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

Contents Introduction

Contents Introduction Chronology Background to war A troubled island Warring sides The combatants Outbreak By 'any means necessary' The fighting Dying for Ireland Portrait of a soldier David Neligan The world around war Civilian life during the Troubles Portrait of a civilian Thomas Hornibrook How the war ended A brief peace Conclusion and consequences Coming to terms with the past Further reading Index 7 12 14 18 29 45 64 68 75 80 86 91 94

Introduction It is likely that many people have never heard of the Anglo-Irish War. Many of those who have probably know very little about it, other than that it is one of the many messy conflicts that serve as footnotes to the First World War of 1914-18. Some have probably heard of the 'Black and Tans', and doubtless have come across stories of the controversial Michael Collins, subject of many books and a major feature film. Most will be familiar with the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Sinn Féin, Orangemen and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) because of 35 years of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Less well known is the fact that none of these organizations emerged in the 1960s, but instead had their roots in a time when Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. Although the Anglo-Irish War, or the 'War of Independence' or 'the Troubles', as it has variously been called, receives little attention in Britain, it is remembered in Ireland through the perpetuation of an 'official' Nationalist 'Liberation myth'. This myth made Nationalist icons of Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins and others whilst vilifying the British as perfidious colonial oppressors to such an extent that this version of history has largely been allowed to go unchallenged. Consequently, it is extremely difficult to discern what is myth and what is fact regarding the events that took place in Ireland and Britain between 1913 and 1923. Unfortunately, some versions of Irish history have been so tainted with half-truths and fabrications that at times it is almost impossible to discern fact from fiction. In his book The Black and Tans Richard Bennett labelled the Anglo-Irish conflict as one that 'the English have struggled to forget and the Irish cannot help but remember'. Yet what is it exactly that the British have struggled to forget and why is it that the Irish cannot help but remember? Arguably the British have no desire to remember a conflict that in their eyes saw the secession of what had been for 121 years an integral part of the United Kingdom, whilst the Irish remember British brutality. Just as many US perceptions of the American Revolution are distorted by their own foundation myth, Irish Nationalist histories tend to throw up stereotypical caricatures of the British as monsters driven by anti-Irish xenophobia. This version of events tends to ignore the fact that both sides committed atrocities. It also ignores a significant fact about British rule in Ireland: that it would have been impossible without the support of thousands of Irishmen, in the army, the police and the Civil Service; or, indeed, without the acquiescence of the vast majority of the population of Ireland. Although the history of British Ireland is littered with rebellions, nearly all of them were put down by both British and Irish troops. The rebels may have labelled these Irishmen as 'traitors' but in the words of Sean O'Faolain, who was both in the IRA and the son of a policeman during the conflict, 'Men like my father were dragged out ... and shot down as traitors to their country ... they were not traitors. They had their loyalties, and stuck to them.' Despite the contentious issues of Unionist and Nationalist politics that dogged pre-First World War Ireland, over 200,000 Irishmen volunteered to fight for 'King and Country' in the war. Some, like Tom Barry and Emmett Dalton, returned to join the IRA and became violent revolutionaries, whilst others drifted into the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). In that respect the Anglo-Irish War was as much a civil war as an 'international' conflict, and as such did not end with British withdrawal in 1922 but

A history of Protestant Irish speakers
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