Category Archives: Counter-revolution/civil war period
by Eamon Heffernan
Wicklow Republicans gathered on Sunday, May 27 to commemorate Commandant Neil Plunkett O’Boyle at Knocknadruce, Valleymount, County Wicklow.* Cmdt O’Boyle was murdered there by the Free Staters on May 8 1923, as the civil war was coming to a close.
O’Boyle was a Donegal man and was brought up on a small farm near Burtonport. As a teenager he had a keen interest in Irish Republicanism and in the Irish language but initially could not get involved in politics as he helped his mother in looking after his father who was in poor health.
O’Boyle was 19 when his father died and he then needed to work to support his family. For a short time he worked on the railway but his open support for the republican cause led to harassment by the Royal Irish Constabulary and he was forced to leave Ireland at the age of 21. He went for Scotland where he worked as a miner.
While in Scotland he joined the IRA and began procuring weapons to be sent back to Ireland. However, he was caught by the Scottish police and in December 1920 sentenced to five years hard labour at Peterhead prison. He spent long periods there in solitary confinement.
When the ‘treaty of surrender, aka the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, was signed O’Boyle qualified for release. He was freed in February 1922. Nevertheless he opposed the Treaty as a betrayal of what had been fought for in the war for independence.
He returned to Read the rest of this entry
by Charlie McGuire
The Irish Civil War of 1922–23 is one of the most neglected events in Irish history. In contrast to the Tan War of 1919–21, a celebrated event about which a great deal has been written, very little attention has been paid to a conflict that not only exacted a heavier toll in terms of casualties, but was also more significant in shaping subsequent political divisions within the southern state itself.
Ken Loach’s acclaimed film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is perhaps the first film to look in any detail at the nature of the divides that existed within the Irish independence movement, and the manner in which these worsened after the signing of the December 1921 Treaty.
Leaving aside the predictable hostility from the armchair imperialists of the English Tory press, most serious critical comment concerning the film has been positive and has recognised the importance of opening up a debate on this important period in modern Irish history. It is as a contribution in this direction that this article on the experience of communists in the Irish civil war is intended.
The Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) was formed in Read the rest of this entry
Readers of this blog will be aware that I have no time for Liam Lynch, the walking disaster that ran the anti-Treaty IRA during the Civil War and led it to defeat when the anti-Treaty forces actually had the clear advantage in early 1922.
This is an excellent piece by Daniel Murray that examines Lynch’s performance in Limerick city; the performance was typical Lynch: start with the advantage, prevaricate and prevaricate and waste the advantage, then lose it, then retreat.
I have talked in the past about writing about Lynch and the problems with him, but I don’t think I need to now. Daniel Murray has done a fine job in his series on Lynch (follow the links).
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by Daniel Murray
The ten-day battle for Limerick reached its weary climax before midnight on the 19th July 1922 when the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army (IRA) decided that enough was enough. Following the orders of their Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch, the men evacuated their positions under the cover of darkness and left the city in a line of motorcars, passing northwards through the Ballinacurra road, the only route still open to them.
They did not depart quietly.
A rear-guard kept up covering volleys of machine gun and rifle-fire. At 12:30 am, two or three explosions ripped through the gate of the New Barracks, courtesy of a detonated mine. So strong was the blast that stones and debris were hurled into nearby streets, tearing the roofs of houses.
Two hours later, huge columns of smoke were seen billowing out from two separate places, the New and Ordnance Barracks, the flames beneath lighting up the night sky and granting the milling crowds a view of the latest drama in their city as it was played out. Soon, a similar sight could be observed over the Castle Barracks. The Anti-Treatyites had set their posts ablaze before retreating. . .
December 8 marked the 95th anniversary of the execution without trial of left-republicans Liam Mellows (1895-1922), Rory O’Connor (1883-1922), Joe McKelvey (1898-1922) and Dick Barrett (1889-1922). The four had been taken prisoner after the surrender of the anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts in Dublin on June 30.
In the ten months of the civil war the Free State would murder in cold blood more republicans than the British had in the almost three years of the war for independence (aka the Tan War).
Further reading (three chapters from my old MA thesis, written in 1995 and the first few months of 1996):
Kevin’s book The New Politics of Sinn Fein (Liverpool, Liverpool University Press, 2007) is essential reading for tracing the evolution of the Provos and how the British state drew them into a process of betrayal. The talk below is from last August (August 2016), given at the Communist University in London.