Monthly Archives: December 2014

Dreams of the last week.


Last night I bedreamt me that I was in a school or something. It was a well appointed building. The room was somehwat dark. There were a few people my age and older around a table. One of them was Nick. He is a chap who was in my year at school. He was dressed as a woman. This was a shcoker since he is very ugly and not in the least effeminate. He wore a woman’s hat as though at a race course. I was revolted. Then it emerged that this was a job interview and he wa one of the panel. I thiught hwt an idoot he was to cross dress at this time. I  said this to him and it graydally dawned on him how stuoid he had been,

Later we wer ein a large cgapel with a glroious stained glass window. It is a bit like one I saw in a bit of Hary Potter alst night but it could be the chapl efrom school. I though it odd that such a church existed in Hanzhou. Somehow I was still back there.

Then there wer e aferw tables wirh middle aged white ema nd woemn. There wa aslender woman with glasses and shot bacl hair, SHe w as atcher of French and Spsnish. I canot remember whow as being interview. Thatw a the end of the drea


About a week ago I had an anxiety dream. I was sepaking t Gry the husband of ata I do not recall what IWwas talking to him about. Later I was on a train tot ra ripit. I got off anf relised I had left behind my suitcase

Ireland in the Truce 1921.


On 11 July 1921 a Truce was declared between the IRA and the Crown Forces.

The Crown Forces maintained its barracks in the South. However, they largely ceased patrolling. The IRA strengthened its grips on many southern counties.

An Irish delegation was to go to London to negotiate with David Lloyd George to see if an agreement could be hammered out. These Irish representatives were mostly Catholics, all Sinn Feiners and all from the South. Robert Barton, one of the delegates, was a member of the Church of Ireland. Robert Erskine Childers, clerk to the delegation, was also an Anglican and he was a cousin of Barton’s.

Eamon de Valera was adamantly of the opinion that he should not attend these peace negotiations. He was Priomh Aire and this was taken to be synonymous with head of state. He wanted Michael Collins to do in his stead. Collins was reluctant to do so. He said he was a fighting man an not a politician. This was a nonsensical position for him to take since he had twice been elected to public office: once in 1918 and a second time in 1921.

De Valera himself went to Dublin in July 1921 for a few days of informal talks. The UK Government invited the Sinn Feiners to negotiate a way for Ireland to find her place within the British Commonwealth of Nations. The implication was that Ireland would become a dominion like South Africa, Canada or Australia. The South African example was fairly attractive to hardline Irish nationalists as many of them had been open admirers of the Afrikaner nationalists in the 1899-1902 war. The fact that 70% of South Africans who were not white and who were almost totally excluded from politics was overlooked.

Once when de Valera was walking into Downing Street and Irishwoman waiting there fell to her knees and kissed his ring as though he were a prelate. This must have pleased him because the priesthood was his metier manque. De Valera probably decided against pursuing a vocation because his illegitimacy, if exposed, would disbar him without a Papal dispensation.

Eamon de Valera had himself elected President of the Republic by the Dail. As de Valera and most Sinn Feiners saw it Ireland was already a republic. They did not wish to be a Commonwealth Dominion. In fact the Irish Parliamentary Party had been aiming at home rule within the UK with some of its more advanced members calling for dominion status. Sinn Fein wanted a republic although as recently as 1917 its official position had been to get something like a dominion.

De Valera was conscious that total separation from Great Britain as a 32 county republic was totally unacceptable to Great Britain and to Unionists in Ireland. There was no way that London would agree to this. To insist in such terms was sure to bring about a recrudescence of the conflict. Eamon de Valera had in mind a number of proposals that gave SInn Feiners most of what they wanted but was not so extensive as to be utterly objectionable to the UK Government. His idea was external association. He wanted Ireland to be associated with the British Empire but to be outside of it. As a mathematician de Valera drew a circle inside a large circle. That represented as being a dominion within the empire. Then he drew a large circle where the perimeter touched the perimeter of a large circle. That showed external association.

Dail Eireann made its delegation plenipotentiaries. They were given credentials. The UK Government never asked to see such credentials since that would suggest that the Government was accepting that the Irish Republic was legitimate. Lloyd George took the view that as all of the Sinn Fein delegation had been elected to the British Parliament he could talk to them as fellow British MPs.

The British Government would have preferred to have talked to more moderate nationalists. However, the Irish Parliamentary Party had no representation in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland (Dail Eireann). The IPP seemed to have more or less vanished in the South of Ireland. Sinn Fein had made clean sweep in the elections of May 1921 since only its candidates had stood.


The Sinn Fein delegation that was dispatched to London consisted of Collins, George Gavan Duffy, Robert Barton, Arthur Griffith and Eamonn Duggan.

They met a British delegation that included Lloyd George, Churchill, the Earl of Birkenhead, Austen Chamberlain, Sir Hamar Greenwood and others. It is notable that the two groups were called ‘the Irish delegation’ and the ‘British delegation.’ This seemed to suggest that the Irish were not British – which had been a central contention of republicans all along. Sinn Fein was accepted as speaking for Ireland or certainly the southern three-quarters of it.

The two groups seemed to get along very well. Churchill was a ferocious advocate of whatever cause he believed in at any given time. The thing was that he kept changing his mind. He was sometimes outspokenly in favour of the sternest possible measures to put down any rebellion. At other times he was an impassioned supporter of various rebellions. Churchill was a man of action and he felt fellowship between himself and Collins. Churchill remarked that in South Africa he had had a price of GBP 1 000 on his head. Collins boasted that the reward for him had been GBP 40 000.

The Sinn Feiners kept an aircraft at Croydon Aerodrome. That was then the main airport for London. If negotiations broke down they may wish to make a sharp exit.

Irish people gathered in Downing Street to pray for the successful conclusion of the talks. Although de Valera was not to take part  he visited London during the talks.

Sean MacBride – then aged 17 – acted as a clerk for the negotiators. Sean MacBride was the son of John MacBride who had been executed by firing squad for having been a ring leader of the Dublin Rising of 1916. Sean MacBride’s mother was Maud Gonne – the muse and unrequited love of  W B Yeats. When John MacBride and his wife Maud Gonne split up (they never divorced) she had taken her baby to Paris. Sean MacBride lived there until 1916. After the execution of his father whom he had not seen since his infancy he returned to Ireland. He always spoke English with an extremely strong French accent. He traveled back and forth between London and Dublin on some weekends carrying dispatches. In this manner de Valera and the Dail was kept advised of goings on.

The negotiations focused on a number of vexatious issues. What was to be the constitutional status of this new Irish state? Was it to be a republic? For the UK Government that was a non-starter.Was it to have Home Rule within the United Kingdom? For Sinn Fein that was too little since that had been on the statute book even in 1914. If they accepted Home Rule what had all those 2 500 people in Ireland been killed for since 1916? Was it to be dominion status? In the end that was the formula arrived at.

Would the British Armed Forces be allowed to remain in this Dominion of Ireland at all. The British military would have liked to retain their bases but not have so many that they made tempting targets for the IRA. Sinn Fein would rather have none of them. Then again they did bring in money as British servicemen spent their wages in Ireland. This new Ireland would be small and poor. How would she defend herself? There were other potential enemies other than Great Britain. Having British troops in this new semi-independent Ireland might be no bad thing. In the end it was agree that the British Army would have to evacuate all its barracks in the South of Ireland. The Royal Navy would be allowed to keep three bases – Lough Swilly, Spike Island and Berehaven. In time of war or threat of war the British military would be able to make use of more facilities including aerodromes.

What would the status of Northern Ireland be? Northern Ireland as a distinct unit within the UK was already an established fact. The Conservative Party in Great Britain was rock solid behind its friends in the North. It was agreed that in principle there was one Ireland. However, a year after the signing of the treaty the Parliament of Northern Ireland would have the right to present an address to His Majesty indicating Northern Ireland’s wish to opt out of the Irish Free State and to remain within the United Kingdom. The Parliament of Northern Ireland would have a month in which to make such an address. This address would lead to Northern Ireland staying out of the Irish Free State and staying inside the UK. The Sinn Fein delegation agreed that Northern Ireland could remain within the UK so long as a boundary commission be established to examine the border between the two Irelands with the possibility of redrawing the border. Collins pinned his hopes on that and he imagined that the boundary commission would reassign significant amount of territory to the South.

For the first year after the signing of the Treaty there would be a Provisional Government in Dublin. The Irish Free State was not to formally come into being until a year to the day the Treaty was signed.

The Irish delegation returned to Dublin once to consult with the Dail. No one could claim that the Dail was not been told what was going on.

The word ‘republic’ would not be used. De Valera had said he would accept the substance of a republic even if the ”formal designation” of a republic was not used.

It was decided that the constitutional title of Ireland would be ‘The Irish Free State’. This was a sop to republicans because this seemed more separate from the British Empire than the word ‘dominion.’ Moreover, in German the word ‘freistaat’ is synonymous with a republic. The term ‘Free State’ had the unfortunate coincidence of being the same title that was applied to the Congo under the infamous misrule of Leopold II whose manifold crimes were exposed by an Irish republican – Roger Casement.

Some conservative minded nationalists were chary about the notion of establishing a republic. The Catholic Church was though to disapprove of republics. There had been very few Catholic republics in Europe until the 1920s. France was a republic and had disestablished the Catholic Church in 1904.

A new legislature would be elected for Southern Ireland. It would be the Dail Eireann – that would be its official name. Members elected thereto would have to swear and oath of allegiance to the King.

The new Irish Free State would assume a certain proportion of the UK national debt.

The treaty provided that no part of Ireland would endow any religious denomination.



The Truce was not perfectly observed in Ireland. Some IRA units still killed members of the Crown Forces. The Crown Forces rarely hit back.

Many youngsters flocked to join the IRA. They became known contemptuously as Truceleers. Why were they only joining now when the fighting appeared to be finished? They were jumping on the bandwagon. It seemed to some that the IRA had emerged victorious. The IRA’s membership soared to a paper strength of almost 100 000. The IRA took the opportunity to smuggle in more arms and the Crown did not attempt to stop this.

The IRA were buoyed up by their apparent success. IRA Police operated as best the could in the many counties that they now controlled.

Many secret IRA operatives came out into the open. They blew their cover. If the conflict was resumed it would be known who they were. The IRA would be at a distinct disadvantage.

In Belfast sectarian killings carried on but were  reduced in frequency. The Northern Ireland statelet was being set up.



As December began the British delegation became impatient to have things signed. They wanted the Irish Question to be settled. The Sinn Fein representatives were also conscious of the need to produce results. Some IRA units were restive and eager to return to the fray if a satisfactory deal was not thrashed out.

Lloyd George observed to Robert Barton that is an agreement was not reached the conflict was resume. This went without saying.The Truce had been a temporary cessation of hostilities to allow an opportunity for negotiation. There was always a possibility that no agreement could be made and in that case it was blatant that the conflict would recommence.

At 2 am on 6 December 1921 the Sinn Feiners signed the Treaty and so did the representative of His Majesty’s Government.

Collins went back to his lodgings at 22 Hans Place. He wrote a letter to a friend, ”Will anyone be satisfied with this? Will anyone? Today I have signed my own death warrant.” Collins had been a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood since his adolescence. He was by this stage the Chairman of the Supreme Council of Fenians (as in the IRB). According the IRB theory he, not de Valera, was the Irish head of state. He was praised even by his enemy Tom Barry as ”ruthless”. Coming from Barry the word ruthless means more like ”bloodthirsty.” Collins had been in the Irish Volunteers since 1914 and had remained with that faction. He was against the Irish National Volunteers. Collins was impeccably obdurate. This was why it was perhaps surprising even to him that he ended up signing this Treaty that was so short of IRA ambitions. He knew the inner state of the IRA and how it was in no position to continue to fight.

When he said he had signed his own death warrant Collins could not have meant at the hands of the Crown Forces. He was about to become the King’s liege man. He was conscious that fellow republicans would be minded to turn their guns on him.


Barton reflected that suffering his signature on the Treaty, ”was the lesser of two outrages” that he was presented with.


The Irish Conflict’s Climax: 1920-21.


By late 1920 the IRA had effectual control of much of West Cork, portions of Tipperary, Mayo, Limerick and Galway. There were RIC stations in these places and units of the British Army. Their sorties were infrequent and only when they had a sufficiently large number of men to make ambush unlikely. Dublin Castle could not administer these regions since the local councils were largely Sinn Fein ones. They sent their minutes to the Dail and not Dublin Castle. They collected rates (local taxes) and spent them locally. It was famously said, ”The King’s writ no longer runs in Ireland.” This was the case with certain districts as has been adumbrated. It was half-true for large areas of the South of Ireland. It was not true for the North and East.

The Irish Tricolour had been around since 1848 when it was designed by Thomas Francis Meagher. It was virtually unknown until the Easter Rising of 1916. Thereafter it became closely identified with the republican cause. A republican song ”Johnson’s Motorcar” has the words, ”we will hoist the Sinn Fein Flag”. Sometimes the RIC had a fairly good idea that someone was in the IRA but they could not prove it. He could not be convicted of IRA membership but he was found in possession of a Tricolour and he could be convicted for that. The prohibition on the Tricolour was an abridgement of personal liberty and many would say that this was uncalled for. One would have to have been a very gallant man to display the Tricolour in a loyalist area.



MacSwiney was a Sinn Feiner who was elected the Lord Mayor of Cork. MacSwiney was also a high ranking member of the IRA. MacSwiney was arrested in possession of ”documents likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty.” Notice the wording. The documents only had to be proven to be ”likely” to cause such disaffection. It did not have to be proven that this documents DID cause such disaffection.

MacSwiney was taken to Brixton Prison in London. He went on hunger strike for release. Lloyd George refused to release him. Many suffragettes had gone on hunger strike before the First World War although none had died. Force feeding has not been used since 1918. Thomas Ashe had been on hunger strike in 1918 and he was force fed. This went wrong and accidentally killed him. MacSwiney also claimed that his incarceration was unjustified because he was tried by a court-martial and he claimed that such a court was fit only to try a British soldier. Martial law had been proclaimed in several southern counties that were worst affected by violence.

MacSwiney’s health worsened and the press took a keen interest in him. His debilitation was reported in foreign newspapers. MacSwiney garnered considerable  sympathy. This was very illogical since the man killing MacSwiney was MacSwiney. He was certainly brave. His slow motion suicide was not condemned by the Roman Catholic Church which usually denounced self-destruction as the gravest of all sins.

George V was known to feel awkward about MacSwiney’s situation. He asked Lloyd George if the situation could not be resolved in a better way. The King was conscious of the fact that MacSwiney’s fast to death was causing upset in the dominions and damaging the reputation of the United Kingdom around the world. This as asinine since MacSwiney was killing himself and it was not the UK Government that was killing him. Prime Minister Lloyd George replied that it could not. If Terence MacSwiney was let out of prison for going on hunger strike then soon thousands of republicans would be at the same game. In the long run it was far better to stand firm.

MacSwiney’s weakening distracted attention from the hundreds of people who were killed during his ten weeks on his death fast. Some IRA leaders tried to talk him out of it. The Government might cave in on a smaller issue like prison visits or prison uniform. The Government would not give in on something as fundamental as release – it was too great a demand. MacSwiney rejected pleadings from his IRA comrades to call off his hunger strike. ”I am convinced that my death will do more to smash the British Empire than my release.” In this he might have been correct. That being so then it might have been wiser from the British Government’s perspective to let him out. Before T MacSwiney expired he observed, ”It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can suffer the most who will conquer.” His dictum is probably correct. One side can sustain more deaths in a war than the other yet still prevail. A side can suffer proportionally more yet still win. It is about determination.

MacSwiney died in prison. There was a requiem mass for him at a Catholic Cathedral in London. The bishop requested that no paramilitary symbols be displayed there. Despite this they were shown. Moreover, uniformed Irish Volunteers paraded there. It is a testament to the extraordinary tolerance of the people of England that this was permitted. The police did not stop this nor were these IRA men attacked by an English nationalist mob.

MacSwiney’s body was shipped to Cork. There were Auxiliaries on the ship. It was unwise of the UK Government to hand his corpse back. They could have interred him within the walls of the prison as usually happened to those who expired in a prison. By returning his carcass to Cork this enabled the IRA to stage a propaganda funeral. MacSwiney’s obsequies took place at  St Mary’s Cathedral in Cork and were presided over by the Bishop of Cork Dr Coghlan. MacSwiney was the late Lord Mayor of the city so in any event his funeral would be a public occasion of great import. Dr Coghlan was no fan of the IRA. He denounced shooting RIC officers as, ”morally murder and politically of no consequence.”

MacSwiney is buried in the Republican Plot of a Cork cemetery. Sinn Fein holds a ceremony there ever year. There used to be a march to honour him in London on an annual basis. MacSwiney was a good martyr for Sinn Fein. He was debonair, good looking and articulate.

He was replaced by Donal O’Callaghan as Lord Mayor of Cork. O’Callaghan was also a Sinn Feiner.



The Crown Forces had suffered about 400 deaths by the end of 1920. The IRA had suffered a bit more than this. The United Kingdom’s reputation as a whole was suffering globally from this conflict. The British press had not been permitted to criticise the British Army during the Great War. In this conflict they seemed to delight in criticising the British Army. Countries that were formerly Allies of the UK were also fairly critical about the conduct of the Crown Forces in Ireland. This includes France for instance.

Eamon de Valera was touring the United States. He was elected President of Dail Eireann. This was not head of state as such. The Irish Republic existed hypothetically. De Valera was often introduced in the USA as simply, ” the President of Ireland.”

Robert Briscoe Jewish Irishman also accompanied de Valera to the United States. Briscoe was a Sinn Feiner and he addressed many rallies. He would emphasise to the audiences that while he did not share their faith he did share their Irish nationality. This articulate dentists later went on to be Lord Mayor of Dublin.



There were dozens of British agents in Dublin seeking to penetrate the IRA. Collins spent most of his time in Dublin. He was organising the intelligence side of the conflict for the IRA. He was also managing the IRA’s finances. He had a head for figures. He could not keep documents in case these were captured by the enemy.

There were certain Crown agents called the Cairo Gang. They were mostly English. They may have acquired this name Cairo Gang because they dined at a cafe called Cairo or because some of them had served in Egypt in the Great War.

Collins was kept advised of what the RIC was thinking at the highest level. He had a mole inside the government administration – David Nelligan. Nelligan came from a working class family in the West of Ireland. He had enlisted in the RIC as a young man before the Great War. He had initially been apolitical but gradually became a Sinn Fein sympathiser. He had access to highly confidential information.

Eamonn Broy was another RIC officer who came to agree with Sinn Fein. He also passed ample secret intelligence to the IRA. He once smuggled Collins into G Division archives overnight and enabled him to copy reams of information from classified documents.

Because of this Collins knew who the Cairo Gang were. In November 1920 Collins decided to kill the Cairo Gang. He chose a certain Sunday because there was a very important Gaelic Football match on that day. There would be thousands of people on the streets. The killers could mingle with the throng. The presence of thousands of pedestrians would hamper the efforts of the Crown Forces to give chase. Collins had a gang of gunmen called the Squad for this task.

In November 1920 the Squad fanned out across Dublin. They burst in on the Cairo Gang in their residences. Several of them were shot dead – some in the presence of their wives. The Squad was interrupted by the RIC at some points and shot dead some RIC in engagements. The Squad got away without any loss.

The news of the shootings spread quickly through Dublin. The Cairo Gang were spies so they did not wear uniform. At first it seemed that a dozen English civilians had been shot dead for being English.

The IRA was certainly efficient at liquidating enemy spies. This is a considerable part of the explanation for the IRA’s fairly successful performance in this conflict. The IRA also killed a lot of civilians whom it falsely accused of being spies. Contrariwise, the IRA lost the intelligence side of the 1969-97 conflict which is one of the key reasons why the IRA lost.



Word reached mainland members of the RIC about these killings. The RIC assumed that these men had been shot out of Anglophobia. RIC men correctly suspected that the GAA may have something to do with it. There were plenty men who were in the GAA and the IRA. Dublin was playing Tipperary. These mainland RIC men were outraged and some of them said they wished to burn down O’Connell Street.

RIC officers went to Croke Park. Ticket touts stood outside this stadium. On seeing the approach of RIC officers they scattered. The RIC took them to be IRA lookouts..

The RIC entered the stadium seeking to search it for arms. Some of them seemed to wish to exact revenge on the general population.

The RIC claimed that someone in the crowd fired on them. The RIC said they then fired at the gunmen. In the end 13 people in the crowd were shot dead as one was of the Tipperary players. There is a stand named in his honour there.

The RIC claimed to have recovered 60 firearms discarded by fleeing gunmen in the crowd. The RIC’s claim of having been fired upon from the spectators is widely disbelieved. Perhaps once the RIC opened fire someone shot back. It may be that as little as one gun was found by the RIC.

The RIC’s reputation sunk to an all time low. A confidential British Army report at the time suppressed that the RIC had been responsible for this incident. The RIC men who were involved in this large-scale killing were those known as the Black and Tans.

Some mainland RIC officers had purposefully shot dead civilians knowing that these people were civilians. Murder is the only word for it.

The UK’s reputation around the world was tarnished. There were attempts to improve discipline. There were several thousand mainland recruits to the RIC in 1920 and 1921. Hundreds were dismissed from the force. Scores were sentenced to various gaol terms. One former Scottish RIC recruit said that only a small number of men were behaving disgracefully but such stories were inflated and used to discredit the entire force.



Tom Barry led the Flying Column of the West Cork IRA. A flying column was a unit of full-time IRA fighters. Most IRA members did their jobs or were unemployed and only occasionally engaged in IRA activities.

Barry was one of the most effective IRA commanders. He was worried by the Auxiliaries who had a reputation for fearlessness and invincibility. The Auxiliaries were also known to beat IRA suspects to a pulp.

The Auxiliaries in Macroom made the mistake of establishing a pattern. For three Sundays in a row they had traveled down a certain road in the afternoon. This routine had been noticed by IRA scouts in the area. Barry and his men decided to lie in wait in an area called Kilmichael – some bleak countryside a few miles from Macroom.

Sure enough that afternoon two lorries carrying Auxiliaries drove along. Barry had chosen the ambuscade cleverly. It was by a bend in the road and there were large boulders to provide cover for his men. Barry wore an Irish Volunteer  officer’s uniform. From a distance this resembled a British Army uniform. Assuming him to be a British officer the first lorry slowed down. Barry wrote an account of the engagement and stated what the IRA commander did. He did not say that he was the IRA commander although that was certainly the case. He threw a bomb into the cab of the lorry to kill the driver and immobilise the vehicle. The IRA then opened fire on the lorries.

The engagement went on for several minutes. There is some dispute as to the percise details. There is no argument about the outcome. The Auxiliaries were totally defeated. It is thought that one of them survived with a head injury. He had been taken for dead. He crawled into a bog. He was later found by the IRA and finished off. One Auxiliary was so badly wounded that he was assumed to be dead. He was found by a British Army patrol the next day and he lived on for several years. Barry wrongly stated that there were no survivors on the Auxiliary side.

Peter Hart published a book entitled ”The IRA and its enemies – community and violence in Cork 1916-23.” This seminal text by this Canadian historian examined the Cork IRA very closely. Hart interviewed many IRA veterans in the late 1980s.

Hart concluded that the Auxiliaries surrendered. Barry took their surrenders and had them lay down their arms. The Auxiliaries were then shot dead. This has been hotly denied by partisans of Barry such as Meda Ryan. Hart based much of this on a captured IRA report of the action. The authenticity of this has been questioned as has Hart’s interviews with IRA veterans. Hart is now deceased. In British archives there is an unsigned and undated document which is said to be an IRA commander’s after action report. No graphology has been attempted to see if it was written by Thomas Bernardine Barry. This document makes no mention of the false surrender ruse de guerre. It states the casualty figures wrongly. It is thought by many to be a hoax.

There is probably some truth in the false surrender claim and some truth in the killing of prisoners claim. This may have been a case of the fog of war. This action ended at about 4;30 on the afternoon of 28 November. By that time the lighting was failing. There were two sections of Auxiliaries – one at either lorry. One group may have surrendered and the other did not. As one party carried on fighting the others were simply killed. It could have been that in one section some men capitulated and others did not so they were all shot. There was much noise, adrenaline and fear. All this was happening very fast in a confused and fluid situation.


The IRA regarded Kilmichael as a resounding victory. In fact it was their largest success in terms of the number of enemy killed – 17. Only 2 IRA men were killed. One of them was killed by a false surrender trick according to Barry.

Even if the IRA did deliberately kill prisoners they may have justified by saying that the enemy did the same. In November 1920 two leading IRA commanders had been arrested in Dublin. McKee and Clancy were arrested. They were shot dead by Crown Forces while in custody. Virtually no one believes the official version of events about them trying to escape.

IRA suspects in security force custody sometimes were shot dead and it was announced that they had been killed while attempting to run away or grab a weapon. Republicans instinctively dismiss such claims almost as though no IRA man would ever try to escape or seize a weapon. IRA man successfully escaped on many occasions. There was much bragadoccio  in the IRA about escapes that went well. Claims that a man was killed while attempting to escape should not be so readily disbelieved. That is not say that all such explanations are necessarily true either.

Barry says that some of the Auxies were killed with bayonets. When the British Army found the corpses the next day these wounds may have appeared to have been inflicted after the men died.

Some of the Auxies were shot at very close range. This might have given the impression of them being killed after they surrendered. It is almost certain that some of them were killed after capitulation. This is a very persistent claim from many different sources. It is probable that most were killed in combat and only a small number were slain after they had give up. Some of the Auxies were so badly wounded that they were going to die imminently. Shooting them at point-blank range was not necessarily intended to be a in any way unethical. It may have been the coup de grace.

An official British communique about the incident described these men as cadets. They were cadets as they were still in training to be full RIC officers. However, the use of the word cadet can be seen as misleading since it gave the impression they had only just reached adulthood. In fact they were all veterans of the Great War. They were all officers from the British military in that war many of whom had achieved field promotion rather than having gone through a military academy. They were all at least 20 years of age.



The IRA was feeling triumphant in Cork in December 1921. The Crown Forces were on the back foot. There was a grenade attack on the Auxiliaries in Cork City on 12 December 1921.

The Auxiliaries of K Company went into the centre of Cork City and began to burn down many of the large shops. The fire burnt most of Patrick Street which is the central business district of Cork. Some soldiers and RIC officers took part in the arson.

The fire brigade turned up but were threatened by the Auxies and told to leave. They did. Some shop assistants lived in the buildings in which they worked. Mercifully they all got out in time.

Two unarmed IRA men were seized and shot dead by the Auxiliaries. Some Auxies also burnt some buildings on either side of the Lee.

The Auxies claimed that the fire had started spontaneously. The Prime Minister decided to believe this official report. It was pointed out to him that this mean that conflagration had leapt the river twice which is exceptionally rare.

Some Auxies wrote letters home acknowledging that some of their number had set the city afire.

The burning of Cork City did a lot to tarnish the reputation of the Crown Forces even further. The veracity of the government’s statements was impugned. Lloyd George did not now for a fact that police officers had started this blaze but he must have suspected it.

Some Auxiliaries were said to have marched with burnt corks in their hats a few days later to revel in this arson. The story soon did the rounds. It was widely believed and it came to be assumed that huge numbers of Auxiliaries were gloating about this crime.

Even Unionists condemned this wanton destruction. The Crown Forces were supposed to be protecting the city and not torching it. The IRA carried out thousands of arson attacks but very few people have complained about that.

The British Government apologised for this in 1938 and paid compensation. The new city hall was built with the proceeds.



The Archhbishop of Perth came to Ireland with a view to acting as a mediator between the IRA and the British Government. Archbishop Clune felt personal grief over the conflict since his nephew Conor Clune had been shot dead by security forces. Conor Clune had been arrested as part of the drag net after the Bloody Sunday killings. Clune was not a member of the IRA but had boasted to the RIC ”I would be happy to die for Ireland.” These foolhardy words made them believe that he was a member of the IRA. The fault is obviously with the men who killed him.

In December 1920 David Lloyd George was secretly open to negotiations with the IRA. In the end these attempts to parley came to nought. Lloyd George claimed to be bullish about the conflict saying ”we have murder by the throat.” He also said that they would ”make Ireland hell for rebels to live in.”

The erstwhile Prime Minister, H H Asquith, publicly said that the government must speak to the IRA. Bear in mind that Asquith had been Prime Minister at the time of the Easter Rising and had authorised the execution of IRA doyens back then.

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke out against the gross misconduct of certain members of the Crown Forces. He said that one could not cast out Satan by behaving like him.

In Great Britain a ‘Peace with Ireland Council’ was formed. This had support from many in the Labour Party and a few in the Liberal Party. The British Labour Party sent a delegation to inquire about claims of grave misconduct by Crown Forces in Ireland. This delegation produced a rather damning report.



In late 1920 the Government of Ireland Act was passed by Parliament. This updated and amended the Home Rule Act of 1914.

This Government of Ireland Act provided for two parliaments within Ireland. There would be the Parliament of Southern Ireland based in Dublin and the Parliament of Northern Ireland based at Belfast. Each parliament would consist of a House  of Commons and also a Senate. In the case of the Senate of Southern Ireland this would be made up of bishops (mostly Roman Catholics ones but a few Anglican ones too), the lord mayors as ex officio members, a few senators elected by county councils and some appointed by the Viceroy. In the Senate of Northern Ireland there would be no prelates. There would be the lord mayors of Derry and Belfast. There would be a Governor of Northern Ireland appointed by the Crown. There would also be a Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

So there would be two home rule parliaments. Ireland would still remain within the United Kingdom. The British Army would stay as Ireland’s army and the Royal Navy would retain her bases around Ireland. Both parts of Ireland would continue to be represented in Parliament at Westminster by MPs elected as before. Many areas of legislation would only be enacted for Ireland by her two respective parliaments.

Elections to these two parliaments were to be held the coming May.



The IRA began 1921 with plenty of attacks. They were on a roll. The long winter nights allowed them plenty of time to try to take an RIC barracks and if the attempt failed it allowed ample time to get away.

The security forces turned to seek and destroy tactics. The would arrange huge sweeps through the countryside where the IRA were known to be concealed. There would be over a thousand troops engaged in such missions. They would surround an area of countryside. Some men who stay in static positions. Others would walk through the country only twenty yards from the next man – trying to winkle out the IRA. One such sweep through West Cork had the West Cork Brigade frightened. They withdrew and withdrew – seeking to avoid a fight. They were outgunned and outnumbered. If fire was opened then the Crown Forces could call on plenty of reinforcements. The flying column retreated to Gougane Bara. Finally the British Army abandoned the sweep.

Some IRA went were captured and tried by court martial. Those found guilty of attacking the Crown Forces were sentenced to death by firing squad – a military punishment. Those convicted of murder in civilian courts were killed by hanging. The IRA kidnapped members of the Crown Forces and would hold them as hostages against the lives of IRA men who were due to be put to death. The Crown Forces would then be informed that if the IRA man was killed these Crown Forces personnel would also die. The Crown refused to spare the lives of those who had been condemned to death and the IRA always killed hostages in reprisal. It was perhaps foolish of the Government not to do a deal. No particular advantage accrued to the Crown Forces from killing IRA men once they had been captured. It made people less likely to surrender in future and was exploited by the IRA for propaganda purposes. On the other hand it was tricky for the IRA to take hostages and it used up a lot of man power to guard them. A person is difficult to hide. It was always possible that a hostage may be rescued or escape as General Lucas did.

At Crossbarry there was another such sweep. Charley Hurley – a notable IRA fighter – was surprised at the house he was sleeping in. He ran out of the building firing wildly. He was cut down by enemy bullets. Later that day the IRA was cornered though the Crown Forces did not at the time know it. Barry decided that rather than allow the Crown Forces to close in any more and finish off the flying column then the flying column had better fights its way out. Barry and his men smashed through the ring of Crown Forces surrounding them and managed to get away.

A mainland soldier named Peter Monahan deserted to the IRA in West Cork. The IRA must have been initially suspicious of him – perhaps regarding him as a plant. He won their trust. He was eventually killed fighting for the IRA.

West Cork was the cockpit of the IRA. The IRA was also operating a great deal in some other zones. In the Midlands Sean MacEoin achieved some notoriety in fighting the security forces. He was known by the nom de guerre The Blacksmith of Ballinalee.

In Mayo Tom Maguire also led the IRA to some victories over the Crown Forces.

As Spring turned into Summer the fighting only grew more intense. The monthly casualty figure was rising for both sides. In a sense the IRA could afford these losses less than the Crown Forces. Already there were several thousand IRA men in prison or in internment camps. Many of them were detained in Ballykinlar in County Down. Those who were willing to join the IRA had already done so. It was the most daring and resourceful IRA men who were the ones who got killed. Some men were willing to join flying columns. Other IRA men only participated in a minor way by gathering intelligence, storing arms and so on.

Certain counties were fairly quiescent such as Kerry, Carlow and Longford.

A sweep in West Cork surrounded the flying column. Tom Barry, heading the column, knew he was outnumbered and enveloped. Barry had a piper Florrie Begley. Barry had Begley play to keep up spirits but also to convince the foemen that they were facing a large formation since only a unit of hundreds of fighters would have its own piper. Therefore his only hope was to decisively break out through the cordon. He did just that and the flying column escaped. The British Army announced ten deaths from that action. The IRA claimed to have killed over 30 soldiers. This is almost certainly bogus. Roughly 400 soldiers were killed during the 1919-21 conflict. The IRA was claiming to have killed almost a tenth of those in one battle. The usual pattern was followed of each side exaggerating the enemy’s strength and exaggerating the number of fatalities they had inflicted on the foe. This would excuse any reverse, magnify any victory and buoy up morale. Breathless newspaper reports often claimed that Michael Collins led attacks on RIC barracks deep in the countryside. In fact he was in Dublin all the time.

Martial law was proclaimed in many counties in the South of Ireland. This banned fairs, bicycles, motorcars, hurleys and so on. This made it difficult for the IRA to move around without attracting suspicion. In mid 1921 the Crown Forces had considerable success in arresting stalwart and senior IRA men. This disrupted the functioning of the IRA and yielded considerable information.

There was an attack on the Customs House in Dublin. The building was partly burnt by the IRA but several IRA men were shot dead and dozens were captured. Overall, this was a major defeat for the IRA. The loss of so many combatants was not worth the minimal success of damaging such a building. Such an audacious attack in the middle of Dublin in broad daylight had not been wise. These IRA men were all interviewed and much intelligence was gleaned from them. The IRA was taking heavy casualties. These tended to be the boldest and most skillful fighters. By July 1921 the IRA was running low in ammunition. Sean MacEoin was captured and tried. He was sentenced to death and was awaiting execution.

The Crown was in some ways getting into a stronger position. The number of IRA attacks declined from April to May and then again from May to June. It was still a far higher number of attacks than a year before. The attacks seemed to be falling in July when the truce was called. Unrest in India was declining. The UK economy picked up a little. The Washington Conference allowed cuts to the Royal Navy. Peace treaties had been concluded with the minor Central Powers. British troops had left Russia. The Third Afghan War was over. The situation in Iraq was calming down. Therefore the UK Government could send more troops to tackle the IRA.

However, the propaganda war was favouring the republican movement. Irish republicans opened offices in Paris and New York. They assiduously disseminated publicity to depict the Crown Forces as sadistic brutes and the IRA as chivalrous freedom fighters. There were incidents when the Crown Forces behaved disgracefully – most egregiously the Croke Park Massacre.  There were IRA men who were gallant and humane. Some Irish people did regard the IRA as freedom fighters. The republican narrative of the conflict had some relationship to reality. The republican version of events was widely believed. The United Kingdom’s name was sullied abroad.

One should bear in mind that counter-insurgent forces tend to behave badly. The behaviour of the Crown Forces in Ireland was fairly good considering that. Look at other conflicts at the time where there was an insurgency and examine the conduct of the counter-insurgents. There was the Russian Civil War, the Central Asian revolt, the Spartakist Revolt, the Communist Revolution in Hungary, the Finnish Civil War, the Rif War in Morocco and so on. The Crown Forces behaved better than any other counter-insurgents.

Bernard Law Montgomery was a serving officer in Ireland at the time. He wrote that such conflicts, ”tend to lower standards among men [i.e. soldiers]”. He went on to observe that, ”failure to distinguish the sheep from the goats is fundamentally wrong.” That is to say he was not against the civilian population. He remarked that ”Cromwell or the Germans would have finished this conflict in a very short time.” He was saying that Cromwell or the German Army would have terrorised the civil population but the Crown Forces would not.



The election of May 1921 in Southern Ireland must rank as one of the most bizarre elections of all time. It was not one of those elections where a demented tyrant declares millions more votes for himself than there are people in the country. It was jaw dropping in the opposite way. No a single person voted.

These elections were held throughout the twenty-six counties that were to form the new state of Southern Ireland. There were 128 seats for multiseater constituencies on a county basis. For example Clare would elect several MPs for the county as a whole. The County would not be divided into Clare East, Clare West, Clare North and so on.

There were 128 seats to be filled and 128 candidates. In Trinity College Dublin the four seats had four Unionists contesting them. In the rest of the country Sinn Fein was  the only party that nominated any candidates. Therefore all 128 candidates were returned unopposed.

The security situation was such that it was perilous to voice any dissent from Sinn Fein.

An election to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland was held at the same time. However, several parties contested those elections. They were the Unionists, the Protestant Unionists, the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Labour Party and Sinn Fein.

The Unionists won handily but the Labour Party and the Nationalists also won some seats in that Parliament. The Labour Party there was not part of the Irish or the British Labour Party. It was the Northern Ireland Labour Party.



It is a little known fact that the Home Rule Parliament of Southern Ireland met. Ironically, it was only the Unionists MPs who turned up. There were only four of them. They were not quorate.

Home Rule was a dead letter in the South. The Irish Parliamentary Party barely existed. It had a few local councillors.

Paradoxically the part of Ireland where Home Rule was not desired by the majority of people was the part of Ireland that did set up a Home Rule Parliament that was to function for over fifty years.



The Parliament of Northern Ireland was summoned in June 1921. His Majesty George V traveled to Belfast to open the new legislature. He was greeted by ecstatic crowds. His cavalcade passed through Belfast without incident. The city was bedecked in Union Flags to greet the King. The parliament met in buildings that were usually occupied a Presbyterian theological college. A new purpose built parliament building was under consideration.

George V in his speech to the parliament urged ”Irishmen to stretch out the hand of forbearance.”

Later a train though to be carrying the king was derailed by the IRA. In fact the king was not aboard. The IRA killed a few soldiers and several army horses so they considered it to be a success.



On 11 July 1921 a truce was declared between the IRA and the Crown Forces.

It must have made for a nervous Glorious Twelfth for the Orange Order the next day.


A dream of fraud


I was in a huge open plan room with a white olished marble floro. It was like  shoping centre or airport. Perhoas it resperes the staiton here

Not many eplwe re walking arund. The lce was bright. I saw Davood there. He greeted me in a neutral tone. I would tutor his son again – it shwoeh emrged. But would I be paid? I think that was left unsaid. I assumed that he would make u the shrtfall from alst time. I do not temember meeting the child or tutoring nayone. Ther ewa s scene of going uo escaltors with the grey haired Davood in front.

Later I saw Beastie. The dragon lady sat at a tbale just indie s acfa ein a shopping mall. I canot remember whom she wa with. Mercifully she was ccoutred in trosuers. I went in and quietl asked her if she would repay me my money. The scholl ripped me off fo loads oof thngs such as flight allowances.

Sh softly said yes. I stepped outside. To myasotnoshment she mcae out a minte leter. Without making eye contact she forked voer several bank notes. They were worht 100 manat eahc. I was very staisifed an dsai nothing I WENT away.

I noticed these wer eodd ones. They did not remsb;e the cufrnecy I had usually seen there. Thise wer ebrigh and very glossy. Then I notice thye said Iran on the, The curency of Iran is the riyal. But thes eid not say riayl. On the rear side of them they had various exhnage rates betwene differen currencies.

I had bene duped by the ogress of Bkau. Rosa Kleabb that evil bitch – I would love to get her back and have been thinking of. it

I have been conend by other people and beein claing th bal. ibave starte da legal action against Boner Farce. I have been thiing aout my fiancial wores. I am to be paid in ppund sinto a Ruueo acocnt. NAyhow I still have money in the banl. I am glad I did no treat myself to a tirp to Beiing given the fact that some arseholes have scammed me. Overall I am happy. O shall be glad to be shot of this place in a few days. I met some good foks her. Ironically just now RRck askes whethe ri might work for him som time. Shnaghi would be much ore liavlle. I was never too keen on China. I never had s torng desire to ay a visit. i did wish tocom here at some point. I can corss this gian land off my itinerayr.

The curious incident of the Chinaman in the nighttime

Yesterevning I went to bed about mdinight
We have a Chinese mate called Teki who helps us a lot. Teki is 22 and a student. So he comes and stay in the flat. Chris has gone and so had Wonijin the Korean.
Anyway – after midnight there was a knock at the door. It was Teki. He was with a girl and I let him in. He has a Chinese girlfriend named Rose. But the Chinawoan he was with was NOT his girlfriend . She was someone else
he said ”she is very drunk she needs help.” I thought he was really helping her. They went to Chris bedroom . I wennt to bed and thought no more of it
An hour later there was knokcing at the door. Through the peep hole I saw several people. They were Chinese but spoke good English. They asked if Teki was there. I refused to answer. They kept knocking – louder and more insistent. They said They would call the police if I did not let them in. I said – call them. I have done thing.
I knocked on the door where Teki was. He would not wake up. I tried to say – get up people at the door want to speak to you.
 Eventually the people outside called the woman. I heard her answering the phone in the bedroom where she was with Teki. The door to tht room was locked
The young woman was persuaded to come out of the room by the people on the phone. There were 5 people at the door. This girl left the bedroom. She was fully dressed This young woman left the flat. As soon as she did 5 people burst in – 4 men and 1 woman.
A  bare chested Chinese even taller than me came in in a murderous rage. He went straugt to thebedroom door where Teki was. This Chinaman kicked the door off its hinges. When the Chinese get angry they really get furious!
I saw him go into the room. Teki was naked in bed snd clearlt drunk.
This big young Chinese boy shouted at Teki irately. Teki answered  back but was visibly scared. I wondered if he woud be killed.
I was frightened. Should I interven. The big Chinese slapped Teki across the face. He slapped him again and again. Teki was much smaller so did not retaliate
I got my jacket on and slipped out of the flat in a cowardly fashion. The two accomplices to thhe furious guy were even taller than me. They spoke great ENglish. I went to fetch security. he fat little secueity guard was relucant to come. I speak limited Chinese. I did not know the number of the police
I went back up tp the flat. The angry man had slapped Teki a few times. The woman was sitting on the floor sobbing. The accomplices were tryng to calm the big one down. They told me I had done thing wrong and would not be hit.
The big bloke started to kick Teki in the balls. Teki agreed to stand there and take it. It was very Chinese. The puiishement must fit the crime.
After a while the big chap became tranquil. I found out they are all basket ball palyers
Tek had been in a pub. He got drunk and picked up a girl who was even drunker.
He took her back to the flat.. She would not have sex with him. He was too wasted to get it up. But someone had seen them and tipped off her boyffriend. She had not told Teki she had a man. That is why these chaps came around
I laight about it now but it is scary
Teki was not seriously hurt – just slapepd around/
I feel ashamed for being too scared to defend my friend. I do not regret not being beaten up
Theose guys left with the girl. I doo not know if she got hit.
Quite a story!
Teki stayed in that bedroom. He vomite din the night.He is ok now. HE WENt to the hospital. His ear has been damaged a bit
His girlfriend Rose is coming back. What is he going to tell her about the bruises on his face? He is thinking of a story.

The First Troubled Times rise to a Crescendo.


From London’s point of view the security situation in Ireland had declined precipitiously by 1920. The IRA controlled large areas of the West at night. Even in daytime it was a very brave man who defied the IRA in much of the southern half of Ireland.

The Crown Forces suffered almost daily attacks from the un-uniformed IRA. Having inflicted a few casualties the IRA would then disappear into the civilian population. Soldiers and policemen always find this hard to tolerate. Those who hide behind the civilian population are not seen as men of honour Enraged policemen and soldiers lashed out – sometimes indiscriminately. The IRA had had reservations about killing RIC officers in early 1919. In 1919 policemen on patrol in country districts would suddenly see several rifles pointing at them from behind a wall. They would be called upon to surrender. When they did so they would have to put their arms down. These policemen would then be severely beaten up by the IRA and warned to resign from the RIC or next time they would be shot without warning. From the IRA’s viewpoint this was clement. They had not shot these men straightaway. At risk to the IRA the IRA had allowed these men to give up. The IRA had only roughed up these policemen and not killed them. The IRA also did this because some policemen were popular in their communities and the IRA did not want a backlash in opinion from killing much loved local police officer. By 1920 such qualms had disappeared.

At night soldiers and policemen would be jittery – expecting to be fired upon at any time. If they saw a figure in the dark they were to ask this person to stop and raise his hands. If such a person did not do so the soldier or police officer was likely to open fire. A number of people were shot to death for failing to halt. Such a person was never an IRA man so far as this writer knows. The IRA would not get that close while allowing the IRA to see them.

Unionist newspapers denounced the IRA in thunderous tones. They often expressed contumely for the IRA hiding  behind walls to launch their attacks upon His Majesty’s Forces. This was distinctly hypocritical since there is nothing contemptible about taking cover behind a wall. The British military had frequently done this.



The membership of the RIC had dropped off precipitously. Only men of outstanding courage remained in this force.

Because of the severe shortfall in recruits in Ireland there was a need to find more men to serve in the Irish police. There had always been some Welsh, Scots and Englishmen in the RIC.

Winston Churchill was then serving in the Cabinet. He was a particular advocate of recruiting for more men in Great Britain to join the RIC. In 1920 there were advertisements in mainland newspapers to join the RIC. Churchill noted there was ”a press of applicants.” Many of these men were ex-soldiers of the Great War. In the economically straitened times plenty of them had been unable to find work. Even those who had secured employment often found it was poorly remunerated, tedious or lacking in prestige.

Erstwhile soldiers, sailors and airmen enlisted in the Royal Irish Constabulary. One of them, Beaumont, was interviewed in 1981. He said he saw an advertisement and went to a recruiting office. He was on the boat to Ireland that night. His Britannic Majesty’s Government was keen to get these recruits into the RIC as fast as possible. The RIC was being depleted at an alarming rate.

These men arrived in Ireland in March 1920 and often found that there was an insufficiency of RIC uniforms for them. They were therefore clad in an amalgam of RIC uniforms and British Army uniforms. The RIC wore bottle green – it was so dark that it was almost black. They also wore the khaki of the Army.

In a Limerick theatre a local wag dubbed these mainland recruits to the RIC ”Black and Tans” which was greeted with uproarious laughter. ”Black and Tans” was the name of a local pack of hounds. The term Black and Tans is contemptuous and even hostile. Nevertheless this expression alludes to those men from Great Britain who joined the RIC in March and thereafter.

The RIC was still supposed to suppress ordinary crime as well as fighting the IRA. This article shall seek to avoid the IRA’s terminology of Black and Tans since it is opprobrious. The best alternative is mainland RIC.

The mainland RIC often had to take over stations that had been abandoned by the RIC. The RIC in the South was fairly demoralised. Some stations were then staffed entirely by mainland RIC men. There was a gulf between the mainland RIC and many of the local people. There was a distinct lack of empathy between the two. The mainland RIC was supposed to carry out normal police duties as well as combating the IRA. In fact it was the latter role that occupied most of their time and thought.

The mainland RIC often arrested and questioned suspected IRA men. There are many accusations that IRA men were beaten up in custody. Such allegations have seldom been refuted. Accusations of torture as such are rare. By torture we mean electric shocks, pulling out fingernails, using a vice and other horrific acts of cruelty.

The mainland RIC would often pysche themselves up before going on patrol. They knew they faced ambushes and wanted to work up come pluck. They would often sing as they drove around in tenders and lorries. This high spiritedness and bravado often gave the impression of being drunk. There are many accounts of people seeing police drunk on duty at this time. This would have been totally against regulations. It would also have been extremely stupid from a survival point of view. Someone who is inebriated is going to be malcoordinated and have slower reaction times. Eyesight and hearing will be inhibited. Such a man is more likely to be killed in any engagement than a sober man. These allegations are not necessarily always bogus but it is likely that many of them are bogus.



In 1920 the conflict showed no signs of abating. The mainland RIC were more distant from the people than the locally recruited RIC. When the IRA attacked RIC units that were mainly made up of mainland recruits these RIC men were even more likely to take it out on the local population.

Creameries and the like in the vicinity of attacks were sometimes destroyed by the mainland RIC. These RIC men justified such actions to themselves on the grounds that people there must have been aware of an impending attack. They had failed to tip off the RIC and therefore must have been in cahoots with the IRA. This was sometimes true. On the other hand ordinary folk were caught between a rock and a hard place. To assist the security forces would invite terrible punishment from the IRA. To assis the IRA would bring terrible punishment from the RIC.

One Mrs Lindsay informed the RIC about IRA activity. This lead to the death of an IRA man. This elderly woman was abducted and shot dead by the IRA.



In an armed conflict intelligence is of the first importance. This fight was no exception and both sides sought to gain an insight into the other. What were they thinking? Who were the secret agents on the other side? What were they about to do?

The IRA being a clandestine organisation had more secrets than the Crown Forces. The Forces of the Crown had barracks that all could see. Its belligerents went around in uniforms. It was widely known where its weapons were It was clear who its leaders were. In the case of the IRA such information was not publicly available.

The IRA spied on the Crown Forces through having informers in the midst of the enemy. The IRA also had post office staff who passed on useful information. Michael Collins’ cousin held such a position in Dublin. She told him many facts that were helpful to the IRA. Michael Collins was surprised that the authorities had not done some background checks on postal staff. He thought that they ought to have excluded his cousin from employment there. Collins asked rhetorically, ”How did these people get an empire at all?” By these people he seemed to exclude the Irish. The British Empire was built with an enormous Irish contribution. Further, it would have been unfair to refuse this woman a job because her cousin was Michael Collins. If the postal service had chosen not to employ anyone with a cousin in the republican movement then it would have had a very small pool of people to choose from.

The Crown Forces sought to recruit informers inside the IRA. The RIC knew who had been in the Irish Volunteers in 1918. This organisation had existed openly though illegally. IRA men at that time were used to being arrested regularly. They were held for a few hours or days and then released unless they were to be charged with an offence such as unlawful drilling.

In 1919 as the conflict erupted the RIC made efforts to persuade IRA men to change sides. G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was especially prominent in this. How could an IRA man be induced to turn his coat? It could be bribery, fear, blackmail or ideological reorientation. This IRA man would then be released. He would return to the IRA. He would have to meet his RIC handlers from time to time to tell them what intelligence he had gleaned. This could be done by the simple ruse of arresting him – this was a common occurrence for IRA volunteers and would not attract much suspicion.

British intelligence became aware that some postal workers were assisting the IRA. British intelligence taught its agents how to write in secret inks. A secret letter containing intelligence would be written in an invisible ink. Then an inoccuous letter ywould be written over it. Certain ordinary addresses in London were used by British intelligence for their spies to send letters to. Secret information would then be read there by intelligence analysts.

Some Irishmen who had formerly been British soldiers were persuaded to join the IRA by British intelligence. They would then be moles inside the IRA passing on crucial nuggets of information to their handlers. There had been nothing unusual about Irishmen joining the British Army in 1914. It had become more unusual by 1918. Many nationalists had done it as had many people who were apolitical. Being a former British soldier did not attract much suspicion. Some prominent IRA men had formerly served under the Union Flag such as Tom Barry.

The IRA was of course conscious of the fact that it had been infiltrated by informers. Since the 18th century republican organisations had been riddled with spies. Arms caches were found by the security forces, ambushes were anticipated, head honchoes of the IRA were arrested and safehouses and so on. Such reverses for the IRA did not come about by accident very often but mostly because the security forces had inside information.

However, Crown Forces intelligence seem to have had only limited success in turning men who were already inside the IRA into spies. Likewise, it did not have many successes with putting former soldiers into the IRA as informers. The Crown Forces relied on civilians assisting them. These people were usually loyalists living in districts with considerable IRA activity. They would pick up gossip or just happen to see people carrying firearms and deduce that such persons must be in the IRA. They would then tell the Crown Forces what they had seen. Such civilian informers seldom had very valuable information but their collaboration with the Crown Forces was still appreciated by that side.

The IRA was aware that these spies were the eyes and ear of Dublin Castle. It was resolved that spies must be extirpated.

Suspicion would fall on certain members of the IRA. They would be interrogated under torture. If the IRA came to believe that such a person really was a spy – as they usually did – he would be shot dead. The IRA had the practice of dumping the body of a suspected secret agent on a road outside a town at night. The body would be labelled ”Spies and informers beware.” This had a chilling effect on the local population. The IRA would often lie in wait near the cadaver for the Crown Forces to come out to retrieve it. Local people would see the dead body and spread the news. If the Crown Forces did not come out within a few hours the IRA would retire. Moreover, if the Crown Forces came out in great strength the IRA would not engage them but again would pull out without opening fire.

The IRA also began to think that many civilians were helping the Crown Forces with intelligence. The IRA was correct in so thinking. Suspicion fell on conspicuous loyalists. Only the very valiant would still openly express allegiance to the Crown in areas that were more or less under IRA control. Suspicion fell on Protestants particularly the wealthy and on former soldiers who had not shown sympathy towards the IRA. Such people were often abducted from their houses at night. If they were fortunate they were severely beaten up and given 24 hours to take the boat to Great Britain or face liquidation. If they were unlucky they would be tortured for a confession and then shot dead. The latter was more common. Upper class Protestants were those least likely to be in the IRA and thus least likely to have any information of use to the Crown Forces. These killings of so-called spies were often sectarian. Under torture most people will admit anything. Shooting dead these suspected spies was partly a means of sequestring land. Wealthy Protestants were descendants of 17th century immigrants who had seized land from Catholics who had supported the Spanish, Charles I or James II. Catholics, especially working class ones, often wanted to regain property that they felt had been stolen from their ancestors.

Many loyalists in the South, Catholic and Protestant, left the country. Their livestock and land was seized by the IRA.

People expressed astonishment that there were so many spies. If there had been that many spies then the IRA would have soon been vanquished. Dan Breen noted that much disquiet was felt about this. Of the roughly 2 000 people killed in the conflict dozens were so-called spies.

In West Cork 15 alleged spies were killed by the IRA. Thomas Barry noted that 9/15 were Roman Catholics and the remaining 6 were of the Protestant persuasion. In a vicinity where Protestants formed under 10% of the population they made up 40% of those killed on suspicion of spying. The Protestants who were attacked – whether fatally or not – tended to be middle class Protestants. They very wealthiest Protestant landowners usually lived in Great Britain. They often had large houses in Ireland and a domain but not thousands of tenant farms. These tenant farms had been compulsorily purchased by the tenants in the 1890s with the help of the government.

West Cork had only about 2% of Ireland’s population. In that barony the IRA functioned more effectually than in perhaps any other. We cannot extrapolate a figure of 15 alleged spies multiplied by 50 to get the total number of alleged spies killed by the IRA. In some counties the IRA was tiny or inactive. In other counties most people were Unionists.

This conflict was in one sense very different from the Ulster conflict of 1969-98. In the 1919-21 conflict the so-called spies who were done to death by the IRA were almost never IRA members. The IRA was very seldom penetrated by the Crown Forces. However, in the Ulster conflict of the late 20th century the IRA was, by the end, thoroughly infiltrated by informants.

In reality Crown Forces intelligence was fairly unsuccessful which explains why the Crown Forces performed poorly in this conflict. It is not likely that there were many spies in the IRA by 1921.



There were a few sectarian murders in the South. There were far more such murders in the North especially in Belfast. The Ulster Protestant Association sallied forth into working class Catholic arrondisements of Belfast to kill any Catholic they could find. The IRA struck back by killing Protestants. Both sides had an unspoken understanding that only adult males would be killed.

Sometimes women or children were killed by accident. There are no cases that this writer knows of in which either side purposefully killed a child or a woman. Sometimes a bomb would be thrown into a building and as a result children and women would be killed but the deliberate killing of women or children was unknown.

Decidedly more Roman Catholics were killed than Protestants. Catholics comprised only about 25% of the population of Belfast but made up 60% of the dead. It could be that one would expect the Catholics to suffer few fatalities than the Protestants because there were fewer Catholics to be killed. On the other hand one could say that as there were Protestants there were more of them to do the killing so one would expect the Protestant community to inflict more murders on the Catholics than the other way around. Each community has its share of psychopathic bigots. People were not not usually very sectarian were driven to homicidal rage by the barbaric slaying of civilians of their own religious denomination.

The IRA also attacked the RIC and the Army. The Crown Forces did not feel very safe in Catholic areas so they were reluctant to patrol there. On the other hand the Protestant areas were fanatically loyal to the security forces. This made it a more difficult prospect for the IRA to go their for the purpose of carrying out a sectarian attack.

Whereas  Protestants in the South who were killed were often middle class the Catholic murder victims in the North were overwhelmingly working class. There seemed to be no economic motive for the Belfast Pogroms. Some Catholics left Belfast because of these savage attacks.

The North of Ireland had been fairly divided on a denominational basis prior to this. This huge upsurge in sectarian violence made this divide very deep indeed.

The RIC in the North was recruited from the local people. Among the Protestant community in the North there was some support for the terrorist organisation known as the UPA. Some UPA supporters managed to join the Royal Irish Constabulary. Some men who were already in the RIC when the Ulster Protestant Association was founded soon joined the UPA in secret.

Many Catholics suspected that certain RIC officers carried out UPA attacks. This is very likely to be right. To date there are no proven cases. This is not to suggest that most RIC men were in any way involved in the UPA.

IRA men were routinely interned. Some UPA men were interned as well but fewer and later. Precipitate action against the UPA would have saved many lives on both sides.

The IRA undoubtedly committed dozens of sectarian murders. This must nail the lie that the IRA was not sectarian. It was not as sectarian as the UPA that is true. The UPA was bestial but did have one virtue – honesty. It openly proclaimed that it was sectarian.



So much attention is paid to violence at this point in Irish History that people often overlook the fact that other things were happening in Ireland at the time. After the Great War many men were demobilised. Many farmers returned to their farms in Great Britain. Great Britain could also import food without hindrance by U boats. Therefore Irish farmers could not sell so much of their food and not for such a high price. For the duration of the Great War there had been a prohibition on emigration from the UK (including Ireland of course). This ban was now lifted.

Jobs had been plentiful in Great Britain during the war because so many men were in the military. Many Irishmen and Irishwomen had gone there to do various jobs. Men who returned from the war were given their jobs back. Employers showed a strong preference for ex-servicemen. Factories that had been fulfilling government contracts in wartime no longer had such guaranteed jobs.

There was a steep rise in unemployment in Ireland and in Great Britain for all the reasons outlined in the foregoing. People were allowed to emigrate to the United States. However, the employment situation in the US was not much better at that stage.

The UK Government had kept many young men in Ireland through the Great War by the ban on emigration. There was now mass unemployment. These two factors go some way towards explaining the steep rise in the IRA activity. A lot of jobless young men need something to do. They were ripe for recruiting by Sinn Fein demagogues.

The Irish Parliamentary Party continued to exist. Nationalist MPs skewered government ministers on the conduct of certain members of the Crown Forces.

There were local elections in January 1920 in which the Irish Party performed very well. The conflict was getting worse and worse. The Irish Party did not support the IRA nor did it support the Crown Forces. The fact that the Irish Party gained so many votes suggests that there was a lot of opposition to the IRA. This was not loyalism as such. The conflict was causing a lot of suffering to ordinary people and there seemed to be no end in sight.

Sinn Fein and the Irish Parliamentary Party did not get along well. A small number of IPP councillors were shot dead by the IRA.

The Gaelic League was closely associated with the republican movement so it was banned. The Gaelic Atheltic Association was also outlawed. Despite that Gaelic games were played. The Crown Forces did not attempt to prevent people from playing Gaelic football or hurling. Some Gaelic teams were known to enlist in the IRA en bloc. Furthermore, the RIC had long suspected the IRA of organising training sessions under the guise of a GAA training session.



Kevin Barry was, on the face of it, a mere bit player in this conflict. Barry was an undergraduate at University College Dublin who joined the IRA. Barry was part of an IRA unit that ambushed a British Army unit that was collecting bread from a Dublin bakery.

One young soldier was shot dead. Barry was captured at the scene but his accomplices escaped. Barry claimed that he was mistreated in custody. The twisted his arms and knelt on his chest. That was the size of it. He did not allege what would be accurately described as torture. His account of his treatment is so moderate that it is probably veracious. He was offered the opportunity to save his life if he turned against his former comrades. Kevin Barry refused. Barry was charged with murder. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death.

No one has ever claimed that Kevin Barry did not have a fair trial. Would Barry be executed? He became a cause celebre. The head of the RIC said he would resign if Barry was not hanged. By October 1920 dozens of people were being killed each month. Yet there was more attention paid to sparing the life of this one than all the others who had been slain.

The IRA considered attacking Mountjoy Gaol with a view to rescuing him. In the end they decided it could not be effected. Just in case the British Army formed up outside the prison to deter any such assault. Collins was said to be distraught that Barry would not be saved. ”Poor Kevin Barry”, he lamented. He said there would be, ”No more lonely gallows.” He would see to it that there was a lot more publicity about future executions. This would make them more harmful to the image of the Crown Forces.

In the end Barry was executed on All Souls Day 1920. The timing was very fortuitious from the IRA’s point of view. This was a day of obligation for Catholics. Churches were packed. Many masses were said for the repose of his soul.

In fact the killing of Kevin Barry was a boon for the IRA. He was the ideal poster boy for them: a cheerful, handsome, 18 year old medical student. Much was made of his youth, ”but a lad of 18 summers.” Not much attention was paid to the fact that the man killed by Barry and his friends was younger at 17.

A ballad was written to him, ”In Mountjoy Gaol one Monday morning young Kevin Barry gave his young life for liberty.”

By October 1920 over 1 000 people had been killed in the conflict. Most of them had been killed by the IRA. These people killed by the IRA were RIC, soldiers, alleged informers, Protestants killed for sectarian reasons, government officials and civilians killed by accident. The Crown Forces had killed IRA men and some civilians. The UPA had killed dozens of Catholic civilians and some IRA men too.

Astonishingly up until this time no one had been hanged for any killing in this conflict. The death penalty existed in almost every country in the world at the time. Capital punishment was not seen as tendentious at the time when it was awarded for murder. But which murderers deserved to be executed was more controversial. In Great Britain roughly 20 people were hanged each year at the time. None of them were hanged in relation to any killing arising from the Troubles in Ireland.

Republican propagandists have people believe that lots of IRA were executed. In fact in a conflict in which over 2 000 people were killed only 24 IRA men were executed. The majority of those killed were killed by the IRA. It cannot be said that the Crown was excessively punitive in this regard. In only one case was an IRA man hanged for a slaying that republicans say he did not commit.

Cumman na mBann protested outside Mountjoy Gaol with the banner ”England executes prisoners of war.” The UK Government would say that there were no prisoners of war. There was no war. Ireland was part of the UK. The IRA was not an army. It did not represent a sovereign state. It was not a signatory of the Geneva Convention and often did not observe its terms. The IRA did not wear uniform. It often deliberately killed civilians.

There were cases when the IRA were merciful. They took prisoners and did not harm them. They gave people a chance to leave the RIC and did not kill them without warning.


The First Troubled Times in Ireland: 1919.


The conflict in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 was sometimes called the Troubles. This name was reprised for the conflict in Northern Ireland from roughly 1969 up until about 1998. The 1919-21 conflict has also been dubbed other things such as the Anglo-Irish War or the War of Independence or the Tan War. The use of the word ‘war’ is tendentious. As Ireland was not recognised as a sovereign state it was not a war. Moreover, the use of the word ‘independence’ is also disputed. Southern Ireland was not fully independent after 1921. Not until 1949 did most of Ireland become absolutely independent. Irish republicans are also known to take exception to this word because some of Ireland is not remotely independent but remains a full part of the United Kingdom. The word ‘Tan’ here refers to the pejorative term for English, Scots and Welsh recruits to the RIC – ”the Black and Tans.”

This piece refers to the fighting in Ireland at that stage in History as the First Troubled Times since it is the least objectionable and perhaps the most accurate.

As peace had been agreed with Germany the justification for much extraordinary security legislation seemed to lapse. The Defence of the Realm Acts  (DORA) was intended for a wartime situation only. However, in Ireland IRA attacks became ever more frequent. People had been detained without trial or charge. His Majesty’s Government suspended habeas corpus in Ireland. This had been used in the past on several occasions in Ireland and it had always been at least partly successful in degrading rebel organisations.

Michael Collins became one of the most prominent figures in the IRA. He lived in Dublin and traveled openly. The Dublin Metropolitan Police and the British Army conducted frequent road blocks to search for wanted men. His photo was among several of senior ranking IRA men whom the Crown Forces sought to arrest. Collins was ultra calm and this meant that he did not attract suspicion. One of his ruses was to act drunk and stagger up to soldiers singing raucously. They would usually think this was hilarious and let him pass without questioning. He was mindful of the old adage – ”if you are not hiding no one looks for you.”

Many IRA men were detained. They were held in prisons with those who had been convicted of various offences – some related to the conflict and some not. At Ballykinler in County Down an internment camp was established for IRA suspects. In the end over 4 000 men were held there.

Collins ran the IRA along classic guerrilla warfare doctrine. The strategy was to attack small and isolated outposts. These would be surrounded at night by an overwhelming number of IRA men. The RIC officers inside would be called upon to surrender. They would usually do so. If needs be there would be gunfire and occasionally the police station had to be stormed. Such attacks were not always successful. Sometimes the RIC would hold out until dawn. As daybreak approached the IRA would end the engagement and slip away to dump arms at prearranged locations and try to mingle with the civil population.

At dawn a column from a larger police station or army barracks would set out to come to the aid of the embattled outpost. Such relief columns did not travel at night for fear of ambush. The IRA would have prepared ambuscades along routes that a relief column would use. But as dawn broke such IRA ambush parties would retire and disperse.

These rural IRA units were known as flying columns.

The government realised it could not man all these small police stations and coastguard stations. They would have to be abandoned. That meant ceding control of certain rural districts to the IRA.

Soon the IRA could patrol openly even in the daytime. It became very dangerous to be suspected of anti-IRA beliefs in such a zone.

Amongst the civilian populace there was some approval for the strategy of the IRA, some ambivalence and some hostility. This varied according the county and to the time. The northern counties with Protestant majorities were not fertile ground for the IRA at all. Some of the southern counties were quite good territory for the IRA especially Cork. As the conflict wore on and the IRA appeared to be winning more people threw their weight behind them. People wished to be on the winning side. The deaths might be worth it if something good came out of it. It might also be perilous not to be seen to be a supporter of the IRA. Much depended on the actions of the security forces. Certain incidences of gross misconduct by the security force turned those who were equivocal towards being pro-IRA. Those who were IRA supporters became more strident in their belief. Some of those who were pro-government were driven to being neutral. Amongst the pro-government people their devotion to the cause was undermined by wrongdoing on the part of the Crown forces.

A new offence was created by statute – ”Being in possession of documents liable to cause disaffection to His Majesty.” This catch-all meant that those who held any materials which wrote positively of the IRA could be convicted.

As the IRA acquired more recruits and more weapons it would be able to attack larger bases and to launch ambushes even in the daytime.

The overall strategy was to overrun larger and larger bases. As the IRA grew more adept and more heavily armed it would be able to behave more like a conventional army. Collins maintained that the IRA must not fight pitched battles. The IRA would never have artillery or tanks. The Crown Forces had both and it also had the Royal Air Force. The IRA’s advantages were mobility and invisibility. It also had a considerable degree of civilian assistance. Collins believed he could make the conflict so costly for the UK Government that they would finally be obliged to give in. Eventually the IRA would be marching through Dublin. That was the theory.



A first Dail Eireann did not endorse the actions of the IRA. Members of the Dail were known as deputies or else Teachta Dala (TDs). Many Teachta Dala were also members of the Irish Volunteers. More and more of them started to take part in the conflict. The Dail did not repudiate the IRA either after January 1919. In time the decision was taken by the Dail to embrace the IRA and to expressly approve its campaign. The Dail announced ”a state of war exists between England and Ireland.” On this basis it is unsurprising that TDs were frequently locked up by the security forces.



In some of the southernmost counties it became increasingly difficult for the RIC to function as a normal police force. They were intimidated into not doing so. Some of the RIC began to pass information to the IRA. They did so for a number of different reasons. Some of them were terrorised into so doing. Others felt a genuine ideological sympathy for the IRA. As the behaviour of some British soldiers were bad this made some RIC officers question what they were doing in upholding Crown authority.

RIC officers were killed and some were invalided out of the force by injuries inflicted by the IRA. Others resigned from the RIC out of fear that they would be killed.

The IRA organised a boycott campaign against the RIC. In countryside districts where the IRA had a fairly strong hold over the civilian population, shopkeepers and the like were told not to serve RIC officers on pain of severe consequences from the IRA. A few shopkeepers were ardent IRA backers and needed no encouragement. A shopkeeper was in those days entitled to refuse any custom he liked. The RIC and their families found it difficult to access basic services. RIC men were sometimes shunned socially.

Not many recruits came forward to take the place of those who had dropped out of the police. Just as the police needed more officers it was experiencing an acute shortage of manpower.



The IRA began to attack British Army patrols. The IRA seldom if ever wore uniforms. This meant that they could get very close to their quarry before opening fire. It also put the IRA outside the Geneva Convention which requires that combatants wear uniforms and carry arms unconcealed.

When a British soldier was killed his comrades would be incensed. There were incidents where there were grave breaches of discipline. Soldiers would smash up shops.

The houses of IRA suspects were frequently raided by the security forces. They would search for wanted men and weapons. If either were found the security forces would give the family some time to remove their possessions before the house was burnt down. In many other countries civilians who were believed to have assisted rebels were shot dead. In Ireland they were very rarely even imprisoned. Burning down such houses was not an especially harsh penalty.Bertie Ahern’s grandparents farmstead was raided by the Crown Forces. They were suspected of collaborating with the IRA. The Crown Forces could not prove it so they did not burn the house but they killed all the farm animals.

No one likes having their house searched. Several armed men searching one’s house must be a scary experience especially when this sometimes occurred at night. This alienated many people. The Crown Forces did not always behave well when they did so.

Because the Crown Forces took to torching the houses of Republicans the IRA decided to retaliate. It started to burn the houses of Loyalists. How would one know that someone was a loyalist? It had become very dangerous to display the Union Flag in much of the south of Ireland. Those who were loyalists in the South found it prudent not to be seen talking to members of the security forces. People had were or formerly were members of the Unionist Party were obvious targets. Former soldiers and sailors were also suspected. Sometimes soldiers or RIC officers approached Protestants in the South expecting them to be receptive to overtures. Quite often these security force personnel were given short shrift. ”Please do not speak to us or we will be even more suspected than we already are. There shall be hell to pay.”

The IRA intercepted and read personal mail to gather intelligence. Some people in the post office were IRA collaborators and passed information to them.

The IRA sought to usurp the functions of the police. This would mean that the IRA was more or less running a state. It would also undercut legitimacy from the RIC. The RIC would no longer have any ordinary policing role. It would exist solely to uphold Crown authority.

The IRA had methods of trying to enforce laws that exist in most countries. The IRA seldom locked people up because it did not have prisons. If it set up prisons these could be found by the enemy. Moreover, it would tie up men. The IRA tried not to have permanent bases.

The IRA would kidnap suspected miscreants. They would be interrogated. The RIC sometimes used rough methods with IRA suspects or ordinary suspects. Being beaten up in a police station was not uncommon in any country in the early 20th century.  The IRA almost never gave people a semblance of a trial.

The IRA punished suspected criminals by various methods. These would be shaming them by tying them to church railings overnight with a sign around his neck stating his alleged offence. This was cold and uncomfortable for the victim. He (it invariably he) would doubtless wet himself after being stuck there for several hours. He would then be seen by everyone.

People were beaten up. People were fined in money or cattle. People were banished from Ireland. They would be given a few days to take the boat to Great Britain or be killed.

The IRA set up IRA Police units. The IRA also tried to administer courts handling civil matters. Such Dail courts were chary of being too socialist. Too much prejudice against the propertied classes might drive the wealthy into the arms of the Crown.


A dream of Sir Rolf, a pplane and four ugly women


I dreamt I was in a comedy show. Methinks I was in the audience and not performing but I could have that wrong. I called to mine that gag by Francis Boyle – about searching for the 300 missing Nigerian schoolgirls using British celebrity paedos as sniffer dogs. I saw Siir Rolf Harris in the audience. No one seemed to notice him. He looked insouciant and I was surprised. I did not think he would have the nerve to show his face n public. In fact he is still in the clink.

I dreamt I was waiting to board a plane. I was hacked off as the staff oepned and closed the doors so many times. It was mor elie  abus though – the doors were ner ground level. What wee they doing it for. Someone told me of crazy people who tried toopn planes drs from the sindie while i flight

Later I was somewhere else – in a building. It was summery weathe rout of doors. There wa s abunkebd ther were two women in eahc bunk. They were chubby white women in their 30s or 40s. They were unappealing. I was iin bed with one pair and thne the other. I dood not bone either of them but their was frottage. I got hard. I awoke as one wold imagine

Ireland in the Armistice


A shaky peace began at 11 o’clock in the morning of November 1918. The end of the Great War was uncertain. The Allies had not yet decided what terms to demand the Central Powers agree too. It could be that the armistice would break down even before that point. It could be that when peace terms were offered to the Central Powers they would find the content so objectionable that they would elect to fight on instead. In Russia the country was in the midst of bloody havoc.

In Ireland the law and order situation had been bad for some time. The Irish Volunteers – still illegal – had been refounded. The often drilled in public in country districts. Drilling without permission of a magistrate was unlawful. The Irish Volunteers did it all the same – delighting in cocking a snook at Crown authority. Occasionally the Royal IRISH Constabulary would arrest volunteers for this. Volunteers were sometimes put on trial and sentenced to a few months in prison. There were many collisions between the police and the Irish Volunteers. The Irish Volunteers were increasingly know by a name that they never officially adopted – the Irish Republican Army. Sometimes the Irish Volunteers were known by the Irish translation of that name – Oglaich na hEireann. In fact that is Volunteers of Ireland. It should be Eireannach Oglaich to be the same order as in English.

Hurleys were often used in fights between the RIC and he IRA. In 1917 one policeman was killed from being struck on the head by a hurley.

The Gaelic Athletic Association was thoroughly under the influence of the IRA. The IRA and Sinn Fein were very intermingled. People sometimes called the IRA ”the Sinn Fein Volunteers.” Many people were members of both organisations.

As soon as the armistice was signed David Lloyd George went to Buckingham Palace to request that George V dissolve Parliament and call a general election. His Britannic Majesty chose to follow the advice of his first minister. An election ensued.

Men over the age of 21 were permitted to vote unless they were detained under the mental health act or were excluded from voting for other reasons. Peers of the realm were deprived of the vote as was His Gracious Majesty. Those who had been conscientious objectors in the war had the right to vote stripped from them. Those serving in the armed forces were allowed to vote at the age of 19.

For the first time in centuries women were allowed to vote but only over the age of 30.

The franchise was also widened. Previously only the head of a household had been permitted to vote. In 1918 pretty much all men were allowed to vote.

In Ireland about two-thirds of the electorate were first time voters. There had not been an election in eight years. The law stated that elections must be held every seven years. Owing to the exigencies of war Parliament had delayed the election by  a year.

Many members of the United Irish LEAGUE had defected to Sinn Fein – sometimes en masse. This was because the United Irish LEAGue – the constituency organisation of the IPP – was seen as dull and geriatric. Its generational moment had passed. Home Rule had been passed but not implemented. People were more radically nationalist. Dillon was seen as an ineffectual leader.

People vote this way or that or join political movements for psychological reasons as much as political ones. Sinn Fein was seen as youthful, rebellious, patriotic, tough, exciting, vibrant, militant and so forth. It appealed particularly to the young. It had long advocated full political rights for women which the IPP had opposed.

In many constituencies the Irish Parliamentary Party did not field a candidate. In several instance an IPP parliamentarian was retiring after many years of service. In Munster the All for Ireland League had been a prominent force. The All for Ireland League had been a separate nationalist party to the IPP. The All for Ireland League dissolved itself and told its supporters to vote Sinn Fein.

Laurence Ginnell – an independent nationalist MP for Louth – joined Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein had the wind in its sails.

Sinn Fein sought to publish its manifesto ”An Address to the Irish People.” The war was not officially over. There was censorship of such documents and certain words were censored from that one.

In twenty-seven seats – chiefly in Munster – there was only one candidate and he was a Sinn Feiner.

Unionists stood in all the Ulster constituencies and a few of the southern ones. There were Labour candidates too in the North. Labour in the South was nationalist and did not stand for election.

Sinn  Fein seemed to have been very popular in early 1918 but by late 1918 its popularity had dipped. This is anecdotal since there were no opinion polls.

Ireland went to the polls that December. For the first time the whole country voted on one day. Usually voting was staggered or over several days. Of the 106 constituences available Sinn Fein won 73. The Irish Party won 6 and the Unionists took the remaining 27. Sinn Fein won 53% of the vote. This is misleading. In some constituencies there was no voting since Sinn Fein won unopposed. In such constituencies Sinn Fein would probably have won by a healthy majority.

Sinn Fein engaged in a lot of cheating. There was personation. The dead were voted a lot. Irish Party meetings were disrupted. Some children falsely voted. There was remarkably little strife between Unionists and nationalists. The aggro was between Sinn Fein and the IPP.

tHE RESUlts were declared just after Christmas. Sinn Fein took it to be a mandate for Ireland to leave the United Kingdom. Sinn Fein had advocated using any means to make Ireland separate from Great Britain. Sinn Fein did not mention the use of force but many assumed that this was what was implied.

In January 1919 some IRA men decided to take action. The country had become a little tranquil. The war appeared to be over. Constitutional methods were being used. The IRA had some smuggled weapons left over from 1914 that had not been seized. Some of the Tipperary IRA decided to seize some dynamite. Dynamite was transported to a quarry near Soloheadbeg. This explosive was transported under guard lest someone steal it and use it for a nefarious purpose. Several IRA man lay in wait behind a low stone wall. A horse drawn cart came along. Two RIC officers were escorting the quarrymen.

Sean Treacy was the leader of the IRA unit that day. He was with Dan Breen and several others. According to Breen’s account the IRA leader called upon the RIC to surrender. The RIC did not instantly comply and they were both shot dead by Sean Treacy. Whether he really called on them to surrender is a moot point.How could they surrender? It could have been by ptting up their hands. Breen seems to suggest that the IRA shot both these men because they could use their rifles to fire at the IRA. They may have had their rifles in their hands and been in a position too fire fairly quickly. It could have been that they had their rifles slung across their backs in a more relaxed manner. This would have meant it would have taken several seconds for the police to take their rifles of their backs and train them at the IRA. Perhaps the IRA had no intention of letting these men capitulate.

Blood had been dranw. The IRA seized the horse and cart and rode off. The gelignite had been the ostensible objective of the raid. The IRA never point out that they abandoned it a few miles later – it was recovered. Driving explosives at hugh sppeed is dangerous . Did the IRA really want the explosives. If so it was a failure. If not then it was an excuse to shoot two policemen.



On the same day as the Soloheadbeg slayings the first Dail Eireann assembled. Dail Eireann means ”Parliament of Ireland”. Even when speaking English one always alludes to it by its Irish language name. They met at the Mansion House in Dublin. The Mansion House is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The Dail Eireann was to be made up of all those elected to the British House of Commons for Irish constituencies. Invitations were sent to all those elected in Ireland. However, it became a one party parliament. To be fair to Sinn Fein this was because the Irish Party MPs refused to turn up. Their half dozen continued to attend Parliament at Westminster. The Unionists did not show up either.

Dail Eireann held a roll call. Certain MPs were in custody. Their names would be answered by the Irish words for ”imprisoned by the foreigner.” Michael Collins’ name was answered by someone else. Dail Eireann was deceiving the public because Collins had gone to Great Britain. He was part of a plan to help Eamonn de Valera escape from Strangeways Gaol in Manchester. That plan succeeded. In fact de Valera used the wax from the key of a candle at mass to make an impression of a key. De Valera was in his own mind the most pious Catholic of all. It was surely unethical to abuse the sanctity of the mass to help him in an attempt to take part in a conflict.

At Dail Eireann a certain name on the roll call brought gales of laughter. ”Eamonn Carson”. This brought the house down because everyone thought the idea that the leader of the Unionists would show up was hilarious.

A Proclamation of Independence was read to the world in Irish, English and French.

Sinn Fein’s newspaper issued a denunciation of the ”senseless murders” at Soloheadbeg. Arthur Griffith disapproved of these killings because he felt they distracted attention from Sinn Fein’s campaign of non-co-operation with the UK Government. Violence had been tried in 1916 and had been a total debacle. Another method must be tried.



A Sinn Fein delegation went to Paris and sought to be admitted to the Paris Peace talks. This delegation was headed by Sean T O’Kelly. O’Kelly and his acolytes were rejected since Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and thus already represented. No country in the world had ever recognised Ireland’s suzerainty. Sinn Fein’s attitude to this peace conference was schizoid. They claimed that Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom and was not a belligerent. But if Ireland had been neutral in this war then Ireland had no business taking part in this conference. Other neutral lands such as Switzerland and Spain were not part of this peace parley. The price of failure was not high for O’Kelly. He later became President of the Irish Republic – 1945-59. My grandfather met him once.This potentate’s name was sometimes spelt O’Ceallaigh.



Despite Dail Eireann not endorsing what the IRA was doing local IRA leaders were determined to start a campaign. A man hunt was lauunched for those who had shot those two Irish police officers in Soloheadbeg. Tipperary was scoured. These two policemen had been popular local figures. One of them was known to challenge children to spell rhodedendron.

Most of the Royal Irish Constabulary were drawn from the mass of the people – they were working class Catholics like the communities they served. Whereas about 70% of the population was Roman Catholic about 80% of the RIC was comprised of Roman Catholics. There can be no imputation of anti-Catholicism about this force since it was more Catholic than the general population. Men joined the RIC for several reasons. It was a decently paid and permanent job and it was serving one’s community. Policemen chiefly dealt with normal policing issues such as cattle rustling, brawls and illegal alcohol stills. There was an element of upholding government control which was the case everywhere. The RIC had not been unpopular in 1914. As they had been required to enforce increasingly controversial government policy during the Great War a rift had begun to open up between some of the Catholic community and the RIC.

Irish Republican Army leaders in the countryside began to launch desultory attacks on the RIC.

Sean Hogan – one of those involved in the Soloheadbeg Ambush – was arrested. Sean Hogan was arraigned. He would be tried and if found guilty – as seemed probable – he was almost certainly be sentenced to be hanged by the neck until he was dead. Even if he had been handed the death penalty it is no foregone conclusion that he would have been punished with death. His Majesty had been remarkably lenient with Irish republicans down the years. Very few of them had been executed for killing RIC men. The executions of the principal plotters of the 1916 bloodbath had been seen to have been an error of the first order. It is likely that His Britannic Majesty’s Government would have learnt from their mistake and chosen not to execute Hogan. If he had been sentenced to death the Viceroy of Ireland would probably have advised His Majesty the King to exercise thhe Royal Prerogative of Mercy and commute the sentence to life imprisonment.

He was being transported by train handcuffed and in the presence of RIC detectives. The IRA under Dan Breen caught wind of this. The communicated by telegram – referring to their comrade as ”the greyhound” as a code. The IRA lay in wait for the train at Knocklong. They held up the train and shot the RIC men who had Hogan in custody. The IRA  ran off with Hogan and made good their escape. A blacksmith used a hammer to break the manacles around young Hogan’s wrists.

Breen recalled acidly that ”many leaders of church and state denounced us for the crime of saving our young friend from the gallows.”

In other counties there were a few attacks on the British Army and the RIC. The IRA did not have many weapons. They began to raid for arms. Certain families who were known to have guns would find their house surrounded by armed and masked IRA men in the middle of the night. They would be told to hand over their weapons or to face the consequences. These families would invariably chose to hand over their guns. Usually nothing further to such families for a while. The IRA tended to target fairly wealth Protestant families in the countryside. This was partly because such people were those most likely to have weapons and to need them for hunting and self-defence. There was an element of sectarianism to such arms seizures. Some people chose to hand their guns in to the RIC for safekeeping.

In rural Cork Liam Lynch decided to launch an attack on some British soldiers as they walked to church one Sunday. These soldiers were known to attend divine worship at a Wesleyan church. Lynch and his men stood around in the streets apparently chatting and indifferent to the soldiers. On a given signal they rushed at the soldiers, drew clubs and bludgeoned the soldiers – seizing their guns. One soldier was killed and several were wounded. There were no IRA casualties so presumably none of the guns were loaded.

Such attacks spread. As the IRA met with some success IRA units in other counties began to imitate such attacks. The IRA in counties where there was no fighting began to think they were being too callow. They stirred to action.



In Ulster the Orange Order saw its membership up by half after the Great War. Close bonds had been formed between men who had served in the 36th Ulster Division. Some of them had joined for non-political reasons. Often they came back politicised and were drawn into the Orange Order. There was a sharp rise in unemployment after the Great War. The Orange Order was something of a friendly society. These men helped each other find jobs and financially supported each other in difficult times.

The Ulster Volunteer Force continued to exist in 1919. However, it was superseded by a more militant outfit. This was the Ulster Protestant Association. The UPA was a nakedly sectarian organisation. The UVF had never said that its membership was restricted to those of the Reformed Faith. That said there has been no mention of a Catholic member of the UVF. ‘

The UPA began to launch attacks on the IRA and the Catholic community. The UPA seemed to draw no distinction between the IRA and the Catholic community as a whole. Some IRA men were shot dead but sometimes Catholics who were not suspected of IRA membership were deliberately killed by the UPA.

The UPA was soon declared to be an unlawful organisation. Catholics in Protestant areas were often told to leave or have their houses burnt. Catholics in business with a mostly Protestant workforce were sometimes told to leave on pain of being severely beaten.

The IRA responded in kind. A few members of the UPA were shot dead. The IRA also killed Protestant civilians for the sole reason that they were Protestant. There can be no doubt that there was some sectarianism in the IRA. This is not to say that all IRA men were anti-Protestant. There were a few Protestants in the IRA. These sectarian tit for tat killings spiralled upward. The grief and rage engendered by a loved on being killed moved some to vengeance. Some killed out a sheer desire for revenge. Sometimes it was a more calculated but no less violent. It was a decision on the basis that one had to hit back. If one did not hit back them the enemy would not stop. The enemy would only hit harder. One had to show the enemy that this conflict would hurt his side very badly indeed. Of course this sort of specious reasoning only caused yet more killing.



On 26 June the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Germany had made peace with the Allies. The Allies could afford to breathe easy. The treaties with Austria, Hungary, the Ottoman Empire (for its still had that name though it was already shorn of most of its non-Turkish territory) and Bulgaria took another few months.  Germany had provided half the manpower and most of the industrial output of the Central Powers. As Germany had very reluctantly bowed to the inevitable it was not all but unthinkable that they other Central Powers would not also cave in. The British Army would not now have to invade Germany. The United Kingdom therefore had more troops to transfer to trouble spots – including within the UK. In Ireland there were more and more assaults by the IRA.

There were flashpoints aplenty. There was great unrest in India. In April 1919 Brigadier General Dyer – an Irishman – ordered Indian troops under his command to open fire on an unarmed crowd at a banned protest in Amritsar. Several hundred civilians were killed. In Great Britain there was much agitation. Civil War was raging in Russia. British soldiers were in action at some points there. Some Britishers had absorbed Bolshevik ideas. There was a strike by the Metropolitan Police. In Glasgow there were huge socialist demonstrations. The UK Government was deeply worried. Tanks were brought onto the streets of Glasgow. In fact no one was killed there but it showed how jittery the government was. The United Kingdom was having difficulty in setting up a mandate in Iraq and Palestine.

Many soldiers and sailors were demobilised. The UK economy had been badly hit by the Great War. There was a mountain of debt. Lloyd George had promised ”homes fit for heroes”. Many British servicemen came home to find themselves unemployed.

Say yes to beauty contests


An Argentine town has outlawed beauty contests. This is a retrograde step and it is an attack on freedom. Rights have been abridged without any decent justification.

Those who have usurped the liberty of the citizen say that it is because beauty contests cause eating disorders and problems around female body image. Even if this were true it would still be wrong to oppress people with this ghastly law. Eating disorders existed loong before these contests and shall exist forever after. Moreover, people are often unhappy with their body image and sometimes riightly so. Poeple only need to be influenced by the mass media if they wish to be so influenced. We could have beauty contests for medium size and larger women to balance tings out. The pendulum will swing back. There is already a movement against cadaverously thin models. Size zero is revolting.

I acknowledge that it is not all or nothing. These beauty pageants may cause more people to be anorexic. Those who advocate a prohibition on such activities will then say that they have reduced incidences of anorexia and that they do not claim to be able to prevent it totally. I avoid the absolutist fallacy.

It is wrong to take away my rught to watch such tournaments because some people are fookish and develop bulimia or anorexia nervosa because of such competitions.

II do see it from a woman’s perspective sometimes. A friend named Carl when he was a schoolboy said that we have to ask ourselves how we would feel if women always perused magazine full of men who were ripped and had enormous penises. Ordinaryy boys would feel inadequate and compelled to meaure up to an impossible sttandard. Boys would feel worthless. Notwithstanding this it is still wrong to ban such beauty contests. How does one define such a thing/ That is problematic. Any appreciation of good looks can be condemned by these neo puritans.