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


The world around war Civilian life during the Troubles Like the millions of other people in post-First World War Europe who found themselves citizens of new ethnic-based states, millions of Irish men and women ended this period as citizens of a state that had simply not existed when they were born. The trauma of the war and the political violence that followed it inevitably had a considerable impact upon the lives of ordinary Irish people. The First World War left tens of thousands of Irish women dependent upon army allowances whilst their husbands were away fighting. In addition, the appalling casualties of Gallipoli, the Somme and four years of mass warfare left thousands of widows and orphans whose financial security was tied to the British State and their loss virtually ignored by the Irish one. Just as it would be a sweeping exaggeration to say that every Irishman was a Nationalist who aspired to an independent Irish Republic, so it would be a gross oversimplification to portray all people, in all parts of the country, as being affected by the Troubles. In 1916 the Easter Rising had been played out almost exclusively on the streets of Dublin and, except in an emotional sense, had little effect upon the everyday lives of the Irish. In fact, the Rising had been deeply unpopular and many Irish people saw it as a betrayal whilst the country was at war. The violence of 1919-23 was far more widespread than it had been in 1916, but even then it was still quite localized. The struggle between the IRA and the Crown's forces was played out predominantly in Munster and to a lesser extent in Dublin. In 1919, 1920 and 1922 there was virtually no IRA activity against the British in Co. Leitrim, and the only significant IRA act was the killing of 35-year-old RIC Constable Wilfred Jones whilst he was walking with his girlfriend near his barracks in Ballinamore on 15 April 1921. Queens County (now Co. Laois) was also quiet during 1919 and 1920 and again in 1922. The only significant

The world around war 69 event was the IRA killing of 26-year-old RIC Constable William Vanston from Belfast on 2 February 1921 as he left his father's house in Maryborough (now Port Laois). Of course, the tempo of violence in the south-western counties was far higher, as was the instance of reprisals. Not only did more soldiers, policemen and IRA members become casualties in counties Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Kerry, but the numbers of civilians metaphorically caught in the crossfire was significantly higher as well. It is difficult to calculate exactly how many civilians were killed between 1919 and 1923, although estimates range from 300 up to as high as 1,000 or so. The historian Peter Dublin was the scene of several clashes between the Irish Army and the IRA during the civil war (Courtesy of National Library of Ireland, Photographic Archive)

A history of Protestant Irish speakers
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