Friday, 27 December 2013

As resistance and hostility towards the treaty grew among the ranks of the IRA a section of the army, determined to defend the Irish Republic and alarmed by the machinations of the Free State government - actions such as setting up an alternate army and police force - seized the Four Courts and various other buildings in Dublin. The British were worried by this development and began putting pressure on the Free State government to quell this resistance. However, initially there was some cooperation between the pro and anti-treaty forces particularly with regard to a campaign in Ulster. Arms where exchanged and rearranged among units so as to absolve the Free State of responsibility, in the eyes of the British, for renewed hostilities in the north. Both GHQs drew up battle plans and anti-treaty forces even evacuated some of the buildings they held in Dublin to relieve pressure on the Free State government from the British. 

However, the level of hostility and distrust continued to grow, and as J. Bower Bell explains, things eventually came to a head:

"Then on June 22, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff and a bitter foe of the Irish Republic, was assassinated in London. The British government unjustly blamed the militant IRA leadership in the Four Courts and urged the Free State government to take appropriate steps. The Griffith-Blyth bloc had long been advocating to Collins the need for firm action; and with the IRA split after the June 18 convention, the time seemed ideal. Also on June 22, in retaliation for the arrest of one of their officers, the IRA seized J.J O'Connell and held him in the Four Courts. The provocative action relieved the Free State of the burden of acting solely as a result of British pressure. However the IRA leadership, once more almost united as a result of discussions with Lynch, did not believe that with the joint campaign in Ulster in the wind that the Free State would actually attack. All day June 27, Dublin was filled with rumours. The IRA C/O for Dublin, Oscar Traynor, began to make preperations. Lynch stayed in conference at the Four Courts from ten in the evening until one in the morning of June 28. At 3:40 a.m. the Free State demanded the surrender of the Four Courts by 4.00. The request was refused and the IRA waited for the Free State to fire the first shot. It came at 4.30 from a British artillery piece.

From Wednesday morning until Friday, Free State artillery pounded the Four Courts reducing it to a flaming wreck. The IRA volunteers and most of the executive were forced to surrender. Elsewhere in Dublin Oscar Traynor had alerted IRA positions, largely concentrated in a great triangle from the GPO down Talbot Street to Moran's Hotel and to an apex on Parnell Square. Once the Four Courts had gone up in flames and at the last minute spectacularly exploded, the Free State troops closed in on the IRA. Put on the defensive at once, cut off from reinforcements, without artillery or armored cars, the IRA re-ran the reel of 1916. Cathal Brugha held out at the Hamman Hotel until there was nothing left but a flaming ruin. Twice he refused orders sent in by Traynor to surrender and when he finally came out, he still carried a revolver. He was shot, as he might have expected, and died two days later. Overt IRA resistance in Dublin had ended."
[ pg 34-34, J. Bowyer Bell, 'The Secret Army: The IRA 1916-1979', Poolbeg Press, (1990) ]

The Four Courts ablaze after shelling from artillery loaned to Free State forces by the British Army. British soldiers may have manned some of the guns.

As the assault on the Four Courts began the IRA executive issued a proclamation denouncing the assault, calling on citizens to defend the Republic and imploring "former comrades of the Irish Republic to return to that allegiance". A picture of the original document is reproduced below, followed by the text of the proclamation. Many thanks are owed to Mark Cadden who kindly supplied me with these enabling me to share them with you.

Óglaigh na hÉireann


The fateful hour has come. At the dictation of our hereditary enemy our rightful cause is being treacherously assailed by recreant Irishmen. The crash of arms and the boom of artillery reverberate in this supreme test of the Nation's destiny.

            Gallant soldiers of the Irish Republic stand vigorously firm in its defence and worthily uphold their noblest traditions. The sacred spirit of the Illustrious dead are with us in this great struggle, "Death before Dishonour" being an unchanging principle of our national faith as it was of theirs, still inspire to emulate theirglorious effort.

            We, therefore, appeal to all citizens who have withstood unflinchingly the oppression of the enemy during the past six years to rally to the support of the Republic and recognise that the resistance now being offered is but the continuance of the struggle that was suspended by the truce with the British. We especially appeal to our former comrades of the Irish Republic to return to that allegiance and thus guard the Nation's honour from the infamous stigma that her sons aided her foes in retaining a hateful domination over her.

            Confident of victory and maintaining Ireland's independence, this appeal is issued by the Army Executive on behalf of the Irish Republican Army.
                                 Comdt. Gen. Liam Mellows, Comdt. Gen. Rory
      O'Connor, Comdt. -Gen. Joseph McKelvey,
     Comdt. -Gen. Earnan O'Maille, Comdt. -Gen.
     Seamus Robinson, Comdt. -Gen. Séan Moy-
     lan, Comdt. -Gen.   Michael Kilroy,   Comdt. -
     Gen. Frank Barrett,     Comdt. -Gen. Thomas
     Derrig,      Comdt. T. Barry,    Col -Comdt. F.
      O Faolain,    Brig. -Gen J. O'Connor, Comdt.
     P. O Rutiless,    Gen. Liam Lynch,   Comdt. –
     Gen. Liam Deasy,     Col -Comdt. Peadar

            28th June 1922. 

Posted by Saoirse Go Deo On Friday, December 27, 2013 No comments


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    This is my personal blog and all herein is merely personal opinion expressed solely on my own behalf from my viewpoint as an Irish Socialist Republican.

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