Category Archives: Counter-revolution/civil war period
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.
The defeat of the hunger strike in 1981 was a severe setback for the Republican Movement. While initially, in the wake of the heroic sacrifice of the prisoners, certain political gains were made especially on the electoral front, the last few years have not seen any significant political advances by the revolutionary forces in Ireland.
The greater emphasis on electoral work and the decision to reject abstentionism in elections to the Dail has not led to the gains clearly expected. The work around ‘economic and social’ issues has not yet produced any substantial results. The revolutionary forces in Ireland have been unable to halt the growing collaboration between British imperialism and the puppet governments in the Twenty Six Counties. Finally, on the military level, the stalemate which has existed for some time between the IRA and the British and loyalist security forces remains.
Inevitably in such a period every revolutionary movement is forced to reassess and rethink its strategy if the impasse is to be broken. The Republican Movement is no exception. It is in this context that we should welcome Questions of History written by Irish Republican Prisoners of War and produced by the Education Department of Sinn Fein ‘for the purpose of promoting political discussion’. Part I has so far been made available and covers the period from Wolfe Tone to the Republican Congress (1934).
The book is a valuable historical document which uses the history of the Republican struggle as a vehicle for raising crucial Read the rest of this entry
Here’s yet another place where what Matthews dishes up is at best highly questionable and, in fact to put it bluntly, most likely untrue.
For instance, Matthews’ Renegades asserts that Markievicz did very little in Liberty Hall during the lockout other than flounce around making a show of herself.
Well, here is some testimony from Louie Bennett, a leading figure in the Irish labour movement for many years. Bennett was a suffragist wh0 got involved with the radical end of the labour movement at the time of the 1913 lockout and subsequently played a leading role in the militant Irish Women Workers Union. Here she is talking about how she secretly started going to Liberty Hall during the lockout:
“At that time I belonged to the respectable middle class and I did not dare admit to my home circle that I had run with the crowd to hear Jim Larkin, and crept like a culprit into Liberty Hall to see Madame Markievicz in a big overall, with sleeves rolled up, presiding over a cauldron of stew, surrounded by a crowd of gaunt women and children carrying bowls and cans.” (Bennett talked to R.M. Fox about her life and this provided the basis for his 1958 book on her, Louie Bennett: her life and times, p42).
This suggests Markievicz worked hard in the soup kitchen and was not some dilettante who only appeared when photos were being taken, as suggested by O’Casey and picked up by Matthews.
Moreover, Matthews is highly selective about providing context. If she wants to Read the rest of this entry