Tuesday, August 2, 2011

90 Years Ago This Week

I neglected this historical aspect of Gubu World in recent months but I want to revive it as July 1921 was a crucial month in Irish history in which the Anlgo Irish war would come to an end. For this reason I will cover the whole month.

July 01.

Sligo: Two RIC men were killed in an ambush in Dromore Co Sligo when a seven man RIC cycle patrol was ambushed by the local IRA.

Tipperary: An RIC man is shot dead in the village of Bansha.

Cork: An IRA man is killed in an attack by an auxiliary patrol near Rathcoole.

July 02.

Munster: Three RIC men are killed in separate attacks, two in Oola Co Limerick, the other in Tallow Co Waterford.

July 03.

Wicklow: An RIC man is shot dead when he is attacked just outside Wicklow town.

July 04/05.

Dublin: Major developments in back room peace negotiations occur during these two days following on from last months letter from Lloyd George to Eamon De Valera and James Craig (leader of northern Unionists) inviting them to London to discuss a settlement to the conflict. A Key figure in the negotiations between the underground Irish Republic and the British turns out to be Jans Smuts, the Prime Minister of South Africa who traveled to Dublin to meet De Valera in secret. Smuts, a former enemy and ally of the British is relaying the positions that both sides require in order for a truce between the IRA and crown forces to come into effect.

July 08.

Dublin: General MaCready, commanding officer of British troops in Ireland met with Sinn Fein Representatives at the Mansion House to discuss the terms of a truce.

July 06-09

Nationwide: RIC men, some of whom are black n tans, are killed in separate incidents in Limerick, Belfast, Cork, Clare and Wicklow.

July 09

Dublin. At a meeting in the Mansion House between General MaCready and Sinn Fein TD's (MP's) Eamon Duggan and Robert Barton the terms of a truce are agreed between the IRA and Crown forces. The truce is to come into effect on the 11th of July.

Kerry: In the town of Castlemaine a two hour gunfight between the British Army and the IRA breaks out resulting in the deaths of four British soldiers and five IRA men. It turns out to be the last major military action of the Irish War of Independence.

July 10.

Nationwide: Three RIC men are killed in separate incidents in Ennis, Castlerea and Skibbereen.

July 11.

Nationwide: The truce comes into effect at 11 am.

July 10 -17.

Belfast: After an RIC man is killed in an ambush sectarian riots break out in which 30 Catholics are murdered and over 200 injured. Approximately 100 Catholic homes are burnt.

July 12.

London: Eamon De Valera, Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Austin Stack arrive in Downing Street to begin negotiations with the British.

July 14.

Dublin: Due to the ongoing violence in the north the Belfast Boycott intensifies. The Irish Government, although still not officially recognised declare that Northern Irish bank notes would not be legal tender in the south.

July 18.

London: Lloyd George offers the Irish dominion status but states this would only be possible for the 26 counties, otherwise it would lead to a sectarian civil war between Protestant loyalist and Catholic nationalist.

July 20.

London: British cabinet agrees proposals (incl. use of word Treaty) - a Dominion status for Southern Ireland whereby South would have full internal control including taxation, finance and land defense; no navy; bases for royal navy; restrictions on number of Irish army, rights of recruiting, free trade between two countries; Irish contribution to British War Debt. In addition, South must recognise "the existing powers and privileges of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, which cannot be abrogated except by their own consent”. The details of these terms are sent to Irish delegation at the Grosvenor Hotel. The harsh terms that were on offer is why many believe De Valera returned home and sent over a different delegation, led by Collins to negotiate the specific details of the treaty.

July 21.

London: De Valera rejects British proposals and returns to Dublin.

July 24.

Belfast: IRA Deputy Chief of Staff Eoin O'Duffy is sent to Belfast as a truce liaison officer.

Eamon De Valera enters Downing Street in July 1921.

De Valera's decision to return home and send a different delegation over to London which he would not be part of has been the source of huge controversy in Ireland for 90 years. Many believe it is because he did not want to be associated with the compromise which was inevitable after the British made clear to him that they would not accept a 32 county Republic.


Gary said...


I am almost finished reading a book, “Michael Collins: The Man Who Made Ireland” by Tim Pat Coogan. The writing style is a little stiff but it is very well researched and documented. From the book I get the impression that Eamon de Valrea was a manipulative Machiavellian figure who could have done a lot to avert the Irish Civil War but failed to do it in order to advance his personal agenda. He must not, however, have been the villain this book implies because he was obviously well respected (Collins always referred to him as his “chief”) and he was elected to the Presidency repeatedly. I’d be interested to know your opinion of him and why he had so much influence.


Ted Leddy said...


I am delighted to see you reading Irish history. I always find it different and refreshing becasue it never has to be interpreted into a geopolitical context. Tim Pat Coogan is a brilliant historian who I have been lucky to meet on a few occasions.

Understanding De Valeras mind is exceptionally difficult. At very least, it seems he set Collins up to be the bearer of bad news. But he was adored by many, particularly the conservatve catholic class and he generation who fought for Irish independece, which he did so much for.

Unbelievable, while Collins, a younger man was buried in 1922, De Valera lived until 1975, only finishing his second term as President (a largely ceremonial position) in 1972.

However during his time as Prime Minister (1932-48) over half a million young Irishmen and women emmigrated. While De Valera asserted Ireland's independence, he had zero economic vision.

Today, "De Valeras Ireland" is a derogatory term used by the youth of Ireland to indicate backwardness and poverty.

A hero and a villain in my view.

Gary said...


Nicely put. From what little I have read I would have to agree completely.

As for Irish history, I am just scratching the surface but am fascinated by the period from the 1816 Uprising through the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. While there are obvious similarities which can be drawn between this period and other historical events, including our own Revolutionary War period, the struggle has some very uniquely Irish aspects. I was lucky selecting Tim Pat Coogan's book as it is an excellent starting place.

The three names which have emerged to generate the most interest for me, and whom I will be researching further are Michael Collins, Eamon de Valrea and Arthur Griffith.


Paul said...

It's hard to sum up De Valera adequately. I'm no admirer but I can't quite condemn in the terms used by my Irish friend Alan on the ww2 course I'm attending, who called him 'a profoundly malign character bordering on being a sociopath'. However De Valera's legacy can fairly lead to him being labelled an arch Conservative Catholic with a profound dislike of other religious traditions and economic incompetence. I will always associate him with his sympathies he expressed at the passing of Hitler.

Conversely it was said Churchill admired Collins and even based his ww2 SOE organisation on Collin's own outfit. This seems rather odd but goes to show that the mythology from this period spread across the water.

Interestingly I'm also reading works on this period. The books by William Sheehan are very comprehensive and focus on the military aspects of the conflict itself, focusing on the British Army. Many British soldiers were genuinely saddened at leaving Ireland it seems. Some of whom may also have actually aided the IRA in Cork in a few instances.

Tim Pat Coogan has been described as a good biographer but poor historian by some. I think that's fair, his work on the recent troubles is garbage.

Ted Leddy said...


It is interesting that you mentioned the American Revolution. kevin O'Higgins, a cabinet member in the first independent government, described those involved in the 1916-21 period as the most conservative revolutionaries since the American revolution.

The Collins, De Valera split during the Civil War is like something from Shakespear. It really is. In Ireland we sometimes refer to it as "Cogadh na Cairdre" which means the friends war. Some of the stories of split loyalties are astonishing. One such incident involves the aforementioned Kevin O'Higgins who signed the death warrant of rebel leader Rory O'Connor. O'Connor had been the best man at O'Higgins' wedding only one year before hand.

Ted Leddy said...


I think the best thing that can be said about De Valera is that he was a democrat who helped build a democratic state. But other than that I have little positive to say about him. Although I do think it's wrong to say he had "a profound dislike of other religious traditions" considering the 1938 constitution which he wrote nearly all himself, specifically mentions Jews and Protestants as being religions of the nation that should be practised freely. In fairness, at the time, throughout much of Europe, Nations were passing laws persecuting Jews, the opposite was the case in Ireland. There is even a forrest named after him in Israel becasue of this.

I must read some William Sheehan, most works on the era lack some cold hard military facts.

Tom Barry, who led the IRA in west Cork was ex British Army. According to his biography he befriended some soldiers in the area and persuaded them to provide information to the rebels.

I love Tim Pat Coogan's stuff on 1916-23 but have never read anything of his on the recent conflict. However I recently received a lend of his book "The Troubles". I'll have an interesting chat with you about it when I read it.

Gary said...


The comparisons between the American Revolution (and the War of 1812) and the events in Ireland starting in 1916 are inescapable and fascinating.

Stories like the O'Higgins-O'Connor tragedy are the things that bring history alive to me.

By coincidence, I had put "The Troubles" on my reading list. I would be very interested to hear what you think of it.

Reading Cooghan's book has tweaked my interest and I want to make a more thorough study of the period -starting with De Valera and Arthur Griffith -any books or articles you might be able to recommend would be appreciated.


Ted Leddy said...


The De Valera, Griffith, Collins split is a wonderful story if you can put aside the human tragedy element for a moment. I know that people with little knowledge or interest in Irish history have very strong opinions about who was right or wrong. It is the type of story that anybody who finds human conflict interesting would enjoy. And by Human conflict I don't just mean war, I mean fathers and sons, best friends, family, business parters. We have all fallen out with people in our lives. It hurts. The De Valera Collins split is a great example of this.

I will let you know about "The Troubles" when im finished.

I would highly recommend "The Squad" by T.Ryle Dwyer. A great book about Collins' intelligence war against the British.

Anything by Tom Garvan is good.

"Guerilla Days in Ireland" by Tom Barry is a good account of his efforts in Cork during the period. It is his own biased account but still a great read.

Gary said...


I agree about the human conflict aspects in history. Those are the things that make history come alive for me. Many times they add an element of real tragedy while having a direct effect on the course of history.

By coincidence I just ordered a copy of 'The Troubles' on-line this morning. I liked Coogan's research so much that I felt he would be a good source for getting a better understanding of something most Americans (including many Irish Americans) tend to write off as simply another example of a clash between religious extremism (Protestants vs Catholics).


Paul said...

I'm afraid anyone who is wishing to understand the 'troubles' better will be disappointed by Coogan's work on it. Unless you're a rabid republican, it is extremely one-sided. Condemnations of IRA atrocities are few and feel 'forced'. Some of the more aggressive IRA commanders and units are coated in glitter and the book contains numerous errors or at best monuments that are erected instead of analysis and enquiries being conducted.

For instance he claims towards the end that the republicans were undefeated and had withstood everything the UK government had thrown at them. Now actually few people believe that, apart from a few republicans themselves. More than a few however will concede that their campaign achieved nothing. But throughout the troubles the key personnel amongst the Provisionals were well known to the Brits, yet they were tolerated and even indulged by a British welfare system. Kevin Myers has picked up on this but of course Coogan does not. He also makes claims as to UK policy without a shred of evidence. Why? Because basically he's a republican ideologue so a bit of utopia will always be present in his mind.

A more silly part is his gloating infatuation with the mother of an IRA prisoner. I'm not exaggerating this he genuinely is profoundly frustrated and refers to her several times as a ’mini skirted wonder’ competent historians try and leave their sexual frustrations out of their work.

I don't mean to rant, but the guy is a good biographer but poor historian, he's similar to say Carlo D'Este or Stephen Ambrose i.e Shit.

I'm not suggesting only pro-British scripts should be read just not Coogan. Ed Moloney is very good (done a few on the IRA ), and so is Toby Harnden's 'Bandit Country'. Peter Taylor is pretty mediocre as well, in fact I'd recommend Gerry Adams over him and fatty Coogan and for me that's saying something.

Gary said...

Thanks for he input. My journey towards learning and trying to understand the events between 1916 and the end of the Civil War has just begun. I'm fairly good at seeing where documented fact ends and where opinion begins. I actually want both and from both sides. I've made note of the books and sources you've suggested and will add them to my reading list.

Ted Leddy said...


I’ll have to take your word for it about Coogan. I’ve only read his 1916-23 stuff but “The Troubles” is the third next book I’m reading so we’ll have this discussion again.

I would have thought that a stalemate is a reasonably accurate word to use for the IRA’s war with the British Army in Northern Ireland.

I would agree that the IRA campaign achieved nothing, certainly nothing that couldn’t have been achieved by an organised non violent political movement, ie a power sharing government and police reforms. One of the best political quotes ever was by the SDLP’s Seamus Mallon when he described the Good Friday Agreement as” Sunningdale for slow learners”.

“But throughout the troubles the key personnel amongst the Provisionals were well known to the Brits”. This is true but the war was never a fight to the death. The British for propaganda reasons couldn’t simply wipe out the IRA leadership. But this was the IRA’s doing too. They by and large chose the battlefield and fought the war on their terms. They should never be forgiven for the murderous terror they inflicted on the people of the north but to be cold and blunt about it, they were effective.

Paul said...

I know you're not condoning the Provos but 'effective at what'? There is not the slightest hope of a united Ireland being achieved by a revolutionary process. So the Provos comprehensively lost, what is tragic is that the Brits didn't force them to a settlement earlier. I agree it was indeed 'Suningdale for slow learners'. However the first deaths of the latest troubles occurred in 1966 and were a sectarian murder committed by Gusty Spence of the UVF. Had Spence been executed for murder as he served I wonder how many in both communities would have followed his example in later years?

Not least as the UK government legislated and removed the archaic discriminations some Catholics suffered by then anyway. They even disarmed the RUC in 1970 briefly leaving them like the GardaĆ­. I do believe that there was a window of opportunity around that period that was squandered, one reason being that the UK government were deemed to be too soft and many felt that terrorism was not likely to be quashed. Had the reward for bigoted murder been a hangman's noose then few would have followed. Instead we (meaning both Britain and Ireland) allowed it to fester and the innocent suffered as a consequence. I can never imagine the Dublin government of the period realistically complaining about terrorists being hung, under Dev they did it themselves with an English hangman sub-contracted for the task.

Ted Leddy said...


I would say that the IRA were effective at conducting guerilla warfare and rendering the six counties a security nightmare for the Army and Police.

However I agree completely and gladly that the armed struggle, in terms of it's objectives was a failure. If anything it set the course of Irish unity back 50 years. Constitutional republicans like myself, or even simply non sectarian and level headed folks, realise that the path to ending partition is about bringing the two states closer together, economically, and in terms of religion. From a southern point of view, it is about embracing the Ulster Protestant, and attempting to convince them the Irish Republic is not that bad a state to be a part of. No group has made this process, the reconciliation of the Irish Nationalist and Ulster Unionist more difficult to achieve than the Provisional IRA.

I share your analysis of the early years of the troubles. Strong leadership could have stamped it out before it really took off.