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Osprey - Essential Histories 065 - The Anglo-Irish War 1913-1922

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52 Essential HistoriesThe Anglo-Irish War The Customs House, Dublin, burning during the IRA's failed attack. (Courtesy of National Library of Ireland, Photographic Archive) 'Defence of Barracks Sergeants' who would be paid £7 per week. They were not supposed to interfere with daily policing and had no authority over the constables they worked with unless the station was under attack - in other words, their role was purely military. In all, 33 men were recruited and RIC stations became better defended, with steel shutters over the windows and barbed wire around the grounds. It may have made the barracks safer but it also made them cramped and claustrophobic places to be. The IRA's response was to increase its attacks on off-duty policemen, and according to police records just over half of the policemen killed were shot whilst at home, walking out with girlfriends, drinking in the pub or, as in the cases of Sgts Gibbons and Gilmartin, whilst recovering from illness in hospital. A circular issued by the RIC Acting Deputy IG, T.J. Smith, on 4 February 1920 warned of the dangers of moving about whilst off-duty, especially at night, and advised that those living at home be escorted by armed men. Married policemen and their families were especially at risk. Not only were they being boycotted but they were incredibly vulnerable when off-duty at home. Many were faced with the stark choice of moving their families to safer areas and living in barracks, or continually placing both themselves and their families at risk by trying to live normal family lives. It was a difficult decision to make, but despite the dangers the casualty rolls show that even at the height of the violence many policemen and army officers chose to live with their families or in rented accommodation rather than stay in barracks. Attacking police barracks certainly boosted IRA morale, and on 25 May 1921 over 100 Volunteers forced their way into the Dublin Customs House, the HQ of the Local Government Board and the repository

The fighting 53 of a significant archive of government documentation. The IRA torched the building, destroying thousands of irreplaceable documents, but the police and army managed to surround the building before they could escape and killed five of them before taking a further 70 prisoner. Arguably the raid had been a spectacular failure and severely damaged the Dublin IRA. War in the shadows Despite these attacks, the real war was fought in the shadows between the British intelligence services, Special Branch, G Division DMP and the secretive IRA. G Division traditionally played a key role in suppressing Republican subversion, and although it had only 18 detectives, between them they ran an extensive network of informers. Collins knew that defeating the G-Men was crucial if the IRA were to win and commented that, 'even when the new spy stepped into the shoes of an old one, he could not step into the old one's knowledge'. Fortunately for Collins there were some G-Men that were willing to collaborate with the rebels, and on 7 April 1919 G-Man Eamonn Broy smuggled Collins into the Division's central archive in Brunswick Street, Dublin. As a result Collins now knew who the G-Men were, where they lived and more importantly what they knew about the IRA. At first Collins tried to warn the G-Men off intelligence work, but failed, so he decided to have them killed. In all the IRA killed six G-Men, including its head Assistant Commissioner William Redmond before the Truce in 1921. Collins' instrument of choice for special operations, 'the Squad', had officially formed by September 1919 and was answerable only to him. However the Squad's first 'job' was killing Detective Sgt Pat Smyth in Dublin on 30 July 1919, making him the first G-Man to die at the hands of Collins' men. The Castle was oblivious to the fact that at least four of its detectives were active IRA men and never worked out how Collins stayed one step ahead of them. Not only had Collins compromised the postal system, he also recruited at least one of the cipher clerks in the Castle, whilst RIC Sgt Gerry Maher supplied him with police codes. Collins ran his network of agents from a string of Dublin safe houses and cycled openly around the city exploiting the fact that the British had no idea what he looked like. The British tried several times to find him but only one man, an ex-soldier from Newcastle West, Co. Limerick, by the name of John Byrnes (aka Jameson) came close. Despite meeting Collins several times, his cover was blown before he could complete his mission and Paddy Daly executed him in Dublin on 2 April 1920. According to Daly his last words were 'God Bless the King. I would love to die for him.' In August 1920, the Government passed the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act (ROIA), giving the police and army draconian powers to crush the IRA. ROIA certainly made life difficult for Collins and his cohorts, but despite the pressure he maintained his intelligence network. Collins' greatest coup came on 21 November 1920, 12 days after the British Prime Minister Lloyd George had claimed to 'have murder by the throat', when Collins effectively emasculated British intelligence operations in Dublin by locating and killing 11 members of a crack undercover team known retrospectively in Republican circles as the 'Cairo gang'. For the loss of one of Collins' men - Frank Teeling - the IRA had blinded the British Secret Service in the capital. Bloody Sunday That afternoon, men from the RIC and ADRIC cordoned off Croke Park Gaelic football ground in order to search for IRA sympathizers. Tension was high and tempers fragile and within minutes of the RIC's arrival, 12 civilians - including a woman, a child and one of the footballers - were shot dead. The Auxiliaries, especially, were in an ugly mood and a party of them murdered

A history of Protestant Irish speakers
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