Civil war, counter-revolution and the consolidation of the Free State

by Philip Ferguson; this is thesis chapt 11


In the previous chapter we saw how the pan-nationalist front for national independence came apart at the end of 1921.  The southern nationalist bourgeoisie, the old Unionist elite, the Catholic Church hierarchy and sections of the middle class who aspired to become capitalists supported the Treaty because it gave them what they wanted – an Irish state over which they had a substantial degree of control.   (In the case of a section of the old Unionist elite,  Although it was less than what they hoped for – many of them would have preferred not to have partition – it was a far better option than continued struggle with Britain.  Prolonged struggle tended to undermine the old order and throw into question even new nationalist sources of authority when these were used to uphold the old order – such as republican courts and police which sided with Unionist landowners against pro-republican small farmers and agricultural labourers.  Workers had mobilised around the political issue of independence and undertaken increasingly militant struggles around economic issues.  While workers’ struggles around these latter issues tended to be localised and spontaneous, the widespread seizures of workplaces nevertheless by their very nature raised, in at least an embryonic form, the question of what a truly free Ireland might look like.  In particular, they raised the issue of which class or classes would rule the new Ireland which was emerging during the war for independence.

In June 1922 the Third International, which had maintained a great deal of interest in Ireland and which had been kept informed of events by both British and Irish revolutionaries – amongst them James Connolly’s young son, Roddy – issued a statement declaring:  “After all the efforts to maintain its domination by force of arms had been frustrated by the heroic, self-sacrificing defence of the Irish people, it was obliged to come to an understanding with the Irish bourgeoisie.  For the semblance of an independent Irish Free State the representatives of the Irish capitalists – Collins, Griffith and co – sacrificed the fruits of a long and successful struggle, and received in return as a Judas reward, the right to exploit the Irish workers together with the British bourgeoisie.”[1]

It is my contention that this is a fundamentally correct statement of what happened in Ireland with the adoption of the Treaty and the establishment of the Free State.  In this and the following chapter I will look at the process by which the Free State was constructed and consolidated as a capitalist neo-colonial state, the class interests which it represented, and what this meant for workers, women and the republicans who continued to adhere to “the Republic”.[2]  I will also argue, as against both revisionist and republican interpretations, that the single biggest factor in the victory of the Free State was the complete inadequacy of the response of the republican anti-Treaty forces.  Again and again they allowed the initiative to be held by the neo-colonial faction and essentially ensured their own defeat.  This policy of equivocation and retreat stemmed from a lack of any consistent revolutionary political programme, in turn a reflection of the petty-bourgeois nature of the anti-Treaty leadership.

At the same time, the labour movement continued to abstain from providing any radical leadership to workers.  The ILPTUC leadership, typified by Thomas Johnson, and the ITGWU leadership, typified by William O’Brien, failed to chart any course by which the working class could take the leadership of the nation and forge an independent Ireland in their own interests.  Indeed, the dominant element of the labour leadership backed both the Treaty and the new neo-colonial state, becoming an Irish equivalent of the British Labour Party in the role of His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – a position which, while stabilising the Free State, ensured that Labour as a party would remain a marginal political force for the next seventy years.[3]

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Following the acceptance of the Treaty by the Dail, de Valera resigned the presidency, then stood for it again, losing by two votes to Griffith.  Griffith was elected president of the Dail, not president of the Republic; the Republic was thus allowed to disappear as a formal entity.  Other governmental portfolios were then organised.[4]  Following this election, on January 10, 1922, the anti-Treaty TDs walked out of the Dail amidst an acrimonious exchange in which Collins denounced them as “Deserters to the Irish nation!” and “Foreigners-Americans-English” and Markievicz yelled back “Oath breakers and cowards!” and “Lloyd Georgeites!”[5]

The republicans did not stay outside the Dail and appeal to the country with an alternative programme and course of action which might have prevented the implementation of the Treaty and the establishment of the Free State.  Instead, they returned to the Dail later in the day.  Meanwhile the Treaty faction, aware of its numerical weakness within the overall republican movement, moved to sweeten the pill and thereby keep the republicans within a controllable framework.  Thus, although on January 14 they summoned the southern parliament, elected under British auspices in 1921, they maintained the Dail.  The southern parliament meeting was attended by 60 pro-Treaty TDs and the four Unionists elected from Trinity College; it approved the Treaty, elected a provisional government, with Collins as chairman and Cosgrave, O’Higgins and Duggan occupying the same positions as they did in the Dail government, and then adjourned, never to meet again.  The Dail, meanwhile, continued to meet albeit under the complete control of the Treaty faction.  As Curran notes, the decision to prolong the life of the Dail rather than operate the southern parliament was primarily of use to the pro-Treaty faction since it “appeased foes of the Treaty and ensured no rival government would be set up to contest the authority of the Free State regime.  It also gave the provisional government time to consolidate its position in the country.”[6]  Given that the personnel of the two governments – Dail and provisional – were virtually identical, its existence helped rather than hindered the establishment of the Free State.

While the former republican comrades argued within the Dail, the class struggle continued to intensify.  Several unemployed demonstrations took place in Dublin in January; on one occasion unemployed workers, led by Liam O’Flaherty of the CPI, seized the Rotunda and ran up the red flag.  On January 25 workers seized Mallow Mills (in County Cork).  On January 27, railways in the south and west were halted by strike action and three days later Dublin dockers and canal workers went on strike against pay cuts.  In Cobh, railway workers seized the terminus and appointed their own station-master.  Rural unrest was widespread, especially in Clare, Limerick and Mayo.  The Freeman’s Journal described the level of working class unrest as reaching “insurgency” proportions.[7]  Yet, instead of welcoming such activity and championing it against the new neo-colonial state, a number of leading anti-Treaty IRA figures helped suppress it.  Lynch forced the workers out of the Mallow Mills and Sean Moylan helped suppress rural unrest.  At the same time, there were attempts to draw labour and republicans together.  Leading republican publicist Aodh de Blacam wrote an article in the main labour paper, Voice of Labour, urging organised labour and anti-Treaty republicans to recognise their common interests; a few days later Nora Connolly wrote a front page article in the republican paper, Poblacht na hEireann, against the Free State.[8]

The continuation of the slump conditions of 1921 ensured an intensification of class conflict.  Irish manufacturing trade had been reduced by almost half during 1921 and by the time the Treaty was signed over a quarter of workers had been left idle.[9] Whereas employers in the north were able to inflict wage cuts thanks to the divisions in the working class which ensured that Protestant workers were more hostile to Catholic workers than to their own employers, the situation was rather different in the south.  Here capitalists faced problems due to “the effect with which militancy could be deployed in the near anarchic conditions obtaining during the Anglo-Irish truce and the civil war.”[10]

The ongoing slump had helped lead to the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board in October 1921.  The end of this board, which had helped mediate conflict between agricultural labourers and farmers, meant that violence and sabotage became increasingly important as weapons of struggle by the rural workers.  In the rural areas and the towns, the slump ensured that there was little ground for compromise; in this situation, soviets “now acquired a serious revolutionary intent” and were “disowned by the ITGWU”.[11]  The leaders of the ITGWU and the ILPTUC as a whole were long on rhetoric, declaring that there would be no “Black Friday”[12] in Ireland and that it was now a struggle of workers against employers rather than a national struggle.  Yet they were not prepared to take any real action to challenge the employers’ offensive.  In fact they supported the very government which represented the employers’ interests and which was openly backed by the Chambers of Commerce, farmers’ organisations, business interests generally and the Church hierarchy – “altar, till and filing cabinet”, as one historian has put it.[13]

While the new regime moved against the working class, the ILPTUC held a special conference in Dublin on February 12.  Thomas Johnson read a memorandum from the National Executive in which it was declared, “Those whom we trusted, and who were best able to weigh the forces material and moral on either side. . . decided that the terms of the peace were the best that could be obtained in the circumstances.”[14]  It called for the workers’ problems to be taken into account.  Yet this was all within the framework of the Free State – a state whose establishment was backed by the very business and farming interests which were attacking the workers.  At the very time, the labour leaders were declaring their loyalty to the new state, the government was imposing martial law in east Limerick in order to suppress labour and agrarian disputes.[15]

The needs of the new state to exert its authority over the country, the employers to attack workers’ wages and conditions during a slump, and the interests of both in bringing the revolutionary period to an end, ensured state-employer unity against workers.  As workers’ militancy continued, albeit in an unco-ordinated and spontaneous way, in conditions of disorder, the state moved to uphold the employers’ interests in forcing through wage cuts.  O’Connor has noted, for instance, “the dependency of the wage cutting offensive on state help.”[16]  The new state, as a large employer, also had its own immediate interests at heart.  Markievicz noted in 1923 that whereas the underground Dail had paid de Valera as president £600 and ministers £500, the new regime paid its president £2500 and ministers £1700, while £10,000 was bestowed upon the Governor-General and a further £27,000 for the upkeep of his household; at the same time “one of the first acts of the P(ost) M(aster) G(eneral) was to reduce the wages of postmen and other of his wage slaves. . . .  The lower grades of employees of the Free State government have also been reduced, consequently all wages are on the downward grade, and the papers report nothing but strikes and misery.  The Free State labour policy. . . is but the same as that of any Capitalistic State, only perhaps a little more extreme.”[17]

The attacks on the working class went side by side with the consolidation of the regime, in the face of mass republican opposition.  On February 5, the Cumann na mBan convention registered overwhelming opposition to the Treaty, 419 delegates voting against it and 63 for.[18]  A number of IRB circles (branches), including the circle in the Fianna, opposed the Supreme Council’s position in support of the Treaty.  The Fianna, consisting mainly of working class youth, was predominantly against the Treaty.  On February 12, a huge meeting against the Treaty took place in the centre of Dublin.  Among the speakers were leftists such as Nora Connolly, Markievicz and Mellows, as well as the more moderate leaders such as de Valera and Stack.  When the Sinn Fein ard fheis met on the 21st, there was a decisive anti-Treaty majority among the 3000 delegates.[19]  Yet the anti-Treaty leaders again prevaricated.  Having originally told the ard fheis that an open split was preferable to spurious unity, de Valera soon opted for the spurious unity.[20]  The ard fheis was adjourned for three months, during which time the party’s officer board was to stand in for the party as a whole.  It was agreed that no vote would be taken in the Dail on any question which would require the government’s resignation; in turn the Treaty faction promised not to hold immediate elections (on an inadequate roll and without the Constitution of the new state) and that when the elections were held the proposed Constitution would be submitted to the electorate along with the Treaty.[21]  The actions of the republican wing at the ard fheis were strongly criticised at the time by Roddy Connolly who argued, “With the majority in their favour, they refused to press home and crush the Free Staters; they preferred to attempt to achieve an unreal unity.”  The compromise they went for in order to get this unreal – and short-lived – unity was, he argued, “a distinct victory for the Free Staters in the face of superior Republican forces. . . (It) gave the Free State three more months to continue consolidating its forces.”  The anti-Treaty leaders had been motivated by a desire not to precipitate civil war but, as Greaves notes, “it is not only possible to plunge into it.  One can vacillate into it.”[22]

Shortly afterwards, Griffith and Duggan went to London and met with Chamberlain and Churchill,[23] in effect discussing strategy for strengthening the Free State, while the republican leaders within the Dail continued to prevaricate and allow the Treaty faction to call all the shots.  Or, as Greaves vividly puts it, the Treaty party learned “the devious ruthlessness of government” while the anti-Treaty leaders “shivered more indecisively”.[24]

While anti-Treaty political leaders shivered indecisively in the Dail, a section of militant IRA leaders opposed to the Treaty, including headquarters staff such as Mellows and Rory O’Connor, established their own anti-Treaty committee. Although on January 10 de Valera pleaded with them to give new Defence Minister Mulcahy the same co-operation which they had given Cathal Brugha, the militants continued with their own initiative, demanding a full Army Convention, reaffirmation of the Republic, and the reconstitution of the Army Executive which had dissolved itself during the Treaty negotiations.  At this stage the Treaty faction was not strong enough to prevent such a convention; as Curran notes, “Mulcahy realised that a convention would probably repudiate the Dail’s authority and he agreed to one only to prevent an open break with the dissidents.  Whatever else might come of it, postponing a showdown strengthened the Free State.”[25]

Yet even among the more militant elements, prevarication remained strong.  In Limerick in late February there was a confrontation between anti-Treaty and pro-Treaty IRA sections over who was going to take over from the evacuating British forces on February 23.  The city occupied an important strategic position at the mouth of the Shannon River and was vital to control of the south-west region.  The IRA in the city was anti-Treaty and had repudiated the command of the IRA General Headquarters(GHQ), which narrowly supported the Treaty.  GHQ moved forces into the city where they faced the local IRA forces which had massed in the city, backed by Ernie O’Malley and other anti-Treaty militants.  The republican forces effectively took over the city  and were prepared to fight it out with the Free State forces.  Although the British and Griffith appear to have been keen to teach the republicans who was master in the new state, Mulcahy and Collins better understood that the new regime was not yet in position to risk an armed fight and that the “government’s troops were neither psychologically nor militarily prepared for war.”[26] Yet instead of pressing their advantage, the republicans once again agreed to a compromise, although this was patched together not by the militants themselves, but by Lynch largely over their heads.  The city’s police barracks were turned over to the local government, Free State troops occupied the two military barracks and all other units left the city.[27]  Roddy Connolly saw this as another key point at which the republicans threw away their advantage, providing more time to the new regime and encouraging it to believe that it could get the upper hand in any stand-off.

Shortly after the Limerick affair, Churchill wrote to Collins to express his pleasure at the result and also to point to the dangers of the upcoming IRA Convention reaching “an adverse decision”, ie repudiating the Treaty.[28]  The following day, March 15, the Free State government prohibited the IRA Convention.  Collins also asked the British for 10,000 rifles, 20,000 grenades and 10 field guns.[29]  In Churchill’s view the weapons should not be provided unless the British Government could be sure they would be used to attack the anti-Treaty IRA.[30]  The clear evidence required to satisfy the British on this score could be provided by a Free State attack on republicans in Dublin; Britain would provide the mortars for this attack and, afterwards, further weapons.[31]  Both the British and the Free State regime had good reason to worry about the balance of forces within Ireland.

During the preparations for the convention it had become “apparent that four-fifths of the Volunteers were opposed to the ‘Treaty’,” according to Greaves.[32]  The convention was attended by 211 delegates, representing about 80 percent of the IRA; they pledged themselves to the Republic and elected an Executive.  In the country at large, the IRA divisions went 11-8 against the Treaty,[33] but this probably underplays the actual numbers on the anti-Treaty side.  Curran, for instance, notes that the army split made clear that “a large majority of its members opposed the Treaty” and he cites British military intelligence reports which estimated that in both the province of Munster and in Dublin itself, “at least 75 percent of the IRA” opposed the Treaty. “(O)pposition was strongest,” he notes, “among the units that had been most active in the struggle against the British. . .” [34]  However there was likely to be another factor in the geographical breakdown of opposition: the south and the west were full of land-hungry small farmers and agricultural labourers.[35]  These sections would gain nothing from the new neo-colonial set-up which maintained the same socio-economic order on the land as well as backing the merchants of the market towns.  Opposition to the Treaty in Munster and Connacht, the provinces of the south and west, thus had a strong class aspect.  In contrast, ranching dominated the Midlands and the East and in these areas the IRA tended to be pro-Treaty.  Additionally, in all the main towns the IRA majority was anti-Treaty; Carlow was the biggest town with a pro-Treaty IRA majority.

But while the militants were pledging fealty to the Republic, where was it?  In the Dail, which was controlled by those who had negotiated it away and were setting up a new state that was clearly not the Republic?  In a few documents such as the Easter Proclamation and the three declarations of the first meeting of the Dail in 1919?  Or perhaps in the attempts of the people of no property, the workers and agricultural labourers, to take over the factories and land they worked but did not own nor have any control over?  For the Republic to have had any meaning it would have had to be given some concrete form, as an alternative power, resting on the sections of society whose material interests gave them good reasons to oppose the Treaty.

Pyne notes, for instance, “the classes furthest down the social pyramid believed that the establishment of a Gaelic nation state, completely cut off from the English sphere of influence, would help them to increased rights and improved conditions.”[36]  Leaving aside that it was an independent – rather than “Gaelic” – nation state which was the most important aim of republicans historically, and that he leaves out women, Pyne is largely right about the social sectors with an interest in opposing the Treaty.  Moreover, workers’ struggles were occurring all around the republicans.  Yet the dominant elements of the leadership, Lynch in the IRA and de Valera in the republican political party, were more interested in trying to patch up compromises with the Free State than link up with the sectors of society which had an interest in preventing the consolidation of the Free State – and the social power to do so.  On April 13 the militants did, however, take a further initiative, seizing the Four Courts in Dublin.  While O’Malley, O’Connor and Mellows were instrumental in this, Lynch prevaricated again, attempting to negotiate between the radicals and the Free State.  In effect, the IRA was split three ways – those who supported the Treaty, those who followed Mellows and the other radicals, and the moderate anti-Treaty group led by Lynch.  The radicals also instructed local commanders to seize various properties and land and hold them in trust for the people – these included all lands in the hands of the Congested Districts Board, all property of absentee landlords and all but 100-200 acres and mansions of landlords living in Ireland; the only exceptions were to be landlords with records of supporting the national struggle, a group few and far between.  This might have provided a basis for a social programme, and consolidated rural workers and small farmers into an active political force against the new regime, but it appears not to have been followed up and the anti-Treaty party never made it part of their programme.[37]

The following month, May, agrarian war flared up in Roscommon, Leitrim and several other areas, while “the most extensive factory seizures of the whole period” broke out on May 13, with soviets being declared at Carrick-on-Suir, Bansha, Clonmel, Kilmallock, Mallow, Knocklong, Bruree, Dromen, Athlaca, Tankardstown, Ballingaddy and Aherlow.[38]  In county Waterford, the Farmers Association warned against the “‘Professional Red Flag Terrorist Agitators’ and declared war on ‘the tyranny of Bolshevism’.”[39]

While Mellows, O’Malley and other republican militants were sympathetic to such struggles of the people of no property, de Valera at the helm of the political movement had other ideas.  The Sinn Fein leaders, pro- and anti-Treaty, formed a joint electoral pact for the June elections to the Dail of the new state.[40]  Although the British were annoyed at this, they had little to fear as the terms of the pact clearly show.[41]  As Connolly argued, “Just when it seemed that the real crisis had come at last, when it seemed that the republicans had reached a point in compromising beyond which they would not go, when it seemed they had realised at last the impossibility of unity with the Free State,” de Valera announced yet another compromise – the electoral pact by which the anti-Treaty majority within the republican movement handed over a majority of seats to the pro-Treaty minority.  This was done through the two sides agreeing that places on the combined electoral slate would be in the same proportion as seats held in the existing Dail, in which there were slightly more pro- than anti-Treaty TDs.  It was agreed that a coalition government would be formed after the election, with cabinet posts being accorded on the basis of the strength of each side.  It was also agreed that each side would call on their supporters to give their voting preferences to the other side and that neither faction would make the Treaty an issue in the elections.

This was a bizarre arrangement indeed.  The two parties most bitterly opposed to each other – anti and pro-Treatyites – united in a coalition and agreed not to talk about the number one political issue of the day, the Treaty itself.  The anti-Treaty faction, with its decisive majority in the republican movement, agreed to accept only 45 percent of the positions on the electoral slate.  In the eyes of the electors, wrote Connolly, they had ceased being an opposition to the Free State.  The gullibility and political feebleness of the Republicans was further highlighted by the fact that after the Free State Constitution was drafted it was taken to London to be accepted by the British Cabinet.  As Connolly noted, “it was thoroughly revised and harmonised with imperial needs.”  It was also only published by the Free State Government the day of the election; most of the country never saw it until after they had cast their votes.

The Republicans’ commitment to the pact also affected their programme.  Calling on electors to vote for Treatyite members of the combined slate, they emphasised the need for unity and stability, rather than explaining to people why the Treaty was not in the interests of the working class and small farmers.  “On the whole,” the Republicans “were more outspokenly bourgeois in these election appeals than even the Free Staters dared to be be,” wrote Connolly.  “The reactionary nature” of the Republicans’ election appeals, he claimed, resulted in a large swing to Labour.  Labour at least pretended to have something to say about people’s material needs.

While the anti-Treatyite leaders stuck to the agreement, the Treaty faction revealed no such respect for bourgeois electoral arrangements with their enemies.  On June 13, Collins met Churchill at the Colonial office and, upon his return to Ireland, effectively repudiated the pact by calling on electors to vote only for “Treaty” candidates.  And while the anti-Treatyites stuck by the agreement to get their supporters to give their second and other preferences to pro-Treaty candidates, the pro-Treatyites gave many of their preferences to non-Republican candidates.  Connolly, for instance, relates that when the IRA seized ballot boxes of the National University, where many prominent Free Staters had cast their votes, they found their preferences had mainly gone to Independents.  “The whole election action of the Republicans,” he argued, “showed what bad politicians they were and undoubtedly they deserved their defeat.”  Of the anti-Treaty faction, Greaves argues: “As a result of its vacillations it had ceased to carry conviction in the national field, whereas in the social field it had not distinguished itself from its opponents.  It had provided no compelling reason why the imposed settlement should not be accepted under duress.”[42]

The election, held on June 24, saw 94 Sinn Feiners elected, 17 Labour, 7 Farmers Party, 6 Independents and 4 Unionists (from Trinity College).  Of the SFers, 58 were Treatyites and 36 anti-Treatyites.  Among the casualties were four of the anti-Treaty women, including Markievicz.  The Treatyites continued in office with their government, ignoring the pact agreement on a sharing of government posts.  Greaves has argued that a republican/Labour pact would have made more sense than the pact that the republicans made with the Treatyites; such a pact, in his view, could have denied the Treatyites a working majority.  The republicans had compromised with their enemies rather than rallying with their potential allies.  Yet this overlooks the attitude of the Labour leaders who were committed to the new state and respected it as the legitimate authority.  It also suggests that the relations of power in the new state were going to be decided, at least to a large extent, in the electoral arena.  In fact, the clash was in the society at large, through a process of class conflict and civil war; the parliamentary elections – and the machinations which went along with them – were one of the weapons with which the Treaty faction secured its position.  Their actions in signing the Treaty and over-ruling majority opinion in the independence movement had already shown that this faction’s leaders were no respecters of majoritarian rule and the accountability of leaders.

After the elections, and under renewed pressure from the British, the Free State was emboldened to move against the Republicans.  Two days before the elections, Sir Henry Wilson, military adviser to the new regime in Northern Ireland, was assassinated in London by two pro-Treaty IRA members, Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, most likely on orders from Collins as retaliation against the pogroms.  The British seized upon it to push the Free State into attacking the republicans.  It appears that, having got the measure of the anti-Treaty forces and having had six months in which to consolidate themselves and recruit thousands of soldiers to the new Free State Army, the regime was ready to move.  An IRA group seizing motors as part of the Belfast boycott was arrested.  Republicans seized Free State Army Adjutant-General J.J. O’Connell in retaliation.  The next night, June 27, Free Staters surrounded the Four Courts and, at 4am in the morning, began bombarding it as the Republicans had refused to surrender either their prisoner or the buildings.  The Free Staters’ 18-pounder guns had been supplied courtesy of the British War Office.

The attack came as a surprise to the Republican headquarters, “due,” says Connolly, “to the preponderance of unity-illusioned members in its ranks.”  Other republicans, who could not get into the Four Courts after the assault began, took over buildings in the O’Connell Street area under Cathal Brugha.  Markievicz took up sniper duty in one of the posts, Moran’s Hotel.[43]  Cumann na mBan formed first-aid groups in both the Four Courts and the O’Connell Street area, and served as couriers between the two posts, braving direct fire.  The civil war had begun in earnest.[44]

Yet far from adopting a forward strategy, Lynch again organised the retreat.  Although the anti-Treaty faction had taken the overwhelming majority of the Dublin IRA, the Free State had had six months to build up strength, thanks to de Valera, Lynch and like-minded leaders.  Even at this stage, the total anti-Treaty strength in the city may have been larger than the government forces, but it was divided between the radicals and the Lynch section..  Instead of making a fight in Dublin, the capital and by far the most important centre in the new state, Lynch decided that each area would have to fight its own corner and abandoned the capital.  The republicans in the Four Courts and city centre, backed by the tiny Citizen Army which had been rallied against the Treaty by Markievicz, and armed units of Connolly’s CPI, were left to face the Free State forces which could concentrate their strength, and their British artillery, in the one area.  Maud Gonne attempted to intervene, leading a small delegation of women to see her old friend Arthur Griffith to try to gain a cessation of hostilities.  Although the republicans agreed, provided they could keep their arms, Griffith – no doubt realising he had the anti-Treaty forces on the run – told Gonne, “We are now a government and we have to keep order.”[45]

First the Four Courts and then the city centre posts surrendered.  Cathal Brugha, who had sent his forces out to surrender, then charged out of Moran’s Hotel firing at the Free State forces and was cut-down in a hail of their gunfire.  As it turned out Gallacher, the Marxist from Britain had understood the Irish struggle far better than Brugha the militant republican.[46]  The citizenry appeared neither hostile nor sympathetic to the defeated republicans, but regarded it all as just an inconvenience.[47]  With the collapse of republican resistance in Dublin, largely brought about by Lynch’s fence-sitting and then abandonment of the capital, the war moved west and south.  Despite his obvious incapacity for leadership, especially of the decisive sort required in a civil war, Lynch, safe in Cork, was confirmed as chief of staff of the IRA on June 29.[48]  It was almost as if they seemed determined to do their best to lose the war.  Although the anti-Treaty forces still held much of the country, Lynch continued with his impressive propensity for turning advantages into retreats, ordering the abandonment of Limerick which republicans had taken possession of shortly before.[49]  Greaves rightly notes, “Lynch and his colleagues lost the war in its first week.”[50]

With the Free State army being increasingly well-equipped and growing rapidly, recruiting from both ex-British soldiers and the large pool of unemployed, the republicans continued to fall back.  The Free State regime further strengthened its position by instituting rigid censorship, establishing a Supreme Military Council and proroguing the Dail.  On July 14, a section of Free State soldiers mutinied when ordered to open fire on protesting republican prisoners in Mountjoy.  When Maud Gonne went to protest the shootings, Griffith refused to see her  In mid-July Lynch and his officers abandoned Clonmel, the most important town in Tipperary and on July 21 Waterford was captured by the Free State.  That day O’Malley wrote to Lynch, “Could you give me an outline of your military and national policy, as we are in the dark here?”[51]

The following day’s issue of the CPI’s Workers Republic, edited by Roddy Connolly, offered a way out of the dark.  It called on the republicans to change course and start offering the masses a political programme which would make it worthwhile for them to rally to the Republic.  The paper helpfully outlined the elements of such a programme – that under the Republic the means for producing wealth would be controlled by the state for the workers; the lands of the aristocracy would be seized and divided among landless workers and small farmers; an 8-hour day would be introduced; all workers would be armed; and all public services would be owned by municipal authorities and be free for workers.

Overall, Connolly’s CPI grouping followed a strategy of attempting to stiffen the republican opposition to the Treaty and criticise the republicans’ weaknesses, prevarications and foolish tactics.  At the same time it urged workers to take the side of the republicans.  It also attempted to show the republicans that they would have to adopt a social programme in the interests of the workers and peasants if they wanted to rally the people behind the Republic and win the struggle against the neo-colonial regime set up by the Treaty.  They pointed out that if the republican struggle was conducted purely on a military level the free State would win.   Connolly’s group also distinguished between the IRA, which they saw as overwhelmingly working class, and the anti-Treaty political party, Sinn Fein, which they viewed as being dominated by “bourgeois politicians”.

In The Republican Struggle in Ireland, Connolly summed up the situation facing republicans:  “Here is the crux of the problem: can you attract the working masses to your side, so that they unreservedly support the Republic; so that they refuse to transport troops or munitions against the Republican forces, so that they refuse to support the Free State with supplies, so that they will strike until the Free State abdicates or surrenders – can you do so?  Then you win.  Can the Free State keep the masses apathetic, indifferent to the struggle, deluding them with promises of ‘prosperity’ when the Free State is triumphant – if it can do so then the Free state wins.”

On July 26 Connolly visited Lynch in Fermoy, county Cork, and suggested that a republican government should be set up in Cork city, the biggest centre outside Dublin, and attempt to rally the people behind a progressive social and economic policy.  Lynch was unimpressed.  Four days later, Tipperary fell and the local soviets there collapsed.  On August 10, Cork city fell and the next day, Fermoy.  The war of fixed positions was drawing to an end.  The Free State forces now broke through the whole western republican defensive line and shattered the last of the soviets in the west which had been established in April and May.

The Free State suffered two major blows in August, with the death of Griffith on the twelfth, brought about by apoplexy, and the assassination of Collins in an ambush ten days later.[52]  Cosgrave took over as the leader of the new state.  The loss of the two key figures in the new regime, an upsurge of economic protest in Dublin and the denunciation of censorship, repression and the treatment of prisoners by the ILTPUC annual conference being held in the city, and the recapture of Dundalk could have strengthened the republican position.  Mellows, from Mountjoy Jail, sent a document to IRA leader Austin Stack suggesting a republican government finally be established and develop a policy out of the Democratic Programme.  Mellows’ document, subsequently known as Notes from Mountjoy,[53] was captured by the Free State as denounced as “communistic” by the regime.  The Irish Independent declared the policy outlined in the document aimed “in effect to establish a communistic state”.[54]  He basically recommended the adoption of the programme outlined by Connolly, and added that the republicans should also begin a public campaign against the Catholic Church whose weight had been thrown entirely behind the new state and which was constantly condemning the republicans from the pulpit.  In Glasgow a group of republican women who published Poblacht na hEireann pointed out that workers and small farmers were “sick and spiritless from long deferred hopes and empty promises” on the part of republicans.  If a social programme was adopted which would win over the workers, “you could snap your fingers at the Green-and-Tans and their bosses,” the women declared.[55]  The dominant anti-Treaty leaders were, however, even less likely to listen to the women of their own side than they were to Connolly.  Although the anti-Treaty male radicals came to increase their respect for the commitment and abilities of the republican women – O’Malley, for example, describing them as “indefatigable” and “loyal, willing and incorruptible comrades” in comparison with the men who were often “supine” and “lethargic”[56] – Cumann na mBan’s demand that it be represented in any peace negotiations, which O’Malley forwarded to Lynch, was completely ignored.  Later, when the anti-Treaty leaders ended military activity,  Cumann na mBan was not consulted but had simply to accept it as another fait accompli.

Leaders such as Stack and de Valera appear to have been more interested in discussing peace with the Free State than in discussing social revolution.  On September 6, 1922 for instance, de Valera had secretly met Mulcahy to discuss peace.  The Free State regime opened the Parliament at last, but Mulcahy’s real rejoinder to de Valera’s overtures was to push through emergency powers, including the setting up of military courts to try any person breaching orders and regulations imposed by the Free State Army.  These special courts could impose the death sentence.  The following month the bishops excommunicated all republicans who were in defiance of Free State authority.  At last the republicans set up a government of their own, by summoning the second Dail – ie, all those republicans elected, north and south, in the 1920 general elections.  But it was too little, too late, and, in any case, failed to adopt any policy which might enthuse the  classes whose interests were under attack by the Free State.

In November Erskine Childers was captured and, while his appeal was pending, executed.[57]  In Dublin, Free State troops opened fire on a meeting in O’Connell Street where Maud Gonne and Charlotte Despard were speaking.  Fourteen people were wounded and dozens more injured during the panic.[58]  On December 7, northern premier Sir James Craig repudiated the Boundary Commission, which the Treatyites had believed would alter the border so as to make the northern state unviable.  In the south, the IRA shot dead two Free State TDs, Sean Hales and Patrick O’Malley.  Mellows, O’Connor, Joe McKelvey and Richard Barrett, all prisoners in Mountjoy, were executed in reprisal for the assassination.  Mulcahy is believed to have moved the motion in government, with MacNeill seconding.[59]  The family of one of the dead TDs, Sean Hales, wrote to the paper viewing the executions “with horror and disgust”.  Greaves suggests that the choice of these particular four was due to them having been IRBers who had left the fold and yet knew all about all kinds of IRB activities, including things which the Free State leaders did not want publicly known – such as assassination campaigns in Britain, Collins’ hit squad and planned joint action with republicans in the north.  With them dead, “the world became much safer for ‘official history’.”[60]

The war dragged on into early 1923, although the republicans had clearly lost – or, more accurately, defeated themselves.  Both Connolly and James Larkin – the latter having just returned after a decade in the US, the last part of it in prison for alleged seditious activities – called on the republicans to abandon armed actions against the state and launch a purely political struggle.  On April 10, 1923 Lynch was killed, shot in the back while organising yet another retreat.[61]  The regime turned down overtures from de Valera for negotiations, demanding instead unconditional surrender.  The British too were keen on destroying the republicans as a movement with any strength in Ireland.  Churchill, for instance, was clear that the anti-Treaty forces had not simply to be defeated but “rigorously shut out” of politics after their defeat.[62]  The republicans refused to surrender outright; instead IRA chief of staff Frank Aiken issued a dump arms order.  The war was over.  In less than a year it had outdone the longer war for independence in terms of bitterness, numbers of dead and in executions.  About 12,000 republicans – including 400 women – were in jail at the end of the war, about three times as many as at the time of the 1921 Truce with Britain.  Many other republicans were on the run.

The civil war shaped Irish politics for most of the rest of the century.  Political allegiances of the time became the mark of parties afterwards – the two dominant Irish parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, originate from anti and pro-Treaty factions respectively.  Yet the war was not fought around clear differences of political principle and/or class alignment.  The dominant leaders on both sides were fundamentally conservative.  Neither was interested in the struggles of the most downtrodden sections of Irish society, although the Free State leaders tended to be the most hostile.  In addition, the more the Free State leaders capitulated to the British, on issues such as partition and the Constitution, abandoning even what they had argued in the Dail debates over the Treaty, the more their attitudes hardened towards the republicans.  In the end, they pursued a far more ruthless policy towards the republicans than they had ever pursued against the British.  The ruthlessness of this policy has also been seen as reflecting real fears that “the national struggle would expand into open class warfare,”[63] an understandable worry from the point of view of the state and the classes supporting it given the breadth and depth of labour and land struggles at the time.

In relation to the defeat of the republicans, Berresford Ellis notes for instance, “Ironically, Irishmen had achieved what Englishmen could not do.”[64]   We might add that the Free State leaders also learned during the civil war the skills – both diplomatic and repressive – which would be required in a neo-colonial state where capitalist underdevelopment ensured little basis for improvements in the conditions of workers, small farmers and women.

In contrast to the Free State leaders who knew they had to destroy their opposition, the republicans were fixated with the idea of the unity of the national forces.  “This pursuit after unity explains all the blunders and mistakes of the republicans, the setbacks and defeats that had been dealt  them,” noted Roddy Connolly.  They failed to understand that the Griffithite wing of the independence movement “and the layers it represented were absolutely satisfied with the terms of the Treaty and the powers granted them for their own protection and advanced within the Empire as a Free State.  They still believed that by suitable compromise they could restore this unity with Griffith and his party, in order to continue their struggle for the Republic.”

It was the quest for a unity which could never be that undermined the republicans at every turn.  It prevented them from taking action against Collins, Griffith and the Free State section, when they themselves had the military advantage; it led them into the ridiculous and suicidal electoral pact in the June 1922 elections; and it made them give the Free State time to get sufficiently organised to turn on them.  The Republicans lost ground as they were so weak in their reactions.  People drifted towards the Free State which put on displays of power and seemed, at least, to have some idea of what it was doing.

Connolly saw two tendencies in the anti-Treaty IRA.  O’Connor, O’Donnell, Mellows and others were more left-wing and understood that no advantages were to be gained by continued parleying and compromises.  They saw inaction and delay were sapping the strength of the anti-Treaty forces while the Free State – supported by the British, the Church, the bourgeoisie and its media – was consolidating and growing stronger all the time.  The other tendency, epitomised by IRA leader Liam Lynch, was more conservative.  It believed that Collins and Mulcahy and their supporters had been deceived by Griffith and that if the anti-Treaty forces were patient and compromising enough this section of Treatyites could be convinced of the error of their ways.  The vast bulk of the national movement could be reunited and live happily ever after.

The Lynch group was in control of the anti-Treaty IRA and blocked every initiative taken by the left.  In turn, the left failed to understand the need to remove Lynch and his co-thinkers if any successful struggle was to be waged against the Free State.  The Free State, in turn, took advantage of the procrastination and compromise which dominated the republican forces.  Griffith and Collins built up their state and army so that it could crush the republicans at the earliest opportune moment.  Although the republicans complained bitterly about the duplicity of the Free Staters, they really had no-one to blame but themselves.  They had entered into an incredible compromise with people who had, in republican eyes, totally betrayed the struggle and been shown to be far more hostile to republicans than to the erstwhile British enemy.  In fact the whole period from the signing of the treaty on December 6, 1921 until the start of the fighting on June 28, 1922, was, as Connolly noted, “a series of lost opportunities” for the republicans.

The support for the anti-Treaty side was generally drawn from those at the bottom of Irish society who had nothing to gain from the establishment of the Free State.  Yet these sections of society were not mobilised by the republicans; their only role was to be as soldiers in the IRA or organisers of the safe-houses, fund-raising and other back-up activities required to sustain the military struggle.  There was no political struggle, no economic struggle; in short, no struggle which could have involved the mass social forces necessary to prevent the establishment and consolidation of the new neo-colonial state.  While the working class, in particular, took to the field of struggle, with demonstrations, factory seizures and the widespread establishment of soviets, the Labour leaders repudiated such activity.  The left republicans were sympathetic but never developed an overall strategy which could have united the economic and political struggles; however much they sympathised with the workers they themselves remained tied and politically subordinated to the conservative leaders of the anti-Treaty faction.

With the possible exception of Mellows there appears to have been no-one among the anti-Treaty leaders with any depth of social thinking.  As George Russell asked in an open letter to the anti-Treaty forces published in the Irish Times at Christmas 1922, “Can you name those who, if you were all killed, would have left behind, as Pearse or Connolly, MacDonagh or Childers did, evidence of thought or imagination?”  It was hard enough to fight a war against the British, but to fight a civil war against the new Free State without any clear social goals to rally people around and without a leadership capable of formulating any inspiring vision of the society which might emerge from the defeat of the Free State, was impossible.

Outside the anti-Treaty republicans, the small revolutionary working class groups, the ICA and the CPI, lacked the numbers to provide an authoritative alternative strategy.  Once the fighting in Dublin ended in July, the ICA’s involvement in the entire struggle which had begun a decade earlier, came to an end.[65]  The CPI, largely through Connolly, continued trying to impress upon the republicans the need for a radical political programme but failed.  It is unclear why the ICA and CPI did not merge into a single organisation, especially as they both took their political perspectives from the ideas of James Connolly and that Connolly’s son was the driving force in the CPI.  Additionally, the left republicans, ICA and CPI had a great deal more in common politically than any of them did with de Valera, Lynch and the conservatives.  Members of the CPI were even involved in the IRA, including as officers.  Nora Connolly even became acting paymaster-general of the IRA for part of the civil war.  A united front between the left republicans and a merged CPI/ICA could have provided a powerful pole of attraction to the key social groups – the working class and rural poor – and drawn over much of the remaining ranks of the anti-Treaty forces as Lynch and de Valera stumbled from one retreat to the next.

The defeat of the Free State was clearly crucial if the working class was to advance its interests, yet the subordination of the revolutionaries to the conservatives in the civil war failed either to achieve this or help build up the revolutionary forces themselves.  The CPI remained tiny, acting as a lobby group on the republicans rather than attempting to build up an independent revolutionary movement which might make a tactical block with the republicans against the Free State on the national question.  Milotte notes, for instance, that the CPI’s emphasis on pressurising the republicans tended to get in the way of appreciating the importance of the factory seizures and soviets and linking up with these in order to build itself as a revolutionary party.  Leading CPIer Liam O’Flaherty dismissed the soviets declared in April and May 1922 as “merely incidental to the everyday struggle against capitalism” and “not by any means revolutionary, the workers are not acting beyond the bounds of capitalist production.”[66]  While it was true that, as the CPI noted, the occupations and soviets were “sporadic seizures”, and the party pointed to the necessity of “taking possession for good and getting rid of the exploiters for all time”,[67] the party offered little leadership in this sphere.  As Milotte argues, “The party did not explain how it could develop and become more powerful while standing aloof from the actual workers’ struggles going on around it.  Nor did it seem to think it had a role to play in advancing the workers from a reformist to a revolutionary consciousness.”[68]  The problem here appears to have been one of inexperience.  Although the CPI was formed under the inspiration of the Russian Revolution, it had not had the opportunity to take in the importance of soviets in any contemporary revolutionary process nor of the Bolsheviks’ conception of a vanguard party and the role of that party in transforming workers’ consciousness.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The split in the republican movement was brought about in large measure by the British search for “moderates”.  They found people with whom a deal could be done and then used the deal and the “moderates” to destroy the more radical elements.  In turn the split in the republican forces allowed the national bourgeoisie, which had been without a party or influence over events since the annihilation of the IPP in the 1918 elections, to gain an influence.  As O Faolain comments:

The classes which had openly or more commonly secretly opposed or held back from the revolutionary movement of 1913-21 – the cautious, conservative, professional and business classes – realising towards the end of the Troubles what was about to happen began to insinuate themselves as fast as they could into the movement. . .  Owing to the split they found themselves unexpectedly welcomed. . .  As a result there appeared a sharp division in Irish life, between the conservative and self-seeking and the more democratic and idealistic. . . [69]

The formation of the Free State represented a substantial defeat for Irish republicanism, although not one of historic proportions.  The anti-Treaty forces began 1922 with a majority in Sinn Fein, the IRA, Cumann na mBan and the Fianna.  Instead of taking the offensive and preventing the Free State from beginning to operate, the key anti-Treaty leaders – especially de Valera on the political wing and Lynch on the military side – constantly prevaricated and retreated.  Like the pro-Treaty leaders, much of the leadership of the anti-Treaty side was, in class terms, drawn from the petty bourgeoisie.  They had little appreciation of the capacity of the working class and rural poor to win Irish freedom.  No efforts were therefore made to give these sectors of society any reason for mobilising against the Free State.  The groups based within the working class who opposed the Free State were too small, divided and inexperienced to provide an alternative perspective capable of having any significant social impact.  In turn they underestimated the importance of the factory seizures taking place and were therefore unable to link these class actions to the struggle against the new state.

The Free State side had the advantage of being the new constituted “legitimate” power.  It was backed by the British, the dominant economic groups in the new state and the authority of the Catholic Church.  But it was the weaknesses of its opponents, rather than any special strengths of its own, which were the crucial factors in the victory of the new neo-colonial state.  Its establishment and consolidation and the defeat of the struggle for the Republic inevitably left a set of winners and losers.  In the following chapter I will look at who these sectors were and how Free State policy in its early years institutionalised the positions of the winners and losers.


[1] Cited in Roddy Connolly, The Republican Struggle in Ireland, Dublin, 1922.  Connolly’s article is contained in the group of pamphlets P2478 in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.  In this chapter I am putting forward an analysis which is basically similar to his but which draws, obviously, on a certain amount of historical hindsight.  At the same time I am not uncritical of the course followed by Roddy Connolly, Nora Connolly and their co-thinkers nor of the two short-lived organisations initiated by Roddy Connolly, the Communist Party of Ireland and later the Workers Party of Ireland.  I am also not uncritical of the role played by the Third International which tended, foolishly in my view, to give its support to Larkin and his activities following his return to Ireland in 1923.  These points will be dealt with in chapter 11.  Unless otherwise noted, all the quotes from Roddy Connolly in the present chapter are taken from The Republican Struggle in Ireland.

[2] Here the term “the Republic” is used, as republicans used it, to denote the sort of society envisaged in the 1916 Proclamation, the Democratic Programme and earlier writings such as those of Pearse: namely an independent and sovereign all-Ireland republic in which the rights of the people came before the interests of property and in which equal rights between men and women were to be established.

[3] This theme is developed more in the next chapter.  In the present chapter, I will deal only in passing with the ILPTUC, which by and large stood on the sidelines during the civil war.

[4] Collins and Cosgrave remained, respectively, Ministers of Finance and Local Government.  The other positions were taken by Richard Mulcahy (Defence), Michael O’Higgins (Economic Affairs), Eamon Duggan (Home Affairs), George Gavan Duffy (Foreign Affairs); Eoin O’Duffy, later the founder of the Irish fascist movement (the Blueshirts), was made chief-of-staff of the Army.

[5] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p410.  De Valera was American-born, Erskine Childers was frequently denounced by the Free State regime as an Englishman although he was no more English by ancestry than Patrick Pearse (whose father was English).  Griffith, who denounced Childers as a “damn Englishman”, had a Welsh grandparent.  Presumably Collins’ invective was also aimed at Markievicz due to her Ascendancy background.

[6] Joseph M. Curran, The Birth of the Irish Free State 1921-1923, Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1981, p159.

[7] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p291.

[8] “Labour, the ‘Free State’ and the Republic”, Voice of Labour, January 7, 1922; Poblacht na hEireann, January 10, 1922.  See Clarkson, Labour and Nationalism, p450-1.

[9] O’Connor, Labour History of Ireland, p109.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid, p112.

[12] Black Friday was the name given by militants to the day on which the Triple Alliance of railway, mining and transport unions collapsed, leading to the subsequent defeat of the British miners strike.

[13] O’Connor Lysaght, Republic of Ireland, p73.

[14] Greaves,Liam Mellows, p294.  Left out, was the fact – mentioned earlier in the movement’s paper – that the socio-economic views of “Those whom we trusted” were hostile to the working class; See this thesis,chapter 10, fn 55.

[15] Greaves, Liam Mellows,  pp296-7.

[16] O’Connor, Labour History of Ireland, p110.

[17] Constance de Markievicz, What Republicans Stand For, Dublin, no date, 1923?, photocopy in my possession, p6.

[18] Ward, Unmanageable Revolutionaries, pp171-2.

[19] See Greaves, Liam Mellows, p293; Macardle, Irish Republic, p666; Curran, Birth of. . ., p167.

[20] Curran, Birth of. . ., p167.  Greaves (Liam Mellows, p284) has noted that throughout the early months of the Free State, as the Treaty faction consolidated a counter-revolution, it presented this process as a continuation and consolidation of the revolution; at the same time, Treaty faction/Free State leaders not only consolidated ties with the bourgeoisie but were “flitt(ing) to England and back like butterflies in a field of thistles.”

[21] Curran, Birth of. . ., p167.

[22] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p294.

[23] Curran, Birth of. . ., p168.

[24] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p294.

[25] Curran, Birth of. . ., pp162-3.

[26] Ibid, p170-1.

[27] Ibid, p171.

[28] An extract from the letter, dated March 14, 1922, appears ibid.

[29] See Jones, Whitehall Diary,  p199.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid, p200.

[32] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p298.

[33] See appendix seven.

[34] Curran, Birth of. . ., p172.  He gives the intelligence references in fn15, p320.

[35] See this thesis, chapter 8; also, Jim Smyth, “The Changing Nature of Imperialism in Ireland”, Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists, London & Brighton, Spring 1974, p67.

[36] P. Pyne, “The Third Sinn Fein Party, 1923-26”, Economic and Social Review No. 1 (1969-70), pp242-3.  Cited from Dunphy, Fianna Fail, p34.

[37] See Greaves, Liam Mellows, pp313-4.

[38] Ibid, p317-8.

[39] Milotte, Communism in. . ., p57.

[40] For a general account and review of the pact see Michael Gallagher, “The Pact General Election of 1922”, Irish Historical Studies, Vol 21, No. 84 (September, 1979), pp404-421.

[41] In early June, the British Cabinet even discussed reinvading the south (Jones, Whitehall Diary, p213).  During this period there were some problems in relations between the British and Free State governments.  The British rejected the new regime’s proposed Constitution and substantially amended it, much to Collins’ chagrin.  Collins and some other Treaty supporters were also angered by the British authorities’ failure to prevent the new bout of anti-Catholic pogroms conducted by loyalists in the north after the Treaty and partition (see next chapter).

[42] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p337.

[43] Van Voris, Constance Markievicz, p323.

[44] For general histories of the civil war see Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green, Dublin, Gill and MacMillan, 1988 and Carlton Younger, Ireland’s Civil War, London, Fontana, 1979.

[45] Ward, Maud Gonne, p133.

[46] See this thesis, chapter eight,  for Gallacher’s meeting with Brugha and other militant republican leaders.

[47] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p349.

[48] As Lynch was leaving Dublin, while the fight at the Four Courts and in the city centre was still raging, he was actually captured by the Free State, but O’Duffy let him go, perhaps aware of the usefulness of having him as leader of the anti-Treaty forces.

[49] In Limerick, the Free State forces had only 200 rifles and an unreliable rank and file.  The leaders drew Lynch into negotiations so they would not have to fight and be beaten.  While the negotiations dragged on, they secured reinforcements.  Another top IRA leader Frank Aiken shared Lynch’s qualities in these matters.  He proposed a new arrangement to the Free State leaders, was cordially received and arrested a week later.  Aiken took over as chief of staff when Lynch was killed in 1923.

[50] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p355.

[51] O’Malley cited from ibid, p357.

[52] In former Inghinidhe activist Ella Young’s view, Griffith’s death particularly worried the British and the Unionists as he “had become their bulwark.  They felt that he was on the side of ‘law and order’ as Britain understands it.” (Young, Flowering Dusk, p180)

[53] Mellows document has been published on several occasions by groups such as the Connolly Association in Britain and by present-day republicans, in the latter case more for internal educational purposes.  Most of it appears in ibid, pp363-9.

[54] Irish Independent, September 22, 1922.  Cited from Mitchell, Labour In. . ., p169.

[55] Cited from Greaves, Liam Mellows, p374.

[56] Ernie O’Malley, On Another Man’s Wound, Dublin, Anvil, 1979, p106.

[57] Childers carried a pistol, a souvenir given him by Collins.  Several days before, four 18-year-old republicans were executed for the same offence; this created the precedent for Childers’ execution.

[58] Ward, Unmanageable Revolutionaries, p191.

[59] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p385.

[60] Ibid.

[61] For a more sympathetic treatment of Lynch, see Florence O’Donoghue, No Other Law: The Story of Liam Lynch and the Irish Republican Army 1916-23, Dublin, Irish Press, 1954.

[62] Churchill’s view cited from August 24, 1922 letter to Cope, Jones, Whitehall Diary, pp215-6.

[63] Smyth, “Changing Nature. . .”, p67.  Smyth also cites The Manchester Guardian in a March 15, 1923 special report on Ireland, worrying about the connection between the IRA, “Irregulars” in official Free State parlance, and rural class conflict: “Irregularism and land-grabbing go together, so much so that many of the shootings and burnings are due more to economic than political motives.  When the Free State Government began to take active steps a month or two ago, Ireland was nearer to a recrudescence of land war than it had been for a generation.”

[64] Berresford Ellis, History of Irish Working Class, p263.

[65]Fox records that 125 men and 18 women were involved on ICA active service during the civil war, essentially following the lead of the Dublin anti-Treaty IRA under Oscar Traynor.  After the defeat in Dublin, Markievicz reopened communications with IRA leaders to try to get action going in the capital again, but little appears to have come of it.  The end of the civil war was the end of the ICA.  Fox writes of this small band of revolutionary workers, “They came out of the dingy, dilapidated tenements of the city . . .  They fought their battle and went back to the grey anonymity of the Dublin streets.” (Fox, Citizen Army, pp225-6.)  Berresford Ellis notes that active ICAers were caught and imprisoned at the Curragh (Berresford Ellis, History of Irish Working Class, p261).

[66] O’Flaherty cited from Milotte, Communism in. . ., p57.

[67] Workers’ Republic, May 20, 1922.  Cited from Milotte, ibid.

[68] Milotte, ibid.

[69] Sean O Faolain, De Valera, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1939, p166.  O Faolain associated the more democratic and idealistic with the anti-Treaty elements, “the de Valera party” (ibid), which is interesting as, although he had been involved in the IRA during the war for independence and the civil war, he was strongly critical of the social conservatism and Catholicism of de Valera’s party in power.

Posted on September 7, 2011, in Civil War period, Constance Markievicz, Free State in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, Historiography and historical texts, Republicanism post-1900, Thesis chapters. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems
    of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either authored myself
    or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without
    my authorization. Do you know any techniques to help stop content
    from being stolen? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  2. One way is to not use footnotes. That way material is not of much use to students who may want to filch or plagiarise for essays.

    There’s also the danger of academics nicking stuff, or just benefiting from your hard work and going and looking at the references and then trawling through those documents, writings etc for their own purposes. C. Desmond Greaves didn’t use footnotes in his very well-researched books because, he said, the academics should go and do the hard research work themselves. I am sympathetic to Greaves on that point.

    However, it also means people who read what you write will wonder about how well-researched it is, if it’s a research-type article. And it means that your references can’t be checked, and I tend to think that the importance of being able to check references is key. I’ve found several academics who have completely misrepresented their own references, relying on the fact (presumably) that the average reader is not going to go away and check a reference and find that what it says is actually the precise opposite of what the historian or other academic has claimed. Because the references were there – and I happened to be familiar with them from having read the original text, I can go away and see what liars some of these revisionist historians are. Well, either deliberate liars or else deeply incompetent as researchers/writers.

    I don’t worry too much about people filching stuff, because the stuff of mine that is on here which has loads of footnotes is all from an old thesis of mine, so it’s clear who wrote the stuff if anyone nicks it and tries to present it as their own.

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