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.
TAKING STOCK OF THE CONFLICT.
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.
BLOODY SUNDAY 1920 – the ANNIHILATION OF THE CAIRO GANG
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.
THE KILLINGS AT CROKE PARK
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 BURNING OF PATRICK STREET
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.
THE GOVERNMENT OF IRELAND ACT.
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 1921.
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.
HOME RULE IN THE SOUTH
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.
HOME RULE IN THE NORTH.
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.