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

How the war ended A

How the war ended A brief peace The Truce In order to try to end an increasingly squalid conflict, the British had attempted a constitutional settlement by passing the Government of Ireland Act (1920), which provided for two separate Irish parliaments: one in Belfast to govern Ulster and one in Dublin for the rest of Ireland, with the intention that they would eventually unite into one. Neither the rebels nor the Unionists were happy with this solution, which, like so many British attempts to solve Ireland's problems, was a fudge. The king opened the Belfast Parliament on 22 June 1921 whilst its Dublin counterpart had a far less auspicious start. Only the four Unionist MPs for Trinity College and the 15 senators appointed by the Viceroy put in an appearance when it convened on 28 June. Facing the reality of the situation the Parliament adjourned indefinitely. When De Valera returned from America on 23 December 1920 it was apparent to him that the IRA was not winning - but neither were the British. The British began to explore the possibility of coming to terms with the rebels, and in June began to ease off the pressure in order to facilitate the peace process. In spite of this, IRA violence escalated and British casualties rose as a result from roughly 30 casualties per week in March to 67 in the first week of June 1921. The army continued to hit back but in military terms neither side had the upper hand. Demoralized and frustrated, General Macready and the Southern Unionist leader the Earl of Middleton secretly met with Dáil representatives and agreed an informal ceasefire on 8 July 1921. When the Anglo-Irish Truce came into force on 11 July 1921 the war was effectively over. Both sides claimed victory, although the British were finding it extremely difficult to sustain operations, whilst in 1922 the then Chief of Staff of the IRA, Richard Mulcahy, told the Dáil that the IRA had been beaten. Between the Easter Rising and the Truce over 2,000 people had lost their lives. Of the 3,000-5,000 active IRA men who took part in the struggle approximately 650 were killed and several thousand arrested. The British had approximately 66,000 troops and policemen of whom around 555 had been killed whilst 1,027 had also been wounded. In addition, at least 300 civilians had been murdered or simply vanished. How the conflict ended The most obvious consequence of the political violence between 1913 and 1923 was the creation of an independent Irish state free from British control. However, it was not an end to what could be called British influence on the Irish police and army. Partition also created the two principal Irish political parties in Southern Ireland, with Fine Gael having its roots in the pro-Treaty government that won the conflict and Fianna Fáil developing from the wreckage of the anti-Treaty Republican movement that lost it. Arguably, the two key issues enshrined in the Treaty that had precipitated the civil war were the nature of Ireland's relationship with Britain and that of Partition. The Saorstát that was created by the Treaty was to all intents and purposes still a satellite of the UK, with the king as the Head of State and a member of the Commonwealth. It also left the UK with naval bases at Berehaven, Queenstown (Cobh), Belfast Lough (in Northern Ireland) and Lough Swilly.

How the war ended 81 Partition was a pragmatic solution and its supporters knew it. Free State victory in the civil war guaranteed that Ireland would remain a divided island for the foreseeable future. Ulster Unionists never ceased to suspect that Britain would shed itself of all responsibility for Ulster at the first opportunity, and so the years that followed were dedicated to strengthening the viability of Northern Ireland. In 1914 the Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson had seen himself as an Irishman who was British; by 2004 few Ulstermen would feel comfortable with the epithet 'Irish', preferring to call themselves 'Northern Irish' or simply British. De Valera finally returned to power in 1932 and eventually Ireland became a Republic in 1948. Without a shot being fired and without the feared repercussions in the UK, Ireland had finally broken its political links with Britain. Under de Valera's leadership Ireland was the only Commonwealth country not to declare war in 1939 in order to emphasize its independence. Independent or not, over 34,000 Irish citizens volunteered to fight in the British armed forces. Impact of the Anglo-Irish War With hindsight the Truce turned out to be the end of direct confrontation between the nascent Irish State and Great Britain, but this was not so apparent at the time. In fact, the British ruthlessly played upon the possibility British police and soldiers evacuate casualties after a shooting outside Liberty Hall. Dublin, 1921. (Courtesy of National Library of Ireland, Photographic Archive)

A history of Protestant Irish speakers
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