apparently disorganised British soldiers were spotted in a field discussing what to do some distance away in a field. Barry ordered all 100 rifles of the column to take aim and fire three volleys. These few soldiers “broke in all directions”. This was the last of the fighting of the ambush and the column moved off and leaving the scene of the ambush, began the 20 mile march to their next billets in the country side to continue their fight for independence.

In all according to Barry and Ryan the I.R.A. had lost three volunteers, Jeremiah O’ Leary, Con Daly and Peter Monahan. However according to Meda Ryan, Peter Monahan was not his correct name, a British solder with Irish parents from Fermoy, he defected to the I.R.A. and “will forever remain the unknown soldier”. In addition to this Charles Hurley, a leading figure of the column and great friend of Tom Barry’s was killed and two further volunteers were taken prisoner. Barry describes the British losses as, “corpses strewn on the Crossbarry road, in the fields south of it, in front of Dennis Lordan’s Section, near Christy O’ Connell’s Setion and now here were several more of them lying around Kelleher’s position”. This seems slightly exaggerated compared to Hamar Greenwood (source three) and his figures of six I.R.A. men injured and seven wounded and six taken prisoner (some were also taken in the house raids prior to the ambush). The I.R.A. did in fact have injured and Greenwood’s figures can only be derived from AARs (after action reports), however are not far off Barry’s figures. In addition the British controlled the ambush site following the columns departure and so could report accurately their own losses. This together with the official report to the British Cabinet can be looked upon with relative assurance when they report their own losses of, “eight (other ranks) soldiers and one policeman killed and five wounded (three officers and two other ranks) with one policeman being injured”.

This is seen as a sure victory for the I.R.A. of west Cork and was an “overdue strategic necessity” according to Barry, because had they not been attacked they would have continued to harass the population and arrest volunteers, thus reducing morale and interfering with the operations of the volunteers. Indeed it was described as Barry in a later interview as being “possibly a decisive factor in getting the British establishment to think of a truce”. It was also known that Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain had singled out the ambushes of Kilmichael and Crossbarry in communiqués leading up to a truce. The ambush was decisive in showing how independent fighting elements backed by a local population were extremely hard to gain intelligence on and their ability to mingle with the population and move around the area in which they knew all the terrain very well could be superior to that of the British Army. Barry’s command skills also played a decisive role in defeating the British as his expectation of British Army tactics allowed him to reply and repel their attacks. The British surely would have had the notion that there were many more volunteers than there was in reality. In an article published by the New York Times and associated press there were reports of up to 300 volunteers taking part in the ambush. General Strickland commented on the ambush saying “if the outcome had been successful {British prospective} it might easily have had decisive results as regards rebel activity in West Cork”.

The Crossbarry Ambush

The Crossbarry Ambush

The Crossbarry Ambush

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Sinn Fein

The Early Years

Arthur GriffithThe original Sinn Féin movement was centred around the work and propaganda campaign of Arthur Griffith, a nationalist typesetter, and William Rooney, a republican office clerk, both of whom were very active in nationalist clubs in Dublin at the beginning of the 20th century. In his account of the movement’s early years, the propagandist Aodh de Blácam says that Sinn Féin “was not a party: it was the amorphous propaganda of the Gaelicised young men and women”. Griffith was first and foremost a newspaperman with an impressive network of friends in the Dublin printing industry. His propaganda newspapers, the United Irishman and Sinn Féin, channeled the enormous energy of the self-help generation into an unorthodox political project based on the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy of 1867 and the theories of the German nationalist economist Friedrich List. Tapping into the growing self awareness of an Irish identity which was reflected in movements like the Gaelic Athletic Association, the Gaelic League (Conradh na nGaeilge) and in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, he created a loose federation of nationalist clubs and associations which competed with John Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party to embody the aspirations of 20th century nationalists.

Most historians opt for 28 November 1905 as the founding date because it was on this date that Griffith first presented his ‘Sinn Féin Policy’. In his writings, Griffith declared that the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 was illegal and that, consequently, the Anglo-Irish dual monarchy which existed under Grattan’s Parliament and the so-called Constitution of 1782 was still in effect.

Though Sinn Féin had a high name recognition factor among voters it attracted minimal support. By 1915 it was, in the words of one of Griffith’s colleagues, “on the rocks”, so insolvent financially that it could not pay the rent on its party headquarters in Harcourt Street in Dublin. It was rescued by the mistaken belief among the British administration running Ireland from Dublin Castle that it had been behind the 1916 Rising, an unsuccessful attempt to establish an Irish Republic.

The Easter Rising, 1916

Sinn Féin was not involved in the failed Easter Rising, despite being blamed by the British Government for it. The leaders of the Rising were certainly looking for more than the Sinn Féin proposal a separation stronger than Home Rule under a dual monarchy. Any group that disagreed with mainstream constitutional politics was branded ‘Sinn Féin’ by British commentators. The term ‘Sinn Féin Rebellion’ was also used by the mainstream Irish media, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and even by a few of those involved in the Rising.

Later in 1916, surviving members of the Rising led by Éamon de Valera joined the party and soon took control of it. De Valera replaced Griffith as president. It nearly split between its monarchist and republican wings at its 1917 Ard Fheis (conference) until, in a compromise motion, it proposed the establishment of an independent republic, after which the people could decide whether they wanted a monarchy or republic, subject to the condition that if they chose a monarchy, no member of the British Royal Family could serve as monarch.

Sinn Féin’s status was boosted in public opinion by the anger over Maxwell’s execution of Rising leaders. This was despite the fact that, before the executions, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, the Irish Independent newspaper (the biggest selling daily newspaper in Ireland then and now) and many local authorities actually called for the mass execution of Rising leaders. Yet even that public sympathy did not give Sinn Féin decisive electoral advantage. It fought a tough battle with the Irish Parliamentary Party under John Redmond, later John Dillon, with each side winning by-elections. It was only after the World War I German Spring Offensive, when Britain threatened to impose conscription on Ireland to bring its decimated divisions up to strength, that the ensuing Conscription Crisis decisively swung support behind Sinn Féin.

1918 Electoral Victory

Sinn Féin won 73 of Ireland’s 106 seats in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland parliament at the general election in December 1918and many of the seats it won were uncontested. There were four reasons for this. Firstly, despite being the largest party in Ireland for forty years, the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP) had not fought a general election since 1910. In many parts of Ireland its organisation had decayed and was no longer capable of mounting an electoral challenge. Other seats were uncontested because of mass support, with other parties deciding that there was no point in challenging Sinn Féin given it was certain to win. Contemporary documents also suggest a degree of intimidation of opponents. (Piaras Béaslaí recorded one example in a by-election in Longford in 1917 where a Sinn Féin activist put a gun against the head of a Returning Officer and forced him to announce the election of the Sinn Féin candidate even though the IPP candidate had more votes. Potential candidates who were thought of as serious challengers to Sinn Féin candidates were warned against seeking election in some Ulster constituencies and in Munster, though in Cork all the All-for-Ireland Party MPs stood down in favour of Sinn Féin candidates.

Because twenty-five seats were uncontested under sometimes dubious circumstances, it has been difficult to determine what the actual support for the party was in the country. Various accounts range from 45% to 80%. Academic analysts at the Northern Ireland demographic institute (ARK) estimate a figure of 53%. Another estimate would suggest Sinn Féin had the support of approximately 65% of the electorate (unionists accounting for approximately 20-25% and other nationalists for the remainder). Lastly, emigration was very difficult during the war, which meant that tens thousands of young people were in Ireland who would not have been there under normal circumstances.

On 21 January 1919 twenty-seven Sinn Féin MPs assembled in Dublin’s Mansion House and proclaimed themselves the parliament of Ireland, the First Dáil Éireann. They elected an Aireacht (ministry) headed by a Príomh Aire (prime minister). Though the state was declared to be a republic, no provision was made for a head of state. This was rectified in August 1921 when the Príomh Aire (also known as President of Dáil Éireann was upgraded to President of the Republic, a full head of state.

In the 1920 city council elections, Sinn Féin gained control of ten of the twelve city councils in Ireland. Only Belfast and Derry remained underUnionist and IPP (respectively) control. In the local elections of the same year, they won control of all the county councils except Antrim, Down,Londonderry and Armagh.

Sinn Féin subsequently underwent successive splits (1922, 1926, 1970 and 1986), from which emerged a range of parties, Cumann na nGaedhael, now known as Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Official Sinn Féin, later Sinn Féin The Workers Party, later The Workers Party and thenDemocratic Left, which finally joined the Irish Labour party after serving in government with them, the present day Sinn Féin and Republican Sinn Féin.

The Split over The Treaty

Following the conclusion (December 1921) of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations between representatives of the British Government and de Valera’s republican government and the narrow approval of the Treaty by Dáil Éireann, a state called the Irish Free State was established. Northern Ireland (a six county region set up under the British Government of Ireland Act 1920) opted out, as the Treaty allowed.

The reasons for the split were various, though partition was not one of them — the IRA did not split in the new Northern Ireland and pro- and anti-treaty republicans there looked to pro-treaty Michael Collins for leadership (and weapons). The principal reason for the split is usually described as the question of the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Free State, which members of the new Dáil would be required to take. It explicitly recognised that the Irish Free State would be part of the British Empire and many republicans found that unacceptable. The pro-treaty forces argued that the treaty gave “freedom to achieve freedom”.

A short but bitter Irish Civil War (June 1922 – April 1923) erupted between the supporters of the Treaty and its opponents. De Valera resigned as President of the Republic and sided with the anti-treatyites. The victorious pro-treaty “Free Staters”, who amounted to a majority of Sinn Féin TDs and a majority of the voting electorate, set up the Irish Free State. The pro-treaty Sinn Féin TDs changed the name of the party to Cumann na nGaedhael, subsequently merging with the Centre Party and the Blueshirts in 1933 to form Fine Gael.

Post-Split: 1922-1926

Having temporarily suspended armed action in the Free State, the movement split again with the departure (March 1926) of its leader Éamon de Valera, after having lost a motion to abandon abstention if the statement of “Fidelity to the King” were abolished. He subsequently founded theFianna Fáil with fellow advocates of participation in constitutional politics, and entered the Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) the following year, forming a government in 1932.

1930s – 1968

In the 1960s the party moved to the left, adopting a ’stagist’ approach similar to orthodox Communist analysis. The party came under the influence of a generation of intellectuals who were associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain’s Connolly Association and sought a decisive break from the confessional politics of the past. The new generation of leaders sought to engage Ulster’s Protestant workers in an anti-imperialist popular front.

Royal Irish Constabulary

RIC badgeThe armed Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was Ireland’s major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital. The cities of Derry and Belfast had special divisions within the RIC.

The RIC was disbanded in 1922. It was replaced by two new police forces. The Garda Síochána (Guardians of the Peace) patrolled in the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland). The Royal Ulster Constabulary (renamed after the Good Friday Agreement the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2001) patrolled the Northern Ireland state, which remained in the United Kingdom.

The Dublin Metropolitan Police Force was disbanded in 1925, when it was incorporated into the Garda Síochána. About seventy five percent of the force were Roman Catholic and about twenty five percent were of various Reformed Church persuasions, in line with Irish demographics. The RIC’s successful system of policing influenced the Canadian North West Mounted Police, the Victoria Police force in Australia, and the Royal Newfoundland.

Irish Republican Brotherhood

James StephensThe Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) was a secret organization founded in Dublin in 1858 by James Stephens (1824–1901) to secure the creation of an independent Irish republic. It was closely linked with the Fenian Brotherhood in the USA and its members came to be called Fenians. The primary object of the IRB was to organize an uprising in Ireland; the Fenian Brotherhood worked to support the IRB with men, funds, and a secure base. The British government acted swiftly; IRB leaders including Stephens were arrested.

The 1867 Fenian Rising, led by Thomas Kelly, was a failure. The Home Rule League, the Land League, the Irish Volunteers, and Sinn Fein often appeared to supersede the IRB as political forces; but Fenians were active in all these organizations. The Home Rule Bills failed to satisfy them and in World War I the IRB, led by Pádraic Pearse, sought German help for the abortive Easter Rising. The IRB was subsequently superseded by the Irish Republican Army.

Irish Citizen Army

James LarkinThe army rose out of the great strike of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in 1913, known as the Lockout of 1913. The dispute was over the recognition of this labour union founded by James Larkin. It began when William Martin Murphy, an industrialist, locked out some trade unionists on August 19, 1913. In response, Larkin called an all out strike on Murphy’s Dublin United Tramway Company. Other companies, encouraged by Murphy, sacked ITGWU members in an effort to break the union. The conflict eventually escalated to involve 400 employers and 25,000 workers.This strike caused most of Dublin to come to an economic standstill and was marked by vicious rioting between the strikers and the Dublin Metropolitan Police, particularly at a rally on O’Connell street on August 31, in which two men were beaten to death and about 500 more injured. Another striker was later shot dead by a strike-breaker.

The violence at union rallies during the strike prompted Larkin to call for a worker’s militia to be formed to protect themselves against the police. The Citizen army for the duration of the lockout was armed with hurling sticks and bats in order to protect worker’s demonstration from the police. Jack White, a former British Army Captain, volunteered to train this army and offered 50 pounds towards the cost of shoes to workers so they could train. In addition to its role as a self defence organisation, the army, which was drilled in Croydon Park in Fairview by White, provided a diversion for workers unemployed and idle during the dispute. After a six-month standoff, the workers returned to work hungry and defeated in January 1914. The original purpose of the ICA was over, but it would soon be totally transformed.

The Irish Citizen Army was totally reorganised in 1914. In March of that year, a demonstration of the Citizen Army was attacked by the police and Jack White, its commander, was arrested. Sean O’Casey then suggested that the ICA needed a more formal organisation. O’Casey wrote a constitution stating the Army’s principles as follows: the ownership of Ireland, moral and material, is vested of right in the people of Ireland and to “sink all difference of birth property and creed under the common name of Irish people”.

On Larkin’s insistence, all members were also required to be members of a trade union, if eligible. In mid 1914, James Larkin left Ireland for America in October 1914, leaving the Citizen Army under the command of James Connolly. Whereas during the Lockout, the ICA had been a workers’ self defence militia, Connolly conceived of it as a revolutionary organisation – dedicated to the creation of an Irish socialist republic “The Workers Republic”. He had served in the British army in his youth and knew something about military tactics and discipline. Other active members in the early days included Sean O’Casey, Countess Markievicz, Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. Sheehy-Skeffington and O’Casey left the ICA when it became apparent that Connolly was moving towards the radical nationalist group, the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

James Connolly was a convinced Marxist socialist and Irish Republican and believed that achieving political change through physical force, in the tradition of the Fenians, was legitimate. Lenin would later describe the Citizen Army as being the first red army in Europe. This organisation was one of the first to offer equal membership to both men and women and trained them both in the use of weapons. The army’s headquarters was the ITGWU union building, Liberty Hall and they were almost entirely Dublin based. However, Connolly also set up branches in Tralee and Killarney in county Kerry. In October 1915, armed ICA pickets patrolled a strike by dockers at Dublin port. Attempts were made to set up Branches of the ICA in Limerick but were not successfull. (However in the Years 1919 and 1920 the remnants of The Citizen Army did organise small groups in Waterford, Cork and Monoghan)

Appalled by the participation of Irishmen in the First World War, which he regarded as an imperialist, capitalist conflict, Connolly began openly calling for insurrection in his newspaper, the Irish Worker. When this was banned, he opened another the Worker’s Republic. The British authorities tolerated the open drilling and bearing of arms by the ICA, thinking that to clamp down on the organisation would provoke further unrest. A small group of Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) conspirators within the Irish Volunteers movement were also planning a rising. Worried that Connolly would embark on premature military action with the ICA, Connolly was approached and inducted into the IRB’s Supreme Council to co-ordinate their preparations for the armed rebellion known as the Easter Rising.

The ICA never numbered more than 250 to 300 men and women nation wide. On Monday April 24, 1916, 220 of them (including 28 women) took part in the Easter Rising, alongside a much larger body of the Irish Volunteers. They helped occupy the General Post Office on O’Connell Street (then Sackville Street), Dublin’s main thoroughfare. Mallin, Connolly’s second in command, along with Markievizc and an ICA company, occupied St Stephen’s Green. Another company under Sean Connolly took over City Hall and attacked Dublin Castle. Finally, a detachment occupied Harcourt Street railway station. ICA men were the first rebel causalties of Easter Week, two of them being killed in an abortive attack on Dublin Castle. Sean Connolly, an ICA officer, was the first rebel fatality. A total of eleven Citizen Army men were killed in action in the rising, five in the City Hall/Dublin castle area, five in Stephen’s Green and one in the GPO.

Connolly was made commander of the rebel forces in Dublin during the Rising and issued orders to surrender after a week. He and Mallin were executed by British army firing squad some weeks later. The surviving ICA members were interned in Frongoch in Wales until 1919. Many of them later joined the new Irish Republican Army (IRA) from 1917 on, but the Citizen Army remained in existence until the 1930s. According to some reports ICA units were involved in various IRA operations during the Irish War of Independence. However the ICA always maintained its Independence never fully coming under IRA control for example ICA members stationed at Liberty Hall were not informed about or asked to take part in the burning of the Customs House in May 1921 and were forced to watch the ensuing drama from the steps and windows of Liberty Hall directly across the road.

During the fighting in Dublin that began the Irish Civil War in June 1922, some elements of the ICA (which by this time had about 140 members) were involved in the Anti-Treaty IRA occupation and defence of the Four Courts while others occupied Liberty Hall, the Trade Union headquarters

In the 1920s and 1930s, the ICA was kept alive by veterans such as Seamus MacGowan, Dick McCormick and Frank Purcell, though perhaps only as an old comrades association by veterans of 1916. Uniformed Citizen Army men provided a guard of honour at Constance Markievicz’s funeral in 1927.

In 1934, Peadar O’Donnell and other left wing republicans left the IRA and founded the Republican Congress. For a brief time, they revived the ICA as a paramilitary force, intended to be an armed wing for their new movement. According to Brian Hanley’s history of the IRA, the revived Citizen Army had 300 or so members around the country in 1935. However, the Congress itself split in 1935 and collapsed shortly afterwards. Most of the ICA members joined the Irish Labour Party. The ICA’s last public appearance was to accompany the funeral procession of union leader James Larkin in Dublin in 1947.

Article provided courtesy of Padraig O’Rourke. This article is the property of Padraig O’Rourke and may not be reused without permission.

Cumann na mBan

Translated as the Women’s League, Cumann na mBan was originally formed as an auxiliary formation to complement the Irish Volunteers.

Cumann na mBan was officially founded on the 5th April 1914 at a meeting in held Wynne’s Hotel, Dublin led by Kathleen Lane-O`Kelley.

Aims

The constitution of Cumann na mBan contained explicit references to the use of force by arms against crown forces in Ireland. Under its constitution, the primary aim of the organisation was to “advance the cause of Irish liberty” and “teach its members first aid, drill, signalling and rifle practice in order to aid the men of Ireland”.

Role in 1916 Rising

Cumann na mBan

On 23 April 1916, when the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood finalised arrangements for the Easter Rising, it integrated Cumann na mBan, along with the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army, into the ‘Army of the Irish Republic’. Patrick Pearse was appointed overall Commandant-General and James Connolly as Commandant-General of the Dublin Division.

On the day of the Rising, 40 Cumann na mBan members, including Winifred Carney, who arrived armed with both a Webley revolver and a typewriter, entered the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in Dublin with their male counterparts. By nightfall, women insurgents were established in all of the major rebel strongholds throughout the city – bar one. Éamon de Valera steadfastly refused, in defiance of the orders of Pearse and Connolly, to allow women fighters into the Boland’s Mill garrison.

The women in the rebel garrisons fought alongside the men and were not confined, as is commonly believed, to nursing duties or other tasks traditionally assigned to women such as making tea and sandwiches for the fighting men. Members also gathered intelligence on scouting expeditions, carried despatches and transferred arms from dumps across the city to insurgent strongholds.

Constance Markiewicz for example – armed with a pistol – during the opening phase of the hostilities shot a policeman in the head near St Stephen’s Green. Later, Markiewicz along with other female fighters – after a day of carrying out sniper attacks on British troops in the city centre – demanded that they be allowed to bomb the Shelbourne Hotel. Helena Moloney was among the soldiers who attacked Dublin Castle, and she and other women also fought as snipers. During the Rising, British soldiers became confused and hostile when they realized there were women fighting in the battles.

A number of Cumann na mBan members died in the Rising, including volunteer Margaretta Keogh who was shot dead outside the South Dublin Union.

At the Four Courts they helped to organise the evacuation of buildings at the time of surrender and to destroy incriminating papers. This was exceptional; more typical was the General Post Office (GPO), where Pearse insisted that most of them leave at noon on Friday, 28 April. The building was then coming under sustained shell and machine-gun fire, and heavy casualties were anticipated. The following day the leaders at the GPO decided to negotiate surrender. Pearse asked Cumann na mBan member Elizabeth O’Farrell (a mid-wife at the National Maternity Hospital) to act as a go-between. Under British military supervision she brought Pearse’s surrender order to the rebel units still fighting in Dublin. Over 70 women, including many of the leading figures in Cumann na mBan, were arrested after the insurrection, and many of the women who had been captured fighting were imprisoned in Kilmainham; all but 12 had been released by 8 May 1916.

Black & Tans

Foundation

Black and tansThe late 19th and early 20th centuries in Ireland were dominated by the Irish pursuit of Home Rule or independence from the United Kingdom. Home Rule — limited self government — was passed by the British parliament in 1914, but postponed because of the outbreak of the First World War. Some Irish republicans saw Home Rule as being too limited a form of independence. After the Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916 when armed Irish nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule of Ireland, Irish nationalism was greatly radicalised and after public outrage at the execution of the rising’s leaders and the threatened imposition of conscription on Ireland for the First World War, it was channelled into the revolutionary Sinn Féin movement. Sinn Féin won 73 out of 105 seats in Ireland at the 1918 general election, and in January 1919 the First Dáil declared an independent Irish Republic. In the same month, the Irish Volunteers, or Irish Republican Army, began the guerrilla campaign known as Irish War of Independence, which in 1919 consisted of attacks on the Royal Irish Constabulary.

These attacks escalated during 1919 and in September the British administration outlawed the Dáil. Starting work on its next Home Rule Act, it had to plan for a growing loss of morale in the RIC with an interim solution until the Act was ready.

In January 1920, the British government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”, helping to boost the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in policing an increasingly anti-British Ireland. There was no shortage of recruits, many of them First World War army veterans, and by November 1921 about 9,500 men had joined. This sudden influx of men led to a shortage of RIC uniforms, and the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts. This mixture gave rise to their nickname, the Black and Tans (in Irish, na Dúchrónaigh), from the name of a famous pack of foxhounds from Limerick, the Scarteen Black and Tans, whose colours were and are similar. The name stuck even after the men received full RIC uniforms.

The new recruits received three months’ hurried training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in Dublin, Munster and eastern Connacht. The first men arrived on 25 March 1920. The government also raised another unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary, known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies. This group was made up of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans acted with the Auxiliaries in the government’s attempts to break the IRA.

Conduct in Ireland

Members of the Black and Tans were paid the relatively good wage of 10 shillings a day plus full board and lodging. With minimal police training, their main role was to strengthen the military might of police posts, where they functioned as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents, reinforcement to the regular police, and crowd control, and mounted a determined counter-insurgency campaign. The Black and Tans and the Auxies became known as Tudor’s Toughs after the police commander, Major-General Sir Henry Hugh Tudor. They were viewed by Republicans as an army of occupation because of these duties. They soon gained a reputation for brutality, as the RIC campaign against the IRA and Sinn Féin members was stepped up and police reprisals for IRA attacks were condoned by the government.

Constable Alexander Will, from Forfar in Scotland, was the first Black and Tan to die in the conflict, during an IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rathmore, County Kerry, on 11 July 1920.

The Black and Tans were not subject to strict discipline in their early months in Ireland and as a result, the deaths of Black and Tans at the hands of the IRA in 1920 were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population. In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages in Ireland, beginning with Tuam in County Galway in July 1920 and also including Trim, Balbriggan, Thurles and Templemore amongst many others. In November 1920, the Tans “besieged” Tralee in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They closed all the businesses in the town and let no food in for a week. In addition they shot dead three local people. On 14 November, the Tans abducted and murdered a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Michael Griffin, in Galway. His body was found in a bog in Barna a week later. Finally, the Black and Tans sacked Cork city, on the night of 11 December 1920, the centre of which was burned out.

In January 1921, the British Labour Commission produced a report on the situation in Ireland which was highly critical of the government’s security policy. It said the government, in forming the Black and Tans, had “liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”. However since 29 December 1920, the British government had sanctioned “official reprisals” in Ireland — usually meaning burning property of IRA men and their suspected sympathisers. Taken together with an increased emphasis on discipline in the RIC, this helped to curb the random atrocities the Black and Tans committed since March 1920 for the remainder of the war, if only because reprisals were now directed from above rather than being the result of a spontaneous desire for revenge. (see also Chronology of the Irish War of Independence).

However, many of the atrocities popularly attributed to the Black and Tans were probably committed by the far more brutal Auxiliary Division; some were committed by Irish RIC men. For instance, Tomás Mac Curtain, the mayor of Cork, was assassinated in March 1920 by local RIC men and the massacre of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday was also carried out by the RIC although a small detachment of Auxiliaries were also present. Moreover, the regular British Army also committed atrocities, burning the towns of Mallow and Fermoy for example. However most Republicans did not make a distinction, and “Black and Tans” was often used as a catch-all term for all police and army groups.

The actions of the Black and Tans alienated public opinion in both Ireland and Britain. Their violent tactics encouraged both sides to move towards a peaceful resolution. Edward Wood MP, a future Foreign Secretary, rejected force and urged the British government to offer the Irish an offer “conceived on the most generous lines”. Sir John Simon MP, another future Foreign Secretary, was also horrified at the tactics being used. Lionel Curtis, writing in the imperialist journal The Round Table, wrote: “If the British Commonwealth can only be preserved by such means, it would become a negation of the principle for which it has stood”. The King, senior Anglican bishops, MPs from the Liberal and Labour parties, Oswald Mosley, Jan Smuts, the Trades Union Congress and parts of the press were increasingly critical of the actions of the Black and Tans. Mahatma Gandhi said of the British peace offer: “It is not fear of losing more lives that has compelled a reluctant offer from England but it is the shame of any further imposition of agony upon a people that loves liberty above everything else”.

About 7,000 Black and Tans served in Ireland in 1920-22. More than one-third of them died or left the service before they were disbanded along with the rest of the RIC in 1922, an extremely high wastage rate, and well over half received government pensions. A total of 404 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary died in the conflict and more than 600 were wounded but it is not clear how many of these were pre-war RIC men and how many were Black and Tans or Auxiliaries.

Those who returned to civilian life sometimes had problems re-integrating. At least two former Black and Tans were hanged for murder in Britain and another wanted for murder committed suicide before the police could arrest him.

Legacy

Due to the ferocity of the Tans’ behaviour in Ireland and the atrocities committed, feelings continue to run high regarding their actions. “Black and Tan” or “Tan” remains a pejorative term for British in Ireland, and they are still despised by many in Ireland. One of the most famous Irish Republican songs is Dominic Behan’s “Come out Ye Black and Tans.” The Irish War of Independence is sometimes referred to as the “Tan War” or “Black-and-Tan War.” This term was preferred by those who fought on the Anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil War. The “Cogadh na Saoirse” medal, which was awarded to IRA Volunteers after 1941, bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes in black and tan.

Quote

If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there—the more the merrier.

Should the order (”Hands Up”) not be immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching (a patrol) carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man.
—Lt. Col. Smyth, June 1920

Auxiliaries

Recruitment and organization

Auxiliaries in IrelandIn September 1919, the Commander-in-Chief, Ireland, Sir Frederick Shaw suggested that the police force in Ireland be expanded via the recruitment of a special force of volunteer British ex-servicemen. During a Cabinet meeting on 11 May 1920, the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, suggested the formation of a “Special Emergency Gendarmerie, which would become a branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary.” Churchill’s proposal was referred to a committee chaired by General Sir Nevil Macready, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Ireland. Macready’s committee rejected Churchill’s proposal, but it was revived two months later, in July, by the Police Adviser to the Dublin Castle administration in Ireland, Major-General H H Tudor. In a memo dated 6 July 1920, Tudor justified the scheme on the grounds that it would take too long to reinforce the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) with ordinary recruits. Tudor’s new “Auxiliary Force” would be strictly temporary: its members would enlist for a year: their pay would be £7 per week (twice what a constable was paid), plus a sergeant’s allowances, and would be known as “Temporary Cadets”.

The ADRIC was recruited in Britain from among ex-officers who had served in World War I – especially those who had served in the Army including the Royal Flying Corps. Most recruits were from Great Britain, though some were from Ireland, and others came from the British Empire and Commonwealth. Many had been highly decorated in the war and three, James Leach, James Johnson, and George Onions, had been awarded the Victoria Cross. Interestingly, their decorations make it clear that many had been promoted from the ranks: some men, for example, had been awarded the common soldier’s Military Medal instead of (or in addition to) the officer’s Military Cross. Enlisted men who had been commissioned as officers during the War often found it difficult to adjust to their loss of status and pay in civilian life, and historians have concluded that the Auxiliary Division recruited large numbers of these “temporary gentlemen”.

Recruiting began in July 1920, and by November 1921, the division was 1,900 strong. The Auxiliaries were nominally part of the RIC, but actually operated more or less independently in rural areas. Divided into companies (eventually fifteen of them), each about one hundred strong, heavily armed and highly mobile, they operated in ten counties, mostly in the south and west, where Irish Republican Army (IRA) activity was greatest. They wore either RIC uniforms or their old army uniforms with appropriate police badges, along with distinctive Tam-o-shanter caps. They were commanded by Brigadier-General F P Crozier, a former officer of the Loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force.

Counterinsurgency

Auxiliary companies were intended as mobile striking and raiding forces, and they scored some notable successes against the insurgents. On 20 November, the night before Bloody Sunday, they captured Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, the commandant and vice-commandant of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. That same night, they caught William Pilkington, commandant of the Sligo IRA, in a separate raid. A month later, in December, they caught Ernie O’Malley completely by surprise in County Kilkenny: the IRA officer was reading in his room when a Temporary Cadet opened the door and walked in; “He was as unexpected as death,” said O’Malley. In his memoirs, the commandant of the Clare IRA, Michael Brennan, describes how the Auxiliaries nearly captured him three nights in a row.

However, such successes and near-successes were not common: the Division was hobbled by its lack of reliable intelligence, and most of its raids brought no result—or sometimes worse. In one case, they arrested a Castle official, Law Adviser W E Wylie, by mistake. In another, more notorious case, on 19 April 1921 they raided the Shannon Hotel in Castleconnell, County Limerick on a tip that there were suspicious characters drinking therein. The “suspicious characters” turned out to be three off-duty members of the RIC: both sides mistook each other for insurgents and opened fire; three people, an RIC man, an Auxiliary Cadet and a civilian, were killed in the shootout that followed.

Some of the IRA’s most celebrated victories in the Irish War of Independence were won over the Auxiliaries. On 28 November 1920, for example, a platoon of Auxiliaries was ambushed and wiped out in the Kilmichael Ambush by Tom Barry and the West Cork IRA. A little more than two months later, on 2 February 1921, another platoon of Auxiliaries was ambushed by Seán MacEoin and the Longford IRA in the Coolavokig Ambush. On 19 March 1921 the IRA defeated the British Army & Auxiliary Division at Crossbarry Ambush. Later still, on 15 April 1921, Captain Roy L. Mackinnon DCM MM, commanding officer of H Company, ADRIC, was assassinated by the Kerry IRA.

Controversy

Many of the Division’s Temporary Cadets did not cope well with the frustrations of counterinsurgency: hurriedly recruited, poorly trained, and with an ill-defined role, they soon gained a reputation for drunkenness, lack of discipline, and brutality worse than that of the Black and Tans. They were disliked by members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who considered them “rough.” They seem to have been unpopular with the British Army as well. One British officer, who served as adjutant for the 2nd Battalion, Cameron Highlanders, wrote in his memoirs that the Auxiliaries “were totally undisciplined by our regimental standards.” Macready wrote in his own memoirs that “those companies that had the good fortune to have good commanders, generally ex-Regular officers, who could control their men, performed useful work, but the exploits of certain other companies under weak or inefficient commanders went a long way to discredit the whole force.”

Like the ordinary police, the Auxiliaries sometimes took reprisals in the wake of attacks by the IRA. On the evening of Bloody Sunday, for example, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy were killed by their Auxiliary captors under very suspicious circumstances: the official explanation, that the two insurgents tried to escape, is widely disbelieved. But perhaps the most notorious reprisal involving the Auxiliary Division was the burning of Cork on 11 December 1920. At 7:30 p.m. that evening, a truckload of Auxiliaries from newly-formed K Company was ambushed at Dillons Cross: a grenade was thrown onto their truck, wounding ten Auxiliaries and killing one, Temporary Cadet Chapman. Later that night, police and Auxiliaries took revenge by setting fire to the city’s commercial centre, preventing the fire service from attending the blaze, and shooting seven people.

Two IRA men, Cornelius and Jerimiah Delaney, were killed in their beds at home in Dublin Hill (though Con Delaney survived to December 18). Five civilians were shot on the streets. Damage amounting to $20 million was inflicted. The Cork Fire Brigade did not have the resources to deal with the fires: law and order, it seemed, had completely broken down. The British Government at first claimed the citizens were responsible for the arson, but a military court of inquiry known as the Strickland Report later found that the fires had been started by the Auxiliaries. Its findings were suppressed by the government, but K Company was disbanded. Allegedly, some Auxiliaries took to wearing pieces of burnt cork on their caps afterwards, to celebrate the occasion.

A few days later, near Dunmanway, there was an ugly postscript to the Cork fires: an Auxiliary called Hart went berserk and killed a young man and a seventy-year old priest, whom the Auxiliary patrol met on the road near Dunmanway. A third civilian, a local magistrate, escaped by taking refuge with the other Auxiliaries. Hart was arrested and court-martialled: at his trial, it was revealed that he had been a “particular friend” of TC Chapman, and had been drinking heavily since 11 December. A number of expert medical witness testified that Hart was insane at the time of the murders and the Courtmartial concluded that he “was guilty of the offenses with which he was charged, but was insane at the time of their commission”.

While Hart was apparently confined to a Criminal Lunatic Asylum, other Auxiliaries literally got away with murder. On 9 February 1921, James Murphy and Patrick Kennedy were arrested by Auxiliaries in Dublin. Two hours later, constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police found the two men lying shot in Drumcondra: Kennedy was dead, and Murphy was dying. Murphy died in Mater Hospital, Dublin on 11 February, but before the end, he declared that he and Kennedy had been shot by their Auxiliary captors. A military court of inquiry was held, and Captain W L King, commanding officer of F Company ADRIC, was arrested for the killings. King was court-martialled on 13-15 February, but acquitted, after Murphy’s dying declaration was ruled inadmissible, and two officers from F Company provided perjured alibis for Captain King at the time of the shootings.

But while the authorities often turned a blind eye to reprisals, they were less tolerant of crimes against “civilians” – loyal and non-political people. A number of Auxiliaries were dismissed and prosecuted for theft, including a one-armed former Temporary Cadet, Major Evan Cameron Bruce, who was imprisoned for robbing a creamery, after being dismissed from the Division for striking a civilian without cause. On 19 February 1921, Commandant Crozier resigned after a dispute over discipline with the Police Adviser. Crozier had dismissed twenty-one Temporary Cadets accused of looting a licensed grocery store belonging to Protestants in County Meath. When General Tudor reinstated these men pending an official inquiry, Crozier left the Force. He was replaced by his assistant, Brigadier-General E A Wood, who commanded the Division until it was demobilized.

History & Popular Memory

The Temporary Cadets of the ADRIC were and are often confused with the Black and Tans: many atrocities laid at the door of the latter were in reality attributable to the Auxiliaries. Disbanded along with the RIC in 1922, many Auxiliaries joined the Palestine Police Force. As with the Black and Tans, they are still a contentious issue in Ireland, though their misdeeds were a godsend to Sinn Féin’s Publicity Bureau at the time.

Auxiliaries figure prominently in historical films like Michael Collins, The Last September, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Links

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Truce (July-Dec 1921)

King George V's appeal for reconciliation was crucial in generating the goodwill that led to the Truce

King George V’s appeal for reconciliation was crucial in generating the goodwill that led to the Truce

The war of independence in Ireland ended with a truce on 11 July 1921. The conflict had reached a stalemate. Talks that had looked promising the previous year had petered out in December when David Lloyd George insisted that the IRA first surrender their arms. Fresh talks, after the Prime Minister had come under pressure from Herbert Henry Asquith and the Liberal opposition, the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, resumed in the spring and resulted in the Truce. From the point of view of the British government, it appeared as if the IRA’s guerrilla campaign would continue indefinitely, with spiraling costs in British casualties and in money. More importantly, the British government was facing severe criticism at home and abroad for the actions of British forces in Ireland. On 6 June 1921, the British made their first conciliatory gesture, calling off the policy of house burnings as reprisals. On the other side, IRA leaders and in particular Michael Collins, felt that the IRA as it was then organised could not continue indefinitely. It had been hard pressed by the deployment of more regular British soldiers to Ireland and by the lack of arms and ammunition.

The initial breakthrough that led to the truce was credited to three people: King George V, General Jan Smuts of South Africa and British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. The King, who had made his unhappiness at the behaviour of the Black and Tans in Ireland well known to his government, was dissatisfied with the official speech prepared for him for the opening of the new Parliament of Northern Ireland, created as a result of the partition of Ireland. Smuts, a close friend of the King, suggested to him that the opportunity should be used to make an appeal for conciliation in Ireland. The King asked him to draft his ideas on paper. Smuts prepared this draft and gave copies to the King and to Lloyd George. Lloyd George then invited Smuts to attend a British cabinet meeting consultations on the “interesting” proposals Lloyd George had received, without either man informing the Cabinet that Smuts had been their author. Faced with the endorsement of them by Smuts, the King and the Prime Minister, ministers reluctantly agreed to the King’s planned ‘reconciliation in Ireland’ speech.

The speech, when delivered in Belfast on 22 June, was universally well received. It called on “all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will.”

On 24 June 1921, the British Coalition Government’s Cabinet decided to propose talks with the leader of Sinn Féin. Coalition Liberals and Unionists agreed that an offer to negotiate would strengthen the Government’s position if Sinn Féin refused. Austen Chamberlain, the new leader of the Unionist Party, said that “the King’s Speech ought to be followed up as a last attempt at peace before we go the full lengths of martial law”. Seizing the momentum, Lloyd George wrote to Éamon de Valera as “the chosen leader of the great majority in Southern Ireland” on 24 June, suggesting a conference. The Irish responded by agreeing to talks. De Valera and Lloyd George ultimately agreed to a truce that was intended to end the fighting and lay the ground for detailed negotiations. Its terms were signed on 9 July and came into effect on 11 July. Negotiations on a settlement, however, were delayed for some months as the British government insisted that the IRA first decommission its weapons, but this demand was eventually dropped. It was agreed that British troops would remain confined to their barracks.

Most IRA officers on the ground interpreted the Truce merely as a temporary respite and continued recruiting and training volunteers. Nor did attacks on the RIC or British Army cease altogether. Between December 1921 and February of the next year, there were 80 recorded attacks by the IRA on the soon to be disbanded RIC, leaving 12 dead. On 18 February 1922, Ernie O’Malley’s IRA unit raided the RIC barracks at Clonmel, taking 40 policemen prisoner and seizing over 600 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. In addition, some IRA units used the truce period as an opportunity to settle old scores. In April 1922, in the Dunmanway Massacre, an IRA party in Cork killed 10 local Protestants in retaliation for the shooting of one of their men. Those killed were allegedly named in captured British files as informers before the Truce signed the previous July. Over 100 Protestant families fled the area after the killings.

The continuing militancy of many IRA leaders was one of the main factors in the outbreak of the Irish Civil War as they refused to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty that Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith had negotiated with the British.

Irish Civil War

The Irish Civil War (28 June 1922 – 24 May 1923) was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire.

The conflict was waged between two opposing groups of Irish nationalists: the forces of the new Free State, who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty under which the state was established, and the Republican opposition, for whom the Treaty represented a betrayal of the Irish Republic. The war was won by the Free State forces.

The Civil War may have claimed more lives than the War of Independence against Britain that preceded it, and left Irish society divided and embittered for decades afterwards. To this day, the two main political parties in the Republic of Ireland, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, are the direct descendants of the opposing sides in the War.

The treaty

The Anglo-Irish Treaty arose from the Irish War of Independence, fought between Irish separatists (organised as the Irish Republic) and the British government, from 1919-1921. The treaty provided for a self-governing Irish state in 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties, having its own army and police. However, rather than creating the independent republic favoured by most nationalists, the Irish Free State would be an autonomous dominion of the British Empire with the British monarch as head of state, in the same manner as Canada and Australia. The treaty also stipulated that members of the new Irish Oireachtas (parliament) would have to take the following “Oath of Allegiance”

“I… do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established, and that I will be faithful to His Majesty King George V, his heirs and successors by law in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of nations”.

This oath was considered highly objectionable by many Irish Republicans. Furthermore under the treaty, the state was not to be called a republic but a “free state” and it would be limited to the 26 southern and western counties of Ireland. The remaining six north-eastern counties, with their Protestant majority, would opt to remain part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland. The partition of Ireland had already been decided by the Westminster parliament in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and was confirmed in the Anglo-Irish treaty. Also, several strategic ports were to remain occupied by the Royal Navy.

Nonetheless, Michael Collins, the republican leader who had led the Irish negotiating team, argued that the treaty gave “not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire and develop, but the freedom to achieve freedom”. However, anti-treaty militants in 1922 believed that the treaty would never deliver full Irish independence.

Split in the Nationalist movement

The split over the treaty was deeply personal. Many of the leaders on both sides had been close friends and comrades during the War of Independence. This made their lethal disagreement over the treaty all the more bitter. Michael Collins later said that Éamon de Valera had sent him as plenipotentiary to negotiate the treaty because he knew that the British would not concede an independent Irish republic and wanted Collins to take the blame for the compromise settlement. He said he was deeply betrayed when de Valera refused to stand by the agreement that the plenipotentiaries had negotiated with David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill. De Valera, for his part, was furious that Collins and Arthur Griffith had signed the treaty without consulting him or the Irish cabinet as instructed.

Third Tipperary Brigade Flying Column No. 2 under Sean Hogan during the War of Independence. Most of the IRA units in Munster were against the treaty. Hogan himself however did not participate in the Civil War.

Third Tipperary Brigade Flying Column No. 2 under Sean Hogan during the War of Independence. Most of the IRA units in Munster were against the treaty. Hogan himself however did not participate in the Civil War.

Dáil Éireann (the parliament of the Irish Republic) narrowly passed the Anglo-Irish Treaty by 64 votes to 57 on 7 January 1922. Following the Treaty’s ratification, a “Provisional Government”, headed by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, was set up to transfer power from the British administration to the Irish Free State.

Upon the treaty’s ratification, Éamon de Valera resigned as President of the Republic and failed to be re-elected by an even closer vote of 60-58. He challenged the right of the Dáil to approve the treaty, saying that its members were breaking their oath to the Irish Republic. De Valera continued to promote a compromise whereby the new Irish Free State would be in “external association” with the British Commonwealth rather than be a member of it. In early March he formed the “Cumann na Poblachta” (Republican Association) party while remaining a member of Sinn Féin. On a speaking tour of the more republican province of Munster, starting on 17 March 1922, de Valera made controversial speeches at Carrick on Suir, Lismore, Dungarvan and Waterford, saying that:

“If the Treaty were accepted, [by the electorate] the fight for freedom would still go on, and the Irish people, instead of fighting foreign soldiers, will have to fight the Irish soldiers of an Irish government set up by Irishmen.” At Thurles, several days later, he repeated this imagery and added that the IRA: “…would have to wade through the blood of the soldiers of the Irish Government, and perhaps through that of some members of the Irish Government to get their freedom.”

In a letter to the Irish Independent on 23 March de Valera accepted the accuracy of their report of his comment about “wading” through blood, but deplored that the newspaper had published it.

More seriously, the majority of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) officers were also against the treaty and in March 1922, their ad-hoc Army Convention repudiated the authority of the Dáil to accept the treaty. The Anti-Treaty IRA formed their own “Army Executive”, which they declared to be the real government of the country, despite the result of the 1921 general election. On 26 April the Minister of Defence, Richard Mulcahy, summarised alleged illegal activities by many IRA men over the previous three months, whom he described as ’seceding volunteers’, including hundreds of robberies. Yet this fragmenting army was the only police force on the ground following the disintegration of the Irish Republican Police and the disbanding of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

By putting ten questions to General Mulcahy on 28 April, Seán McEntee argued that the Army Executive had acted continuously on its own to create a republic since 1917, had an unaltered constitution, had never fallen under the control of the Dáil, and that: “the only body competent to dissolve the Volunteer Executive was a duly convened convention of the Irish Republican Army” – not the Dáil. By accepting the treaty in January and abandoning the republic, the Dáil majority had effectively deserted the Army Executive. Then in a debate on defence, McEntee suggested that supporting the Army Executive “… even if it meant the scrapping of the Treaty and terrible and immediate war with England, would be better than the civil war which we are beginning at present apparently.” McEntee’s supporters added that the many robberies complained of by Mulcahy on 26 April were caused by the lack of payment and provision by the Dáil to the volunteers.

Descent into war

In the months leading up to the outbreak of civil war, there were a number of armed confrontations between the opposing IRA factions. In March, there was a major stand-off between up to 700 armed pro- and anti-treaty fighters in Limerick over who would occupy the military barracks being vacated by departing British troops. The situation was temporarily resolved in April when, after arbitration, the two sides agreed to occupy two barracks each. In April, a pro-treaty general, Adamson, was shot dead by anti-treatyites in Athlone. In early May, there was an even more serious clash in Kilkenny, when anti-treaty forces occupied the centre of the town and 200 pro-treaty troops were sent from Dublin to disperse them. On 3 May, the Dáil was informed 18 men had been killed in the fighting in Kilkenny. In a bid to avoid an all-out civil war, both sides agreed to a truce on 3 May 1922.

Delay until the June election

Collins established an “army re-unification committee” to re-unite the IRA and organised an election pact with de Valera’s anti-treaty political followers to campaign jointly in the Free State’s first election in 1922 and form a coalition government afterwards. He also tried to reach a compromise with anti-treaty IRA leaders by agreeing to a republican-type constitution (with no mention of the British monarchy) for the new state. IRA leaders such as Liam Lynch were prepared to accept this compromise. However, the proposal for a republican constitution was vetoed by the British as being contrary to the terms of the treaty and they threatened military intervention in the Free State unless the treaty were fully implemented. Collins reluctantly agreed. This completely undermined the electoral pact between the pro- and anti-treaty factions, who went into the Irish general election on 18 June 1922 as hostile parties, both calling themselves Sinn Féin.

The Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin party won the election with 239,193 votes to 133,864 for Anti-Treaty Sinn Féin. A further 247,226 people voted for other parties, most of whom supported the Treaty (although Labour’s 132,570 votes were ambiguous with regard to the Treaty). The election showed that a majority of the Irish electorate supported the treaty and the foundation of the Irish Free State, and that the Sinn Féin party did not represent the opinions of everyone in the new state, but de Valera, his political followers and most of the IRA continued to oppose the treaty. De Valera is quoted as saying, “the majority have no right to do wrong”.

Meanwhile, under the leadership of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, the pro-treaty Provisional Government set about establishing the Irish Free State, and organised the National Army – to replace the IRA – and a new police force. However, since it was envisaged that the new army would be built around the IRA, Anti-Treaty IRA units were allowed to take over British barracks and take their arms. In practice, this meant that by the summer of 1922, the Provisional Government of the Free State controlled only Dublin and some other areas like Longford where the IRA units supported the treaty. Fighting would ultimately break out when the Provisional Government tried to assert its authority over well-armed and intransigent Anti-Treaty IRA units around the country – particularly a hardline group in Dublin.

Dublin fighting

The Four Courts along the River Liffey quayside. The building was occupied by anti-treaty forces during the Civil War, whom the National Army subsequently bombarded into surrender. The Irish national archives in the buildings were destroyed in the subsequent fire. The building was badly damaged but was fully restored after the war.

On 14 April 1922, 200 Anti-Treaty IRA militants, led by Rory O’Connor, occupied the Four Courts and several other buildings in central Dublin, resulting in a tense stand-off. These anti-treaty Republicans wanted to spark a new armed confrontation with the British, which they hoped would unite the two factions of the IRA against their common enemy. However, for those who were determined to make the Free State into a viable, self-governing Irish state, this was an act of rebellion that would have to be put down by them rather than the British. Arthur Griffith was in favour of using force against these men immediately, but Michael Collins, who wanted at all costs to avoid civil war, left the Four Courts garrison alone until late June 1922. By this point the Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin party had secured a large majority in the general election, along with other parties that supported the Treaty. Collins was also coming under continuing pressure from London to assert his government’s authority in his capital.

The British lost patience as result of an action secretly ordered by Collins. He had Henry Hughes Wilson, a retired British Army field marshal, assassinated in London on 22 June because of his role in Northern Ireland.

Winston Churchill assumed that the Anti-Treaty IRA were responsible for the killing and warned Collins that he would use British troops to attack the Four Courts unless the Free State took action. In fact the British cabinet actually resolved to attack the Four Courts themselves on 25 June, in an operation that would have involved tanks, howitzers and aeroplanes. However, on the advice of General Nevil Macready, who commanded the British garrison in Dublin, the plan was cancelled at the last minute. Macready’s argument was that British involvement would have united Irish Nationalist opinion against the treaty and instead Collins was given a last chance to clear the Four Courts himself.

The final straw for the Free State government came on 27 June, when the Four Courts republican garrison kidnapped JJ “Ginger” O’Connell, a general in the new National Army. Collins, after giving the Four Courts garrison a final ultimatum to leave the building, decided to end the stand-off by bombarding the Four Courts garrison into surrender. The government then appointed Collins as Commander-in-Chief of the National Army. This attack was not the opening shots of the war as skirmishes had taken place between pro- and anti-treaty IRA factions throughout the country when the British were handing over the barracks. However, this represented the ‘point of no return’ when all-out war was ipso facto declared and the Civil War officially began.

Collins had accepted a British offer of artillery for use by the new army of the Free State (though General Macready gave just 200 shells of the 10,000 he had in store at Kilmainham barracks). The anti-treaty forces in the Four Courts, who possessed only small arms, surrendered after two days of bombardment and the storming of the building by Free State troops (June 28-30 1922). Shortly before the surrender of the Four Courts, a massive explosion destroyed the western wing of the complex including the Irish Public Record Office, injuring many advancing Free State soldiers and destroying the records of several centuries of government in Ireland. It was alleged by government supporters that the building had been deliberately mined. Historians dispute whether the PRO was intentionally destroyed by mines laid by the Republicans on their evacuation or if the explosions occurred when their ammunition store was accidentally ignited by the bombardment. Pitched battles continued in Dublin until 5 July, as Anti-Treaty IRA units from the Dublin Brigade, led by Oscar Traynor, occupied O’Connell Street – provoking a week’s more street fighting. The fighting cost both sides 65 killed and 280 wounded. Among the dead was Republican leader Cathal Brugha, who made his last stand after exiting the Granville Hotel. In addition, the Free State took over 500 Republican prisoners. The civilian casualties are estimated to have numbered well over 250.

When the fighting in Dublin died down, the Free State government was left firmly in control of the Irish capital and the anti-treaty forces dispersed around the country, mainly to the south and west.

The opposing forces

The outbreak of the Civil War forced pro- and anti-treaty supporters to choose sides. Supporters of the treaty came to be known as “pro-treaty” or “Free State Army”, legally the “National Army”, and were often called “Staters” by their opponents. The latter called themselves “Republicans” and were also known as “anti-treaty” forces, or “Irregulars”, a term preferred by the Free State side. The Anti-Treaty IRA claimed that it was defending the Irish Republic that had been declared in 1916 during the Easter Rising, that had been confirmed by the First Dáil and that had been invalidly set aside by those who accepted the compromise of the Free State. Éamon de Valera stated that he would serve as an ordinary IRA volunteer and left the leadership of the Anti-Treaty Republicans to military leaders such as Liam Lynch, the IRA Chief of Staff.

The Civil War split the IRA. When the Civil War broke out, the Anti-Treaty IRA (concentrated in the south and west) outnumbered the pro-Free State forces by roughly 15,000 men to 7,000 or over 2-1. (The paper strength of the IRA in early 1922 was over 72,000 men, but most of them were recruited during the truce with the British and fought in neither the War of Independence nor the Civil War). However, the Anti-Treaty IRA lacked an effective command structure, a clear strategy and sufficient arms. They started the war with only 6,780 rifles and a handful of machine guns. Many of their fighters were armed only with shotguns. They also took a handful of armoured cars from British troops as they were evacuating the country. More important still, they had no artillery of any kind. As a result, they were forced to adopt a defensive stance throughout the war.

By contrast, the Free State government managed to expand its forces dramatically after the start of the war. Michael Collins and his commanders were able to build up an army which was able to overwhelm their opponents in the field. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, armoured cars, machine guns, small arms and ammunition were much help to pro-treaty forces. The National Army amounted to 14,000 men by August 1922, was 38,000 strong by the end of 1922 and by the end of the war, it had swollen to 55,000 men and 3,500 officers, far in excess of what the Irish state would need to maintain in peacetime. Collins’ most ruthless officers and men were recruited from the Dublin “Active Service Unit” (the elite unit of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade), which Collins had commanded in the Irish War of Independence and in particular from his assassination unit, “The Squad”. In the new National Army, they were known as the Dublin Guard. Towards the end of the war, they were implicated in some notorious atrocities against anti-treaty guerrillas. Most of the National Army’s officers were Pro-Treaty IRA men, as were a substantial number of their soldiers. However, many of the new army’s other recruits were unemployed veterans of the First World War, where they had served in the Irish Division of the British Army. Former British Army officers were also recruited for their technical expertise. A number of the senior Free State commanders such as Emmet Dalton John T. Prout and W.R.E. Murphy had seen service as officers in World War One, Dalton and Murphy in the British Army and Prout in the US Army. The Republicans made much use of this fact in their propaganda — claiming that the Free State was only a proxy force for Britain itself. However, in fact, the majority of the Free State soldiers were raw recruits without military experience in either the First World War or the subsequent Irish War of Independence.

The Free State takes major towns

With Dublin in pro-treaty hands, conflict spread throughout the country. The war started with the anti-treaty forces holding Cork, Limerick and Waterford as part of a self-styled independent “Munster Republic”. However, since the anti-treaty side were not equipped to wage conventional war, Liam Lynch was unable to take advantage of the Republicans’ initial advantage in numbers and territory held. He hoped simply to hold the “Munster Republic” long enough to force Britain to re-negotiate the treaty.

The large towns in Ireland were all relatively easily taken by the Free State in August 1922. Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy and Eoin O’Duffy planned a nationwide Free State offensive, dispatching columns overland to take Limerick in the west and Waterford in the south-east and seaborne forces to take counties Cork and Kerry in the south and Mayo in the west. In the south, landings occurred at Union Hall in Co. Cork and Fenit, the port of Tralee, in Co. Kerry. Limerick fell on 20 July, Waterford on the same day and Cork city on 10 August after a Free State force landed by sea at Passage West. Another seaborne expedition to Mayo in the west secured government control over that part of the country. While in some places the Republicans had put up determined resistance, nowhere were they able to defeat regular forces armed with artillery and armour. The only real conventional battle during the Free State offensive, the Battle of Killmallock, was fought when Free State troops advanced south from Limerick.

Guerrilla war

Government victories in the major towns inaugurated a period of guerrilla warfare. After the fall of Cork, Liam Lynch ordered Anti-Treaty IRA units to disperse and form flying columns as they had when fighting the British. They held out in areas such as the western part of counties Cork and Kerry in the south, county Wexford in the east and counties Sligo and Mayo in the west. Sporadic fighting also took place around Dundalk, where Frank Aiken and the Fourth Northern Division of the Irish Republican Army were based and Dublin, where small scale but regular attacks were mounted on Free State troops.

August and September 1922 saw widespread attacks on Free State forces in the territories they had occupied in the July-August offensive, inflicting heavy casualties on them. In this period, the republicans also managed several relatively large-scale attacks on rural towns, involving several hundred fighters. Dundalk, for example was taken by Frank Aiken’s Anti-Treaty unit in a raid on 14 August, Kenmare in Kerry in a similar operation on 9 September and Clifden in Galway on 29 October. There were also unsuccessful assaults on for example Bantry, Cork on 30 August and Killorglin in Kerry on 30 September in which the Republicans took significant casualties. However as winter set in the republicans found it increasingly difficult to sustain their campaign and casualty rates among National Army troops dropped rapidly. For instance, in County Sligo, 54 people died in the conflict of whom all but 8 had been killed by the end of September.

In October 1922, Éamon de Valera and the anti-treaty Teachta Dála (TDs, Members of Parliament) set up their own “Republican government” in opposition to the Free State. However, by then the anti-treaty side held no significant territory and de Valera’s “government” had no authority over the population. In any case, the IRA leaders paid no attention to it, seeing the Republican authority as vested in their own military leaders.

In the autumn and winter of 1922, Free State forces broke up many of the larger Republican guerrilla units. In late September, for example, a sweep of northern county Sligo by Free State troops under Sean MacEoin successfully cornered the Anti-Treaty column which had been operating in the north of the county. Six of the column were killed and thirty captured, along with an armoured car. A similar sweep in Connemara in county Mayo in late November captured Anti-Treaty column commander Michael Kilroy and many of his fighters. December saw the capture of two separate Republican columns in the Meath/Kildare area. Intelligence gathered by Free State forces also led to the capture on 5 August of over 100 Republican fighters in Dublin, who were attempting to destroy bridges leading into the city and on 4 November Ernie O’Malley, commander of Anti-Treaty forces in Dublin was captured when National Army troops discovered his safe house. Elsewhere Anti-Treaty units were forced by lack of supplies and safe-houses to disperse into smaller groups, typically of nine to ten men.

An exception to this general rule was the activities of a column of Cork and Tipperary Anti-Treaty IRA fighters led by Tom Barry. In late December 1922, this group of around 100 men took a string of towns, first in Cork, then in Tipperary and finally Carrick on Suir, Thomastown and Mullinavat in county Kilkenny where the Free State troops surrendered and gave up their arms. However, even Barry’s force was not capable of holding any of the places it had taken and by January 1923 it had dispersed due to lack of food and supplies.

Despite these successes for the National Army, it took eight more months of intermittent warfare before the war was brought to an end. The guerrilla phase of the war was marked by assassinations and executions of leaders formerly allied in the cause of Irish independence. Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins was killed in an ambush by anti-treaty Republicans at Béal na mBláth, near his home in County Cork, in August 1922. Collins’ death increased the bitterness of the Free State leadership towards the Republicans and probably contributed to the subsequent descent of the conflict into a cycle of atrocities and reprisals. Arthur Griffith, the Free State president had also died of a brain hemorrhage ten days before, leaving the Free State government in the hands of W.T. Cosgrave and the Free State army under the command of General Richard Mulcahy.

By late 1922 and early 1923, the Anti Treaty guerrillas’ campaign had been reduced largely to acts of sabotage and destruction of public infrastructure such as roads and railways. In January 1923 the Great Southern and Western Railway released a report detailing the damage Anti-Treaty forces had caused to their property over the previous six months; 375 miles of line damaged, 42 engines derailed, 51 over-bridges and 207 under-bridges destroyed, 83 signal cabins and 13 other buildings destroyed. In the same month, Republicans destroyed the railway stations at Sligo, Ballybunnion and Listowel. It was also in this period that the Anti-Treaty IRA began burning the homes of Free State Senators and of many of the Anglo-Irish landed class.

End of the war

By early 1923, the offensive capability of the IRA had been seriously eroded and when, in February 1923, Republican leader Liam Deasy was captured by Free State forces, he called on the republicans to end their campaign and reach an accommodation with the Free State. The State’s executions of Anti-Treaty prisoners, 34 of whom were shot in January 1923, also took its toll on the Republicans’ morale.

In addition, the National Army’s operations in the field were slowly but steadily breaking up the remaining Republican concentrations. On 18 February, Anti-Treaty officer Dinny Lacey was killed and his column rounded up at the Glen of Aherlow in Tipperary. Lacey had been the head of the IRA’s 2nd Southern Division and his death crippled the Republican’s cause in the Tipperary/Waterford area. A meeting of the Anti-Treaty leadership on 26 February was told by their 1st Southern Division that, “in a short time we would not have a man left owing to the great number of arrests and casualties”. The Cork units reported they had suffered 29 killed and an unknown number captured in recent actions and, “if five men are arrested in each area, we are finished”.

March and April 1923 saw this progressive dismemberment of the Republican forces continue with the capture and sometimes killing of guerrilla columns. Among the more well known of these incidents was the wiping out of an Anti-Treaty IRA column under Tim Lyons (known as “Aeroplane”) in a cave near Kerry Head on 18 April. Three anti-treaty IRA men and two National Army soldiers were killed in the siege of the cave and the remaining five Republicans were taken prisoner and later executed. A National Army report of 11 April stated, “Events of the last few days point to the beginning of the end as a far as the irregular campaign is concerned”.

As the conflict petered out into a de facto victory for the pro-treaty side, de Valera asked the IRA leadership to call a ceasefire, but they refused. The Anti-Treaty IRA executive met on 26 March in county Tipperary to discuss the war’s future. Tom Barry proposed a motion to end the war, but it was defeated by 6 votes to 5. Éamon de Valera was allowed to attend, after some debate, but was given no voting rights.

Liam Lynch, the intransigent Republican leader, was killed in a skirmish in the Knockmealdown mountains in County Tipperary on 10 April. The National Army had extracted information from Republican prisoners in Dublin that the IRA Executive was in the area and as well as killing Lynch, they also captured senior Anti-Treaty IRA officers Dan Breen, Todd Andrews, Seán Gaynor and Frank Barrett in the operation. It is often suggested that the death of Lynch allowed the more pragmatic Frank Aiken, who took over as IRA Chief of Staff, to call a halt to what seemed a futile struggle. Aiken’s accession to IRA leadership was followed on 30 April by the declaration of a ceasefire on behalf of the anti-treaty forces. On 24 May 1923, Aiken followed this with an order to IRA volunteers to dump arms rather than surrender them or continue a fight which they were incapable of winning.

Éamon de Valera supported the order, issuing a statement to Anti-Treaty fighters on 24 May:

“Soldiers of the Republic. Legion of the Rearguard: The Republic can no longer be defended successfully by your arms. Further sacrifice of life would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest and prejudicial to the future of our cause. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.”

Thousands of Anti-Treaty IRA members (including Éamon de Valera on 15 August) were arrested by the Free State forces in the weeks and months after the end of the war, when they had dumped their arms and returned home.

The Free State government had started peace negotiations in early May which broke down. Without a formal peace, holding 13,000 prisoners and worried that fighting could break out again at any time, it enacted the Emergency Powers Act on 2 July by a vote of 37 – 13.

In October 1923 around 8,000 of the 12,000 Republican prisoners in Free State gaols went on hunger strike. The strike lasted for forty one days and met little success. However, most of the women prisoners were released shortly thereafter and the hunger strike helped concentrate the Republican movement on the prisoners and their associated organisations. In July de Valera had recognised the Republican political interests lay with the prisoners and went so far as to say:

“The whole future of our cause and of the nation depends in my opinion upon the spirit of the prisoners in the camps and in the jails. You are the repositories of the NATIONAL FAITH AND WILL.”

Ceasefire

End of the war

By early 1923, the offensive capability of the IRA had been seriously eroded and when, in February 1923, Republican leader Liam Deasy was captured by Free State forces, he called on the republicans to end their campaign and reach an accommodation with the Free State. The State’s executions of Anti-Treaty prisoners, 34 of whom were shot in January 1923, also took its toll on the Republicans’ morale.

Liam Lynch, Republican Chief of Staff, killed in April 1923

Liam Lynch, Republican Chief of Staff, killed in April 1923

In addition, the National Army’s operations in the field were slowly but steadily breaking up the remaining Republican concentrations. On 18 February, Anti-Treaty officer Dinny Lacey was killed and his column rounded up at the Glen of Aherlow in Tipperary. Lacey had been the head of the IRA’s 2nd Southern Division and his death crippled the Republican’s cause in the Tipperary/Waterford area. A meeting of the Anti-Treaty leadership on 26 February was told by their 1st Southern Division that, “in a short time we would not have a man left owing to the great number of arrests and casualties”. The Cork units reported they had suffered 29 killed and an unknown number captured in recent actions and, “if five men are arrested in each area, we are finished”.

March and April 1923 saw this progressive dismemberment of the Republican forces continue with the capture and sometimes killing of guerrilla columns. Among the more well known of these incidents was the wiping out of an Anti-Treaty IRA column under Tim Lyons (known as “Aeroplane”) in a cave near Kerry Head on 18 April. Three anti-treaty IRA men and two National Army soldiers were killed in the siege of the cave and the remaining five Republicans were taken prisoner and later executed. A National Army report of 11 April stated, “Events of the last few days point to the beginning of the end as a far as the irregular campaign is concerned”.

As the conflict petered out into a de facto victory for the pro-treaty side, de Valera asked the IRA leadership to call a ceasefire, but they refused. The Anti-Treaty IRA executive met on 26 March in county Tipperary to discuss the war’s future. Tom Barry proposed a motion to end the war, but it was defeated by 6 votes to 5. Éamon de Valera was allowed to attend, after some debate, but was given no voting rights.

Liam Lynch, the intransigent Republican leader, was killed in a skirmish in the Knockmealdown mountains in County Tipperary on 10 April. The National Army had extracted information from Republican prisoners in Dublin that the IRA Executive was in the area and as well as killing Lynch, they also captured senior Anti-Treaty IRA officers Dan Breen, Todd Andrews, Seán Gaynor and Frank Barrett in the operation. It is often suggested that the death of Lynch allowed the more pragmatic Frank Aiken, who took over as IRA Chief of Staff, to call a halt to what seemed a futile struggle. Aiken’s accession to IRA leadership was followed on 30 April by the declaration of a ceasefire on behalf of the anti-treaty forces. On 24 May 1923, Aiken followed this with an order to IRA volunteers to dump arms rather than surrender them or continue a fight which they were incapable of winning.

Éamon de Valera supported the order, issuing a statement to Anti-Treaty fighters on 24 May:

“Soldiers of the Republic. Legion of the Rearguard: The Republic can no longer be defended successfully by your arms. Further sacrifice of life would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest and prejudicial to the future of our cause. Military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic.”

Thousands of Anti-Treaty IRA members (including Éamon de Valera on 15 August) were arrested by the Free State forces in the weeks and months after the end of the war, when they had dumped their arms and returned home.

The Free State government had started peace negotiations in early May which broke down. Without a formal peace, holding 13,000 prisoners and worried that fighting could break out again at any time, it enacted the Emergency Powers Act on 2 July by a vote of 37 – 13.

In October 1923 around 8,000 of the 12,000 Republican prisoners in Free State gaols went on hunger strike. The strike lasted for forty one days and met little success. However, most of the women prisoners were released shortly thereafter and the hunger strike helped concentrate the Republican movement on the prisoners and their associated organisations. In July De valera had recognised the Republican political interests lay with the prisoners and went so far as to say:

“The whole future of our cause and of the nation depends in my opinion upon the spirit of the prisoners in the camps and in the jails. You are the repositories of the NATIONAL FAITH AND WILL”

Attacks on former Loyalists

Although the cause of the Civil War was the treaty, as the war developed the Republicans sought to identify their actions with the traditional Republican cause of the “men of no property” and the result was that large Anglo-Irish landowners and some not very well-off former Protestant Loyalists were attacked. A total of 192 “stately homes” of the old landed class were destroyed by Republicans during the war.

The stated reason for such attacks was that some landowners had become Free State senators. Among the prominent senators whose homes were attacked were: Palmerstown House near Naas which belonged to the Earl of Mayo, Moore Hall in Mayo (the house of Oliver St. John Gogarty, who also survived an assassination attempt), Horace Plunkett (who had helped to establish the rural co-operative schemes), and Senator Henry Guinness (which was unsuccessful). Also burned was Marlfield House in Clonmel, the home of Senator John Philip Bagwell with its extensive library of historical documents. Bagwell was kidnapped and held in the Dublin Mountains, but later released when reprisals were threatened.

However, in addition to their allegiance to the Free State, there were also other factors behind Republican animosity towards the old landed class. Many, but not all of these people, had supported the Crown forces during the War of Independence. This support was often largely moral, but sometimes it took the form of actively assisting the British in the conflict. Such attacks should have ended with the Truce of 11 July 1921, but they continued after the truce and escalated during the Civil War.

Though the Wyndham Act of 1903 allowed tenants to buy land from their landlords some small farmers, particularly in Mayo and Galway simply occupied land belonging to political opponents during this period when the RIC had ceased to function. In 1919, senior Sinn Féin officials were sufficiently concerned at this unilateral action that they instituted Arbitration Courts to adjudicate disputes. Sometimes these attacks had sectarian overtones, although most Anti-Treaty IRA men made no distinction between Catholic and Protestant supporters of the Irish government.

In July 1922 a Protestant orphanage near Clifden, County Galway, housing 32 children was burnt by the anti-treaty side. The children were subsequently transferred to England on board a British destroyer as the Free State government was unable to rescue them. The proselytising aspect of the Society for Irish Church Missions, which ran the institutions, had long been a source of local resentment.

Controversy continues to this day about the extent of intimidation of Protestants at this time. Many left Ireland during and after the Civil War. Dr Andy Bielenberg of UCC considers that about 41,000 left Ireland between 1919 and 1923, who were not linked to the former British administration. He has found that a “high watermark” of this 41,000 left between 1921 and 1923.

Casualties

The Civil War, though short, was bloody. It cost the lives of many public figures, including Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Liam Lynch. Both sides carried out brutal acts: the anti-treaty forces murdered TDs and burned many historic homes, while the government executed anti-treaty prisoners, officially and unofficially.

Precise figures for the dead and wounded have yet to be calculated. The pro-treaty forces may have suffered between 540-800 fatalities, and the anti-treaty forces appear to have received considerably heavier losses. There is, as yet, no figure for civilian deaths. A maximum figure of 4,000 deaths has been suggested.

The new police force was not involved in the war, which meant that it was well-placed to develop into an unarmed and politically neutral police service after the war. The Criminal Investigation Department, or CID, a 350 strong, armed, plain-clothed Police Corps that had been established during the conflict for the purposes of counter-insurgency, was disbanded in October 1923, shortly after the conflict’s end.

Economic costs

The economic costs of the war were also high. As their forces abandoned their fixed positions in July-August 1922, the Republicans burned many administrative buildings and businesses they had been occupying. In addition, their subsequent guerrilla campaign caused much destruction and the economy of the Free State suffered a hard blow in the earliest days of its existence as a result. The material damage caused by the war to property came to over £30 million. Particularly damaging to the Free State’s economy was the systematic destruction of railway infrastructure and roads by the Republicans. In addition, the cost to the Free State of waging the war came to another £17 million. By September 1923 Deputy Hogan estimated the cost at £50 million. The new State ended 1923 with a budget deficit of over £4 million. This weakened financial situation meant that the new state could not pay its share of Imperial debt under the treaty, and this adversely affected the boundary negotiations in 1924-25, which left the border with Northern Ireland unchanged. Further, the state undertook to pay for damage caused to property between the truce of July 1921 and the end of the Civil War; W.T. Cosgrave told the Dáil:

“Every Deputy in this House is aware of the complaint which has been made that the measure of compensation for post-Truce damage compares unfavourably with the awards for damage suffered pre-Truce.”

Political results

The fact that the Irish Civil War was fought between Irish Nationalist factions meant that the issue of Northern Ireland was ignored and Ireland was spared what could have been a far bloodier civil war based on ethnic and sectarian lines over the future of Ireland’s six north-eastern counties. In fact, because of the Irish Civil War, Northern Ireland was able to consolidate its existence and partition of Ireland was confirmed for the foreseeable future. The war confirmed the northern Unionists’ existing prejudices against the ethos of all shades of nationalism. Collins, up to the outbreak of the Civil War and possibly until his death, had been planning to launch a clandestine guerrilla campaign against the North and was funnelling arms to the northern units of the IRA to this end. This may have led to open hostilities between North and South had the Irish Civil War not broken out. In the event, it was only well after their defeat in the Civil War that anti-treaty Irish Republicans seriously considered whether to take armed action against British rule in Northern Ireland (the first serious suggestion to do this came in the late 1930s). The northern units of the IRA largely supported the Free State side in the Civil War because of Collins’s policies and over 500 of them joined the new Free State’s National Army.

The cost of the war and the budget deficit it caused was a difficulty for the new Free State and affected the Boundary Commission negotiations of 1925, which were to determine the border with Northern Ireland. The Free State agreed to waive its claim to predominantly Nationalist areas in Northern Ireland and in return its agreed share of the Imperial debt under the 1921 Treaty was not paid.

In 1926, having failed to persuade the majority of the Anti-Treaty IRA or the anti-treaty party of Sinn Féin to accept the new status quo as a basis for an evolving Republic, a large faction led by de Valera and Aiken left to resume constitutional politics and to found the Fianna Fáil party. Whereas Fianna Fáil was to become the dominant party in Irish politics, Sinn Féin became a small, isolated political party. The IRA, then much more numerous and influential than Sinn Féin, remained associated with Fianna Fáil (though not directly) until banned by de Valera in 1935.

In 1927, Fianna Fáil members took the Oath of Allegiance and entered the Dáil, effectively recognising the legitimacy of the Free State. The Free State was already moving towards independence by this point. In 1931, under the Statute of Westminster, the British Parliament gave up its right to legislate for members of the British Commonwealth. When elected to power in 1932, Fianna Fáil under de Valera set about dismantling what they considered to be objectionable features of the treaty, abolishing the Oath of Allegiance, removing the power of the Office of Governor General (British representative in Ireland) and abolishing the Senate, which was dominated by former Unionists and pro-treaty Nationalists. In 1937, they passed a new constitution which made a President the head of state, did not mention any allegiance to the British monarch and which included a territorial claim to Northern Ireland. The following year Britain returned without conditions the seaports it had kept under the terms of the treaty. Finally in 1948, a coalition government, containing elements of both sides in the Civil War (pro-treaty Fine Gael and anti-treaty Clann na Poblachta) left the British Commonwealth and re-named the Free State the Republic of Ireland. Thus, by the 1950s, with the exception of the partition of Ireland, the issues over which the Civil War had been fought were largely settled.

Legacy

As with most civil wars, the internecine conflict left a bitter legacy, which continues to influence Irish politics to this day. The two largest political parties in the republic are still Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the descendants respectively of the anti-treaty and pro-treaty forces of 1922. Until the 1970s, almost all of Ireland’s prominent politicians were veterans of the Civil War, a fact which poisoned the relationship between Ireland’s two biggest parties. Examples of Civil War veterans include: Republicans Éamon de Valera, Frank Aiken, Todd Andrews, and Seán Lemass, Free State supporters W. T. Cosgrave, Richard Mulcahy and Kevin O’Higgins. Moreover, many of these men’s sons and daughters also became politicians, meaning that the personal wounds of the civil war were felt over three generations. In the 1930s after Fianna Fáil took power for the first time, it looked possible for a while that the Civil War might break out again between the IRA and the pro-Free State Blueshirts. Fortunately, this crisis was averted and by the 1950s, political violence was no longer prominent in politics in the Republic of Ireland.

However, the breakaway IRA continued (and continues in various forms) to exist. It was not until 1948 that the IRA renounced military attacks on the forces of the southern Irish state – now the Republic of Ireland. After this point the organisation dedicated itself primarily to the end of British rule in Northern Ireland. Up until the 1980s the IRA Army Council still claimed to be the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic declared in 1918 and annulled by the Treaty of 1921. Some people, notably Michael McDowell, claim that this attitude, which dates from the Civil War,  still underpins the politics of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Ambushes

Béal na mBláth, Co. Cork, August 1922

Michael Collins

Michael Collins

The last known photograph of Collins alive was taken as he made his way through Bandon, County Cork in the back of an army vehicle. He is pictured outside White’s Hotel (now Munster Arms) on 22 August 1922. On the road to Bandon, at the village of Béal na mBláth (Irish, “the Mouth of Flowers”), Collins’ column stopped to ask directions. However the man whom they asked, Dinny Long, was also a member of the local Anti-Treaty IRA. An ambush was then prepared for the convoy when it made its return journey back to Cork city. They knew Collins would return by the same route as the two other roads from Bandon to Cork had been rendered impassable by Republicans. The ambush party, allegedly commanded by Liam Deasy, had mostly dispersed to a nearby pub by 8:00 p.m., when Collins and his men returned to Béal na mBlath but the remaining five ambushers on the scene opened fire on Collins’ convoy. The ambushers had laid a mine on the scene, which could have killed many more people in Collins’ party, however they had disconnected it by the time the firing broke out.

Collins was killed in the subsequent gun battle, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:20 p.m. He was the only fatality in the action. He had ordered his convoy to stop and return fire, instead of choosing the safer option of driving on in his touring car or transferring to the safety of the accompanying armoured car, as his companion, Emmet Dalton, had wished. He was killed while exchanging rifle fire with the ambushers. Under the cover of the armoured car, Collins’ body was loaded into the touring car and driven back to Cork. Collins was 31 years old; At the time of his death, he was engaged to Kitty Kiernan.

There is no consensus as to who fired the fatal shot. The most recent authoritative account suggests that the shot was fired by Denis (”Sonny”) O’Neill, an Anti-Treaty IRA fighter and a former British Army marksman who died in 1950. This is supported by eyewitness accounts of the participants in the ambush. O’Neill was using dum-dum ammunition, which disintegrates on impact and which left a gaping wound in Collins’ skull. He dumped the remaining bullets afterwards for fear of reprisals by Free State troops. Collins’ men brought his body back to Cork where it was then shipped to Dublin because it was feared the body might be stolen in an ambush if it were transported by road. His body lay in state for three days in Dublin City Hall where tens of thousands of mourners filed past his coffin to pay their respects. His funeral mass took place at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral where a number of foreign and Irish dignitaries were in attendance.

Collins’ shooting has provoked many conspiracy theories in Ireland, and even the identity and motives of the assassin are subject to debate. Some Republicans maintain that Collins was killed by a British “plant”. Some Pro-Treaty accounts claim that de Valera ordered Collins’ assassination. Others allege that he was killed by one of his own soldiers, Jock McPeak, who defected to the Republican side with an armoured car three months after the ambush.  However, historian Meda Ryan, who researched the incident exhaustively, concluded that there was no real basis for such theories. “Michael Collins was shot by a Republican, who said [on the night of the ambush], ‘I dropped one man’”. Liam Deasy, who was in command of the ambush party, said, “we all knew it was Sonny Neill’s bullet.”

1916 Easter Rising

The Easter Rising (Irish: Éirí Amach na Cásca), was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing an Irish Republic. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798.

Organised by the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Rising lasted from Easter Monday 24 April to 30 April 1916. Members of the Irish Volunteers, led by schoolteacher and barrister Patrick Pearse, joined by the smaller Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, along with 200 members of Cumann na mBan, seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic independent of Britain. There were some actions in other parts of Ireland but, except for the attack on the RIC barracks at Ashbourne, County Meath, they were minor.

O'Connell Street, Dublin after the Easter Rising

O’Connell Street, Dublin after the Easter Rising

The Rising was suppressed after seven days of fighting, and its leaders were court-martialled and executed, but it succeeded in bringing physical force republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics. In the 1918 General Election, the last all-island election held in Ireland, to the British Parliament, Republicans won 73 seats out of 105, on a policy of abstentionism from Westminster and Irish independence. This came less than two years after the Rising. In January 1919, the elected members of Sinn Féin who were not still in prison at the time, including survivors of the Rising, convened the First Dáil and established the Irish Republic. The British Government refused to accept the legitimacy of the newly declared nation, leading to the Irish War of Independence.

Planning the Rising

Tom Clarke Fenian

The Supreme Council of the IRB met on 5 September 1914, a month after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. At this meeting they decided to stage a rising before the war ended and to accept whatever help Germany might offer. Responsibility for the planning of the rising was given to Tom Clarke and Sean Mac Dermott. The Irish Volunteers, the smaller of the two forces resulting from the September 1914 split over support for the British war effort, set up a “headquarters staff” that included Patrick Pearse as Director of Military Organisation, Joseph Plunkett as Director of Military Operations and Thomas MacDonagh as Director of Training. Eamonn Ceant was later added as Director of Communications. In May 1915 Clarke and MacDermott established a Military Committee within the IRB, consisting of Pearse, Plunkett and Ceannt, to draw up plans for a rising. This dual rôle allowed the Committee, to which Clarke and MacDermott added themselves shortly afterwards, to promote their own policies and personnel independently of both the Volunteer Executive and the IRB Executive—in particular Volunteer Chief of Staff  Eoin MacNeill, who was opposed to a rising unless popular support was secured by the introduction of conscription or an attempt to suppress the Volunteers or its leaders, and IRB President Denis McCullough, who held similar views. IRB members held officer rank in the Volunteers throughout the country and would take their orders from the Military Committee, not from MacNeill.Plunkett had travelled to Germany in April 1915 to join Roger Casement. Casement had gone there from the United States the previous year with the support of Clan na Gael leader John Devoy, and after discussions with the German Ambassador in Washington, count von Bernstorf, to try to recruit an “Irish Brigade” from among Irish prisoners of war and secure German support for Irish independence. Together Plunkett and Casement presented a plan which involved a German expeditionary force landing on the west coast of Ireland, while a rising in Dublin diverted the British forces so that the Germans, with the help of local Volunteers, could secure the line of the River Shannon.

James Connolly, head of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), a group of armed socialist trade union men and women, was unaware of the IRB’s plans, and threatened to start a rebellion on his own if other parties failed to act. If they had gone it alone, the IRB and the Volunteers would possibly have come to their aid, however the IRB leaders met with Connolly in January 1916 and convinced him to join forces with them. They agreed to act together the following Easter and made Connolly the sixth member of the Military Committee. Thomas MacDonagh would later become the seventh and final member.

Build-up to Easter Week

Sean Mac Dermott

Sean Mac Dermott

In an effort to thwart informers and, indeed, the Volunteers’ own leadership, Pearse issued orders in early April for three days of “parades and manoeuvres” by the Volunteers for Easter Sunday (which he had the authority to do, as Director of Organization). The idea was that the republicans within the organization (particularly IRB members) would know exactly what this meant, while men such as MacNeill and the British authorities in Dublin Castle would take it at face value. However, MacNeill got wind of what was afoot and threatened to “do everything possible short of phoning Dublin Castle” to prevent the rising.MacNeill was briefly convinced to go along with some sort of action when Mac Diarmada revealed to him that a shipment of German arms was about to land in county Kerry, planned by the IRB in conjunction with Roger casement; he was certain that the authorities discovery of such a shipment would inevitably lead to suppression of the Volunteers, thus the Volunteers were justified in taking defensive action (including the originally planned maneuvers). Casement, disappointed with the level of support offered by the Germans, returned to Ireland on a German U Boat and was captured upon landing at Banna Strand in Tralee Bay. The arms shipment, aboard the German ship Aud — disguised as a Norwegian fishing trawler—had been scuttled after interception by the British navy, after the local Volunteers had failed to rendezvous with it.

The following day, MacNeill reverted to his original position when he found out that the ship carrying the arms had been scuttled. With the support of other leaders of like mind, notably Bulmer Hobson and The O’Rahilly, he issued a countermand to all Volunteers, canceling all actions for Sunday. This only succeeded in putting the rising off for a day, although it greatly reduced the number of Volunteers who turned out.

One of two flags flown over the GPO during the Rising

One of two flags flown over the GPO during the Rising

British Naval Intelligence had been aware of the arms shipment, Casement’s return and the Easter date for the rising through radio messages between Germany and its embassy in the United States that were intercepted by the Navy and deciphered in Room 40 of the Admiralty. The information was passed to the Under Secretary for Ireland, Sir  matthew nathan, on 17 April, but without revealing its source, and Nathan was doubtful about its accuracy. When news reached Dublin of the capture of the Aud and the arrest of Casement, Nathan conferred with the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Wimborne. Nathan proposed to raid Liberty Hall, headquarters of the Citizen Army, and Volunteer properties at Father Matthew Park and at Kimmage, but Wimborne was insisting on wholesale arrests of the leaders. It was decided to postpone action until after Easter Monday and in the meantime Nathan telegraphed the chief Secretary,Augustine Birrell, in London seeking his approval. By the time Birrell cabled his reply authorising the action, at noon on Monday 24 April 1916, the Rising had already begun.

Day 1  MONDAY

Early on Monday morning, April 24, 1916, roughly 1,200 Volunteers and Citizen Army members took over strongpoints in Dublin city centre. A joint force of about 400 Volunteers and Citizen Army gathered at Liberty hall under the command of Commandant James Connolly.

The rebel headquarters was located at the  GPO where James Connolly, overal military commander and four other members of the Military Council: Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke,, Sean Mac Dermottand Joseph Plunkett, were located.After occupying the Post Office, the Volunteers hoisted two republican flags and Pearse read a Proclamation of the Republic.

Elsewhere, rebel forces took up positions at the Four Courts, the centre of the Irish legal establishment, at Jacobs Biscuit Factory and Boland’s Mill and at the hospital complex at South Dublin Union and the adjoining Distillery at Marrowbone Lane. Another contingent, under Michal Mallin, dug in on st. Stephens green.

However, although it was lightly guarded, Volunteer and Citizen Army forces under Seán Connolly failed to take Dublin Castle, the centre of British rule in Ireland, shooting dead a police sentry and overpowering the soldiers in the guardroom, but failing to press home the attack. The Under-secretary, Sir matthew nathan, was alerted by the shots and helped close the castle gates. The rebels occupied the Dublin City hall and adjacent buildings. They also failed to take Trinity College, which was located in the heart of the city centre and which was defended by only a handful of armed, unionist students. At midday a small team of Volunteers and Fianna members attacked the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix park and disarmed the guards, with the intent to seize weapons and blow up the building as a signal that the rising had begun. They set explosives but failed to obtain any arms.

In at least two incidents, at Jacobs and Stephens Green, the Volunteers and Citizen Army shot dead civilians who were trying to attack them or dismantle their barricades. Elsewhere, they hit civilians with their rifle butts to drive them off.

The British military were caught totally unprepared by the rebellion and their response of the first day was generally un-coordinated.Two troops of British cavalry, one at the Four Courts, the other on O’Connell Street, sent out to investigate what was happening, took fire and casualites from rebel forces  On Mount Street, a group of reserve volunteer soldiers, stumbled upon the rebel position and four were killed before they reached Beggars Bush Barracks.

The only substantial combat of the first day of the Rising took place at the South Dublin Union where a piquet from the Royal Irish regiment, encountered an outpost of Éamonn Ceannt’s force at the north-western corner of the South Dublin Union. The British troops, after taking some casualties, managed to regroup and launch several assaults on the position before they forced their way inside and the small rebel force in the tin huts at the eastern end of the Union surrendered. However, the Union complex as a whole remained in rebel hands.

Three of the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police were shot dead on the first day of the Rising and their Commissioner pulled them off the streets. Partly as result of the withdrawal of the police, a wave of looting broke out in the city centre, especially in the O’Connell Street area. A total of 425 people were arrested after the Rising for looting.

Tuesday to Saturday

“Birth of the Irish Republic” by Walter Paget, depicting the GPO during the shelling

“Birth of the Irish Republic” by Walter Paget, depicting the GPO during the shelling

Lord Wimborne, the Lord Lieutenant, declared martial law on Tuesday evening and handed over civil power to Brigadier-General W H M Lowe. British forces initially put their efforts into securing the approaches to Dublin Castle and isolating the rebel headquarters, which they believed was in Libert hall. The British commander, Lowe, worked slowly, unsure of the size of the force he was up against, and with only 1,269 troops in the city when he arrived from the Curragh camp in the early hours of Tuesday 25 April. City Hall was taken from the rebel unit that had attacked Dublin Castle on Tuesday morning.

By the end of the week, British strength stood at over 16,000 men.  Their firepower was provided by field artillery summoned from their garrison at Athlone which they positioned on the northside of the city at Phibsborough and at Trinity College, and by the patrol vessel helga, which sailed up the Liffey, having been summoned from the port at Kingstown. On Wednesday, 26 April, the guns at Trinity College and Helgashelled Liberty Hall, and the Trinity College guns then began firing at rebel positions, first at Boland’s Mill and then in O’Connell Street.

Combat

The principal rebel positions at the GPO, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory and Boland’s Mill saw little combat. The British surrounded and bombarded them them rather than assault them directly. One Volunteer in the GPO recalled, “we did practically no shooting as there was no target”.  Similarly the rebel position at St. Stephen’s Green, held by the Citizen Army under Michael Mallin, was made untenable after the British placed snipers and machine guns in the Shelbourne Hotel and surrounding buildings. As a result, Mallin’s men retreated to the Royal College of Surgeons building where they remained for the rest of the week. However, where the insurgents dominated the routes by which the British tried to funnel reinforcements into the city, there was fierce fighting.

Reinforcements were sent to Dublin from England, and disembarked at Kingstown on the morning of 26 April. Heavy fighting occurred at the rebel-held positions around the Grand canal as these troops advanced towards Dublin. The Sherwood Foresters were repeatedly caught in a cross-fire trying to cross the canal at Mount Street. Seventeen Volunteers were able to severely disrupt the British advance, killing or wounding 240 men. Despite there being alternative routes across the canal nearby, General Lowe ordered repeated frontal assaults on the Mount Street position. The British eventually took the position, which had not been reinforced by the nearby rebel garrison at Boland’s Mills, on Thursday  but the fighting there inflicted up to two thirds of their casualties for the entire week for a cost of just four dead Volunteers.

The rebel position at the South Dublin Union (site of the present day St James Hospital) and Marrowbone Lane, further west along the canal, also inflicted heavy losses on British troops. The South Dublin Union was a large complex of buildings and there was vicious fighting around and inside the buildings. Cathal Brugha, a rebel officer, distinguished himself in this action and was badly wounded. By the end of the week the British had taken some of the buildings in the Union, but others remained in rebel hands.  British troops also took casualties in unsuccessful frontal assaults on the Marrowbone Lane Distillery.

The third major scene of combat during the week was at North King Street, behind the Four Courts, where the British, on Thursday, tried to take a well-barricaded rebel position. By the time of the rebel headquarter’s surrender, the South Staffordshire Regiment  under Colonel Taylor had advanced only 150 yeards down the street at a cost of 11 dead and 28 wounded.  The enraged troops broke into the houses along the street and shot or bayonetted 15 male civilians whom they accused of being rebel fighters.

Elsewhere, at Portobello Barracks, an officer named Bowen Colthurst summarily executed six civilians, including the pacifist nationalist activist, Francis-Sheehy Skeffington.  These instances of British troops killing Irish civilians would later be highly controversial in Ireland.

Surrender

The headquarters garrison at the GPO, after days of shelling, was forced to abandon their headquarters when fire caused by the shells spread to the GPO. Connolly had been incapacitated by a bullet wound to the ankle and has passed command on to Pearse. The O’Rahilly was killed in a sortie from the GPO. They tunneled through the walls of the neighbouring buildings in order to evacuate the Post Office without coming under fire and took up a new position in 16 Moore Street. On Saturday 29 April, from this new headquarters, after realizing that they could not break out of this position without further loss of civilian life, Pearse issued an order for all companies to surrender. Pearse surrendered unconditionally to Brigadier-General Lowe. The surrender document read:

“In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and County will order their commands to lay down arms.”