Suppression of the Dáil | September 1919 | Irish War of Independence

Welcome to the Irish Revolution! Last month, August 1919 we looked at the general
IRA organisation and strategy in the Autumn of this year. We also looked a little bit
ahead at the campaign in general so if you’re interested in the military history side of
things then you should really watch that episode. That said, just so you know, you don’t necessarily
have to watch these episodes in sequence. I like to think that you should be able to
follow what’s going on within each episode, it should be self-contained. This month we’re going to look at some IRA
raids and ambushes as well as the suppression of the Dáil, the revolutionary parliament,
by the government. IRA Raids & Ambushes On the second of September an RIC cycle patrol
was ambushed between Lorrha and Carriguhorig in Co Tipperary which resulted in the death
of one RIC man (Sgt Philip Brady) and the serious wounding of another (Constable Foley).1
Among the IRA men who took part in the ambush were John Madden, Michael Hogan, John Gilligan
and James Carroll. Madden was later tried for the murder of Sgt Brady. These attacks
were still ongoing in Co. Tipperary despite the vast resources poured into the area by
the British state. More spectacularly, on the 7th September,
15 British soldiers were attacked in Fermoy, Co. Cork by the Fermoy battalion of Cork No.
2 brigade, which was led by Larry Condon and Liam Lynch. One soldier died in the incident.
The 15 rifles were captured. This resulted in the first major British reprisal of the
war of Independence, when the army went on a rampage and burnt some buildings in the
town in response.2 The attack was first theorised months in advance
and had been intricately planned out.3 It was even submitted to general headquarters
for review. This would not be the norm going forward. Local units would act on their own
iniative as opportunities arose. Headquarters gave the green light for this operation, on
the condition that the attack be carried out without violence. The historian Charles Townshend
suggests that this indicated a persistent anxiety about the public reaction to violence
and that indeed the condition indicates a lack of willingness to take responsibility
for IRA actions.4 We tend to look back with hindsight with the oft-quoted ideal of ‘a
nation in arms’ but you need to remember that the war of independence was a highly localised
one, that violence was often considered a last resort by many, and that it was deeply
regretted by others when it happened. Attitudes to violence varied widely. Indeed the local
Fermoy IRA were so concerned about the perceived loyalty of witnesses to the attack on the
soldiers that they carried out a concerted campaign of witness intimidation, plastering
walls with QUOTE ‘spies and informers beware’ UNQUOTE, the implicit threat behind that being
quite clear. Fermoy was a garrison town, and was considered more loyal than most to crown
forces. In fact an Irish Volunteers parade in 1917 was attacked by local ‘seperation
women’ ie women whose husbands served in the British army.5 The Fermoy attack was nevertheless a great
success for the IRA, because as I just said Fermoy was a major garrison town. On the same
day there was an attack by the 8th battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade which attacked a
military patrol at the slippery rock near Coolavokig, resulting in the capture of several
rifles and bicycles. General Headquarters was slowly coming to the realisation that
they wouldn’t be able to fully control this thing, and that freedom to the units out in
the country would be paramount. You have to remember that the general idea of a guerrila
war was not a widely understood concept at the time, the IRA were reacting to realities
on the ground. Their lack of weapons and resources made guerrila warfare the only practical method
of waging war.6 On 12th September, the intelligence war in
Dublin ramped up with an attack on Detective Constable Daniel Hoey of the G ‘Spy’ Division
DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police) who was shot dead by the IRA in Townsend St, near the police
headquarters.7 Whilst the G spy division in Dublin were under
constant threat of attack, there was a general awareness in the countryside that the police
were vulnerable. In the autumn of 1919 a large number of police barrack’s in the south and
west were evacuated, particularly in the more remote areas. This perfectly illustrated the
weakening hold of the British State over large parts of the country8 and gave a window of
opportunity for Sinn Féin and the IRA to deepen the influence of the revolutionary
counter-state – the Dáil courts began to flourish everywhere outside of Ulster. Two RIC men were attacked upon leaving church
in Berrings, near Blarney. Nobody was willing to identify the attackers, despite there being
many witnesses. A local policeman reported that several nationalists – making the distinction
between nationalists and Sinn Féiners – told him that nobody would dare to speak with the
police. The official campaign of police ostracisation was clearly working. As Michael Hopkinson
noted in his history of the Irish War of Independence, joining the police was until very recently
considered a socially acceptable move for Irish catholics.9 Yet this had completely
changed by the autumn of 1919. Recruitment was falling and resignations were rising.
The stage was being set for the introduction of the notorious black and tans next year. Now, moving on to the revolutionary parliament,
Dáil Éireann… Dáil Éireann On the 11th September, the British formally
banned Dáil Éireann, the revolutionary parliament composed of the Sinn Féin Mps elected in
the 1918 general election. You might well be asking yourself why it took so long? In
fact, officially speaking, there was nothing technically illegal about Irish members of
parliament meeting as a body in Ireland. But sooner or later it was bound to be banned
by the crown forces and this month they finally got round to it. In some ways this was an
escalation of the conflict as the peaceful avenue for dissent had now been pushed underground,
leaving only the military force option of the IRA. As Michael Hopkinson wrote: QUOTE ‘To a considerable extent, the divisions
between Sinn Féin and the IRA amounted to a generation gap: while the IRA was primarily
a young man’s organisation, Sinn Féin consisted of mature men preferring rhetoric and administration.’
UNQUOTE10 No passive resistence strategy had been implemented,
except perhaps the formation of the Dáil courts. The Paris Peace Conference proved
a disappointment. Now the ball was firmly in the IRA’s court. Also this month, the Dáil commission of inquiry
into resources and industry was set up. It represented strongly Arthur Griffith’s economic
ideas of autarky and economic self-sufficiency. Griffith was, by the way, the acting President
now that DeValera was in America. There had been for some time a deeply entrenched belief
that Ireland had been systematically overtaxed. The purpose of the commission was to accurately
measure the economic resources of the nation and decide how it would be best to put those
resources to use. Although it turned out much less impressive than originally billed, mostly
because of the ban on the Dáil which made their work much harder. It was headed up by
Darrell Figis, who was sharply criticised by Michael Collins due to the slow nature
of the inquiry. Figis did however attract some international press attention for his
numerous close escapes from British raids. In other news the Dáil lodged 200,000 pounds
into the national co-operative mortgage bank this month. The bank was set up by Robert
Barton.11 Finishing up And to finish today, Michael Collins is formally
made director of Intelligence of the IRA. As we’ve seen today there were quite a few
IRA ambushes and raids and the campaign against the police was certainly escalating. While
the role of Michael Collins in all of this can at times be exaggerated, he was still
a hugely significant figure and one way or the other, this series of videos will be devoting
a lot of time to him. And one last final point – By the end of
September the security forces are reckoned to have raided over 5,500 private homes in
the year to date. This figure may have been significantly higher. Biographies Liam Lynch was the commandant of the Cork
No. 2 brigade during the war of independence. He took part in the operation to capture General
Lucas in June 1920. He was one of the more succesful IRA leaders of the war, taking part
in many successful ambushes in Cork. In April 1921 the IRA was re-organised into a divisional
structure and Lynch was made the commander of the 1st Southern Division. He later opposed
the treaty and became the commanding general of the anti-treaty forces. Darrell Figgis was a writer and political
activist. He joined the Irish volunteers in 1913 and took part in the Howth gun-running.
He was chosen to head the Dáil commission of inquiry into the resources and industry
of Ireland in September 1919. He was assaulted by anti-treaty republicans in 1922 when they
forcibly shaved off his lovely beard, which you can see in the photo. Sadly, Figgis seemed
to have led a sad life. His wife committed suicide in 1924 with a gun gifted to them
by Michael Collins. His new girlfriend and unborn child died a year later due to peritonitis.
Figgis took his own life on October 26th, 1925. Sorry to leave on that sombre note. Thanks
a lot for watching and see you soon!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *