The Irish War of Independence (or Anglo-Irish War or the Tan War was a guerrilla war fought from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (IRA, the army of the Irish Republic) and the British security forces in Ireland. Let’s see some interesting facts and trivia about it!
1.In the December 1918 election, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in Ireland On 21 January 1919 they formed a breakaway government (Dáil Éireann) and declared independence from Britain.
2. Later that day, two members of the British-organized armed police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), were shot dead in County Tipperary by IRA members acting on their own initiative. This is often seen as the beginning of the conflict.
3. For much of 1919, IRA activity primarily involved capturing weapons and freeing republican prisoners. In September that year the British government outlawed the Dáil and Sinn Féin, and the conflict intensified thereafter.
4. The IRA began ambushing RIC and British Army patrols, attacking their barracks and forcing isolated barracks to be abandoned. The British government bolstered the RIC with recruits from Britain—the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries—who became notorious for ill-discipline and reprisal attacks on civilians.
5. The conflict as a result is often referred to as the Black and Tan War or simply the Tan War.
6. The plan for revolt was realised in the Easter Rising of 1916, in which the Volunteers, now explicitly declaring a republic, launched an insurrection whose aim was to end British rule and to found an Irish Republic.
7. The Rising, in which over four hundred people died, was almost exclusively confined to Dublin and was put down within a week, but the British response, executing the leaders of the insurrection and arresting thousands of nationalist activists, galvanised support for the separatist Sinn Féin – the party which the republicans first adopted and then took over.
8. By now, support for the British war effort was on the wane, and Irish public opinion was shocked and outraged by some of the actions committed by British troops, particularly the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and the imposition of wartime martial law. The Proclamation of the Republic, issued at the outset of the Rising, was invoked in the Declaration of Independence in 1919 as the basis for the establishment of the Irish Republic
9. Michael Collins was a driving force behind the independence movement. Nominally the Minister of Finance in the republic’s government and IRA Director of Intelligence, he was involved in providing funds and arms to the IRA units and in the selection of officers. Collins’ charisma and organisational capability galvanised many who came in contact with him.
10. He established what proved an effective network of spies among sympathetic members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police’s (DMP) “G division” and other important branches of the British administration.
11. The G division men were a relatively small political division active in subverting the republican movement and were detested by the IRA as often they were used to identify volunteers, who would have been unknown to British soldiers or the later Black and Tans.
12. Collins set up the “Squad”, a group of men whose sole duty was to seek out and kill “G-men” and other British spies and agents. Collins’ Squad began killing RIC intelligence officers in July 1919.
13. Many G-men were offered a chance to resign or leave Ireland by the IRA. One spy who escaped with his life was F. Digby Hardy, who was exposed by Arthur Griffith before an “IRA” meeting, which in fact consisted of Irish and foreign journalists, and then advised to take the next boat out of Dublin
14. On Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, fourteen British intelligence operatives were assassinated in Dublin in the morning; then in the afternoon the RIC opened fire on a crowd at a football match in the city, killing fourteen civilians and wounding 65. A week later, seventeen Auxiliaries were killed by the IRA in an ambush at Kilmichael in County Cork.
15. The British government declared martial law in much of southern Ireland. The centre of Cork City was burnt out by British forces in December 1920.
16. Violence continued to escalate over the next seven months, when 1,000 people were killed and 4,500 republicans were interned. The fighting was heavily concentrated in Munster (particularly County Cork), Dublin and Belfast.
17. These three locations saw over 75% of the conflict’s fatalities.
18. Violence in Ulster, especially Belfast, was notable for its sectarian character and its high number of Catholic civilian victims.
19. Ultimately, the peace talks led to the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921), which was then ratified in triplicate: by Dáil Éireann on 7 January 1922 (so giving it legal legitimacy under the governmental system of the Irish Republic), by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland in January 1922 (so giving it constitutional legitimacy according to British theory of who was the legal government in Ireland), and by both Houses of the British parliament.
20. The treaty allowed Northern Ireland, which had been created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, to opt out of the Free State if it wished, which it duly did on 8 December 1922 under the procedures laid down.
21. As agreed, an Irish Boundary Commission was then created to decide on the precise location of the border of the Free State and Northern Ireland.
22. A new system of government was created for the new Irish Free State, though for the first year two governments co-existed; an Aireacht answerable to the Dáil and headed by President Griffith, and a Provisional Government nominally answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and appointed by the Lord Lieutenant.
23. Most of the Irish independence movement’s leaders were willing to accept this compromise, at least for the time being, though many militant republicans were not. A majority of the pre-Truce IRA who had fought in the War of Independence, led by Liam Lynch, refused to accept the Treaty and in March 1922 repudiated the authority of the Dáil and the new Free State government, which it accused of betraying the ideal of the Irish Republic. It also broke the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Republic which the Dáil had instated on 20 August 1919.
24. Both sides agreed to a truce on 11 July 1921. In May, Ireland had been partitioned by an Act of the British Parliament, which created Northern Ireland. The post-ceasefire talks led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921.
25. This treaty ended British rule in 26 counties of Ireland and, after a ten-month transitional period overseen by a provisional government, the Irish Free State was created as a self-governing state with Dominion status on 6 December 1922.
26. However, six north-eastern counties remained within the United Kingdom. After the ceasefire, political and sectarian violence between republicans (usually Catholics) and loyalists (usually Protestants) continued in Northern Ireland for many months.
27. In June 1922, disagreement among republicans over the Anglo-Irish Treaty led to an eleven-month civil war.
28. The subsequent Irish Civil War lasted until mid-1923 and cost the lives of many of the leaders of the independence movement, notably the head of the Provisional Government Michael Collins, ex minister Cathal Brugha, and anti-treaty republicans Harry Boland, Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Liam Lynch and many others: total casualties have never been determined but were perhaps higher than those in the earlier fighting against the British. President Arthur Griffith also died of a stroke during the conflict.
29. The Irish Free State awarded 62,868 medals for service during the War of Independence, of which 15,224 were issued to fighting men of the flying column.
30. Ultimately, the peace talks led to the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921), which was then ratified in triplicate: by Dáil Éireann on 7 January 1922 (so giving it legal legitimacy under the governmental system of the Irish Republic), by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland in January 1922 (so giving it constitutional legitimacy according to British theory of who was the legal government in Ireland), and by both Houses of the British parliament.
31. The treaty allowed Northern Ireland, which had been created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, to opt out of the Free State if it wished, which it duly did on 8 December 1922 under the procedures laid down.
32. As agreed, an Irish Boundary Commission was then created to decide on the precise location of the border of the Free State and Northern Ireland. The republican negotiators understood that the Commission would redraw the border according to local nationalist or unionist majorities.
33. Since the 1920 local elections in Ireland had resulted in outright nationalist majorities in County Fermanagh, County Tyrone, the City of Derry and in many District Electoral Divisions of County Armagh and County Londonderry (all north and west of the “interim” border), this might well have left Northern Ireland unviable. However, the Commission chose to leave the border unchanged; as a trade-off, the money owed to Britain by the Free State under the Treaty was not demanded.
34. Following the deaths of Griffith and Collins, W. T. Cosgrave became head of government. On 6 December 1922, following the coming into legal existence of the Irish Free State, W. T. Cosgrave became President of the Executive Council, the first internationally recognised head of an independent Irish government.
35. The civil war ended in mid-1923 in defeat for the anti-treaty side.
36. A memorial called the Garden of Remembrance was erected in Dublin in 1966, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising.
37. The date of signing of the truce is commemorated by the National Day of Commemoration, when all those Irish men and women who fought in wars in specific armies (e.g., the Irish unit(s) fighting in the British Army in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme) are commemorated.
38. The last survivor of the conflict, Dan Keating (of the IRA), died in October 2007 at the age of 105.