Irish Civil War

Irish Civil War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Irish Civil War

caption= Free State snipers near Stephen's Green during the Battle of Dublin.
date=June 28 1922 – May 24 1923
(executions and deaths continued after May 1923; amnesty declared on November 8 1924)
casus=Acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
result=Confirmation of Irish Free State and defeat of anti-Treaty IRA forces
combatant2=flagicon|Ireland Irish Republican Army (1922-1969) (anti-Treaty)
combatant1=flagicon|Ireland National Army (pro-Treaty){included Dublin Guard};
Irish Air Corps {10 aircraft};
Irish Navy{1 ship}
commander2=Liam Lynch†
Frank Aiken
commander1=Michael Collins
Richard Mulcahy
strength2= c. 15,000 anti-Treaty IRA Volunteers
strength1= National Army c. 55,000 men, 3500 officers by the end of the war
casualties2= unknown number of anti-treaty IRA, c. 2000-3000 killed (incl. 77 official executions), over 12,000 taken prisoner [Michael Hopkinson, "Green Against Green", p 272-273]
casualties1= c. 800 Irish Army killed
3 Garda Siochána killed [ibid]
1 Civic Guard & 4 Oriel House CID died {Accident/killed/DOW}
casualties3= Civilians: (unknown, c. 250 casualties in Dublin fighting alone) [Paul V Walsh, "The Irish Civil War - A study of the conventional phase"]

The Irish Civil War [Irish: "Cogadh Cathartha na hÉireann"] (June 28 1922 – May 24 1923) pitted supporters of the Anglo-Irish Treaty against its opponents. The treaty established the Irish Free State under British dominion and without the six counties of Northern Ireland. The Civil War claimed more lives than the War of Independence that preceded it and left Irish society deeply divided. Its influence in Irish politics remains evident today.


The treaty

name=Irish Civil War
battles= Dublin - Free State offensive - Kilmallock - Executions.
name=Creation of independent Irish state
battles=Easter Rising (1916) - War of Independence (1919-21) - Civil War (1922-23)

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. [ Anglo-Irish Treaty, 6 December 1921] ] 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". [ Anglo-Irish Treaty, 6 December 1921] ]
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 Westminister 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.

plit in the Nationalist movement

"See also: IRA and the Anglo-Irish Treaty"

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.
Dáil Éireann (the parliament of the Irish Republic) narrowly passed the Anglo-Irish Treaty by 64 votes to 57 on January 7 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 and the Irish Republic 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.

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. [ [ Richard Mulcahy's report on 26 April 1922] ] 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. [ [ McEntee's 10 questions of 28 April] ] 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." [ [ Comment's on Mulcahy's report, 28 April] ] 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. [Noel C. Harrington, The Kerry Landing, p.13] 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. [Hopkinson, Green against Green, p. 75] On 3 May, the Dáil was informed 18 men had been killed in the fighting in Kilkenny. [ [ Debate of 3 May on the need for a truce] ] In a bid to avoid an all-out civil war, both sides agreed to a truce on May 3, 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. [Helen Litton, The Irish Civil War, an Illustrated History, p.63, "Collins was summoned to London... and informed that the draft constitution would have to be altered to acknowledge the authority of the Crown, to include an Oath and to recognise Northern Ireland", Michael Hopkinson, Green against Green, p.107, " Winston Churchill told a concerned House of Commons... that a Republic could not be tolerated. He warned that, 'in the event of such a Republic, it will be the intention of the Government to hold Dublin as one of the preliminary essential steps to military operations'] Collins reluctantly agreed. This completely undermined the electoral pact between the pro- and anti-treaty factions, who went into the Irish general election on June 18 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, all of whom supported 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". [M.E. Collins, "Ireland 1868-1966", p.297]

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.

Course of the war

"See also Chronology of the Irish Civil War"

Dublin fighting

On 14 April 1922, 200 Anti-Treaty IRA militants, led by Rory O'Connor, occupied the Four Courts in Dublin, resulting in a tense stand-off. [TM Healy wrote of the occupation in late March: "The Freeman published, on 26th March, an account of the secret debate of the mutineers supplied by the Provisional Government, whereupon Rory O'Connor sallied from the Four Courts and smashed its machinery. He had been levying toll on the civil population for weeks." See [] .] [Calton Younger, "Ireland's Civil War", Muller, London 1968; pp.258-259. Younger gives the date as 14 April.] 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 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 [after the election] drew what appeared to them to be the obvious conclusion that it was time for the Provisional Government to assert its authority" Hopkinson, Green against Green, p.111]

The British lost patience as result of an action ordered by Collins. He had Henry Hughes Wilson, a retired British Army field marshal, assassinated in London on June 22 because of his role in Northern Ireland. [Michael Hopkinson, "Green Against Green", page 112, "Joe Sweeney, the pro-treaty military leader in Donegal, recorded meeting Collins shortly after the assassination. He told Ernie O'Malley, 'Collins told me he had arranged the shooting of Wilson... he looked very pleased'. Frank Thornton one of Collins old Squad recalled that the killing was carried out on the direct orders of GHQ. Mick Murphy of Cork no 1 Brigade, said that when in London he had been asked to take part in the plot explaining, 'they had instructions then from Michael Collins to shoot Wilson' ... statements from Collins' intelligence agents point to fresh instruction being given in June. It is clear also that [Reginald] Dunne [the assassin] and spent some time closeted with him".ME Collins, "Ireland 1868-1966", p229, "Evidence has since come to light proving it was Collins, enraged by Wilson's role in the north, who ordered the killing".Niall C Hartigan, "The Kerry Landings", p29, "It is probable that the execution of the... field marshal was ordered by Collins".]

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. [ [After the assassination of Wilson] "A letter was sent to Collins stating that the Four Courts occupation and the 'ambiguous position' of the IRA could no longer be tolerated" Hopkinson, Green against Green, p 114] In fact the British cabinet actually resolved to attack the Four Courts themselves on June 25, 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. [ibid. p115-116] The final straw for the Free State government came on June 27, 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. [In clashes between pro and anti treaty fighters prior to June 28, eight men had been killed and forty nine wounded, Niall C. Harrington, "Kerry Landings", p.22]

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). Two hours after the surrender, some time-delayed bombs exploded, wounding soldiers and destroying much of the interior, including the Public Record Office. [TM Healy memoirs (1928), chapter 46. [] ] Pitched battles continued in Dublin until July 5, 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 Grandville 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. 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, the anti-treaty side were not equipped to wage conventional war. As a result 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 July 20, Waterford on the same day and Cork city on August 10 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.

Government victories in the major towns inaugurated a period of inconclusive guerrilla warfare. Anti-Treaty IRA units dispersed and 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.

It took eight more months of intermittent warfare before the war was brought to an end. This period 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.In the 1996 film "Michael Collins", Éamon de Valera meets the killer of Michael Collins prior to the assassination. However, although de Valera was in the area at the time, he is not thought to have ordered the assassination.
] 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. 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.

Atrocities and executions

The final phase of the Civil War degenerated into a series of atrocities that left a lasting legacy of bitterness in Irish politics. The Free State began executing Republican prisoners on November 17 1922, when four IRA men were shot by firing squad. They were followed on November 24 by the execution of acclaimed author and treaty negotiator Robert Erskine Childers. In all, the Free State sanctioned 77 official executions of anti-treaty prisoners during the Civil War. The Anti-Treaty IRA in reprisal assassinated TD Seán Hales. On December 7 1922, the day after Hales' killing, four prominent Republicans (one from each province), who had been held since the first week of the war—Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey — were executed in revenge for the killing of Hales. In addition, Free State troops, particularly in County Kerry, where the guerrilla campaign was most bitter, began the summary execution of captured anti-treaty fighters. The most notorious example of this occurred at Ballyseedy, where nine Republican prisoners were tied to a landmine, which was detonated. Then the survivors were killed with machine guns.

The Anti-Treaty IRA were unable to maintain an effective guerrilla campaign, since the great majority of the Irish population did not support them. This was demonstrated in the elections immediately after the civil war, which Cumann na nGaedheal, the Free State party, won easily. (See Irish general election, 1923 for the results.) The Roman Catholic Church also supported the Free State, deeming it the lawful government of the country, denouncing the Anti-Treaty IRA and refusing to administer the Sacraments to anti-treaty fighters. On October 10 1922, the Catholic Bishops of Ireland issued a formal statement, describing the anti-treaty campaign as,

:"a system of murder and assassination of the National forces without any legitimate authority... the guerrilla warfare now being carried on [by] the Irregulars is without moral sanction and therefore the killing of National soldiers is murder before God, the seizing of public and private property is robbery, the breaking of roads, bridges and railways is criminal. All who in contravention of this teaching, participate in such crimes are guilty of grievous sins and may not be absolved in Confession nor admitted to the Holy Communion if they persist in such evil courses". [Tim Pat Coogan, "De Valera", p344)]

End of the war

The lack of public support for the Anti-Treaty IRA, the determination of the government to defeat them and their lack of will all contributed to their defeat. By February 1923, Republican leader Liam Deasy had already surrendered to Free State forces and called on other republicans to do the same. 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. Some historians suggest that the death of Liam Lynch, the intransigent Republican leader, in a skirmish in the Knockmealdown mountains in County Waterford on April 10, 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 April 30 by the declaration of a ceasefire on behalf of the anti-treaty forces. On May 24 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. Thousands of Anti-Treaty IRA members (including Éamon de Valera) were arrested by the Free State forces in the weeks 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. [ [ Dáil Éireann - Volume 3 - 10 May 1923] ] 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. [ [ Dáil Éireann - Volume 3 - 2 July 1923] ]

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 Protestant Loyalists were attacked. A total of 192 "stately homes" of the old landed class were destroyed by Republicans during the war. [(M.E Collins, "Ireland 1868-1966", p431)]

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 H.S. Guinness of the Guinness family. [ [ "Freemans Journal", March 28, 1923] ]

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 July 11 1921, but they continued after the truce and escalated during the Civil War.

In addition, many of the landlord class were the focus of rural class antagonism that had been simmering since the Land War of the 1880s. Though the Wyndham Act of 1903 allowed tenants to buy land from their landlords, much untenanted land remained and some Republicans followed Michael Davitt's policy that all land should be made available to 'the nation'. This made the former landlords' post-independence situation difficult, and in the anarchy of the Civil War, they became easy targets. Sometimes these attacks had sectarian overtones, although most Anti-Treaty IRA men made no distinction between Catholic and Protestant supporters of the Irish government.

The Free State made efforts to protect Protestants and their property, most notably in County Louth, where a special police force was set up specifically for this purpose.Fact|date=February 2007 Controversy continues to this day about the extent of intimidation of Protestants at this time, but many left Ireland during and after the Civil War.



The Civil War, though short, was bloody. It cost the lives of many senior figures, including Michael Collins, Cathal Brugha and Arthur Griffith. 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. The pro-treaty National Army suffered 800 fatalities and perhaps as many as 4,000 people were killed in total, though the precise figures have yet to be determined. [Michael Hopkinson, "Green against Green", p272-3, "There are no means by which to arrive at even approximate figures for the dead and wounded. Mulcahy stated that around 540 pro-Treaty troops were killed between the Treaty's signing and the war's end; the government referred to 800 army deaths between January 1922 and April 1924. There was no record of overall Republican deaths, which appear to have been very much higher. No figure exists for total civilian deaths."] In addition, about 12,000 Republicans were interned by the end of the Civil War, most of whom were not released until 1924. In October to November 1923, up to 8,000 IRA prisoners went on hunger strike in protest at their continued detention.

However, it has also been argued that the human cost of the Irish Civil War could have been far worse than it actually was. The numbers killed were relatively modest by the standards of other contemporary civil wars - for example in Russia or Spain or even Finland. Moreover, the new police force, the Civic Guards (later the Garda Síochána), was not involved which meant that it was possible for the Free State to establish an unarmed and politically neutral police service after the war.

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. [ [ Dáil Éireann - Volume 5 - 19 September 1923 - THE ADJOURNMENT.—POSITION OF ANTI-TREATY DEPUTIES ] ] The new State ended 1923 with a budget deficit of over £4 million. [(Hopkinson, "Green Against Green", page 273)] 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." [ [ Debates 7 Dec 1925, p.1313] ]

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.Fact|date=February 2008 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.Calton Younger, "Ireland's Civil War" (Frederick Muller, 1968), p516.] [ Dáil Éireann - Volume 13 - 7 December 1925] ] 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. [ M.E. Collins Ireland 1868-1966, p.333] 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. [ Collins p.338] 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. [John Coakley, Michael Gallagher, Politics in the Republic of Ireland (1999) ISBN 0-415-22194-3 p.73-74] 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. [Coakley, Gallagher, Politics in the Republic of Ireland, p.75] 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. [Collins, Ireland, p.391] 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.


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.Sean Lemass' brother Noel, a captain in the Anti-Treaty IRA, was abducted and shot by Free State forces in July 1923, two months after the war had ended. His body was dumped in the Wicklow Mountains, near Glencree, where it was found in October 1923. The spot where his body was found is marked by a memorial.
] O'Higgins was the Minister for Economic Affairs in the Free State government and was hated by Republicans for having been in favour of executions of prisoners during the Civil War. His elderly father was killed by republicans during the war. O'Higgins himself was assassinated in 1927 by Anti-Treaty IRA members on his way to Mass. His killing precipitated a government clampdown on the IRA and forced Fianna Fáil to take the Oath of Allegiance in order to contest elections, Collins, Ireland, p.333
] 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.



* Calton Younger, "Ireland's Civil War" (Frederick Muller, London, 1968).
* "A record of some mansions and houses destroyed 1922-23" (The Irish Claims Compensation Association, 1924).
* Ernie O'Malley, "The Singing Flame", Dublin, 1978.
* M.E. Collins, "Ireland 1868-1966", Dublin, 1993.
* Michael Hopkinson, "Green against Green - the Irish Civil War"
* Eoin Neeson, "The Irish Civil War"
* Paul V Walsh, "The Irish Civil War 1922-23 -A Study of the Conventional Phase"
* Meda Ryan, "The Real Chief: The Story of Liam Lynch" (Mercier Press, Dublin, 2005)
* Tim Pat Coogan, "De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow", Dublin, 1993
* [ The Treaty Debates December 1921 January 1922 on-line] .
* Niall C. Harrington, "Kerry Landings"

External links

* [ The final siege of Limerick City from July 7 until July 21, 1922, on the Limerick Leader web site.]
* [ The Dáil Treaty Debates 1921-22.]

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