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Summary of chapter. Whether Sinn Fein had won the seats in Ireland fairly was immaterial for everyone knew they were the only party to negotiate with. Sinn Fein was not interested in negotiations but in imposing its will on the whole of Ireland by force and compelling the Ulster Unionists to submit. Their attitude and tactics closely resembled those of the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy, and the Bolsheviks in Russia. Despite lavish assistance from backers in the United States, after the failure of a three-year terrorist campaign they were eventually forced to negotiate. Almost certainly they could have obtained conditions equally as good had they commenced negotiations in 1918, but negotiation is never considered by fascist extremists. The Government continued with its programme of legislation but most important measures were shelved so that they could be dealt with by the new Irish Government.
The Ministry December 1918 to October 1922 (war coalition)
Prime Minister David Lloyd George
Home Secretary Sir George Cave; Jan 1919 Edward Shortt
Lord Lieutenant Baron Wimborne; May 1918 Lord French; May 1921 Lord Fitzalan
Chief Secretary Henry Duke; May 1918 Edward Shortt; Jan 1919 James (Ian) Macpherson; April 1920 Sir Hamar Greenwood
Under Secretary Sir William Byrne; July 1918; James MacMahon; May 1920 Sir John Anderson (additional Under Secretary)
[December 1918] There is not perhaps in Irish history another period, except perhaps the period of the Famine, where wide statements based largely on ideology are accepted unquestioned as fact, where such sweeping distortions of events are put forwards as the truth, where there is such selective use of material, where there is so little probing of evidence, where verdicts of biased juries are accepted as proof, where there is such glossing over criminal activity, so much brushing of unpleasant facts under the carpet, as in this period. It is not possible, within the limits of this work to test and probe every event. As with regard to the Famine it suited most writers to blame everything on the British Government and to attribute the most sinister motives to anyone who merely wished to maintain law and order and to respect democratic choice. But nowadays, few people could blithely accept, as Lyons does, a statement of Eamon de Valera regarding the Royal Irish Constabulary that ‘their history is a continuity of brutal treason against their own people’ and that therefore it was legitimate to slay them if necessary, as containing merely ‘an element of exaggeration’ (Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 409). Similarly one could say that statements by Nazi propagandists contained ‘elements of exaggeration’. Nowadays such statements are regarded as incitements to hatred and to murder.
The period from 1919 to 1922 must be regarded as the most shameful period in modern Irish history. In the twentieth century there were numerous examples of systematic terrorism, in Bolshevik Russia, in Nazi Germany, in the Balkans, in Latin America, in large parts of Africa where systematic murder campaigns were carried out. Bands of gunmen, sometimes licensed by the state, sometimes opposing the state, went about demanding arms, money, food supplies, or anything they wanted, and shooting and terrorising anyone at all who opposed them. This inglorious period is glorified by the Republicans as the ‘War of Independence’. The knock on the door in the night, however, was no different whether it was done by the Gestapo or the IRA.
 James Macpherson replaced Edward Shortt as Chief Secretary in January 1919, Shortt going to the Home Office.
Sinn Fein was first off the mark. They sent out invitations to all the newly elected Irish MPs to sit in a parliament in Dublin, but this invitation was ignored by the other parties. As many of the Sinn Fein MPs were interned only twenty seven assembled on 21 January 1919 and proceeded to call themselves the ‘First Dail Eireann’. (It was called the Dail, pronounced Daw-il, from a Gaelic word for an assembly, by the republicans. Eireann or Erin was the genitive form of Eire, pronounced air-eh an old poetic name for Ireland). Though recorded proudly in republican lore, it was not recognised by anyone but themselves, had no money to spend, had no way of collecting taxes, had no control over the army, the police or the courts, or over anything. In practice, what money and power there was divided between the members of the IRB and senior officers of the IRA. It was used by both the IRA and IRB to give a fig leaf of legitimacy to their independent actions, but neither had any intention of being bound by it. Each wanted to control it for its own purposes. In this it was no different from the ‘Parliaments’ in Bolshevik Russia or Nazi Germany. (Eventually, it ended largely under the control of the IRB which was then able to dissolve itself.) One of the ‘Declarations’ it voted for was one that stated that Ireland was to be a republic. This was done in the absence of those who had reservations on the subject, like Griffith and de Valera. Cathal Brugha was in charge of proceedings, and as Lyons admits the ideals and aspirations they reflected had little contact with reality (op. cit. 400). Thomas Ryder Johnson was particularly proud of drafting the Democratic Programme, adopted by Dáil Éireann as its nominal social manifesto in January 1919 (Johnson DNB 2004).
The event was reported in the Irish Times as passed by the censor. The Sinn Fein parliament 1919 opened in Dublin: Mr Edward de Valera, Mr Arthur Griffith, and Count Plunkett were elected delegates to the Peace Conference; a provisional constitution, a declaration of independence, and a message to the free nations of the world were adopted. The newspaper’s editorial commended the wisdom of the Government in permitting the futile and unreal 'National Assembly' to assemble; the world’s press was enabled to witness an assembly of young men who obviously had no idea of the power of the Empire or any particle of experience in the conduct of public affairs. It proclaimed its message to the free peoples of the world despite the reference in 1916 to their ‘gallant allies in Europe'. (The reference was to the words in the Proclamation in Easter Week 1916 which referred to our ‘gallant allies in Europe’, the now defeated Germans.) There was another aspect of the assembly; they invoked God's blessing on their work, a few hours after two policemen were murdered in cold blood.
"There are two sets of republicans in Ireland today. One set filled the public eye on Tuesday with its theatrical protests against British rule. It consists of a body of idealists who nurture themselves quite honestly on visions of an independent but peaceful and pious Ireland. The other has a very different ideal- the ideal which has submerged unhappy Russia in shame and ruin. It proposes to apply the principles of Lenin and Trotsky to Irish affairs. It is working for the disintegration of society and for the confiscation of all property, public and private...When the time comes for its own more thorough revolution it will dispossess them, and will take command of the last act of Ireland’s tragedy' (Weekly Irish Times 25 January 1919). One of the declarations approved contained the phrase that private property was to be subordinated to public right and welfare. It can be assumed that this referred to the confiscation of the large farms. (In the event the moderates in the IRA and IRB triumphed and extreme policies were not implemented.)
The same edition reported the daring outrage in Co. Tipperary; two constables were shot dead by masked men when escorting gelignite to Soloheadbeg quarry on 21 January 1919. It was the same day as the meeting of the ‘First Dail’ but was entirely independent of it. This marked the outbreak of what the republicans call the ‘Irish War of Independence’, but which others call a terrorist campaign. There was nothing particularly unusual in the event. A group of young men in the Volunteers were looking for explosives for one of their proposed illicit operations and decided to capture the explosives being transported under police guard to a local quarry. When the policemen, Constables MacDonnell and O’Connell, refused to hand over the explosives they were shot dead. There was no particular reason why it should be described as the opening shots in a war, but it became so for two reasons. The first was that it coincided with the opening of the First Dail, though without its knowledge or authority. The other was that one of the participants, Dan Breen, published a ghost-written account of his adventure, became an Irish politician, and became well-known on the ‘Reverend Mother’ circuit.
In the House of Lords, Earl of Donoughmore asked what compensation the relatives of the policemen who were shot at Soloheadbeg were entitled to. The Earl of Crawford replied that the children of the late Constable MacDonnell were under 15 and were allowed 50 shillings per annum each until the age of 15 [1 shilling a week]; no other compensation was provided for out of the Constabulary Force Fund. Constable O’Connell was unmarried. The Treasury had authorised the payment of a gratuity of £100 to Constable MacDonnell's children, and the payment of a compassionate grant of £25 to the parents of the late Constable O’Connell. A further sum of £102 6/9 would be paid out of the Constabulary Force Fund to which the late Constable MacDonnell was a subscriber in respect of his five children; this amount would be payable in any circumstances on the constable's death (Weekly Irish Times 29 March 1919).
Constable O’Connell however had dependent relatives who sued for compensation, and there was an appeal from that decision to the Assizes judge and from that court to the Court of Appeal. Constable Patrick O’Connell RIC was murdered at Soloheadbeg. He was aged about 36, and he left as his statutory next of kin his father, the applicant, John O’Connell, a old man of 70 years of age, living in Cork on a small farm of 11 acres. The son had allowed to his father the yearly sum of £20 out of his pay of £109 4s a year, which with war bonus and allowances amounted to £142 3s. At the first hearing Justice Kenny awarded only £200 and costs to the father, that being the compensation for his pecuniary loss, based on sums of £20 a year, but allowed an appeal. On appeal the County Court judge awarded the sum of £1,300 to the father as compensation, and this sum the Tipperary County Council was appealing against. But the pay of the police constables was improved since the 1st April 1919; after which date he would have received £234 a year and been entitled to retire after 30 years service with two thirds of his salary i.e. £156. He left a brother also employed as a constable and two unmarried sisters of full age residing on the farm. They argued that the higher rate of pay should be taken into account; this was disputed by the Tipperary County Council.
The Lord Chancellor, Sir James Campbell mentioned the effect of the Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Act (1919) which modified earlier Acts. However he considered that Judge Kenny erred in only considering the father; the two sisters one aged 40 and the other aged 38 were also clearly being provided for, and an increased provision would also have been made; he considered it more reasonable to allow the father £150, and £175 to each of the sisters, a total of £500. The Lord Chief Justice, Thomas Maloney, referred to the original Grand Jury Act (1836) which allowed compensation for the murder or maiming of any witness, magistrate, or peace officer to be assessed on the county-at-large, or the barony, to the representative of the murdered or maimed person. He agreed that it was perfectly lawful for the County Court judge, now acting in place of the Grand Jury, to consider the compensation due to other relatives who were being supported. One of the other judges, the Master of the Rolls, Charles O’Connor, admired the ingenuity of the judge who derived a compensation of £1300 from a financial loss of £20 a year, but did not dissent from the Lord Chancellor. The other judges concurred (Irish Law Times 1920, Reports 157).
In Britain there was an attempt to deal with a major problem in the mining industry whose exports were now in direct competition with producers in low-cost countries. The miners’ unions were seeking national agreements on pay and conditions, if possible with nationalisation, while the employers wanted regional agreements. A Royal Commission on the question under Sir John Sankey produced contradictory Reports. The final Report firmly recommended nationalisation as the only way to close down small unproductive pits and concentrate on the bigger ones. The Report was not acted on.
There was industrial unrest in Belfast in February 1919 and the city's industry was paralysed with 120,000 workers idle. 40,000 shipyard workers struck to enforce a 44 hour week against the 47 hour offer of the employers; the municipal employees in the gas and electricity works went out in sympathy. The demand for a 44 hour week followed similar demands in England and Scotland. A conference in Dublin of trades affiliated to the Dublin Trades Council demanded a forty-hour week. The Irish Labour Party and Irish Trades Union Congress set out demands for shorter hours and higher wages;
1) 44 -hour week,
The Irish Transport Workers Union demanded a minimum of 50 shillings a week, and a veto on women driving horses or pitching hay, but no longer demanded the 44 hour week, but conceded 49 hours. In Belfast the shipyard workers accepted a 47 hour week in place of the 54 hour week pending a national settlement (Buckland, Irish Unionism, 427).
A critical situation arose in Limerick which was being run by a striker's committee or Soviet. A newspaper editor said that the principles of syndicalism or Bolshevism would never take root in Ireland for the Irish, like the French are very attached to personal property. The military did not interfere in the running of Limerick, and contented themselves with maintaining law and order. It also noted that the strike was not supported by the English unions or by the organised workers in the North East. 1,000 protesters were held by the military (Weekly Irish Times 26 April 1919. What had happened was the Limerick Trades and Labour Council called a general strike as a response to the imposition of martial law, and took over the running of the city. The strike ended after 10 days. In the Kildare farm labourers' strike there was intimidation and damage, non-union workers intimidated, crops trampled, and haycocks overthrown. Nationalist and socialist movements often go hand in hand, and feed off each other. Sometimes they work in harmony and sometimes in conflict.
In June 1919 there was a threatened strike of the police, and the men in London and Dublin were warned that if they took strike action they would be dismissed, lose all pension rights, and never be re-admitted. The Government offered a substantial increase in pay bringing it in London up to £3 10 shillings (seventy shillings) a week, but refused to recognise the Police union; 44,000 had voted for the strike, and 4,300 against. In August 1919 there was a lightning strike of London policemen; 1,100 dismissed and lost their jobs and pensions, and the strike got little support. The Irish Constabulary Gazette was not happy with these proceedings which it attributed to some London policemen infected with Bolshevism. General Sir Neville Macready was appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and he remedied many grievances, and got an increase in pay. He refused to allow a police trade union but allowed police representative boards. Similar action was taken in Ireland by the Commissioner of the RIC Sir Joseph Byrne. The great majority of the Irish police joined the Police Union in 1919 on its formation, and received their membership forms and strike ballot papers simultaneously. They were pretty unanimous for the strike on 7 June, but it was called off, for reasons not yet discovered; the reasons for calling the strike were never clearly put to the members; there was a strong suspicion that the executive of the Union was seized by extremists (Irish Constabulary Gazette 20 Mar, 3 April, and 20 Aug 1920. Presumably labour movement extremists are meant). The Constabulary and Police (Ireland) (1919) provided for better pay and conditions. Unlike in England the Irish police forces were a state service and paid out of central funds. The Bill proposed representative police bodies for all ranks, improvements in pay and pensions, and prevented members belonging to a trade union. They were put on the same footing as the London police. The changes involved an addition of £97,000 a year for the DMP and £989,000 for the RIC (Weekly Irish Times 1 Nov 1919. This is the Act referred to by Constable O’Connell’s relatives mentioned above). The Constabulary and Police (Ireland) Act (1919) made considerable changes in the administration of the police forces in Ireland. It enabled representative consultative police bodies to be established, prohibited a member of the police being a member of a trade union, and imposed penalties on any seeking to stir up disaffection.
In October 1919 British railwaymen all went on strike; Irish rail men had instructions to be ready to join the strike. Rail services in Ireland were cut by 50% because of shortage of coal; shipping services also had to be reduced for the same reason. On the recommendation of the Irish Railway Executive Committee the Lords Justices cancelled races for the next two months. The reason for the strike was that the railwaymen wanted a guarantee that the war wages would be retained because of the increase in prices. This strike was successful because the railwaymen were realistic in their aims.
In February 1919 municipal elections were held in Ireland. An experiment had been made with proportional representation in Sligo which was regarded as very successful. It had long been a complaint that party hacks of the various political parties were put forward as councillors who were only interested in controlling the patronage and lining their own pockets. It was felt that proportional representation would allow candidates, especially those interested in promoting public welfare, to successfully stand for election. The necessary legislation for Sligo had been passed when that ancient borough had come to Parliament for a bill to rescue it from the state of bankruptcy into which it had fallen.
The parliamentary year opened in February 1919. The new Chief Secretary Mr Ian Macpherson met a deputation from the Municipal Association of Ireland. He said that the Treasury was willing to make up the difference between the ‘economic rent' of new housing and the 'reasonable' rent, i.e. what people could afford to pay. The acceptance of this principle by the Government marked a major step on the way to the provision of public housing. Previous attempts had shown that the rents which had had to be charged to pay off the loans borrowed for working-class housing meant that only skilled workers could afford them. The problem was illustrated by a table published the following year:
Cost of house economic rent tenant pays subsidy
This allowed an 8% return on capital; but the calculations were based on an annual repayment of £6 4/7 per cent over 60 years (Cork Weekly News 3 Jan 1920).
The Irish Government also proposed to introduce proportional representation to Ireland. No doubt it was influenced by the disproportionate success of Sinn Fein in the ‘straight vote’ election of the previous December. Proportional Representation was opposed by Ulster Unionists. The Second Reading of Local Government (Ireland) Act (1919) passed by 170 votes to 27. The Attorney General noted that the Suspensory Act which had prolonged the life of local bodies during the War was due to expire. The last elections for County Councils were in June 1914 and for urban communities in January 1915. He proposed reducing the number of rural districts by half. The effect too of the present rating system was unsatisfactory: in some tenement houses the lessor paid the rates while the tenants had the votes, a system that tended to produce extravagance. The Local Government Board would work out the new electoral districts without interfering too much with the existing boundaries. Sir Maurice Dockrell (Dublin Rathmines) claimed to be the sole representative of 350,000 Southern Unionists in the House, and he said he favoured the Bill. Carson was suspicious and wanted to know who was asking for it. The Attorney General said that the Government had itself proposed the measure. It also had an interest in the matter as it had loaned £26 million pounds to Local Authorities in Ireland under schemes of reconstruction and public health. The idea was not to allow the administration to fall into the hands of those who managed to capture local government and called the rest of the United Kingdom an enemy. They were to entrust its administration to men of business, not concerned with politics, but only with good local administration (Weekly Irish Times 29 March 1919).
The next Act was the Public Health (Medical treatment of children) Act (1919) to make provision for the medical treatment of children attending elementary schools in Ireland. The Local Authority could make arrangements for such regular examinations, and all examinations were to be voluntary (Irish Law Times 1920). The Irish Times was rather critical. The Bill passed, and it permitted but did not compel local councils to provide for the medical inspection and treatment of school children, so the editor did not think it would be effective. The Treasury would provide half the cost- the councils would be responsible for the other half, which they would hope to recover from the children’s parents. The doctors envisaged were the already over-worked dispensary doctors. The editor maintained the plan should be mandatory as in England, the local authority should provide the service free to parents, and special doctors should be recruited. However the Bill was only an interim measure until after the new elections (Weekly Irish Times 29 March 1919).
The Nurses Registration (Ireland) Act (1919) provided for the establishment of a General Nursing Council for Ireland, which was to form and to keep registers of nurses similar to those in England and Scotland. This measure had long been desired by Irish nurses, who felt that representation on the English General Nursing Council was not satisfactory. There had been an Irish Board as part of the English Council since 1917. The Irish Board of the College of Nursing had been considering the economic status of Irish nurses since its inception. One should take into account that nurses must work as hard on Sundays as on other days; the district nurse is always on call, and private nurses are frequently expected to stay up all night as well as all day. The hospital nurse had only one day off in 30. The average salary of a trained nurse was between £30 and £40, and a Sister got £50, out of which she had many charges to pay , such as for meals outside the hospital, and for her own annual holiday, and to subscribe to charities, for they were accounted in the professional classes and obliged to contribute. A skilled typist or first-class clerk could earn £200. The nurses’ remuneration including board all told only amounted to £100; their work was hard, their working life short and there was no provision for old age (Weekly Irish Times 1 March 1919). (School teachers were also regarded as being in the salaried classes and were expected to contribute the appropriate sums to the many charitable appeals.)
The new professional nursing body would have full authority to examine the qualifications of nurses practising in Ireland, keep a register of all qualified nurses, and remove them from the register for professional misconduct. A Central Midwives Board had been established in 1918. A Dental Board to keep a Dental Register was established in 1921, completing the regulatory Boards connected with the practice of medicine (Irish Law Times 5 Nov 1921).
The Irish Railways (Confirmation of Agreement) Act (1919) confirmed certain terms in the agreement between the Government and the Irish railway companies whose undertakings were placed under Government control by Order in Council 22 Dec 1916. The Dogs Regulation (Ireland) Act (1919) raised the dog licence from 2 shillings to 4 shillings. The Irish Land (Provision for Soldiers and Sailors) Act (1919) provided for advances under the Land Purchase Acts to ex-servicemen.
Other pieces of legislation applied to the whole of the United Kingdom. Among these was the Industrial Courts Act (1919) which established a standing Industrial Court consisting of persons appointed by the Ministry of Labour. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act (1919) removed the disqualification of sex or marriage from every public office, from holding any civil or judicial office or post, from entry into any profession, from admission to any incorporated society, or from serving on a jury. The number of jobs closed to women, especially in the professions, was still large. The Act was sweeping and prohibited any bars to the employment of women. Oddly women to that date could not serve on juries. The National Insurance (Unemployment) Act (1919) increased the rates of benefits and made other changes to the National Insurance (Unemployment) Acts 1911 to 1918. The Criminal Injuries (Ireland) Bill (1919) allowed for compensation of law officers killed in the course of their duty.
The new Housing Act (1919) in England made the provision of new homes compulsory on local authorities; England and Wales were estimated to need 350,000 new homes for the working classes, and Ireland another 65,000. In England there would be a vast clearing of slums, and private interests over-ridden; the only compensation to owners of condemned buildings would be for the value of the cleared site. In the simultaneous Irish Bill there was no legal compulsion placed on the local authorities. Speaking on the Irish Housing Act (1919) Mr Macpherson said he had been able to secure loans from the Treasury which it had at first refused. It maintained that Ireland was very prosperous commercially so there should be no need for Government assistance. The commercial banks should be able to cover all advances; the Treasury would not loan however to Belfast and Dublin. The government guaranteed to pay half the rent of the new houses and half the interest charges (Weekly Irish Times 17 May 1919; Irish Law Times 24 January 1920). (It is interesting to note that Belfast and Dublin were considered as able to provide their services as any British city. We can suspect that the notorious corruption of local government meant that much public money went astray.)
The housing schemes of Dublin Corporation were announced; a site had been acquired in the Ormonde market area at a cost of £1 per square yard; virgin sites cost between £350 and £700 an acre. Two loans, one of £139,000 and the other of £138,000, were applied for. Charles A. Cameron (Chief Medical Officer and Public Analyst of Dublin) gave evidence that the Newfoundland Street area was an unsanitary one; it consisted of very old houses most unfit for human inhabitation. During his time 4,600 houses had been closed by magistrates’ orders. A particular problem in Dublin, unlike in Belfast, was that it was an old city which grew slowly; consequently many of the houses were very old; the working classes moved into houses built for the wealthier classes as they moved away. 37 out of every 100 families lived in a single room compared with only 150 families in total in Belfast. There were 21,000 families living in single rooms in Dublin, and they had the first call on the new housing; this particular area had few tenement houses, and was not an unhealthy one. Another question revealed that the average cost of the ground was £4,800 an acre i.e. £1 per square yard for the cleared site.
The Labourers' (Ireland) Act (1919) passed its Second Reading; the Attorney General noted that under the Labourers Acts 50,000 cottages had been built in Ireland with a plot of land attached. Labourer’s cottages became a distinctive feature of the Irish rural landscape. The definition of labourer was one getting less than 2/6 a day or 17/6 a week; this must now be changed, and it was also proposed to include the self-employed with low earnings, and who had not already a quarter of an acre of land. This to apply to any wage earner in a rural district other than a domestic or menial servant; i.e. to include those in mines, shops, factories etc, in rural areas, but not urban areas with their own town commissioners. The new wage rate would include the minimum wage rates for the localities.
Under the Health Act (1919) which originally did not include Ireland, the Chief Secretary became the Minister for Health for Ireland. It was proposed to pass an Education Act for Ireland similar to the Fisher Act in England, but as usual there was opposition from the Catholic Church.. The Board of National Education provided that an examination for junior assistant mistresses (JAMs) would in future be compulsory. These were untrained teachers who were employed to teach basic arithmetic, spelling, etc, but who could never be promoted. Quite often the wife of the schoolmaster was employed in that capacity.
The wartime assistance to agriculture was reduced by the Treasury in Ireland as well as in Britain, resulting in cut-backs by the Department of Agriculture. Money for land purchase could no longer be obtained at 2¾% - it now became 5%. The Corn Production Act had resulted in an extra million acres being tilled. Much more could have been tilled if the Department had not made a mistake in 1916 and said that there was no shortage of horses and labour; in fact the tractor and the three-furrow plough was the solution to turning over grasslands to tillage. With regard to a fixed minimum wage for agricultural labourers, this could only be maintained if cheap produce from the Continent were excluded as it had been during the war; the minimum wage was 28 shillings and 6 pence a week and Sir T. W. Russell considered that the absolute minimum for a married man with a family.
The Government disposed of its entire stock of linen for £4 million to a London merchant; this was between 30 and 40 million yards, practically all the linen there was at the moment, and amounted to 3/5ths of a year's output of the Belfast mills. The Government had probably paid over £6 million for it; the Belfast merchants wanted the Government to burn it as it was too light for domestic ware.
There was a great Victory Parade in Belfast; 11 miles of fighting men involved 30,000 men and women. There were elaborate decorations in every part of the city with the saluting base at City Hall. Women’s units were Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps, Red Cross, Voluntary Aid Detachment (women), Legion Corps, Women's Royal Air Force, and Women’s Royal Naval Service, Women's Royal Army Service Corps, Women’s Forestry Corps, and Women's Land Corps. There was a similar parade in Dublin before Lord French.
The successful flight of Alcock and Brown across the Atlantic landed at Clifden near the Marconi Wireless Station on 15 June 1919, and they were given an enthusiastic reception in Dublin. The Spring Show and the Horse Show of the Royal Dublin Society were resumed after the War. The premises had been occupied by the military so much reconstruction was required. The Catholic bishop of Limerick, Dr Hallinan , deplored the trends in ladies fashions, and that Irish women were following the trends of Anglicisation, and said the principal designers of women's indecent dresses were Jews or freemasons, a favourite argument of Hitler.
There was a split in the Irish Unionist Alliance; Viscount Midleton and others resigned and formed a new body under the title of Unionist anti-Partition League; the reason for the split was that Midleton and his supporters considered that only Southern Unionists in the south of Ireland should make the decision as to what was to happen to themselves; the new body was formed to express their views (Buckland, Irish Unionism, 369). An Irish Centre Party was formed to work for an independent Ireland within the Empire. The Chairman of the committee was Captain Stephen Gwynn, supported by General Sir Hubert Gough. A letter from the Irish Unionist Alliance said that in 1918 Sinn Fein stood for a separate Irish republic, and got 73 seats; and was now carrying out a murder campaign; Sinn Fein did not seek redress for ill-government; it did not even try to allege that Ireland was ill-governed; it just wanted separation.
Outrages and atrocities like those of the Land League increased. The official catalogue of outrages attributed to the Sinn Fein movement from the 1st May 1916 to 30 Sept 1919 was 16 murders; 66 cases of firing at individuals; assaults 60; robberies especially for firearms 478; incendiary fires 55; cases of injury to property 261; cases of firing into dwellings 30, of which 28 were homes of civilians; cases of intimidatory letters 141, and miscellaneous 186, totalling 1293. Of these 110 (8.5%) were in Ulster, 377 (29%) in Leinster including Dublin, 182 (14%) in Connaught, and 624 (48%) in Munster. None of the perpetrators of the 16 murders were brought to justice. There was a campaign against the Irish police. 10 members of the RIC and 3 members of the DMP were murdered this year; a great many more wounded. There was a desperate attack on a RIC barracks in Meath; a constable was murdered (Weekly Irish Times 18 Oct, 8 Nov 1919).
During these three years there was a systematic campaign directed chiefly at members of the RIC who were the chief victims of the murder campaign. de Valera personally suggested that they should be targeted. The police formed the soft option. They were mostly Irish Catholics, and drawn from the same ranks of Irish society as the IRA. They were not, as alleged, supporting British Imperialism, but favoured Home Rule and looked forward to working under a native Parliament. But until a Home Rule Act was passed they had to enforce the law as it stood. Only an intensely narrow-minded fanatic could see them as enemies of Ireland. But as could clearly be seen the activities of Sinn Fein had little basis in reality. Nor were the tactics of the police provocative, for they were expressly forbidden to search out and destroy IRA units. Their families were intimidated and victimised. The IRA, as far as possible, avoided attacking the army, and then only in prepared ambushes. Because of the near impossibility of obtaining convictions from juries because of intimidation the Government proclaimed many counties in order to be able to use non-jury courts. For the most part, proclaiming a district meant little more than that.
Though the Dail was suppressed and most of the leading members of Sinn Fein were interned, one crucial figure had escaped detention. This was Michael Collins. He became a folk hero because of the inability of the authorities to catch him. The fact that he was at large meant he became one of the most important men in Sinn Fein. More importantly, he had been appointed Minister of Finance by the Dail, and that meant he controlled what money there was. He succeeded in raising a ‘National Loan’ of £358,000. A representative of Sinn Fein went to Paris to get Ireland recognised but was ignored. In the United States Congress, the fact that Sinn Fein had fought alongside the Germans told against them. A delegation of Irish-Americans was given passports to come and visit Ireland to see conditions for themselves. Representatives of the Government found they had been given totally false picture of what was actually being done in Ireland. Irish-American delegates' fabrications were refuted by the Government. They confused normal movements of troops with an army of occupation; some of it troops being moved from Ireland, some troops returning for demobilisation. The equipment they carried is the same as is normally carried in peacetime by the British and American armies. They claimed a strength of 15,000 for the RIC; in fact it was only 9,682 men.
There was an attempted assassination of Lord French at the gates of the Phoenix Park as he was travelling from his home in Frenchpark, Co. Roscommon back to the Phoenix Park; one of the assailants identified as Martin Savage, a grocer’s assistant, was killed. The assailants had intended to bloc the road with carts, but failed. The Countess of Fingall said he had escaped death by the hairbreadth chance of an Irish train being ahead of its time!
Details of the new plan for Ireland were released. There were to be a Unionist province, and two parliaments linked by a Council of Ireland. The Irish Parliament would have control of the subjects given in 1914 as well as Old Age Pensions, Housing, and labour questions. The constabulary would be a reserved service for two years, but neither the postal service nor the higher judiciary would be transferred until the two legislatures agreed. Taxes would remain the same for two years, £23½ millions were to be spent on local services, and £18 millions was to be the contribution to the Imperial Treasury; Ireland would send 42 members to the House of Commons (Weekly Irish Times 27 Dec 1919). [TOP]
 Few bills were ever so denounced as Mr Macpherson’s new Education Bill (1919). The Catholic bishops attacked it as an attack on morals and slur on nationhood and the nationalist press followed suit. His Bill wished to supersede the three Education Boards. The bill was condemned in County and District Councils by men who might know little of education but who had a gift of invective. Parents were not asked, but the Irish teachers studied it and welcomed it in general as an instalment of reform. Dr Hallinan of Limerick denouncing the bill stated the Church's divine right to approve, condemn, or tolerate all systems of education; the Bill was merely an attempt by Dublin Castle to mould the minds of Irish youth in the British fashion (Weekly Irish Times 10, 17 January 1920. It was later asked in a different connection what were the divine rights of the Catholic bishops with regard to the teaching of algebra!).
The main provisions of the withdrawn Education Bill 1920 were
1) the removal of over-lapping and waste,
The Irish School Weekly observed that public bodies were cautioned by objectors against placing education on the slippery slope of the rates; but in every other country in the world there is a local rate for education. Ireland does not contribute a large sum from local sources at present; the schools are largely built and maintained by local contributions, and the parents supply the books and requisites. Under the proposed rating system much of this burden on poor parents would be transferred to those who can afford to pay, bachelors, big farmers, merchants, etc. We were warned that de-nationalisation and Anglicisation were bound to follow in its train (Irish School Weekly 24 Jan 1920). (Stanley’s original Education Act (1831) had envisaged a large input from local gentlemen and businessmen, but the clergy of all denominations took the schools out of their hands.)
At the Congress of the INTO at Easter 1920 the out-going president, Mr T.J. Nunan noted that the Catholic schools in England came under the County Councils in 1902 and there were no ill-effects, but there was great improvement in pay and conditions. In Scotland too it was found possible to get every advantage for Catholic schools and Catholic teachers with no interference with the authority of the Catholic priest, and only Catholic teachers could be appointed in Catholic schools. These things took place in England and Scotland where the Departments and local Councils were composed almost exclusively of non-Catholics. It was clear that the central objection of the bishops and clerical managers to the Bill was the establishment of a Department of Education (Irish School Weekly 10 April 1920).
The Commissioners for National Education early in 1918 considered the Compulsory Attendance Act (1892) and estimated that one third of the Local Authorities had still not after 26 years put its provisions into force. There was an absentee rate of 30% every day. For the past 60 years teachers had been urging an effective system of compulsion; by their efforts the 1892 Act was passed, and it was thought that the attendance problem was solved for all time. School attendance in 1893 was 63.3%; by 1907 it was 66.3%; by 1919 it was just under 70%.
On the question of teaching Irish, the Irish School Weekly expressed surprise that the Gaelic League had not long since concentrated on getting teachers who passed through the training colleges equipped to teach Irish. We all remember the big fight 10 or 12 years ago to have Irish compulsory in the National University. But it was not made compulsory in the training colleges. Doctors, barristers, and engineers must show some proficiency in Irish, but not school teachers. To this day trained teachers are being turned out without being able to teach a word of Irish (Irish School Weekly 31 July 1920).
(In the event the two new Governments introduced Education Bills. Both established Departments of Education. The Northern or Londonderry Act (1923) introduced the principle of Local Authority participation, and made the teaching of Irish voluntary. The Southern Act concentrated on making the teaching of Irish compulsory. It was to be more than half a century before southern primary schools caught up with their northern counterparts.)
In recent years the number of pupils on the rolls of secondary schools had numbered 21,000, of whom 12,000 were presented for the yearly examinations of the Intermediate Board while the passes approached 7,000 (Irish School Weekly 3 July 1920). If we assume a population of around 4 million we can estimate that there were roughly six or seven hundred thousand families, the very narrow base for secondary education is clear. If half these families were Catholic the base for an educated administrative class in the new Ireland was very small.
Following the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act (1919) the first Women Justices of the Peace were appointed. The first four ladies appointed were Lady Arnott, Lady Redmond, Lady Dockrell, and Miss Palles who were appointed to Dublin County. The first case before a lady magistrate was held at the petty sessions in Dundrum, Co. Dublin when Lady Redmond took her seat with the other justices on Monday 16th February 1920. At the same time a woman called Georgina Frost was the first woman appointed a clerk of petty sessions, the first woman in the United Kingdom to be appointed to a paid public office (Frost, DNB 2004) Two young ladies, who were studying law, applied to be admitted students of law at the King’s Inns, and were accepted. There were now police women working in 28 English towns. The first woman preached in the Church of Ireland with the approval of the Archbishop of Dublin and the church's governors. The preacher, Miss Picton-Turberville was also the first to preach in an Anglican church. She was speaking in Ireland under the auspices of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. She wore a surplice and spoke in a clear and eloquent way. The Countess of Limerick deplored the lack of recognition given to those women who gave unstintingly to the women's war effort in the recently published honours list of the OBE. One lady had worked for four years in the buffet Lady Limerick had established for servicemen at London Bridge station in London, and 95% of the wounded passing though London Bridge were given something to eat and drink. One Christmas Eve 900 repatriated Mons men came through, and would have been given nothing to eat only for the buffet. 84 women shared in the work at London Bridge -only one was paid- yet not one was mentioned.
The first meeting of the Irish Roads Advisory Sub-Committee was held at the offices of the Ministry of Transport, Oriel House, Dublin. It was proposed to class all Irish roads as First, Second and Other. The Report of the Irish Land Commission for 1918-19 stated that the number of rents fixed for the second statutory term was 144,009 with an average reduction of 19.3% on first term rents; rents fixed for a third statutory term were on average 9.2% down on second term rents and these numbered 6,250; the number of first term applicants was 382,813 and the average reduction was 20.7% over the entire country. The Industrial Court established to redress the grievances of workers with regard to labour sat in Ireland for the first time in January 1920 in the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast.
The new Unemployment Insurance scheme came into force on 8th November 1920 and applied to Ireland. The National Insurance Act (1911) dealt with health insurance, and unemployment insurance; the former covered the whole working population and dealt with unemployment caused by illness, and that was now administered by the Irish Health Commissioners. The second was restricted to certain trades where temporary lay-offs were common, with powers to extend it to other trades, and it was amended at various times. These amendments were now incorporated in the present Act called the Unemployment Insurance Act (1920). It was much more extensive and was compulsory and applied to all except agricultural workers and domestic servants, and some others. The contributions came from the employer and the employee. The former was responsible for paying, which was done by stamps, and made the appropriate deductions from the wage. The unemployment benefit was to be 15/- for men, 12/- for women, 7/6 for boys and 6/- for girls; not more than 15 weeks benefit can be drawn in one year (Weekly Irish Times 30 Oct 1920; Richards and Hunt, Modern Britain, 263). The new Early Closing (Shops) Act (1920) did away with the defects of the Shops Act (1912); all shops except newsagents would have to close early.
The Sheriffs (Ireland) Act (1920) provided that under-sheriffs were to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant and not by the sheriff, and an under-sheriff was to be appointed for every county and county borough. Each would be appointed to hold office at the Lord Lieutenant’s pleasure and would not be affected by the changes in the sheriff. He must in future be either an existing under-sheriff or a barrister or solicitor of at least five years standing, or a person who has acted as an assistant to an under-sheriff for at least five years.
The powers and duties of a sheriff of a county or county borough were to be transferred to the under-sheriff, and the sheriff was not to be liable for any act or default of the sub-sheriff. The sheriff was however to continue to discharge his duties in connection with the reception of and attendance on judges, and commissioners at Assizes, and commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, and in connection with persons to serve as grand jurors at such assizes and commissions. (These quarterly commissions to judges covered almost all crimes.) The Sheriffs (Ireland) Act came into force on 1 November1920, and in pursuance of the Act the Lords Justices published the list of appointees. With regard to remuneration, the salary appointed to be paid under the Grand Jury (Ireland) (1836) Act to sheriffs was to be paid to under-sheriffs. The power of making rules and orders under the County Officers and Courts (Ireland) Act (1877) was extended to under-sheriffs.
The Sheriffs (Ireland) Act (1920) brought about a small revolution in the law of execution [function of the executive, as in the execution of writs i.e. written orders of courts] in Ireland. The ancient and honourable office of High Sheriff was abolished except for ceremonial purposes; the under-sheriffs were made permanent state officials, to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, to hold office during his pleasure, and to be paid partly by Parliament and partly by the County Council. All existing powers, duties, and liabilities of sheriffs were to be transferred to them. The collection of the fees payable in respect of County Court executions to the sheriff was placed in the hands of the Clerks of the Crown and Peace; these fees were in addition the poundage, keeper's and other fees payable under the Civil Bill (Ireland) Act (1864) (Irish Law Times 4 December 1920.) The medieval system of government of counties had been drastically altered by the institution of county councils in 1898, which however were given neither judicial functions nor control over elections. Most of the remaining powers (and remunerations) of the sheriffs were transferred to legally qualified sub-sheriffs who became paid officials. Like the sheriffs, the sub-sheriffs were to be appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, but unlike them they were not appointed annually. The Act was the result of the recommendations of Maurice Dockrell’s committee, and he also helped to draft the Bill. (After this Act the British and American systems of county government ceased to have much in common.)
On the administrative side of Local Authorities the Clerk of the Crown and the Peace, often called the town clerk or county clerk, was the principal administrative paid officer in the county under the chairman of the County or Borough Council.
The Bank Notes (Ireland) Act (1920) provided that an Irish Bank could refuse to cash a particular cheque outside head office. The Public Libraries (Ireland) Act (1920) raised the amount that could be raised in rates for Library purposes. The Census (Ireland) Act (1920) provided for the taking of the census the following year. In September the Government of Ireland Act (1914) was suspended for another six months.
The Defence of the Realm Act (1914) DORA came to an end in February 1920 and it was replaced by another temporary Act which kept many of its controls until 31 August, among which was Summer time. In August therefore, the Chief Secretary had to introduce a new temporary Criminal Injuries Act (1920) in line with the old Acts against terrorism. This would enable the Government to intercept every grant paid by the Exchequer to anybody or any authority in Ireland. They had already taken steps to intercept all payments to any authority which in any way acted illegally. He was also holding up certain other grants and loans until he was assured in certain specific cases that no illegality had occurred. New courts would be established to supersede those civil courts which failed to function. Witnesses were being intimidated, so he proposed setting up tribunals to deal with every offence; an attempt, he said, was being made to establish an Irish Republic by means of murder and intimidation (Weekly Irish Times 31 July 1920).
The Restoration of Order (Ireland) Act (1920) was introduced because of the collapse of some Assize Courts in July 1920 when the jurors in parts of Ireland refused to attend. The chief provision of the Act was the establishment of military tribunals to try all cases where the civil courts could not act. They would not be courts martial in the ordinary sense, but non-jury courts, for legal representatives of the crown would attend to see that all the ordinary legal formalities were observed. The decisions too were to be subject to the usual course of appeal and revision (The Witness 13 August 1920). Non-jury courts for terrorist offences were to become a permanent feature in both Northern and Southern Ireland. It should be noted that the proceedings of these courts were carefully monitored by the Irish Supreme Court which seems to have possessed the right to remove any trial to the King’s Bench division by means of a writ of Certiorari or Habeas Corpus. Nationalist barristers like Timothy Healy and Alexander Sullivan were very watchful. The Firearms Act (1920) made the possession of firearms punishable with a sentence of two years imprisonment in Ireland, and three months in England. (The Irish Law Times of the period contains interesting discussions on the implementation of the Acts). The Administration of Justice Act (1920) allowed the enforcement in England, Scotland, and Ireland of judgments obtained in any part of His Majesty's dominions outside the United Kingdom.
The Government effectively crippled the republican Dail by striking at the root of Arthur Griffith’s idea, that Local Authorities controlled by Sinn Fein would send their money to the Dail and not to ‘British’ Government. These payments were simply intercepted. The Dail and its Departments had to survive on loans and loot. As the twentieth century was to show, few terrorist groups could become effective without funding from outside. The Dail’s system of ‘Republican Courts’ proved a flop. The two parallel sets of courts became a source of public amusement, as a plaintiff would select the court which would bring the greatest embarrassment to his opponent. The Republican ‘courts’ had no criminal jurisdiction, and were set up ‘during the war with England' only, had no licensing authority and no commercial jurisdiction; the courts themselves undertook more duties than were assigned to them by Dail Éireann. They were not really courts and had no coercive power. They existed only for consensual arbitration. (This does not mean that the local band of the IRA would not enforce the ‘judgments’ in their own way.)
Even in a very disturbed county like Clare ordinary civil life was scarcely disturbed. Most of the time there was no interruption to public order or religious life, and the courts of petty session, quarter sessions, and assizes were held as usual. The Bar Council in Ireland refused to allow any of its members appear in republican courts. The Nationalist barrister A. M. Sullivan wrote to the London Times ‘Ireland has for many years enjoyed a system of jurisprudence that has been developed by the wisest lovers of freedom that have graced three centuries. It has two great defects, but the lie that the administration of the law in Ireland is "British" is an insult to the Irish people. In our courts Irish law is administered by Irishmen as the defence of Irish rights…The slaves who are bullied into submitting to the Sinn Fein “courts" are obliged to subscribe to the lie that the Irish courts, of which every member of the bar is an officer, are enemy organisations for the oppression of Ireland (Cork Weekly News 17 July 1920). His chief complaint was that the Government used promotions in the courts as rewards for politicians. (Alexander Martin Sullivan was an Irish barrister, and was the last First Serjeant. He was a nationalist, but after the republican victory practiced exclusively in English courts. Two attempts were made on his life by republicans. His house in Roscarberry, Co. Cork was burned by the republicans. ‘Sullivan’ DNB.) He added ‘Murder and justice cannot co-exist. Of all the factors of civilisation the Catholic Church in Ireland has suffered most. No bishop has been shot and no chapel has been blown up, but the authority and prestige of the Church have been suffocated. Another power has established itself as the moral instructor of Irish youth. A secret society boasts of its immunity from censure....The murderer’s philosophy goes uncontroverted, spread abroad on the wings of a leprous Press’. He could have been writing of Germany in the Thirties.
The great piece of legislation in 1920 was the Government of Ireland Act (1920). The Government had always intended updating the 1914 Act to take into account the wishes of the people of Ulster, and had convened the Irish Convention to see if any compromises could be secured by either party. None were forthcoming so the Government went ahead with its own plan. The sweeping victory of Sinn Fein in the 1918 General Election meant that the Government would have to hand over power to a terrorist organisation despite any misgivings by the public. The experiment with proportional representation in local elections gave some encouragement, for though Sinn Fein’s share of the vote held up, the councillors returned more closely reflected their electoral support. The Bill was introduced on the 25 February 1920 by Ian Macpherson and passed its Second Reading on 31 March 1920. Macpherson who wanted a more liberal Bill then resigned, and it was left to Sir Hamar Greenwood, the last Chief Secretary, to pilot the Bill through Parliament.
The general principles of the Bill had already been published and it was opposed by the Unionists, still trying to get the principle of Home Rule dropped. There were to be two Parliaments and a Council of Ireland, and separate judiciaries. The 1914 Act was to be repealed. Power was given to the two Parliaments to substitute for the Council of Ireland, by identical Acts, a Parliament for the whole of Ireland. The Crown, the making of peace and war, navy and army, foreign affairs, telephone and telegraph cables, currency and coinage etc, police, customs, and Post Office were to be reserved matters, i.e. still under Westminster. Each Parliament was to have a separate judiciary, with High Court and Court of Appeal, but the Lord Chancellor would preside over the Supreme Court of Appeal for the whole of Ireland. A million pounds would be given to each Parliament for initial expenses. The status of the High Court of Appeal for Ireland as established under the Government of Ireland Act (1920) had a position similar to that of the Federal Court of Appeal in Australia. The High Court of Appeal was under the Lord Chancellor and the two Lord Chief Justices of Northern and Southern Ireland, but it still was not a Court of Criminal Appeal. The Criminal Appeal Act (1908) which established appeal in criminal cases was not applied to Ireland because the Nationalist MPs objected (Irish Law Times 12 February 1921). Oddly enough, the County Courts still remained under imperial control. This remained to be tidied up. The powers formerly exercised by the Lord Chancellor were to be transferred to the respective Lord Chief Justices, including the powers of patronage and appointments in the courts. (The office of Lord Chancellor was abolished in 1922 in Southern Ireland.)
The principles of the Bill show the lines of the Government’s thinking. As a formal federal solution was unsuitable for the United Kingdom given the disproportionate size of England relative to the other ‘home countries’ a local administration to deal with local affairs was preferred. The Government opposed partition of Ireland in principle, but until the Nationalists/Republicans and the Unionists could be persuaded to work in harmony, there would have to be two equal devolved administrations. In the meantime, while hopefully they could grow together, a Council of Ireland, and a common Court of Appeal could keep the two parts in touch. Unfortunately the intransigence of the Republicans frustrated this hope. The Council of Ireland was to be composed of twenty representatives from each part of Ireland. In the immediate term it was to have control over railways and fisheries. Each parliament was to have a House of Commons be elected by proportional representation and a nominated Senate. The North would return 13 members to Westminster, and the South 33. In May and June the Bill was debated at length in its Committee Stage. In November 1920 the Home Rule Bill was re-committed for the consideration of Government amendments and new clauses. The chief question remaining to be settled was the existence of second chambers. There was considerable argument over this, so the Government left the ultimate composition of second chambers to the Council of Ireland. It was quickly concluded and went to the House of Lords before the end of the month, and it passed all its stages there in December 1920.
Besides the duty of preparing the legislation, of which there was a great deal in the post-War years, the Government had first to deal with the Local Government elections which were to be held under the system of proportional representation. All parties, except the Nationalists, could draw some comfort from the results. The Unionists noted that the vote for Sinn Fein/Labour had not significantly increased. Sinn Fein/Labour could congratulate themselves that they had won a majority of the seats and therefore control in the great majority of the Corporations and Town Councils, County Councils, Rural District Councils and Poor Law Unions (Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 407, Cork Weekly News 6 Mar 1920). The Government too could be satisfied that even if the Sinn Fein/Labour coalition won the elections to the Southern Parliament, there would be a respectable body of opposition members elected to hold them to account. The new Corporation in Belfast consisted of 37 Unionists, 13 members of Labour, 5 Nationalists, and 5 Sinn Feiners. In Dublin out of 90 seats, Sinn Fein got 42, Labour 14, Municipal Reformers 9, Nationalists and Independent Nationalists 14, and 1 Unionist. In the whole of Ireland 43 women were elected of whom 28 represented Sinn Fein, Unionists 9, Ratepayers 3, Nationalists 2, and Women’s National Health Association 1 (The Witness 20 January 1920). Sinn Fein and Labour who were expected to work together got 70% of the seats, Sinn Fein alone around 53%.
In April Sir Hamar Greenwood replaced Ian Macpherson; he was the first Canadian to hold the job; the only by-election to result from the cabinet changes was that of Greenwood. Greenwood and Lord French were to take more active steps against the terrorists, but they were subject to very severe restrictions regarding what they were allowed to do. The Royal Irish Constabulary blamed French and Greenwood for the restrictions placed upon them, but the instructions came from London. The following year Lord French resigned in protest at the restrictions which never allowed him either to take military action, or to enforce the civil law (French DNB). Apart from the legislative programme already described the Irish Government was largely pre-occupied with the ever-increasing outbreaks of terrorism.
Within Unionism there were increasing signs of strain. Led by Captain Craig, who was increasingly replacing the ailing Carson, the Ulster Unionists decided to accept the Government of Ireland Act (1920) which involved the partition of Ireland, and the establishment of an Ulster Parliament for the six North-Eastern counties. The attempt to defeat Home Rule in principle was abandoned, but much could be done to salvage something from the wreck. There was also the Council of Ireland where they could hope to keep contact with the Southern Unionists and assist them. Lord Mounteagle introduced a private Bill to have Ireland made a ‘Dominion’ like Canada, which did not get support from the other Unionists. The Earl of Dunraven opposed it, preferring a federal solution. Lord Killanin said that the first step Sinn Fein would take in a Dominion would be to declare a republic (The Witness 9 July 1920). Sir Horace Plunkett convened a meeting of the Irish Home Dominion League which several noblemen, including the Earl of Fingall attended, but this was clutching at straws (Cork Weekly News 20 August 1920). Eamon de Valera, having escaped from Lincoln Gaol went to America where he attended both the Democrat and Republican Conventions. Both refused to recognise the ‘Irish Republic’. de Valera also refused to make any concessions to the Home Dominion League.
All through 1920 the newspapers were full of the activities of the terrorists. Though it was often claimed that this was a war under the control of the senior officers of the IRA, who were themselves taking directions from the Dail, which they recognised as the legitimate government of Ireland, it was no such thing. Like all previous terrorist campaigns dating back to the 1760s it was organised on a parish basis. Each parish formed its own group, found their own guns, selected their own targets, and did their own killings. The IRB and the Dail tried to impose their own direction on local activities through the structure of the Volunteers, now called the Irish Republican Army. Had there been a sufficient supply of weapons controlled from the centre and a sufficient flow of cash from the centre, it might have been possible to organise some kind of military campaign. In a few cases in Munster, Collins was able to finance small groups called ‘flying columns’ (or as others regarded them murder squads) after the precedent set by the Boers. These could be moved into a parish to hit a target and rapidly move out again. Though it was this particular tactic that produced the only excommunication by a Catholic bishop during the entire terrorist campaign. For the bishop pointed out that these strangers came into parishes, carried out some atrocity, and fled, leaving the local people to bear the brunt of the police and army response.
Following the advice of de Valera the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary were selected as the soft target. They were mostly Catholics, and mostly nationalists, and were drawn from the same ranks of society as their opponents. It was a particular grievance in the force that it was, like the army, divided into officers, and other ranks. Promotion from constable to the officer ranks was possible, but in general the highest rank an ordinary policeman could aspire was head constable, which corresponded to the rank of sergeant major in the army. Another grievance was that there was a disproportionate number of Protestants in the officer ranks. However, it was the ordinary Catholic policemen and sergeants who were the targets of the terrorists. The families of the policemen were vulnerable to verbal abuse, discrimination and ostracism which had the effect of causing an unusual number of resignations from the force. A total of 425 policemen were murdered and 725 wounded by the time the terrorist campaign ended (Irish Constabulary Gazette 24 December 1921). This would amount to a casualty rate of around 10% in a force of around 11,000.
In some places, as in Cork the IRA units were well armed, well-organised, and ruthless, but in other places, the organisation was scant and the activity almost non-existent. In North Louth where my uncle’s unit was supposedly part of the Fourth (Northern) Division under ‘General’ Frank Aiken, the unit had one rifle, the rest having shotguns which were useful for raiding the post office but little else. The sole operation he seems to have been involved in was the burning of the local police barracks after it was abandoned by the police. They practised their drill from a British Army drill book however. It was estimated that the IRA had about 3000 effectives at any time, and the perennial shortage of cash, weapons, and ammunition precluded increasing their number. Figures released by the Chief Secretary's office showed that there were 1529 outrages attributed to Sinn Fein from the 1st May 1916 to 31 Dec 1919:
The area under the Dublin Metropolitan Police was included in Leinster; the figure for Munster was just 50% (Cork Weekly News 31 Jan 1920). (The figure for Ulster reflected activity in the three Catholic counties of Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan together with the Catholic part of Belfast, so a proportionate figure of around 400 should be understood putting it on a par with Leinster. Members of Sinn Fein did not necessarily carry out any acts of terrorism themselves any more than members of the German Nationalist and Socialist Democratic Party in Germany, but their connection with those who did was the same.)
How to separate a struggle for independence from local struggles for land was another difficulty. The Irish Times noted that the cattle-driving in the West was more widespread and better-organised than at first suspected. They aimed to take over all grazing land. Holders of even small parcels of grazing lands were obliged to sign papers saying that they would sell them as soon as they were compensated. Those aimed at especially were shopkeepers who had also small holdings, and it was announced that in future such holdings by shopkeepers would not be allowed. Agricultural labourers were everywhere joining in this drive as they too wanted land. They were strongly organised by their trade unions, the Land and Labour League, and the General Workers Union. Many of them had considerable sums of money which they had earned in recent years by taking conacre and rearing pigs and small cattle (report in Weekly Irish Times 24 April 1920). The same confusion about aims was to be observed in Russia. Another report on the new land hunger in the West spoke of wholesale cattle driving and intimidation. It gave a litany of outrages, lands stripped of their stock, fences broken, gates smashed, walls demolished, gate pillars in pieces, graves dug, farmers threatened, and houses of women fired at. In one district 1,100 acres were 'surrendered' by the owners; an owner is invited to surrender his land, and an arbitration court is appointed to fix the price. These proceedings take place under the 'Shawe-Taylor Act', called after a farmer who was shot for refusing to surrender his farm (Weekly Irish Times 8 May 1920). Again the Times reported a Sinn Fein statement in Roscommon regarding land agitation proposed by a priest, namely, that if land was not being properly used it could be taken over, proper compensation being paid. Force could be used but only after arbitration had been tried. Only lawful authority could use force, and the only lawful authority was Sinn Fein (Weekly Irish Times 22 May 1920. It is not clear from the excerpt how much of the statement was from the priest, and how much was a gloss by Sinn Fein. If the latter, then Sinn Fein was probably trying to impose the authority of the Dail.
There is little doubt that these reports were substantially accurate, but it is more difficult to work out how widespread or effective the terrorist activity was. A detailed report of illegal activities is printed by Buckland with regard to Scariff, in Co. Clare. He reported thefts by gangs of armed men going around every night terrorising the inhabitants, and collecting subscriptions from everyone. Between dusk and dawn it was impossible to sleep. There is no doubt that the report was accurate, but at the same time it was being represented in the High Court that ordinary civil life in Clare was scarcely affected. (As one who lived through another IRA terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland it is clear to me that both accounts could be true. On the allegation that the IRA used dumdum bullets, as a boy I was told by my uncle how to make them. Whether he made any himself I do not know.) On the attribution of blame for acts of arson and destruction it is unwise to be too definite, as conditions at the time hindered proper enquiry, and as Lloyd George pointed out, the Lord Mayor of Cork when summoned for questioning, fled to America. The IRA was totally reckless in the destruction of property which all had to be re-built by the Irish Free State. In March the Lord Mayor of Cork Thomas MacCurtain was murdered in dubious circumstances. The allegations against the RIC were refuted. The police evidence was that they were to go, along with a party of the military, to arrest MacCurtain, but found that he had been murdered an hour earlier. The Lady Mayoress said that her husband had been opposed to the murder campaign. On his way to the Lord Mayor’s house a policeman had seen men about, but there was nothing about them to make him suspicious. The London Daily Mail said that it had evidence that he was murdered by the IRB; they had a list of unreliables, and MacCurtain was on the top of the list; another was Professor Stockley of University College Cork [professor of English; alderman 1920-25; MP for National University 1921-23]; another was found murdered with the rosary beads in his hand (Weekly Irish Times 3 April 1920). This evidence did not prevent the coroner’s jury from returning the ridiculous verdict of the wilful murder of MacCurtain by the RIC, District Inspector Swanzy, Lloyd George, Lord French etc. Indeed there is every reason to believe that the police were doing exactly what they said they were doing, going to arrest MacCurtain and to search his house. He was also commandant of the Cork No 1 Brigade of the IRA (Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 413).
In January 1920 the editor of the Constabulary Gazette deplored the report that it was intended to recruit 1500 men in England for the RIC. It was bound to be a disaster, seeing that everything English was being abused. The idea, he said, lacked good sense, and he returned to the grievance that it was not possible in Ireland, as it was in England, for senior officers to rise from the ranks (Irish Constabulary Gazette 10 Jan 1920). He also deplored the dismissal without notice or warning of the popular Sir Joseph Byrne, the Inspector General of the RIC. He was an ex-army officer who came to Ireland as a brigadier general on Sir John Maxwell’s staff in 1916 and he did such excellent work that Asquith offered him the job of Inspector General in 1916. He was the son Dr J. Byrne of Londonderry, and had joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in 1893. He had taken a robust line with regard to the attempt to form a police union, yet he listened to the men’s grievances, and secured what improvements he could. It was known that he did not always see eye-to-eye with his superiors but he never failed to obey orders. He was replaced by Major General Tudor. General Sir Neville Macready was appointed GOC of the army in Ireland. During the War as Adjutant General of the forces he introduced the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to do secretarial work, drive cars etc. After the War he was appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London, and he introduced various reforms following the police strike. He also introduced women police.
In another issue the editor of the Constabulary Gazette criticised the present system of forcing the police to 'mind' police barracks in remote districts. The whole time of the police was now taken up with minding the barracks; it would be better to shut the barracks and send out the men, armed, and in plain clothes on cycle patrols; the police love detective work more than anything else to quell lawlessness. The first thing to do is to abandon the uniform, and 90% of the red tape. There is not the slightest point in marching men to divine service in uniform. If the police were taught to shoot straight, and be rewarded for their success, there would be no need for an extra 1000 police; the present men were sufficient. Police duty was utterly different from army duty; it was not like marching in battalions, but more like a cat catching a mouse; if he is a good cat he will catch the mouse, but not if he has a bell tied round his neck (17 Jan. 1920; Later the suggestion of armed plain-clothes detectives was taken up by de Valera to deal with the same problem).
The editor maintained that the gangs of young men who successfully attacked barracks were masters of the situation. Still the old methods of policing would have to be changed if they were to be tracked down and prosecuted. The police were not concerned with the reasons for the unrest, but it was their duty to prevent the attacks. At the moment it is clear to all that the offenders are having the best of the encounters, but the problem was not insuperable; it is just a case of a small body of well-led men out-manoeuvring a great police force. Thirty years ago it was regarded as sufficient to send out armed patrols of three policemen at night, but now that the strategy is to defend the barracks, they are helpless. The policeman is only of value when he is outside his barracks, but the armed patrol is only inviting capture. A year ago we warned against trying to defend barracks, saying they were only death traps for the men inside. If every police barracks had been provided with wireless sets, the men inside would have had a great advantage. There was also the possibility of motor cycle armed patrols especially by disguised policemen. This was a battle of wits, and there was little sign of that in the police ranks. The enemy is well-armed, with an excellent intelligence system. In Dublin the system of uniformed patrols just indicates to the enemy where the police are (7 February 1920). (An old IRA man told me how they were able at night to approach the police barrack and wedge the dynamite seized from the local quarry under the window cills while the police inside were unable to do anything.) The use of radios instead of telephones and mobile patrols of police and army would enable the police and army to trap those who attacked a police barracks. Whether Michael Collins read the Gazette we do not know but he was perfectly aware how the tables could be turned on him if the security forces took the threat of the IRA seriously enough. It was clear that for the moment Lloyd George was hoping that Sinn Fein would accept the Southern Parliament, and would instruct the IRA to lay down their arms at least for long enough to make it clear that he was handing over power to elected politicians and not to gunmen. It was not until the middle of 1921 that the leaders of the IRB decided to accept the conditions. But the result of the half-hearted pursuit of the IRA and the ill-advised recruitment of ex-soldiers from England caused a break-down in discipline among some members of the RIC.
The suggestions for improving recruitment of Irishmen to the RIC were interesting. Recruitment should be done in Ireland; and it should be done by the constables themselves; if the constables were contented they would find the recruits. Conditions of service were falling behind those of the farm labourers and the railway porters. There was the seven-year embargo on marriage, without parallel elsewhere in His Majesty’s forces; and then the question of investigating the constable’s proposed wife for respectability. The police barrack was a barrack; a pallet of straw, a bare and cheerless day room, no armchairs, no privacy in the dormitory, not to mention the occasional bomb. Remove the pinpricks, let them marry, give them wireless sets, make the barracks comfortable, let them find recruits, let them find ways of defeating the enemy (14 Feb 1920). Between 1st January 1919 and 2nd April 1920 40 persons were murdered and there were 137 attempted murders; it was clear that Sinn Fein was targeting the police; 35 of the murdered men were policemen and of those attacked 119 were policemen (15 May 1920). The next largest group to be targeted were those who gave information to the police. They were labelled as ‘informers’, placarded, and shot. In the first three months of 1921 73 persons were thus trussed and shot (Bishop and Mallie, The Provisional IRA, 30; the IRA acted just like the Gestapo)).
Protestant Unionists spread thinly across southern Ireland were also targeted. They were the traditional enemy. They were richer than the Catholics and often possessed good sporting guns. What the IRA had not considered was the effect that these attacks would have on the Protestants in Ulster. Here the Catholics were in the minority. Serious anti-Catholic riots broke out. All Catholics indiscriminately were called Fenians, though that name was rarely used by the Catholics themselves. The Irish Times reported that 18 people were killed in Belfast riots, Sinn Feiners were attacked in the shipyards. There was ill-feeling for considerable time at the employment of Sinn Feiners in the yards because of the atrocities being carried out in other parts of Ireland. The Sinn Feiners on the Falls road retaliated by attacking Unionist workers at a mill; the people from the Shankill Road district looted spirit stores supposed to be tenanted by Catholics. A Redemptorist brother from Clonard monastery was shot dead (Weekly Irish Times 31 July 1920). Later a District Inspector was murdered in Lisburn and 40 houses were burned in Lisburn as a reprisal. There was a desperate battle in Belfast streets. 20 were killed, hundreds wounded, and enormous damage was done. Belfast was placed under curfew (20 Aug, 4 September 1920). One of the riots was caused by the murder of District Inspector Swanzy who had been in Cork when Alderman MacCurtain was murdered. Collins had ordered his murder because of his supposed connection with the murder of MacCurtain. The Witness (3 Sept 1920) reported more rioting in Belfast. Reprisal and counter reprisal in the previous week in Belfast had resulted in the destruction of 250 shops and dwelling houses, with 30 people killed and others more or less seriously wounded; promiscuous sniping by Sinn Fein at the shipyard workers would not help matters. There was desperate rioting in Londonderry between Sinn Fein and Unionists with nine men killed.
Thomas MacCurtain’s successor as Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney was arrested and charged with having a police cipher in his possession. He was tried before a court martial and sentenced to imprisonment where he promptly went on hunger strike. This form of slow suicide reported day by day in the press was effective at least in gaining sympathy for the cause. Aware of what had happened when forced feeding had been tried before, no attempt was made to feed him, and he died after seventy four days. In an attack on British soldiers in Dublin, an eighteen-year old medical student called Kevin Barry took part, was captured and sentenced to death by a court-martial. The song written about him called ‘Kevin Barry’ was the republican equivalent of the Nazi’s ‘Horst Wessel’ song about a similar youth who was killed.
The Catholic bishops did denounce the violence. The Constabulary Gazette welcomed the belated denunciation by the Catholic hierarchy of murder and violence. Another writer denounced the statement of the Catholic bishops as mealy-mouthed and inadequate (14 Feb 1920). In his Lenten pastoral Cardinal Logue said the whole Irish people could not be blamed for the activities of a few reckless young men, who were probably the dupes of secret societies; he blamed their actions on the activities of the police and army (Cork Weekly News 21 February 1920). During Lent 1921 the Weekly Northern Whig commented on the Lenten Pastorals (traditional letters of a Catholic bishop to all in his diocese) of the Catholic bishops. It considered they had been unable to agree over the merits of the Government of Ireland Act (1920), and could not decide whether or not to accept it; Dr Joseph Mac Rory in Belfast deplored the Act but would accept it. Dr Cohalan in Cork utterly denounced the activities of the IRA; Dr O’Donnell of Raphoe was cryptic, while Cardinal Logue would prefer to retain the 'old gang'. It noted the considerable sympathy for Sinn Fein among the Catholic bishops. This was partly caused by sympathy with their aims, partly because they see in the anti-British sentiment promoted by Sinn Fein the best guarantee of their own interests, and partly from a dislike of the Nationalist Party with which the hierarchy was never reconciled since the time of Parnell. But it would seem that in supporting Sinn Fein they have nursed a dangerous rival to their own ambitions. It cited Dr Cohalan's pastoral that the Sinn Fein's declaration of independence did not constitute themselves a state and allow the uses of physical force; just achieving a parliamentary majority in one area, which might be reversed the following year, did not constitute a state; nor indeed would similar declarations of independence by north east Ulster, or any of the provinces constitute a legitimate state; a mere declaration of independence cannot constitute a state (Weekly Northern Whig 12 February 1921). Dr Cohalan was in fact the only Irish bishop to excommunicate those engaged in acts of murder in his diocese. In England Cardinal Bourne, Archbishop of Westminster, excommunicated all members of Sinn Fein in his diocese, referring to Archbishop Manning's denunciation of Fenianism in 1867. In his pastoral in 1921 Cardinal Logue was more explicit. He said that shooting policemen and soldiers was not an act of war, but plain murder; even in regular warfare such secret assassinations would be condemned and punished (Church of Ireland Gazette 11 February 1921). One bishop pointed out that before absolution could be given restitution for theft, damage, or injury had first to be made, and this remained true even after compensation had been paid by the county. Restitution in that case was to be made to the County.
It should be made clear, despite what was alleged by Sinn Fein and the IRA, that there was no official policy of fighting terrorism with counter-terrorism. Old IRA men gloried in the myth of their struggle with the ‘Black-and-Tans’ which they claimed was a British terrorist force sent to crush the IRA but which the IRA crushed. The military authorities in Ireland briefly considered a policy of limited reprisals in areas under martial law. They wanted to burn the houses of those known to be or suspected of being, involved in IRA activities. But as the reprisal specialists, the IRA, threatened to burn the houses of two Government supporters in return, the policy was not carried very far (Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 418).
The trouble came from unofficial reprisals at local level, and these were connected with the additional policemen recruited in England to make up for the failure to recruit Irishmen. This was always against the wish of the RIC and their presence in Ireland was resented by the ordinary policemen who felt that their chances of promotion would be hindered by their presence for many years to come. Like many other things, it seemed a good idea at the time, to recruit soldiers just discharged from the army and who were not afraid of being shot at. The mistake was not to vet them thoroughly regarding their suitability for police work. Many of those who came forward were like those who joined the SS in Germany or the British mercenaries in Africa after the Second World War. They were not a special unit, but were recruited as ordinary policemen. Shortage of police uniforms meant that initially they had to wear khaki uniforms with the black-green caps and belts of the police, and so they were nicknamed after a famous hunt in Tipperary, the Black-and-Tans.
There were also some instances of gross misconduct by the army. The Countess of Fingall recounts the story told to her by a local nun, of how the soldiers came to Swinford, in Co. Mayo, rounded up a crowd of young men, stripped them, painted them with green, white, and orange, threw them into the local river, and shot at them to murder them, though none of the men was actually shot (Fingall, Seventy Years Young, 397-8). Yet, even here, we must remember that this was just the story they told the nun. (In a later IRA campaign, Catholic priests became notorious for retailing as fact stories told them by their parishioners without ever even checking to story with the local police sergeant.) The nun wrote to Horace Plunkett, who took up the matter with Alfred Cope, the additional Under Secretary. General Macready took up the matter, found that the facts as stated by the nun were correct, and the officer responsible was severely dealt with. (A problem in dealing with the Army was that though they dealt severely with cases, they did so in private. Justice might be done, but it was not seen to be done. The officer was probably mentally deranged.)
By July 1920 there were signs that discipline in the police and the armed forces began to slip, The editor of the Irish Times said that the rioting by the undisciplined troops in Fermoy, Co. Cork was indefensible, but the reaction of the troops was however understandable. They arrive in a part of the United Kingdom and find that a large part of the population considers itself at war with them; they are abused in large sections of the Press; they cannot walk abroad without being assaulted; they have been humiliated by having their arms seized; yet they are not at war with Ireland and are forbidden to retaliate. Finally in Fermoy they did retaliate; the Republicans were fighting a one-sided war and can use every weapon including murder; but the Government is not at war with it, and must use the due processes of law (Weekly Irish Times 3 July 1920).
In August 1920 a letter of Sir Horace Plunkett president of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society to Sir Hamar Greenwood on 19 August 1920 was published. He accused the military and the police of destroying the property of the co-operative societies as reprisals. In his reply of Sir Hamar Greenwood deplored and condemned these outrages, and assured him that the Government would do all it could to stamp them out. However the problem has been that no witnesses had come forward, and welcomed the offer of the Society to provide witnesses (Weekly Irish Times 28 Aug 1920).
It was often alleged that the Government was fighting terrorism with terrorism. This was not the case. Every instances of alleged wrong-doing by the army or police was investigated and punished. There was a great difficulty when all the policemen in a particular barrack conspired among themselves to carry out a reprisal. When an investigator arrived from Dublin to make his enquiries naturally nobody knew anything about the alleged incident. It must be remembered that both the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police had excellent detective divisions. The membership of the IRA in a particular area would have been known to all the police in that area. If a man was known by his rank in the Irish Volunteers, that would have been his rank in the IRA. If an atrocity was carried out in a parish, it would have been carried out by the IRA in that parish. (One of the points in having flying columns was to break the local link; the other was to have hand-picked and experienced bands of gunmen.) One idea suggested, almost certainly by the new English police, was to retaliate for example by burning the house of the local IRA chief, or his business premises.
The police authorities moved rapidly to deal with the problem. In April 1921 Lloyd George in a letter to the bishop of Chelmsford made it clear that there were no ‘irregular’ forces in Ireland; all are fully under the control of the authorities. The Auxiliary division was formed because of the systematic murder of the regular constables. There was no doubt that some undesirables got in in the early days, and this caused discipline problems. During the previous three months 28 members of the RIC and 15 member of the auxiliary division were removed from the ranks as a result of prosecutions, and 208 members of the RIC and 59 members of the Auxiliary division were dismissed as unsuitable (Weekly Northern Whig 23 April 1921).
On 2 October 1920 the Northern Whig reported another murderous outbreak in Belfast, a policeman and 3 Sinn Feiners shot dead. 7 policemen were murdered in Clare. A party of six was ambushed, 4 were killed on the spot and one died of injuries, shot with dumdum bullets. The military burned three towns. Trim RIC barracks was attacked and burned; the next night the town was burned by the auxiliary policemen known as the Black and Tans; the greater part of Trim was owned by Lord Dunsany. The burning was carried out after the military and police had withdrawn following assurances by the local people. For the Government, regarding reprisals, Sir Hamar Greenwood denied any complicity or cover-up by the Government; the number of alleged reprisals was few and the damage done was exaggerated. On the status of the Black-and-Tans, the Whig continued, the Black-and-Tans were full members of the RIC and were only issued the hybrid uniform because of a shortage of police uniforms. Also known as Black-and-Tans were auxiliary officers recruited to instruct the RIC in how to defend their barracks; these were classed as cadets, given the rank of sergeant, and paid £1 a day. As noted earlier this influx of highly paid sergeants, who would block further promotion for the constables, was highly resented. The cadet was the lowest rank of officer in the police (Weekly Northern Whig 2 0ct 1920). Lloyd George commented on the assassinations of policemen by harmless looking individuals in the streets; at least 283 policemen had been killed in the past year, and about 100 soldiers shot. No wonder their patience was wearing thin; however all cases would be investigated, and he had no intention of speaking until he had all the facts. This was not war- it is murder, especially when the murderers use dumdum bullets which mutilate the victims- a real murder gang is terrorising the country, and intimidating not the Protestants or Unionists but the Catholics (Weekly Northern Whig 16 Oct 1920). One problem about finding out who did what was, as Sir Hamar Greenwood pointed out to Horace Plunkett, that nobody came forward to give evidence. It is curious though with regard to the creameries that Sinn Fein did not push witnesses forward.
There was no doubt however about the determination of Michael Collins to systematically murder all the detectives in the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Like Himmler, he never had any difficulty in getting men who were prepared to murder in cold blood. He formed a special murder squad to track down the detectives and kill them. The climax to this came on what was to be called ‘Bloody Sunday’. A woman clerk working with the Dublin Metropolitan Police copied out the addresses of various English detectives who had been brought to Dublin and who were staying in various hotels in Dublin. She handed the list to a friend in the IRA who passed it on to Michael Collins. This was the equivalent of handing a list of the hiding places of Jews to the Gestapo. The murder squad succeeded in murdering fourteen and wounding six of them. Later in the day the police went to Croke Park where a Gaelic football match was being played, and it was thought that the IRA would move units into Dublin under the cover of supporters going to the match, which in fact may have been the case. They surrounded the park and drove armoured cars on to the pitch, and then some fool in the crowd fired shots at them. The response was instantaneous as the police fired back in an excessive reaction. Twelve people were killed and sixty were wounded. When the grounds were searched several revolvers were found, but the identity of the person who fired the first shot was never determined. (The same was to occur at another ‘Bloody Sunday’ in Londonderry on 30 January 1972. The young soldiers panicked and returned fire, always maintaining that they were fired on first. But nobody could ever admit to firing the first fatal shot.) In the House of Commons Greenwood said that the authorities had information that gunmen had come in from the country ostensibly for the match, but in reality to carry out the murders. The military and the RIC went to the match to search for arms, and were fired on, and they fired back; 30 revolvers and other firearms were found (Weekly Northern Whig 27 Nov 1920; Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 419).
The last big event of 1920 was the burning of Cork city, another event shrouded in mystery. £2 million worth of damage was caused by great fires in Cork, which followed attacks on auxiliary police with hand grenades. In the Commons Sir Hamar Greenwood said that the fire brigade, protected by the police and military, made every attempt to put out the fires. The police also tried to prevent looting. Every policeman in Cork was on duty. There was no evidence of hosepipes being cut, or any unlawful activities of the security forces. He noted that General Macready and General Tudor were making a point of repressing any attempts at unauthorised reprisals. The fires were not started by the security forces; on the contrary they made every effort to save the rest of the city. The places where the fires were started were not owned by Sinn Feiners (Weekly Northern Whig 18 Dec 1920). Martial law was proclaimed in four Irish counties. The Catholic bishop of Cork, Dr Cohalan, issued his excommunication of those guilty of murder or attempted murder. He was not however backed by the other bishops. It was well-known that the Irish bishops were so divided on excommunication that they have found it impossible to issue a joint statement (Weekly Northern Whig 8 January 1921). [TOP]
 Despite the apparently bleak outlook, Lloyd George still had hopes that Sinn Fein and the IRA could be induced to sit in the Southern Parliament. Time was on the Government’s side, and at least Michael Collins on the republican side knew this. The fact was that despite raising two loans, one at home and one in America, he was fast running out of cash and ammunition. Robbing post offices could provide money for a low level campaign, but that supposed that the Government was in control of Ireland and would replace the money stolen. It was not his intention, as it was that of the Bolsheviks, to rob banks and so destroy the capitalist system. As was usual in such circumstances, young men rushed to join the victorious army, but there was no money to provide them with arms and weapons which had to be carefully conserved. It is estimated that the most active men Collins could support was around 3,000, though the total number of men in the local units of the IRA was much higher. Nevertheless, the terrorist tactics continued, and the ‘flying columns’ were very useful for tying down large numbers of troops. The terrorists continued to shoot anyone suspected of assisting the Government. But the strain on Collin’s resources was immense, and he knew he could not continue the struggle much beyond August of 1921. Lloyd George and the Irish Government probably had a shrewd idea about the financial state of the IRA. The culmination of the IRA attacks was the burning of the old Customs House on the Dublin quays. The idea was that, as many of the Government records were stored there, it would be possible to cripple the administration of the Government. What they did do was destroy totally irreplaceable historical records. The so-called Dail, having failed to get official recognition in the United States decided to try getting it from Bolshevik Russia and proposed an Ireland-Russia pact (Weekly Northern Whig 18 June 1921).
The Government forces were trying to deal with the terrorists, though with innumerable restrictions put on what they could do. Lord French and General Crozier resigned because of the restrictions placed on them. The pressures were growing on Lloyd George to arrive at a settlement, for example by conferring dominion status on the Southern Parliament. He was subject to counter-pressures from the Conservatives, who were the majority party in his coalition government, to deal harshly with the ‘rebels’. Typically, Winston Churchill wanted to fight the Boer War over again complete with blockhouses, barbed wire, and concentration camps.
The Countess of Fingall recalled the beautiful summer weather, with long quiet evenings in the countryside where there was a curfew from 11 p.m. and a curfew on motors from 7 p.m. ‘Travel was made difficult. Trees blocked roads as they had blocked them after the Big Wind, trenches were dug every night, bridges blown up, and the first car going that way in the morning unwarned would be wrecked.
But people are ill at night, and babies frequently choose to be born during those hours, knowing nothing of the curfew. The doctors drove in fear, and messages summoning them must be carried on foot by the poor, who have no telephones. And such messengers made terrifying journeys and were sometimes shot “by mistake”. Mails were raided and searched frequently- by the other side- and our letters might arrive with a Censor mark. Not the familiar Censor mark of the War days, but a blue pencil scrawl “Passed by Censor I.R.A”. We poor moderates those days had a bad time, walking in the middle of the road, and likely to get hit by the bullets from either side (Fingall, Seventy Years Young, 395-6, 400). Sir Horace Plunkett, returning to his house outside Dublin and finding a party of young men digging a trench across the road outside his gate, asked them how he would be able to get to Dublin in the morning. They said they had been ordered to block the road against military lorries, but a trench on the other side of the gate would do as well.
The Government of Ireland Act (1920) received royal assent and elections had to be held before the Parliaments could be set up. The king through the Privy Council had to appoint commissions to carry on the elections. Under martial law possession of firearms and explosives carried the death penalty (Weekly Northern Whig 1 Jan 1921).
A Report of de Valera to a secret session of Dail Eireann was published. It said that Lloyd George had on 1 December 1920 commissioned Archbishop Clune of Perth to arrange a truce. He had met Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins and decided they were fair and reasonable men. By the 14th December Dublin Castle had agreed to a ceasefire. Lloyd George however demanded that Sinn Fein surrender their arms, and negotiations broke down.
Lloyd George speaking in the Commons regretted that many had failed to come forward to give evidence with regard to the Cork and Mallow burnings. Some indeed, like the mayor of Cork, had fled to America rather than give evidence. One report into the matter was not unanimous; there was evidence of some indiscipline, but no individuals were identified. Steps had been taken to restore discipline. He also dealt with the activities of Archbishop Clune who contacted many of the Sinn Fein leaders; he had stuck to the condition that the rebels would have first to surrender their arms (Weekly Northern Whig 19 Feb 1921). de Valera told the Dail after he returned from America that it might be necessary to ‘lighten off’ the IRA attacks. There can be little doubt that he was appalled at the way things had turned out. In 1918 it had seemed so easy just to abstain from Westminster, set up a Dail in Dublin and take over the administration. Now Irishmen were engaged in a bitter struggle with each other. Lloyd George continued to try to keep contacts with the Sinn Fein leaders. de Valera was arrested accidentally and was hastily released. Alfred Cope, an assistant Under Secretary in Dublin, was encouraged to make contacts, apparently behind Sir Hamar Greenwood’s back, with Sinn Fein leaders. In the summer of 1920, Alfred Cope and Mark Sturgis were sent to Dublin to nominally to assist Sir John Anderson, the additional Under Secretary. Cope, who had been a detective in the Office of Customs and Excise, was actually sent by Lloyd George to contact Sinn Fein leaders, and in this he was very successful. He was to play a key role in bringing about the truce, and he supplied useful intelligence to the Prime Minister (DNB Cope).
In April 1921 Lord French resigned and was replaced by Viscount Fitzalan. To allow him, a Catholic, to become Lord Lieutenant, a clause in the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829) had to be repealed. An earldom was conferred on Lord French on his retirement.
In May 1921 Lord Fitzalan summoned Parliaments to assemble in Northern and Southern Ireland. Captain James Craig met de Valera at the latter’s request and made it clear that there were no concessions on the Ulster parliament, and that Ulster was fully committed to the Government of Ireland Act (1920). He pointed out that the Council of Ireland would provide the necessary constitutional link. Carson had retired from public life. He had not favoured the partition of Ireland, and he felt that a younger man should take charge of the Northern Parliament.
In May nominations for both parliaments were concluded. The intentions of the proposers of proportional representation in the south were frustrated by the return of only republican nominees; the only genuine contest was in Trinity College. The hypocrisy of Sinn Fein in proclaiming it supported the rights of minorities was exposed. Lyons too commented on the fact that no candidate stood, or did not dare to stand, against Sinn Fein. Not even the Labour Party. In Ulster the constitutional nationalists and Sinn Fein were working together; the issue was clouded only by the intervention of socialist candidates who have no chance whatsoever. With regard to the Italian elections then being held the newspaper mentioned the communists and supporters of the Third International, and the 'fascisti' as the young counter-revolutionaries call themselves who have done things hard to justify, but the provocation was extreme (Weekly Northern Whig 21 May 1921).
Sinn Fein/IRB/IRA was not a democratic movement and there was no question of the people of Ireland being given a democratic choice. Gunmen never put their lives on the line for something that can be taken away from them at the next election. Had free elections been held in Southern Ireland, the electorate might have decided, as it subsequently did, that Lloyd George’s structure was making the best of an impossible situation. If Ulster did not want to be ‘free and Gaelic’ nobody was going to bother with them, and in any case they were better off without a mass of Protestants. If free elections were held, and Sinn Fein did not put up candidates, then Lloyd George and world opinion would recognise those elected as the legitimate Government of Ireland. If Sinn Fein did put up candidates, secured say 60% of the seats, and then refused to recognise Lloyd George’s Parliament, the Prime Minister would still have handed over power to 40% who took their seats. It followed logically that Sinn Fein should contest every seat and no candidates should be allowed to stand against them. Sinn Fein, the IRB, and the IRA were what were later called ‘fascist’ or ‘far right’ bodies. (Lyons admits there must have been a ‘degree of intimidation’. Following on the results of the Local Authority elections one should say ‘massive intimidation’.) The Northern Whig commented on the freedom of the elections in Ulster compared with the farce in the South where not a single candidate in any of the rural or urban constituencies could be found to stand against the gunmen (Weekly Northern Whig 28 May 1921).
Unsurprisingly, there were only 4 non-Sinn Fein candidates returned in the South, all returned by Trinity College, Dublin. The Government went through the motions of establishing the new Government in the South. The southern Senate was to be chosen as follows- 4 by the Catholic bishops; 2 by the Protestant bishops; 16 by Irish peers; 8 by Privy Councillors, 14 by County Councils; the Lord Lieutenant could nominate 17; the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork were ex officio members. The Privy Council elected the following senators to the Senate of Southern Ireland-Sir William Goulding, bart, the Earl of Granard, Rt. Hon. Walter MacMurrough Kavanagh, Lt. Gen. Sir Bryan Mahon, the Earl of Meath, Sir Thomas J. Stafford, Rt. Hon. Lawrence Ambrose Waldron, and the Earl of Westmeath. The Protestant bishops chose the Primate, Charles Frederick D'Arcy, and John Gregg archbishop of Dublin. The peers chose Lord Cloncurry, Lord de Freyne, the Earl of Dessart, the Earl of Donoughmore, the Earl of Dunraven, Lord Inchiquin, the Earl of Kenmare, the Earl of Mayo, the Earl of Meath, the Earl of Midleton, Lord Oranmore, Viscount Powerscourt, Lord Rathdonnell, the Marquis of Sligo, and the Earl of Wicklow. (Looking back, it clearly is a pity that Lloyd George’s scheme was never proceeded with as it would have united all classes in Ireland. But the Fenian movement from the very start was as much a class struggle as it was an independence one.) The Southern Parliament convened on 28 June 1921. Only 19 members attended and took the oath of allegiance. It met in the council room of the Department of Agriculture, and was a purely formal meeting to fulfil the requirements of the law and to choose Speakers. In the Senate the Lord Chancellor its Speaker was absent through illness and Sir Nugent Everard was chosen as Deputy Speaker In the House of Commons the 4 members of Trinity College, Dublin assembled and chose Mr Gerald Fitzgibbon as acting Chairman. The Parliament was prorogued until the 13th July to allow others to take the oath; it was assumed that it would then be dissolved (Weekly Northern Whig 2 July 1921)
Returns for Ulster showed that 40 unionists, 6 Nationalists, and 6 Sinn Fein, were elected. Belfast returned 15 Unionists and 1 Nationalist, but in other areas the returns were more balanced. As Nationalists and Sinn Fein were competing for the Catholic vote, they may not have done as well as they expected. Nevertheless, in the system of proportional representation most Catholics probably voted for both Catholic parties. In the Tyrone/Fermanagh constituency the Unionists secured 4 seats, the Nationalists 1 and Sinn Fein 3. In Armagh constituency the Unionists got 2 seats and the Nationalists and Sinn Fein 1 each. Overall, the Catholics got 12 seats, both parties securing 6 seats each. The only Catholic to be elected in Belfast was the redoubtable Joseph Devlin who had been involved in politics in West Belfast (a Catholic enclave) since as a fifteen-year old he had celebrated the victory of the Nationalist Thomas Sexton in 1886.
Recognising the Stormont Parliament was too difficult, so the Catholic MPs abstained, i.e. did not take their seats for some years. Devlin, by that time completely excluded from the Parliament in Dublin, took his seat in the Northern Parliament. (Northern Nationalists often expressed the wish to sit in the southern Dail but were always refused.) The Northern Parliament decided to construct a new Parliament House in the grounds of Stormont Castle outside Belfast, and was often referred to as the Stormont Parliament in distinction to the Westminster Parliament. The Northern Whig, itself a Liberal newspaper, noted that British radical [Liberal and Socialist] papers systematically associated Ulster Unionism with the least intelligent and most reactionary school of Toryism and suggested that Sinn Feiners hold the most enlightened Liberal views; this is far from true; Mr Andrews, the Minister for Labour was closely in touch with the workers (Weekly Northern Whig 9 July 1921)
The king, George V, accompanied by Queen Mary, came to Belfast to open the new Parliament in person on 22 June 1921. They placed themselves in considerable danger of assassination. He expressed the hope that the two parts of Ireland would grow together. ‘The future lies in the hands of my Irish people themselves. May this historic gathering be the prelude of a day in which the Irish people, under one parliament or two, as those parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love of Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect’ (DNB George V). However, because of the total refusal of the republicans in the South to recognise what they called derisively, the ‘Six Counties’, the two parts of Ireland went their own ways and increasingly grew apart.
The High Court of Appeal for Ireland sat for the first time on 15 December 1921. It was composed of the Lord Chancellor, Sir John Ross, Lord Chief Justice Molony, and Lord Justice Andrews of the Northern Court of Appeal; in subsequent cases the court was composed of the Lord Chancellor, the Master of the Rolls, and Lord Justice Andrews (Irish Law Times 17 Dec 1921). The Law Times on 31 December 1921 noted that appeals from the courts of the Irish Free State were not covered in the recent discussions regarding the Treaty.
The king then urged Lloyd George to see what could be done, so General Smuts, the Boer Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa who was in London for an Imperial Conference, was asked to go to Dublin to see what terms could be agreed. As Lloyd George had refused to negotiate with Sinn Fein while they still had weapons in their hands that was the first point to be negotiated. However Lloyd George modified the condition and suggested a truce and ceasefire for negotiations. In this way he was not negotiating with people actually in arms. (It is reasonable to suppose that this display of reluctance was chiefly for the benefit of Conservative members of his coalition. Michael Collins, who sorely needed a respite for his gang, eagerly grasped the opportunity. Collins was within a few weeks of calling off the campaign. de Valera had to go through tortuous proceedings before he too could be seen negotiating with the enemy (Lyons, Ireland since the Famine, 427).
A truce was arranged, and came into effect on 11 July 1921. It came to Collins just in time, though he considered the British had been mad to offer it. As the IRA ‘General’ Mulcahy pointed out later, they had not been able to drive the Army out of anything more substantial than a police-barracks. The negotiations were carried on behind Sir Hamar Greenwood’s back for he had realised that the IRA was on its last legs. However, the truce gave Lloyd George a relatively free hand to negotiate. Collins and de Valera on one side, and Lloyd George on the other had to extract concessions from their own sides. General Macready walked alone and unarmed into the IRA headquarters in Dublin and asked to speak to someone in authority. This visit came as a shock to the IRA as they thought nobody knew where the headquarters was. That a British officer could just drive up to the door brought home at least to Michael Collins that the Army had not been making a real effort.
Collins saw an opportunity for trying ‘Plan B’ as ‘Plan A’, direct military assault, had failed. The two conditions he required were that the Southern Government would be allowed to raise its own taxes, and raise its own army. For he realised that the only way to deal with Ulster was to get five years at least of peace, get control of the Irish Exchequer, recruit an Irish army, purchase military equipment from abroad, and then launch a full military attack on Ulster. The chances were that the British Army would then stand aside. A bitter discussion broke out among members of the IRB and IRA, not over the morality of this plan, but its practicality. Those who objected claimed that once the war against the British was stopped it could never be re-started. They claimed that the war was almost won, and another big push would see the British leaving Ireland. After all it was the British who had first asked for a truce. Broadly, the IRB supported Collins while the leaders of the IRA, especially Cathal Brugha, opposed any agreement which meant accepting the Government of Ireland Act (1920).
Lloyd George now had a free hand to negotiate. He realised that he would have to offer dominion status to Southern Ireland but had no intention of offering more than was necessary to secure the agreement of the prime ministers of the other dominions. He offered the status of self-governing dominion as that term was understood in 1921 with certain restrictions. (On the evolution of dominion status see Keith, Speeches and Documents, passim) He also demanded the recognition of the rights of Northern Ireland. de Valera and his ‘shadow’ cabinet in the Dail at first rejected the proposals, but were prepared to negotiate. Lady Lavery, the wife of the painter Sir John Lavery used her house in London as a meeting place for the Irish in London. The Countess of Fingall recorded that she mixed her guests with ‘gallant audacity’. Michael Collins used to stay in her house. She invited Lord French and Michael Collins to the same dinner. At her place Collins and Arthur Griffith could meet people like Winston Churchill, Lord Birkenhead and Lord Londonderry. That nationalist politicians should not mix in English society was a fundamental rule of Parnell, observed by John Redmond to the day of his death. Churchill and Collins had an unlikely rapport with each other.
As the republicans refused to accept an Act of a British Government establishing their state, the Act had to be transformed into a ‘Treaty’ which would be ratified by both Parliaments. Lloyd George was getting rid of Ireland and he did not mind what the republicans called it. The negotiations dragged on until December 1921, the chief difficulties being an oath of allegiance to the king and the exclusion of Ulster. Eventually, the skilful and indefatigable Lloyd George presented them with an ultimatum. Either sign the agreement or be ready to resume war within three days. Collins knew he was in no position to fight, and the Army was allowed to fight with all restraints removed. But he had no way of knowing if Lloyd George was bluffing though renewing the fight was the last thing Lloyd George wanted. So trusting that the IRA would be content with Plan B, he signed, on 6 December 1921. Needless to say there was no question of putting the question before the Irish people in a referendum. There can be little doubt that Lloyd George and his closest advisors took the possibility of Collins’ double-cross into consideration but were not worried if he did, at a later date, attack Ulster. It was later humorously remarked that Collins was like a tinker who had swapped donkeys at a fair. He was worried about what he had received, but satisfied that the donkey he had given was not an honest beast.
I cannot better end this chapter than by quoting from Lyons, ‘To their critics and opponents – who included some of their fellow nationalists, among them more than one bishop – their so-called guerrilla campaign was no war at all. It was simply a series of murderous attacks, cowardly, brutalising, and productive only of a vicious circle of savagery’ (p. 420). It can be no cause for pride for Irish people that they shared with Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky the pioneering of terrorism as a way towards a political ideal. Nor that they showed the way for the SS and Gestapo and all future terrorist organisations to follow.
Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.