Irish Republican Army
Overview
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was an Irish republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in April 1916. In 1919, the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

 that had been proclaimed during the Easter Rising was formally established by an elected assembly (Dáil Éireann), and the Irish Volunteers were recognised by Dáil Éireann as its legitimate army.
Timeline

1920    Irish War of Independence: In Dublin, 31 people are killed in what became known as "Bloody Sunday". This included fourteen British informants, fourteen Irish civilians and three Irish Republican Army prisoners.

1920    Irish War of Independence: Kilmichael Ambush - The Irish Republican Army ambush a convoy of British Auxiliaries and kill seventeen.

1921    Irish War of Independence: One of the biggest engagements of the war takes place at Crossbarry, County Cork. About 100 Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers escape an attempt by over 1,300 British forces to encircle them.

1922    Author and Irish Republican Army member Robert Erskine Childers is executed by an Irish Free State firing squad for illegally carrying a revolver.

Encyclopedia
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was an Irish republican
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 revolutionary military organisation. It was descended from the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

, an organisation established on 25 November 1913 that staged the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in April 1916. In 1919, the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

 that had been proclaimed during the Easter Rising was formally established by an elected assembly (Dáil Éireann), and the Irish Volunteers were recognised by Dáil Éireann as its legitimate army. Thereafter, the IRA waged a guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 campaign against British rule in Ireland in the 1919–21 Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

.

Following the signing in 1921 of the Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

, which ended the War of Independence, a split occurred within the IRA. Members who supported the treaty formed the nucleus of the Irish National Army
Irish National Army
The Irish National Army or National Army was the army of the Irish Free State from January 1922-1 October 1924. Michael Collins, its Chief of Staff from June 1921 until his death in August 1922, was the last Chief of Staff of the IRA that had fought the Irish War of Independence...

 founded by IRA leader Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

. However, much of the IRA was opposed to the treaty. The anti-treaty IRA
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

 fought a civil war
Irish Civil War
The Irish Civil War was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire....

 with their former comrades in 1922–23, with the intention of creating a fully independent all-Ireland republic. Having lost the civil war, this group remained in existence, with the intention of overthrowing both the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 and Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 and achieving the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1916.

Origins

Physical force Irish republicanism
Physical force Irish republicanism
Physical force Irish republicanism, is a term used to describe the recurring appearance of non-parliamentary violent insurrection in Ireland between 1798 and the present...

 as an ideology had a long history, from the United Irishmen of the 1798 and 1803 rebellions, to the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848
Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848
The Young Irelander Rebellion was a failed Irish nationalist uprising led by the Young Ireland movement. It took place on 29 July 1848 in the village of Ballingarry, County Tipperary. After being chased by a force of Young Irelanders and their supporters, an Irish Constabulary unit raided a house...

 and the Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Republican Brotherhood
The Irish Republican Brotherhood was a secret oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an "independent democratic republic" in Ireland during the second half of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century...

  rebellion
Fenian Rising
The Fenian Rising of 1867 was a rebellion against British rule in Ireland, organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood .After the suppression of the Irish People newspaper, disaffection among Irish radical nationalists had continued to smoulder, and during the later part of 1866 IRB leader James...

 of 1867. In addition, the methods of the IRA were to some extent inspired by the traditions of militant agrarian Irish secret societies like the Defenders
Defenders (Ireland)
The Defenders were a militant, vigilante agrarian secret society in 18th century Ireland, mainly Roman Catholic and from Ulster, who allied with the United Irishmen but did little during the rebellion of 1798.-Origin:...

, the Ribbonmen and the supporters of the Irish Land League.

The acronym IRA was first used by the IRB organisation in America (also known as the Fenian Brotherhood
Fenian Brotherhood
The Fenian Brotherhood was an Irish republican organization founded in the United States in 1858 by John O'Mahony and Michael Doheny. It was a precursor to Clan na Gael, a sister organization to the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Members were commonly known as "Fenians"...

). This "Irish Republican Army" of the 1860s comprised the American Fenians' paramilitary forces, organised into a number of regiments. Fenian soldiers wearing IRA insignia fought at the Battle of Ridgeway
Battle of Ridgeway
The Battle of Ridgeway was fought in the vicinity of the town of Fort Erie across the Niagara River from Buffalo, NY near the village of Ridgeway, Canada West, currently Ontario, Canada on June 2, 1866, between Canadian troops and an irregular army of Irish-American invaders, the Fenians...

 on 2 June 1866. However the term Irish Republican Army in its modern sense was first used in the second decade of the 20th century for the rebel forces of the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

 and the Irish Citizens Army during the Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

. It was subsequently, and most commonly, used for those Volunteers who fought a guerrilla campaign in 1919–1921 in support of the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

 declared in 1919.

Background—Home Rule and the Volunteers

The political violence that broke out in Ireland between 1916 and 1923 had its origins in Irish nationalist demands for Home Rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 and British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 and unionist resistance to these demands. By 1914, this issue was at an impasse, with the British government prepared to concede Home Rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 or self-government to Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

. This led to the formation of first unionist and then nationalist armed militias, respectively, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

.

The Government of Ireland Act 1914, more generally known as the Third Home Rule Act, was an Act of Parliament
Act of Parliament
An Act of Parliament is a statute enacted as primary legislation by a national or sub-national parliament. In the Republic of Ireland the term Act of the Oireachtas is used, and in the United States the term Act of Congress is used.In Commonwealth countries, the term is used both in a narrow...

 passed by the British Parliament in May 1914 which sought to give Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 regional self-government within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

. Although it received Royal Assent
Royal Assent
The granting of royal assent refers to the method by which any constitutional monarch formally approves and promulgates an act of his or her nation's parliament, thus making it a law...

 in September 1914, its implementation was postponed until after the First World War, amid fears that opposition to home rule by Irish Unionists and illegal gun-running
Larne Gun Running
The Larne gun-running was a major gun smuggling operation organised in Ireland by Major Frederick H. Crawford and Captain Wilfrid Spender for the Ulster Unionist Council to equip the Ulster Volunteer Force...

 by the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Irish Volunteers would lead to civil war.

The standoff was temporarily averted by the outbreak of the war in August 1914. The Irish Volunteers split. The National Volunteers
National Volunteers
The National Volunteers was the name taken by the majority of the Irish Volunteers that sided with Irish Parliamentary Party leader John Redmond after the movement split over the question of the Volunteers' role in World War I.-Origins:...

, with over 100,000 members led by Irish Parliamentary Party
Irish Parliamentary Party
The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Nationalist Party, replacing the Home Rule League, as official parliamentary party for Irish nationalist Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons at...

 leader John Redmond
John Redmond
John Edward Redmond was an Irish nationalist politician, barrister, MP in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1900 to 1918...

 were prepared to accept British promises to deliver Home Rule and about 20,000 of them served in the war in the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

. However about 12,000 Volunteers, led by Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill was an Irish scholar, nationalist, revolutionary and politician. MacNeill is regarded as the father of the modern study of early Irish medieval history. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, to preserve Irish language and culture, going on to establish the Irish Volunteers...

 and dominated by the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Republican Brotherhood
The Irish Republican Brotherhood was a secret oath-bound fraternal organisation dedicated to the establishment of an "independent democratic republic" in Ireland during the second half of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century...

, refused to join the British war effort and kept the name Irish Volunteers. Whereas MacNeill intended to use force only to resist the imposition of conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 on Ireland or to prevent the use of force to disarm of the Volunteers, the IRB men intended to launch an armed rebellion in pursuit of Irish independence.

A smaller organisation, the Irish Citizen Army
Irish Citizen Army
The Irish Citizen Army , or ICA, was a small group of trained trade union volunteers established in Dublin for the defence of worker’s demonstrations from the police. It was formed by James Larkin and Jack White. Other prominent members included James Connolly, Seán O'Casey, Constance Markievicz,...

—originally a worker's defence association under socialist James Connolly
James Connolly
James Connolly was an Irish republican and socialist leader. He was born in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, Scotland, to Irish immigrant parents and spoke with a Scottish accent throughout his life. He left school for working life at the age of 11, but became one of the leading Marxist theorists of...

—independently planned their own rebellion. The IRB co-opted Connolly onto their supreme council in 1915.

Easter Rising

Weapons were supplied by Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 under the auspices of a leading human rights campaigner, Sir Roger Casement
Roger Casement
Roger David Casement —Sir Roger Casement CMG between 1911 and shortly before his execution for treason, when he was stripped of his British honours—was an Irish patriot, poet, revolutionary, and nationalist....

—including over 20,000 rifles and 10 machine guns. However, the plot was discovered on 21 April 1916 and the weapons were lost when the ship carrying them, the Aud
Aud (ship)
Aud was the cover name of a German ship, Libau, that carried arms to Ireland as part of the preparation for the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916.-Introduction:...

, was scuttled to prevent the arms from falling into the hands of the British.

The Rising broke out on 24 April 1916. However, Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill
Eoin MacNeill was an Irish scholar, nationalist, revolutionary and politician. MacNeill is regarded as the father of the modern study of early Irish medieval history. He was a co-founder of the Gaelic League, to preserve Irish language and culture, going on to establish the Irish Volunteers...

, the Volunteer leader found out about the plot at the last minute and issued countermanding orders to Volunteer units around the country. As a result, less than 2,000 Volunteers out of 12,000 turned out. The IRB plan was to seize a compact area of central Dublin and launch simultaneous risings around the country. In the event, the rising consisted of a week's street fighting in the Irish capital after which the rebels surrendered. The British used overwhelming force, including over 16,000 troops, artillery, and a naval gunboat, to put down the rebellion. Over half the 500 or so killed were civilians caught in the crossfire. It was during the Rising that the Volunteers began to refer to themselves as the Irish Republican Army.

The leaders seized the General Post Office
General Post Office (Dublin)
The General Post Office ' in Dublin is the headquarters of the Irish postal service, An Post, and Dublin's principal post office...

 (GPO), raising a green flag bearing the legend "Irish Republic", and proclaiming independence for Ireland. The Rising later became a celebrated episode for Irish nationalists. The rebel Volunteers were a minority faction among Irish nationalists and up to 200,000 Irishmen were serving on the British side in the First World War. There were calls for the execution of the "ringleaders" in the major Irish nationalist daily newspaper, the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

, and local authorities also sought the ringleaders. After the Rising, some Dubliners spat, threw stones at them, and emptied chamber pots down on the rebels as they were marched towards the transport ships that would take them to the Welsh internment camps, while others looked on with sympathy.

However, opinion dramatically shifted to the rebels' side in the next two years. Initially, this was caused by the revulsion over the summary executions of 16 leaders—some of whom, such as James Connolly
James Connolly
James Connolly was an Irish republican and socialist leader. He was born in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, Scotland, to Irish immigrant parents and spoke with a Scottish accent throughout his life. He left school for working life at the age of 11, but became one of the leading Marxist theorists of...

, who was too weak to stand from wounds sustained in the fighting—and of other people thought complicit in the rebellion. As one observer described, "the drawn-out process of executing the leaders of the rising, it was like watching blood seep from behind a closed door." Opinion shifted even more in favour of the Republicans in 1917–18 with the Conscription Crisis
Conscription Crisis of 1918 (Ireland)
The Conscription Crisis of 1918 stemmed from a move by the British Government to impose conscription in Ireland during the First World War, and contributed to pivotal events in early 20th-century politics in Ireland, galvanising popular support for parties favouring separation from the United...

, an attempt by Britain to impose conscription on Ireland to bolster its flagging war effort. By 1917, this was extremely unpopular in Ireland due to heavy casualties on the Western Front.

A small Irish nationalist party, Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin
Sinn Féin is a left wing, Irish republican political party in Ireland. The name is Irish for "ourselves" or "we ourselves", although it is frequently mistranslated as "ourselves alone". Originating in the Sinn Féin organisation founded in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, it took its current form in 1970...

, was widely, but wrongly, credited with orchestrating the Easter Rising even though its leader Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith was the founder and third leader of Sinn Féin. He served as President of Dáil Éireann from January to August 1922, and was head of the Irish delegation at the negotiations in London that produced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.-Early life:...

 advocated only Irish self-government under a dual monarchy
Monarchy in the Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was, in accordance with its constitution, governed formally under a form of constitutional monarchy. The British monarch was the head of state of the Irish Free State from 1922 to 1931, when the Statute of Westminster came into effect, and thereafter the Irish Free State had a...

. The republican survivors of the Rising, under Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera
Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in twentieth century Ireland, serving as head of government of the Irish Free State and head of government and head of state of Ireland...

, infiltrated and took over Sinn Féin in 1917 and committed the party to founding an independent republic.

From 1916 to 1918, the two dominant nationalist movements, Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party
Irish Parliamentary Party
The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Nationalist Party, replacing the Home Rule League, as official parliamentary party for Irish nationalist Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons at...

, fought a tough series of battles in by-elections. Neither won a decisive victory; however, the Conscription Crisis tipped the balance in favor of Sinn Féin. The party went on to win a clear majority of seats in the 1918 general election
Irish (UK) general election, 1918
The Irish general election of 1918 was that part of the 1918 United Kingdom general election that took place in Ireland. It is seen as a key moment in modern Irish history...

: of the 73 seats in which Sinn Féin were elected, 25 were uncontested. The Sinn Féin MPs withdrew from the British Parliament and declared an Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

, with themselves as the legitimate government. They met in their own parliament, which they called the Dáil.

In this new position of strength, the Irish Volunteers, who had been swollen to over 100,000 men in the conscription crisis, were re-organised as the army of this Republic. Hence they began to refer to themselves as the Irish Republican Army.

The emergence of the IRA after the Easter Rising

The first steps towards reorganizing the defeated Irish Volunteers were taken on 27 October 1917 when a convention took place in Dublin. This convention, that subsequently became known as an IRA convention, was called to coincide with the Sinn Féin party conference. Nearly 250 people attended the convention; internment prevented many more from attending. In fact, the Royal Irish Constabulary
Royal Irish Constabulary
The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was Ireland's major police force for most of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. A separate civic police force, the unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Police controlled the capital, and the cities of Derry and Belfast, originally with their own police...

 estimated that 162 companies of volunteers were active in the country, although other sources suggest a higher figure of 390.

The proceedings were presided over by Éamon de Valera, who had been elected President of Sinn Féin the previous day. Also on the platform were Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha was an Irish revolutionary and politician, active in the Easter Rising, Irish War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War and was the first Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann.-Background:...

 and many others who were prominent in the reorganising of the Volunteers in the previous few months, many of them ex-prisoners.

De Valera was elected president. A national executive was also elected, composed of provincial representatives (including Dublin). In addition, a number of directors were elected to head the various IRA departments. Those elected were: Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

 (Director for Organisation); Diarmuid Lynch
Diarmuid Lynch
Diarmuid Lynch was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Sinn Féin member of the First Dáil.-Early life:Lynch, initially named Jeremiah, was born in Granig, Tracton, County Cork...

 (Director for Communications); Michael Staines
Michael Staines
Michael Staines was an Irish republican and politician. He was born in Newport, County Mayo his mother Margaret's home village, and where his father Edward was serving as an RIC officer....

 (Director for Supply); Rory O'Connor
Rory O'Connor
Rory O'Connor may refer to:* Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, , king of Connacht and High King of Ireland* Rory O'Connor , an Irish Republican of the 1920s, who fought in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War...

 (Director of Engineering). Seán McGarry
Sean McGarry
Seán McGarry was a 20th century Irish nationalist and politician. A longtime senior member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood , he served as its president from May 1917 until November 1918 when he was one of a number of nationalist leaders arrested for his alleged involvement in the so-called...

 was voted General Secretary, while Cathal Brugha was made Chairman of the Resident Executive, which in effect made him Chief of Staff.

The other elected members were: M. W. O'Reilly (Dublin); Austin Stack
Austin Stack
Austin Stack was an Irish revolutionary and politician.-Early life:Stack was born in Ballymullen, Tralee, County Kerry. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School in Tralee. At the age of fourteen he left school and became a clerk in a solicitor's office. A gifted Gaelic footballer, he...

 (Kerry
County Kerry
Kerry means the "people of Ciar" which was the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. The legendary founder of the tribe was Ciar, son of Fergus mac Róich. In Old Irish "Ciar" meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective...

); Con Collins
Con Collins
Cornelius "Con" Collins was an Irish Sinn Féin politician.He was born in Arranagh, Newcastle West, County Limerick. He had joined the Gaelic League by 1910 when working in London for the civil service, as had Michael Collins the previous year. He was a member of the Irish Volunteers and of the...

 (Limerick
County Limerick
It is thought that humans had established themselves in the Lough Gur area of the county as early as 3000 BC, while megalithic remains found at Duntryleague date back further to 3500 BC...

); Seán MacEntee
Seán MacEntee
Seán MacEntee was an Irish politician. In a career that spanned over forty years as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála, MacEntee was one of the most important figures in post-independence Ireland. He served in the governments of Éamon de Valera and Seán Lemass in a range of ministerial positions,...

 (Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

); Joe O'Doherty (Donegal
Donegal
Donegal or Donegal Town is a town in County Donegal, Ireland. Its name, which was historically written in English as Dunnagall or Dunagall, translates from Irish as "stronghold of the foreigners" ....

); Paul Galligan (Cavan
County Cavan
County Cavan is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Cavan. Cavan County Council is the local authority for the county...

); Eoin O'Duffy
Eoin O'Duffy
Eoin O'Duffy was in succession a Teachta Dála , the Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army , the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, leader of the Army Comrades Association and then the first leader of Fine Gael , before leading the Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco during...

 (Monaghan
County Monaghan
County Monaghan is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Border Region and is also located in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Monaghan. Monaghan County Council is the local authority for the county...

); Seamus Doyle
Séamus Doyle
Séamus Doyle was an Irish Sinn Féin politician. He was elected unopposed as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála to the 2nd Dáil at the 1921 elections for the Wexford constituency. He opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and voted against it. He was elected as an anti-Treaty Sinn Féin TD at the 1922 general...

 (Wexford
County Wexford
County Wexford is a county in Ireland. It is part of the South-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Wexford. In pre-Norman times it was part of the Kingdom of Uí Cheinnselaig, whose capital was at Ferns. Wexford County Council is the local...

); Peadar Bracken (Offaly); Larry Lardner
Larry Lardner
Larry Lardner, a native of Athenry, County Galway, was a Brigade Commandant for the Irish Republican Army in his locality. He was by trade a publican and a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Supreme Council for Connacht in 1917...

 (Galway
County Galway
County Galway is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the city of Galway. Galway County Council is the local authority for the county. There are several strongly Irish-speaking areas in the west of the county...

); Dick Walsh
Dick Walsh
Richard Walsh , better known as Dick 'Drug' Walsh, was a famous Irish sportsperson. He played hurling with his local club Mooncoin and with the Kilkenny senior inter-county team in the early years of the 20th century. Walsh captained Kilkenny to three All-Ireland titles in 1907, 1909 and...

 (Mayo
County Mayo
County Mayo is a county in Ireland. It is located in the West Region and is also part of the province of Connacht. It is named after the village of Mayo, which is now generally known as Mayo Abbey. Mayo County Council is the local authority for the county. The population of the county is 130,552...

) and another member from Connacht
Connacht
Connacht , formerly anglicised as Connaught, is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the west of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for...

. There were six co-options to make-up the full number when the directors were named from within their ranks. The six were all Dublin men: Eamonn Duggan
Eamonn Duggan
Eamonn or Edmund S. Duggan was an Irish lawyer, nationalist and politician, a member of Sinn Féin and then Cumann na nGaedheal....

; Gearóid O'Sullivan
Gearóid O'Sullivan
Gearóid O'Sullivan was an Irish teacher, Irish language scholar, army officer, barrister and Sinn Féin and Fine Gael politician.-Early life and education:...

; Fintan Murphy; Diarmuid O'Hegarty
Diarmuid O'Hegarty
Diarmuid O'Hegarty was an Irish revolutionary and civil servant.Born in Cork, O'Hegarty was prominent in the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers after the 1916 Easter Rising...

; Dick McKee
Dick McKee
Richard “Dick” McKee was a prominent member of the Irish Republican Army . He was also friend to some senior members in the republican movement, including Éamon de Valera, Austin Stack and Michael Collins...

 and Paddy Ryan.

Of the 26 elected, six were also members of the Sinn Féin National Executive, with Éamon de Valera president of both. Eleven of the 26 were elected Teachta Dála
Teachta Dála
A Teachta Dála , usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas . It is the equivalent of terms such as "Member of Parliament" or "deputy" used in other states. The official translation of the term is "Deputy to the Dáil", though a more literal...

 in the 1918 general election
United Kingdom general election, 1918
The United Kingdom general election of 1918 was the first to be held after the Representation of the People Act 1918, which meant it was the first United Kingdom general election in which nearly all adult men and some women could vote. Polling was held on 14 December 1918, although the count did...

 and 13 in the May 1921 election.

Dáil Éireann and the IRA

Sinn Féin MPs elected in 1918 fulfilled their election promise not to take their seats in Westminster but instead set up an independent "Assembly of Ireland", or Dáil Éireann
First Dáil
The First Dáil was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 1919–1921. In 1919 candidates who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled as a unicameral, revolutionary parliament called "Dáil Éireann"...

, in the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

. On January 21, 1919, this new, unofficial parliament assembled in the Mansion House
Mansion House, Dublin
The Mansion House on Dawson Street, Dublin, is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin since 1715.-Features:The Mansion House's most famous features include the "Round Room", where the First Dáil assembled on 21 January 1919 to proclaim the Irish Declaration of Independence...

 in Dublin. As its first acts, the Dáil elected a prime minister (Príomh Aire), Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha
Cathal Brugha was an Irish revolutionary and politician, active in the Easter Rising, Irish War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War and was the first Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann.-Background:...

, and inaugurated a ministry called the Aireacht
Aireacht
The Aireacht or Ministry was the cabinet of the 1919–1922 Irish Republic. The Ministry was originally established by the Dáil Constitution adopted by the First Dáil in 1919, after it issued the Irish Declaration of Independence...

. In theory, the IRA was responsible to the Dáil and was the army of the Irish Republic. In practice, the Dáil had great difficulty controlling the actions of the Volunteers.

The new leadership of the Irish Republic worried that the IRA would not accept its authority, given that the Volunteers, under their own constitution, were bound to obey their own executive and no other body. The fear was increased when, on the very day the new national parliament was meeting, 21 January 1919, the South Tipperary IRA volunteer unit, acting on their own initiative, seized a quantity of gelignite
Gelignite
Gelignite, also known as blasting gelatin or simply jelly, is an explosive material consisting of collodion-cotton dissolved in either nitroglycerine or nitroglycol and mixed with wood pulp and saltpetre .It was invented in 1875 by Alfred Nobel, who had earlier invented dynamite...

 and two Royal Irish Constabulary constables (James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell) were killed in the process by Seán Treacy
Seán Treacy (Irish Republican)
Seán Treacy was one of the leaders of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. He helped to start the conflict in 1919 and was killed in a shootout with British troops in Talbot Street, Dublin during an aborted British Secret Service...

 and Dan Breen
Dan Breen
Daniel "Dan" Breen was a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. In later years, he was a Fianna Fáil politician.-Background:...

.

Technically, the men involved were considered to be in a serious breach of IRA discipline and were liable to be court-martialed, but it was considered more politically expedient to hold them up as examples of a rejuvenated militarism. The conflict soon escalated into guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 by what were then known as the Flying Columns in remote areas. Attacks on remote Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks continued throughout 1919 and 1920, forcing the police to consolidate defensively in the larger towns, effectively placing large areas of the countryside in the hands of the Republicans.

Moves to make the IRA the army of the Dáil and not its rival had begun before the January attack, and were stepped up. On 31 January 1919 the IRA organ, An tÓglách ("The Volunteer") published a list of principles agreed between two representatives of the Aireacht, acting Príomh Aire Cathal Brugha and Richard Mulcahy
Richard Mulcahy
Richard James Mulcahy was an Irish politician, army general and commander in chief, leader of Fine Gael and Cabinet Minister...

 and the Executive. It made first mention of the organisation treating "the armed forces of the enemy – whether soldiers or policemen – exactly as a national army would treat the members of an invading army".

In the statement the new relationship between the Aireacht and the IRA was defined clearly.
  • The Government was defined as possessing the same power and authority as a normal government.
  • It, and not the IRA, sanctions the IRA campaign;
  • It explicitly spoke of a state of war.


As part of the ongoing strategy to take control of the IRA, Brugha proposed to Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the lower house, but principal chamber, of the Oireachtas , which also includes the President of Ireland and Seanad Éireann . It is directly elected at least once in every five years under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote...

 on 20 August 1919 that the Volunteers were to be asked, at this next convention, to swear allegiance to the Dáil. He further proposed that members of the Dáil themselves should swear the same oath. On 25 August Collins wrote to the Príomh Aire, Éamon de Valera, to inform him "the Volunteer affair is now fixed".

Though this was "fixed" at one level, another year passed before the Volunteers took an oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic and its government, "throughout August 1920".

A power struggle continued between Brugha and Collins, both cabinet ministers, over who had the greater influence. Brugha was nominally the superior as Minister for Defence, but Collins's powerbase came from his position as Director of Organisation of the IRA and from his membership on the Supreme Council of the IRB. De Valera resented Collins's clear power and influence, which he saw as coming more from the secretive IRB than from his position as a Teachta Dála
Teachta Dála
A Teachta Dála , usually abbreviated as TD in English, is a member of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas . It is the equivalent of terms such as "Member of Parliament" or "deputy" used in other states. The official translation of the term is "Deputy to the Dáil", though a more literal...

 (TD) and minister in the Aireacht. Brugha and de Valera both urged the IRA to undertake larger, more conventional military actions for the propaganda effect, but were ignored by Collins and Mulcahy. Brugha at one stage proposed the assassination of the entire British cabinet. This was also discounted due to its presumed negative effect on British public opinion. Moreover, many members of the Dáil, notably Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith was the founder and third leader of Sinn Féin. He served as President of Dáil Éireann from January to August 1922, and was head of the Irish delegation at the negotiations in London that produced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.-Early life:...

 did not approve of IRA violence and would have preferred a campaign of passive resistance to British rule. The Dáil belatedly accepted responsibility for IRA actions in April 1921, just three months before the end of the Irish War of Independence
Irish War of Independence
The Irish War of Independence , Anglo-Irish War, Black and Tan War, or Tan War was a guerrilla war mounted by the Irish Republican Army against the British government and its forces in Ireland. It began in January 1919, following the Irish Republic's declaration of independence. Both sides agreed...

.

In practice, the IRA was commanded by Collins, with Richard Mulcahy
Richard Mulcahy
Richard James Mulcahy was an Irish politician, army general and commander in chief, leader of Fine Gael and Cabinet Minister...

 as second in command. These men were able to issue orders and directives to IRA guerrilla units around the country and at times to send arms and organisers to specific areas. However, because of the localised and irregular character of the war, they were only able to exert limited control over local IRA commanders such as Tom Barry
Tom Barry
Thomas Barry was one of the most prominent guerrilla leaders in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence.-Early life:...

, Liam Lynch
Liam Lynch (general)
Liam Lynch was an officer in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and the commanding general of the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War.-Early life:...

 in Cork and Seán Mac Eoin
Seán Mac Eoin
Seán Mac Eoin was an Irish Fine Gael politician and soldier. He was commonly referred to as the "Blacksmith of Ballinalee".-Early life:...

 in Longford.

IRA campaign and organisation

See also: Timeline of the Irish War of Independence
The IRA fought a guerrilla war against the Crown forces in Ireland from 1919 to July 1921. The most intense period of the war was from November 1920 to July 1921. The IRA campaign can broadly be split into three phases. The first, in 1919, involved the re-organisation of the Irish Volunteers
Irish Volunteers
The Irish Volunteers was a military organisation established in 1913 by Irish nationalists. It was ostensibly formed in response to the formation of the Ulster Volunteers in 1912, and its declared primary aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland"...

 as a guerrilla army. Organisers such as Ernie O'Malley
Ernie O'Malley
Ernie O'Malley was an Irish Republican Army officer during the Irish War of Independence and a commander of the anti-treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. O'Malley wrote three books, On Another Man's Wound, The Singing Flame, and Raids and Rallies. The first describes his early life and role in...

 were sent around the country to set up viable guerrilla units. On paper, there were 100,000 or so Volunteers enrolled after the conscription crisis of 1918. However, only about 15,000 of these participated in the guerrilla war. In 1919, Collins, the IRA's Director of Intelligence, organised the "Squad"—an assassination unit based in Dublin which killed police involved in intelligence work; the Irish playwright Brendan Behan
Brendan Behan
Brendan Francis Behan was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was also an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army.-Early life:...

's father Stephen Behan was a member of this squad. Typical of Collins's sardonic sense of humour, the squad was often referred to as his "Twelve Apostles". In addition, there were some arms raids on Royal Irish Constabulary barracks. By the end of 1919, four Dublin Metropolitan Police
Dublin Metropolitan Police
The Dublin Metropolitan Police was the police force of Dublin, Ireland, from 1836 to 1925, when it amalgamated into the new Garda Síochána.-19th century:...

 and 11 RIC men had been killed. The RIC abandoned most of their smaller rural barracks in late 1919. Around 400 of these were burned in a co-ordinated IRA operation around the country in April 1920.

The second phase of the IRA campaign, roughly from January to July 1920, involved attacks on the fortified police barracks located in the towns. Between January and June 1920, 16 of these were destroyed and 29 badly damaged. Several events of late 1920 greatly escalated the conflict. Firstly, the British declared martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 in parts of the country—allowing for internment
Internment
Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning as: "The action of 'interning'; confinement within the limits of a country or place." Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction...

 and executions of IRA men. Secondly they deployed paramilitary forces, the Black and Tans
Black and Tans
The Black and Tans was one of two newly recruited bodies, composed largely of British World War I veterans, employed by the Royal Irish Constabulary as Temporary Constables from 1920 to 1921 to suppress revolution in Ireland...

 and Auxiliary Division
Auxiliary Division
The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary , generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, was a paramilitary organization within the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Irish War of Independence....

, and more British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 personnel into the country. Thus, the third phase of the war (roughly August 1920–July 1921) involved the IRA taking on a greatly expanded British force, moving away from attacking well defended barracks and instead using ambush
Ambush
An ambush is a long-established military tactic, in which the aggressors take advantage of concealment and the element of surprise to attack an unsuspecting enemy from concealed positions, such as among dense underbrush or behind hilltops...

 tactics. To this end the IRA was re-organised into "flying columns"—permanent guerrilla units, usually about 20 strong, though sometimes larger. In rural areas, the flying columns usually had bases in remote mountainous areas.

While most areas of the country saw some violence in 1919–1921, the brunt of the war was fought in Dublin and the southern province of Munster
Munster
Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

. In Munster, the IRA carried out a significant number of successful actions against British troops, for instance the ambushing and killing of 17 of 18 Auxiliaries by Tom Barry
Tom Barry
Thomas Barry was one of the most prominent guerrilla leaders in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence.-Early life:...

's column at Kilmicheal
Kilmichael Ambush
The Kilmichael Ambush was an ambush near the village of Kilmichael in County Cork on 28 November 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-six local IRA volunteers commanded by Tom Barry killed seventeen members of the RIC Auxiliary Division...

 in West Cork in November 1920, or Liam Lynch
Liam Lynch (general)
Liam Lynch was an officer in the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence and the commanding general of the anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army during the Irish Civil War.-Early life:...

's men killing 13 British soldiers near Millstreet
Millstreet
Millstreet is a town in north County Cork, Ireland with a population of approximately 1,500. It is located at the foot of Clara Mountain. The town's Catholic church is dedicated to St. Patrick. Since October 1985, the town has been twinned with Pommerit-le-Vicomte in Brittany, France...

 early in the next year. At the Crossbarry Ambush
Crossbarry Ambush
The Crossbarry Ambush occurred on 19 March 1921 and was one of the largest engagements of the Irish War of Independence. It took place at the rural crossroads of Crossbarry, County Cork, around 20 km south west of Cork city. About a hundred Irish Republican Army volunteers escaped an attempt...

 in March 1921, 100 or so of Barry's men fought a sizeable engagement with a British column of 1,200, escaping from the British encircling manoeuvre. In Dublin, the "Squad" and elements of the IRA Dublin Brigade were amalgamated into the "Active Service Unit", under Oscar Traynor
Oscar Traynor
Oscar Traynor was an Irish Fianna Fáil politician and revolutionary. He served in a number of Cabinet positions, most notably as the country's longest-serving Minister for Defence....

, which tried to carry out at least three attacks on British troops a day. Usually, these consisted of shooting or grenade attacks on British patrols. Outside Dublin and Munster, there were only isolated areas of intense activity. For instance, the County Longford
County Longford
County Longford is a county in Ireland. It is part of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the town of Longford.Longford County Council is the local authority for the county...

 IRA under Seán Mac Eoin
Seán Mac Eoin
Seán Mac Eoin was an Irish Fine Gael politician and soldier. He was commonly referred to as the "Blacksmith of Ballinalee".-Early life:...

 carried out a number of well planned ambushes and successfully defended the village of Ballinalee
Ballinalee
Ballinalee, formerly St Johnstown , is a village in north County Longford, Ireland. It is situated on the River Camlin, and falls within the parish of Clonbroney....

 against Black and Tan reprisals in a three-hour gun battle. In County Mayo, large scale guerrilla action did not break out until spring 1921, when two British forces were ambushed at Carrowkennedy
Carrowkennedy ambush
The Carrowkennedy Ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army on 2 June 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place in Carrowkennedy, County Mayo....

 and Tourmakeady
Tourmakeady
Tuar Mhic Éadaigh is a small village in County Mayo, Ireland. It has a population of about 1000 people. It is located on the shores of Lough Mask. Part of Tourmakeady was originally in neighbouring County Galway, but was placed under the administration of County Mayo in 1898...

. Elsewhere, fighting was more sporadic and less intense.

In Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

, the war had a character all of its own. The area had a Protestant and Unionist majority and IRA actions were responded to with reprisals against the Catholic population, including killings (such as the McMahon Murders
McMahon Murders
The McMahon murders occurred on 24 March 1922 in Belfast, Northern Ireland when six Catholic civilians were shot dead and two injured by members of the Ulster Special Constabulary or Royal Irish Constabulary . The dead were aged between 15 and 50 and all but one were members of the McMahon family....

) and the burning of many homes – as on Belfast's Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1921)
Bloody Sunday or Belfast's Bloody Sunday was a day of violence in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on 10 July 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. Over a four day period, 22 people were killed, 16 of them on 10 July itself...

. The IRA in Belfast and the north generally, although involved in protecting the Catholic community from loyalists
Ulster loyalism
Ulster loyalism is an ideology that is opposed to a united Ireland. It can mean either support for upholding Northern Ireland's status as a constituent part of the United Kingdom , support for Northern Ireland independence, or support for loyalist paramilitaries...

 and state forces, undertook an arson campaign against factories and commercial premises. The violence in Belfast alone, which continued until October 1922 long after the truce in the rest of the country, claimed the lives of between 400 and 500 people.

In April 1921, the IRA was again reorganised, in line with the Dáil's endorsement of its actions, along the lines of a regular army. Divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 were created based on region, with commanders being given responsibility, in theory, for large geographical areas. In practice, this had little effect on the localised nature of the guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

.

In May 1921, the IRA in Dublin attacked and burned the The Custom House
The Custom House
The Custom House is a neoclassical 18th century building in Dublin, Ireland which houses the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government...

. The action was a serious setback as five members were killed and eighty captured.

By the end of the war, in July 1921, the IRA was very hard pressed by the deployment of more British troops into the most active areas and a chronic shortage of arms and ammunition. It has been estimated that the IRA had only about 3,000 rifles (mostly captured from the British) during the war, with a larger number of shotguns and pistols. An ambitious plan to buy arms from Italy in 1921 collapsed when the money did not reach the arms dealers. Towards the end of the war, some Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

s were imported from the United States; however 450 of these were intercepted by the American authorities and the remainder only reached Ireland shortly before the Truce.

By June 1921, Collins' assessment was that the IRA was within weeks, possibly even days, of collapse. It had few weapons or ammunition left. Moreover, almost 5,000 IRA men had been imprisoned or interned and over 500 killed. Collins and Mulcahy estimated that the number of effective guerrilla fighters was down to 2,000–3,000. However in the summer of 1921, the war was abruptly ended.

Violent Exchange

The Irish War of Independence was a brutal and bloody affair, with violence and acts of extreme brutality on both sides. The British sent hundreds of World War I veterans to assist the RIC. The veterans at first wore a combination of black police uniforms and tan army uniforms (because of shortages), which, according to one etymology
Etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

, inspired the nickname Black and Tans. The brutality of the "Black and Tans" is now legendary, although the most excessive repression attributed to the Crown's forces was often that of the Auxiliary Division of the Constabulary. One of the strongest critics of the Black and Tans was King George V
George V of the United Kingdom
George V was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 through the First World War until his death in 1936....

 who in May 1921 told Lady Margery Greenwood that ‘he hated the idea of the ‘Black and Tans”.’

The most high profile atrocity of the war took place in Dublin in November 1920, and is still known as Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday (1920)
Bloody Sunday was a day of violence in Dublin on 21 November 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. In total, 31 people were killed – fourteen British, fourteen Irish civilians and three republican prisoners....

. In the early hours of the morning, Collins' "Squad" assassinated 14 British agents, some in front of their wives. In reprisal, that afternoon, British forces opened fire on a football crowd at Croke Park
Croke Park
Croke Park in Dublin is the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association , Ireland's biggest sporting organisation...

, killing 14 civilians. Towards the end of the day, two prominent Republicans and a friend of theirs were arrested and killed by Crown Forces.

The IRA was also involved in the destruction of many stately homes in Munster
Munster
Munster is one of the Provinces of Ireland situated in the south of Ireland. In Ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial purposes...

. These belonged to prominent Loyalists who were aiding the Crown forces, and were burnt to discourage the British policy of destroying the homes of Republicans, suspected and actual. Many historic buildings in Ireland were destroyed during the war, most famously the Custom House
The Custom House
The Custom House is a neoclassical 18th century building in Dublin, Ireland which houses the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government...

 in Dublin, which was disastrously attacked on de Valera's insistence, to the horror of the more militarily experienced Collins. As he feared, the destruction proved a pyrrhic victory for the Republic, with so many IRA men killed or captured that the IRA in Dublin suffered a severe blow.

This was also a period of social upheaval in Ireland, with frequent strikes as well as other manifestations of class conflict. In this regard, the IRA acted to a large degree as an agent of social control and stability, driven by the need to preserve cross-class unity in the national struggle, and on occasion being used to break strikes.

Assessment

Assessments of the effectiveness of the IRA's campaign vary. They were never in a position to engage in conventional warfare. IRA Chief-of-Staff Richard Mulcahy
Richard Mulcahy
Richard James Mulcahy was an Irish politician, army general and commander in chief, leader of Fine Gael and Cabinet Minister...

 bemoaned the fact that they had not been able to drive the British "out of anything bigger than a fairly good size police barracks". On the other hand, the guerrilla warfare of 1919–21 had made Ireland ungovernable except by military means. The political, military and financial costs of remaining in Ireland were higher than the British government was prepared to pay and this in a sense forced them into negotiations with the Irish political leaders. According to historian Michael Hopkinson, the guerrilla warfare "was often courageous and effective". Historian David Fitzpatrick observes, "The guerrilla fighters...were vastly outnumbered by the forces of the Crown... The success of the Irish Volunteers in surviving so long is therefore noteworthy."

Truce and Treaty

David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George
David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor OM, PC was a British Liberal politician and statesman...

, the British Prime Minister, at the time, found himself under increasing pressure (both internationally and from within the British Isles) to try to salvage something from the situation. This was a complete reversal on his earlier position. He had consistently referred to the IRA as a "murder gang" up until then. An unexpected olive branch came from King George V, who, in a speech in Belfast
Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

 called for reconciliation on all sides, changed the mood and enabled the British and Irish Republican governments to agree to a truce. The Truce was agreed on 11 July 1921. On 8 July, de Valera met General Macready, the British commander in chief in Ireland and agreed terms. The IRA was to retain its arms and the British Army was to remain in barracks for the duration of peace negotiations. Many IRA officers interpreted the truce only as a temporary break in fighting. They continued to recruit and train volunteers, with the result that the IRA had increased its number to over 72,000 men by early 1922.
Negotiations on an Anglo-Irish Treaty
Anglo-Irish Treaty
The Anglo-Irish Treaty , officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and representatives of the secessionist Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of...

 took place in late 1921 in London. The Irish delegation was led by Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith
Arthur Griffith was the founder and third leader of Sinn Féin. He served as President of Dáil Éireann from January to August 1922, and was head of the Irish delegation at the negotiations in London that produced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.-Early life:...

 and Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

.

The most contentious areas of the Treaty for the IRA were abolition of the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

 declared in 1919, the status of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 as a dominion in the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 and the British retention of the so called Treaty Ports
Treaty Ports (Ireland)
Following the establishment of the Irish Free State, three deep water Treaty Ports at Berehaven, Queenstown and Lough Swilly were retained by the United Kingdom as sovereign bases in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921...

 on Ireland's south coast. These issues were the cause of a split in the IRA and ultimately, the Irish Civil War
Irish Civil War
The Irish Civil War was a conflict that accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom within the British Empire....

.

Under the Government of Ireland Act 1920
Government of Ireland Act 1920
The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which partitioned Ireland. The Act's long title was "An Act to provide for the better government of Ireland"; it is also known as the Fourth Home Rule Bill or as the Fourth Home Rule Act.The Act was intended...

, Ireland was partitioned, creating Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 and Southern Ireland
Southern Ireland
Southern Ireland was a short-lived autonomous region of the United Kingdom established on 3 May 1921 and dissolved on 6 December 1922.Southern Ireland was established under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 together with its sister region, Northern Ireland...

. Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish agreement of 6 December 1921, which ended the war (1919–1921), Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

 was given the option of withdrawing from the new state, the Irish Free State, and remaining part of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland parliament chose to do the latter. An Irish Boundary Commission was then set up to review the border.

Irish leaders expected that it would so reduce Northern Ireland's size, by transferring nationalist areas to the Irish Free State, as to make it economically unviable. Partition
Partition of Ireland
The partition of Ireland was the division of the island of Ireland into two distinct territories, now Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland . Partition occurred when the British Parliament passed the Government of Ireland Act 1920...

 was not by itself the key breaking point between pro- and anti-Treaty campaigners; both sides expected the Boundary Commission to emasculate Northern Ireland. Moreover, Michael Collins was planning a clandestine guerrilla campaign against the Northern state using the IRA. In early 1922, he sent IRA units to the border areas and sent arms to northern units. It was only afterwards, when partition was confirmed, that a united Ireland
United Ireland
A united Ireland is the term used to refer to the idea of a sovereign state which covers all of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. The island of Ireland includes the territory of two independent sovereign states: the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 counties of the island, and the...

 became the preserve of anti-Treaty Republicans.

The IRA and the Treaty

The IRA leadership was deeply divided over the decision by the Dáil to ratify the Treaty. Despite the fact that Michael Collins
Michael Collins (Irish leader)
Michael "Mick" Collins was an Irish revolutionary leader, Minister for Finance and Teachta Dála for Cork South in the First Dáil of 1919, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and member of the Irish delegation during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations. Subsequently, he was both Chairman of the...

 – the de facto leader of the IRA – had negotiated the Treaty, many IRA officers were against it. Of the General Headquarters (GHQ) staff, nine members were in favour of the Treaty while four opposed it. Many of the IRA rank-and-file were against the Treaty and in January–June 1922, their discontent developed into open defiance of the elected civilian Provisional government of Ireland. Anti-treaty writer Dorothy Macardle
Dorothy Macardle
Dorothy Macardle was an Irish author and historian. Her book, The Irish Republic, is one of the more frequently cited narrative accounts of the Irish War of Independence and its aftermath...

 has claimed that 70 to 80 percent of the IRA was against the Treaty.

Both sides agreed that the IRA's allegiance was to the (elected) Dáil of the Irish Republic
Irish Republic
The Irish Republic was a revolutionary state that declared its independence from Great Britain in January 1919. It established a legislature , a government , a court system and a police force...

, but the anti-Treaty side argued that the decision of the Dáil to accept the Treaty (and set aside the Irish Republic) meant that the IRA no longer owed that body its allegiance. They called for the IRA to withdraw from the authority of the Dáil and to entrust the IRA Executive with control over the army. On 16 January, the first IRA division – the 2nd Southern Division led by Ernie O'Malley
Ernie O'Malley
Ernie O'Malley was an Irish Republican Army officer during the Irish War of Independence and a commander of the anti-treaty IRA during the Irish Civil War. O'Malley wrote three books, On Another Man's Wound, The Singing Flame, and Raids and Rallies. The first describes his early life and role in...

 – repudiated the authority of the GHQ. A month later, on 18 February, Liam Forde
Liam Forde
Liam Forde was an alias used by Séamas Ó Maoiléoin of Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath, Ireland when working as a spy for Michael Collins....

, O/C of the IRA Mid-Limerick Brigade, issued a proclamation stating that: "We no longer recognise the authority of the present head of the army, and renew our allegiance to the existing Irish Republic". This was the first unit of the IRA to break with the pro-Treaty government.

On 22 March, Rory O'Connor
Rory O'Connor (Irish republican)
Rory O'Connor was an Irish republican activist. He is best remembered for his role in the Irish Civil War 1922-1923, which led to his execution.-Background:...

 held what was to become an infamous press conference and declared that the IRA would no longer obey the Dáil as (he said) it had violated its Oath to uphold the Irish Republic. He went on to say that "we repudiate the Dáil … We will set up an Executive which will issue orders to the IRA all over the country." In reply to the question on whether this meant they intended to create a military dictatorship, O’Connor said: "You can take it that way if you like."

On 28 March, the (anti-Treaty) IRA Executive issued statement stating that Minister of Defence (Richard Mulcahy
Richard Mulcahy
Richard James Mulcahy was an Irish politician, army general and commander in chief, leader of Fine Gael and Cabinet Minister...

) and the Chief-of-Staff (Eoin O'Duffy
Eoin O'Duffy
Eoin O'Duffy was in succession a Teachta Dála , the Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army , the second Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, leader of the Army Comrades Association and then the first leader of Fine Gael , before leading the Irish Brigade to fight for Francisco Franco during...

) no longer exercised any control over the IRA. In addition, it ordered an end to the recruitment to the new military and police forces of the Provisional Government. Furthermore, it instructed all IRA units to reaffirm their allegiance to the Irish Republic on 2 April.

The stage was set for civil war over the Treaty.

Civil War

The pro-treaty IRA soon became the nucleus of the new (regular) Irish National Army created by Collins and Richard Mulcahy. British pressure, and tensions between the pro- and anti-Treaty factions of the IRA, led to a bloody civil war, ending in the defeat of the anti-Treaty faction. On May 24, 1923, Frank Aiken
Frank Aiken
Frank Aiken was a commander of the Irish Republican Army and later an Irish politician. A founding-member of Fianna Fáil, Aiken was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 1923 and at each subsequent election until 1973...

, the (anti-treaty) IRA Chief-of-Staff, called a cease-fire. Many left political activity altogether, but a minority continued to insist that the new Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

, created by the "illegitimate" Treaty, was an illegitimate state. They asserted that their "IRA Army Executive" was the real government of a still-existing Irish Republic. The IRA of the Civil War and subsequent organisations that have used the name claim lineage from that group, which is covered in full at Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
Irish Republican Army (1922–1969)
The original Irish Republican Army fought a guerrilla war against British rule in Ireland in the Irish War of Independence 1919–1921. Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the IRA in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and...

.
For information on later organisations using the name Irish Republican Army, see the table below. For a genealogy of organisations using the name IRA after 1922, see List of organisations known as the Irish Republican Army.
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