Irish War of Independence
|Irish War of Independence|
Volunteers of the IRA 3rd Tipperary Brigade during the war
|Irish Republic||United Kingdom|
|Commanders and leaders|
Éamon de Valera
Henry Hugh Tudor
David Lloyd George
Lord FitzAlan of Derwent
|Irish Republican Army ~15,000||
British Army ~20,000
Royal Irish Constabulary 9,700
-Black and Tans 7,000
-Auxiliary Division 1,400
Ulster Special Constabulary 4,000
|Casualties and losses|
714 dead, comprising:
-410 RIC dead
-261 British Army dead
-43 USC dead
~750 civilians dead
Total dead: ~2,014
The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (the army of the Irish Republic) and the British security forces in Ireland. It was an escalation of the Irish revolutionary period into armed conflict.
In the December 1918 election, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in Ireland. On 21 January 1919 they formed a breakaway government (Dáil Éireann) and declared independence from Great Britain. Later that day, two members of the armed police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), were shot dead in County Tipperary by IRA members acting on their own initiative. This is often seen as the beginning of the conflict. For much of 1919, IRA activity primarily involved capturing weapons and freeing republican prisoners. In September that year the British government outlawed the Dáil and Sinn Féin, and the conflict intensified thereafter. The IRA began ambushing RIC and British Army patrols, attacking their barracks and forcing isolated barracks to be abandoned. The British government bolstered the RIC with recruits from Britain—the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries—who became notorious for ill-discipline and reprisal attacks on civilians. The conflict as a result is often referred to as the Black and Tan War or simply the Tan War.
While around 300 people had been killed in the conflict up to late 1920, there was a major escalation of violence in November that year. On Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, fourteen British intelligence operatives were assassinated in Dublin in the morning, and the RIC opened fire on a crowd at a football match in the afternoon, killing fourteen civilians and wounding 65. A week later, seventeen Auxiliaries were killed by the IRA in an ambush at Kilmichael in County Cork. The British government declared martial law in much of southern Ireland. The centre of Cork City was burnt out by British forces in December 1920. Violence continued to escalate over the next seven months, when 1,000 people were killed and 4,500 republicans were interned. The fighting was heavily concentrated in Munster (particularly County Cork), Dublin and Belfast. These three locations saw over 75% of the conflict's fatalities. Violence in Ulster, especially Belfast, was notable for its sectarian character and its high number of Catholic civilian victims.
Both sides agreed to a ceasefire (or "truce") on 11 July 1921. In May, Ireland had been partitioned by an Act of the British Parliament, which created the six-county Northern Ireland polity, despite the fact that County Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry City and border regions had voted by a majority for nationalist candidates in the 1918 General Election. The post-ceasefire talks led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921. This treaty ended British rule in 26 counties of Ireland and, after a ten-month transitional period overseen by a provisional government, the Irish Free State was created as a self-governing state with Dominion status on 6 December 1922. However, six north-eastern counties remained within the United Kingdom. After the ceasefire, political and sectarian violence between republicans (usually Catholics) and loyalists (usually Protestants) continued in Northern Ireland for many months. In June 1922, disagreement among republicans over the Anglo-Irish Treaty led to an eleven-month civil war. The Irish Free State awarded 62,868 medals for service during the War of Independence, of which 15,224 were issued to fighting men of the flying columns.
Origins of the conflict 1
- Home Rule Crisis 1.1
- Easter Rising 1.2
- First Dáil 1.3
Course of the war 2
- Pre-War violence 2.1
- Initial hostilities 2.2
- Violence spreads 2.3
- Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) as special target 2.4
- Collapse of the British administration 2.5
- IRA organisation and operations 2.6
- Martial law 2.7
- Escalation: October–December 1920 2.8
- Peak of violence: December 1920 – July 1921 2.9
- Truce: July–December 1921 3
- Treaty 4
- Summer 1920 5.1
- Spring 1921 5.2
- July 1921 – May 1922 5.3
- May–June 1922 5.4
- Detention 6
- Propaganda war 7
- Casualties 8
- Post-war evacuation of British forces 9
- Compensation 10
- Memorial 11
- Films, music and television 12
- Bibliography 13.1
- External links 14
Origins of the conflict
Home Rule Crisis
Since the 1880s, Arthur Griffith's Sinn Féin instead argued for some form of Irish independence, but they were in a small minority.
The demand for Home Rule was eventually granted by the Irish Volunteers.
The British Parliament passed the Irish Republican Brotherhood, began to prepare for a revolt against British rule in Ireland.
The plan for revolt was realised in the Easter Rising of 1916, in which the Volunteers, now explicitly declaring a republic, launched an insurrection whose aim was to end British rule and to found an Irish Republic. The Rising, in which over four hundred people died, was almost exclusively confined to Dublin and was put down within a week, but the British response, executing the leaders of the insurrection and arresting thousands of nationalist activists, galvanised support for the separatist Sinn Féin – the party which the republicans first adopted and then took over. By now, support for the British war effort was on the wane, and Irish public opinion was shocked and outraged by some of the actions committed by British troops, particularly the murder of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington and the imposition of wartime martial law. The Proclamation of the Republic, issued at the outset of the Rising, was invoked in the Declaration of Independence in 1919 as the basis for the establishment of the Irish Republic.
In April 1918, the British Cabinet, in the face of the crisis caused by the German Spring Offensive, attempted with a dual policy to simultaneously link the enactment of conscription into Ireland with the implementation of Home Rule, as outlined in the report of the Irish Convention of 8 April 1918. This further alienated Irish nationalists and produced mass demonstrations during the Conscription Crisis of 1918. In the 1918 general election Irish voters showed their disapproval of British policy by giving Sinn Féin 70% (73 seats out of 105,) of Irish seats, 25 of these uncontested. Sinn Féin won 91% of the seats outside of Ulster on 46.9% of votes cast, but was in a minority in Ulster, where unionists were in a majority. Sinn Féin pledged not to sit in the UK Parliament at Westminster, but rather to set up an Irish Parliament. This parliament, known as the First Dáil, and its ministry, called the Aireacht, consisting only of Sinn Féin members, met at the Mansion House on 21 January 1919. The Dáil reaffirmed the 1916 Proclamation with the Declaration of Independence, and issued a Message to the Free Nations of the World, which stated that there was an "existing state of war, between Ireland and England". The Irish Volunteers were reconstituted as the 'Irish Republican Army' or IRA. The IRA was perceived by some members of Dáil Éireann to have a mandate to wage war on the British Dublin Castle administration.
Course of the war
The years between the Easter Rising of 1916 and the beginning of the War of Independence in 1919 were not bloodless. Thomas Ashe, one of the Volunteer leaders imprisoned for his role in the 1916 rebellion died on hunger strike, after attempted force-feeding in 1917. In 1918, during disturbances arising out of the anti-conscription campaign, six civilians died in confrontations with the police and British Army and over 1,000 were arrested. Armistice Day was marked by severe rioting in Dublin, which left over 100 British soldiers injured. There were also raids for arms by the Volunteers, at least one shooting of a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) policeman and the burning of an RIC barracks in Kerry. In Co. Cork, four rifles were seized from the Eyeries barracks in March 1918 and men from the barracks were beaten that August. In early July 1918, Volunteers ambushed two RIC men who had been stationed to stop a feis being held on the road between Ballingeary and Ballyvourney in the first armed attack on the RIC since the Easter Rising – one was shot in the neck, the other beaten, and police carbines and ammunition were seized. Patrols in Bantry and Ballyvourney were badly beaten in September and October. The attacks brought a British military presence from the summer of 1918, which only briefly quelled the violence, and an increase in police raids. However, there was as yet no co-ordinated armed campaign against British forces or RIC.
While it was not clear in the beginning of 1919 that the Dáil ever intended to gain independence by military means, and war was not explicitly threatened in Sinn Féin's 1918 manifesto, an incident occurred on 21 January 1919, the same day as the First Dáil convened. The Soloheadbeg Ambush, in County Tipperary, was led by Seán Treacy, Séamus Robinson, Seán Hogan and Dan Breen acting on their own initiative. The IRA attacked and shot two RIC officers, Constables James McDonnell and Patrick O'Connell, who were escorting explosives. Breen later recalled:
...we took the action deliberately, having thought over the matter and talked it over between us. Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war, so we intended to kill some of the police whom we looked upon as the foremost and most important branch of the enemy forces. The only regret that we had following the ambush was that there were only two policemen in it, instead of the six we had expected.This is widely regarded as the beginning of the War of Independence. The British government declared South Tipperary a Special Military Area under the Defence of the Realm Act two days later. The war was not formally declared by the Dáil until well into the conflict, however. On 10 April 1919 the Dáil was told:
As regards the Republican prisoners, we must always remember that this country is at war with England and so we must in a sense regard them as necessary casualties in the great fight.In January 1921, two years after the war had started, the Dáil debated "whether it was feasible to accept formally a state of war that was being thrust on them, or not", and decided not to declare war. Then on 11 March, Dáil Éireann President Éamon de Valera formally 'accepted' the existence of a "state of war with England". The delay allowed a balancing of the military and political realities.
Volunteers began to attack British government property, carry out raids for arms and funds and target and kill prominent members of the British administration. The first was Resident Magistrate John C. Milling, who was shot dead in Westport, County Mayo, for having sent Volunteers to prison for unlawful assembly and drilling. They mimicked the successful tactics of the Boers, fast violent raids without uniform. Although some republican leaders, notably Éamon de Valera, favoured classic conventional warfare to legitimise the new republic in the eyes of the world, the more practically experienced Michael Collins and the broader IRA leadership opposed these tactics as they had led to the military débacle of 1916. Others, notably Arthur Griffith, preferred a campaign of civil disobedience rather than armed struggle. The violence used was at first deeply unpopular with Irish people and it took the heavy-handed British response to popularise it among much of the population.During the early part of the conflict, roughly from 1919 to the middle of 1920, there was a relatively limited amount of violence. Much of the nationalist campaign involved popular mobilisation and the creation of a republican "state within a state" in opposition to British rule. British journalist Robert Lynd wrote in The Daily News in July 1920 that:
So far as the mass of people are concerned, the policy of the day is not active but a passive policy. Their policy is not so much to attack the Government as to ignore it and to build up a new government by its side.
Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) as special target
The IRA's main target throughout the conflict was the mainly Irish Catholic Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the British government's police in Ireland, outside Dublin. Its members and barracks (especially the more isolated ones) were vulnerable, and they were a source of much-needed arms. The RIC numbered 9,700 men stationed in 1,500 barracks throughout Ireland.
A policy of
- War Of Independence website for Clare and Galway
- Chronology of Irish History 1919 – 1923
- Cork's War of Independence
- Eleven killed in an IRA gun ambush outside Dromkeen 3 February 1921, on the Limerick Leader web site.
- The Irish Story archive on the war
- The Irish War website
- of I. War memorials related to the Irish War of Independence
- Irish History Links for the War of Independence
- Kleinrichert, Denise Republican Internment and the Prison Ship "Argenta", 1922 (Kildare: Irish Academic Press Ltd 2000)(isbn:978-0-7165-2683-4)
- (Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence pp. 201–202).
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, pp. 201–202. Hopkinson lists 363 RIC killed in Southern Ireland 1919–21, Robert Lynch, the Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition, gives a figure of 38 RIC and 43 USC personnel killed in Northern Ireland 1920–22 p. 227 and p. 67. The RIC casualty figure includes 4 Dublin Metropolitan Policemen and 2 Harbour Police.
- Hopkinson lists 200 killed in southern Ireland 1919–21,Richard English, Armed Struggle, a History of the IRA, gives a total of 557 killed in Northern Ireland in 1920–1922 pp. 39–40.
- p. 105.
- Eunan O'Halpin, Counting Terror, in David Fitzpatrick ed. Terror in Ireland (2012), p152
- Neil Richardson, "A Coward if I return, a Hero if I fall: Stories of Irishmen in World War I", (Dublin 2010), p.13.
- Padraig Yeates, Jimmy Wren, Michael Collins, an Illustrated Life, (1989) ISBN 1-871793-05-X, p. 27.
- Charles Townshend, Easter 1916, The Irish Rebellion p. 338.
- T Ryle Dwyer, Tans Terror and Troubles, Kerry's Real Fighting Story 1916–23.
- Peter Hart. The I.R.A. and its enemies: violence and community in Cork, 1916–1923. pp. 62–63
- Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin. "The Mouth of the Glen" in Where Mountainy Men Have Sown. p39-45, 1965
- Ireland, 1798–1998: Politics and War (A History of the Modern British Isles) by Alvin Jackson (ISBN 978-0631195429), p. 244.
- The Irish War by Tony Geraghty (ISBN 978-0-00-638674-2), p. 330.
- History Ireland, May 2007, p. 56.
- Irish Freedom by Richard English (ISBN 978-0-330-42759-3), p. 287.
- The Irish War of Independence by Michael Hopkinson (ISBN 978-0773528406), p. 115.
- A Military History of Ireland by Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery (ISBN 978-0521629898), p. 407.
- Michael Collins: A Life by James Mackay (ISBN 1-85158-857-4), p. 106.
- Sean Treacy and the 3rd. Tipperary Brigade by Desmond Ryan (1945), p. 74.
- Police Casualties in Ireland, 1919–1922 by Richard Abbott (ISBN 978-1856353144), p. 49.
- Dáil Éireann – Volume 1 – 10 April 1919.
- Dáil Éireann – Volume 1 – 25 January 1921.
- Dáil Éireann – Volume 1 – 11 March 1921.
- The IRA by Tim Pat Coogan (ISBN 0-00-653155-5), p. 25.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 26.
- M.E. Collins, Ireland 1868–1966, p. 254.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 42.
- The RIC's strength in late 1919 was down to 9,300 but extensive recruitment saw it reach a height of over 14,000 by June 1921, Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 49.
- Hopkinson, War of Independence, p. 26.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence pp. 201–2.
- Charles Townshend, 'The Irish Railway Strike of 1920: Industrial Action and Civil Resistance in the Struggle for Independence,' Irish Historical Studies 21, no. 83 (May 1979): 265–82.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence p. 43.
- M.E. Collins, Ireland 1868–1966, p. 258.
- M.E. Collins, Ireland, p. 252.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 44.
- September 1919.
- Irish Self-Determination League of Great Britain, 1919–24.
- Collins, Ireland, p. 262.
- Michael Collins's Intelligence War by Michael T. Foy (ISBN 0-7509-4267-3), p. 25.
- T. Ryle Dwyer. The Squad: And the Intelligence Operations of Michael Collins. pp. 137–9
- Richard Bennett, The Black and Tans, E Hulton and Co Ltd, London, 1959, p. 107, ISBN 1-56619-820-8.
- Ainsworth 2000, p. 7.
- Ainsworth 2000, p. 5.
- Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence, p. 65, Hopkinson has characterised the Act as a "halfway house to martial law".
- Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan (ISBN 0-09-968580-9), p. 144.
- The Secret Army: The IRA by J. Bowyer Bell (ISBN 1560009012), p. 23.
- Michael Collins's Intelligence War by Michael T. Foy (ISBN 0-7509-4267-3), p. 167.
- Tom Barry: IRA Freedom Fighter by Meda Ryan (ISBN 1-85635-480-6), p. 98.
- Ryan (above) quotes Lionel Curtis, political advisor to Lloyd George, writing in early 1921 "Protestants in the south do not complain of persecution on sectarian grounds. If Protestant farmers are murdered, it is not by reason of their religion, but rather because they are under suspicion as Loyalist. The distinction is fine, but a real one." Nevertheless, between 1911 and 1926, the territory of the Free State lost 34 percent of its (small) Protestant population to migration.
- (M.E. Collins, Ireland p. 265).
- Irish Political Prisoners 1848– 1922 by Seán McConville (ISBN 978-0415219914), p. 697.
- Irish Rebury 10 Republicans Hanged by British in 1920's 15 October 2001 New York Times : Accessed 1 November 2008.
- Michael Collins's Intelligence War by Michael T. Foy (ISBN 0-7509-4267-3), pp. 214–218.
- Dorothy McArdle, The Irish Republic, p. 568.
- According to historian Michael Hopkinson, the guerrilla warfare, "was often courageous and effective" (Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p202). Another historian, David Fitzpatrick notes that, "The guerrilla fighters... were vastly outnumbered by the forces of the Crown... the success of the Irish Volunteers in surviving so long is therefore noteworthy" (Bartlett, Military History of Ireland, p. 406).
- Battle of Rottenrow.
- Britain Between the Wars, 1918–40 by Charles Loch Mowat (ISBN 978-0416295108), pp. 84–85.
- The Austen Chamberlain Diary Letters by Austen Chamberlain (ISBN 978-0521551571), p. 161.
- Negotiations June–September 1921. UCC online – accessed Dec 2009.
- Niall C. Harrington Kerry Landing, p. 8.
- Harrington p. 10.
- Meda Ryan, Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter, p. 157.
- (Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 158).
- Irish Times 24 June 1920; reprinted 24 June 2009.
- Michael Collins's Intelligence War by Michael T. Foy (ISBN 0-7509-4267-3), p. 91.
- Constable Jeremiah Mee, leader of the mutiny among the police officers, suggested in a publication of the Sinn Féin newspaper Irish Bulletin, that Smyth had said that the officers should shoot IRA suspects on sight. In reality, Order No. 5, which Smyth had already said to colleagues that he was going to read out to the officers, said that IRA suspects should be shot as a last resort if the IRA men didn't surrender when challenged. This episode, along with the mutiny, has come down to be known as the Listowel mutiny.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 158.
- Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p. 162.
- Alan F Parkinson, Belfast's Unholy War, ISBN 1-85182-792-7 hbk p. 316.
- Parkinson, Unholy War, p. 237.
- Parkinson, Unholy War, p. 316.
- Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green, the Irish Civil War, pp. 79–83.
- Hopkinson Green against Green pp. 83–86.
- Hopkinson, Green against Green p. 86.
- Hopkinson, Green against Green p. 85.
- Hopkinson, Green Against Green, pp. 83–87.
- for death toll and Catholic refugees; Parkinson, Unholy War, p. 316.
- Lynch, Northern IRA pp. 147–48.
- Hopkinson, Green against Green, pp. 112–113.
- Hopkinson, Green against Green, pp. 115–116.
- Parkinson, Unholy War, p. 316.
- Kleinrichert, Denise, Republican Internment and the Prison Ship "Argenta", 1922 (September 2000), Irish Academic Press Ltd. ISBN 978-0-7165-2683-4
- "Intercourse between Bolshevism and Sinn Féin", Cmd. 1326 (HMSO, London, 1921).
- Raids and Rallies by Ernie O'Malley (ISBN 978-0900068638), p. 96.
- Raids and Rallies by Ernie O'Malley (ISBN 978-0900068638), p. 97.
- Michael Collins by Tim Pat Coogan (ISBN 0-09-968580-9), p. 204.
- W. Churchill, The Aftermath (Thornton 1929) p. 297.
- The Police Service of Northern Ireland, successor to the RIC via the RUC, lists the figures of RIC killed as 418, with 146 British soldiers killed. One in twenty of the RIC dead with one in twelve wounded. See figures available here . Archived 7 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
- Dublin Historical Record 1998 Vol 51, p. 17.
- Richard English, Armed Struggle, a History of the IRA, pp. 39–40. Robert Lynch, The Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition, pp. 227, p. 67.
- 'despite disproportionate loss of life and serious injury among the Catholic community, there were also hundreds of Protestant dead and injured'. Also he argues that 'co-ordination of the murder campaign was not executed by the official administration for the area and many killings appeared to have been done in a random and reactive fashion'. Parkinson, Unholy War, p. 314.
- Hart, IRA and its Enemies, p. 314.
- Ryan, Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter, 2005
- Dublin Historical Record 1998, vol.51 pp. 4–24.
- 1923 Compensation Act online.
- Section 3, inter-government agreement of 3 December 1925.
- 1935 – The Informer (1935 film)
- 1959 – Shake Hands with the Devil
- 1989 - The Shadow of Béalnabláth (1989) RTE TV Documentary by Colm Connolly about the life and death of Michael Collins.
- 1991 – The Treaty
- 1996 – Michael Collins
- 1999 – The Last September
- 2001 – Rebel Heart. The theme music of the same name was composed by Sharon Corr.
- 2006 – The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Films, music and television
The last survivor of the conflict, Dan Keating (of the IRA), died in October 2007 at the age of 105.
A memorial called the Garden of Remembrance was erected in Dublin in 1966, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising. The date of signing of the truce is commemorated by the National Day of Commemoration, when all those Irish men and women who fought in wars in specific armies (e.g., the Irish unit(s) fighting in the British Army in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme) are commemorated.
The Irish Free State hereby assumes all liability undertaken by the British Government in respect of malicious damage done since the twenty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and nineteen, to property in the area now under the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State, and the Government of the Irish Free State shall repay to the British Government, at such time or times and in such manner as may be agreed upon, moneys already paid by the British Government in respect of such damage, or liable to be so paid under obligations already incurred.This was amplified in December 1925 to include some British costs:
...any injury whether to property or person committed in Ireland during the period between the twenty-first day of January, nineteen hundred and nineteen, and the eleventh day of July, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, both inclusive.The Irish Free State government subsequently passed a 1923 Compensation Act, to cover losses including:
By October 1921 the British army in Ireland numbered 57,000 men, along with 14,200 RIC police and some 2,600 auxiliaries and Black and Tans. The long-planned evacuation from dozens of barracks in what the army called "Southern Ireland" started on 12 January 1922, following the ratification of the Treaty and took nearly a year, organised by General Nevil Macready. It was a huge logistical operation, but within the month Dublin Castle and Beggar's Bush barracks were transferred to the Provisional Government. The RIC last paraded on 4 April and was formally disbanded on 31 August. By the end of May the remaining forces were concentrated in Dublin, Cork and Kildare. Tensions that led to the Irish Civil War were evident by then and evacuation was suspended. By November about 6,600 soldiers remained in Dublin at 17 locations. Finally on 17 December 1922 The Royal Barracks (now housing collections of the National Museum of Ireland) was transferred to General Richard Mulcahy and the garrison embarked at Dublin Port that evening.
Post-war evacuation of British forces
Similarly in recent decades, attention has been drawn to the IRA's shooting of civilian informers in the south. Several historians, notably Peter Hart have alleged that those killed in this manner were often simply considered "enemies" rather than being proven informers. Especially vulnerable, it is argued, were Protestants, ex-soldiers and tramps. "It was not merely (or even mainly) a matter of espionage, spies and spy hunters, it was a civil war between and within communities". Particularly controversial in this regard has been the Dunmanway killings of April 1922, when ten Protestants were killed and three "disappeared" over two nights. Hart's contentions have been challenged by a number of historians, notably Niall Meehan and Meda Ryan.
Irish nationalists have argued that this northern violence represented a pogrom against their community as 58% of the victims were Catholics, even though Catholics were only around 35% of the population. Historian of the period Alan Parkinson has suggested that the term 'pogrom' is 'unhelpful and misleading in explaining the events of the period' as the violence was not state directed or one sided.
557 people died in political violence in what would become Northern Ireland between July 1920 and July 1922. This death toll is usually counted separately from the southern casualties, as many of these deaths took place after 11 July truce that ended fighting in the rest of Ireland. Of these deaths, between 303 and 340 were Catholic civilians, 35 were IRA men, between 172 and 196 were Protestant civilians and 82 were British forces personnel (38 were RIC and 44 were Ulster Special Constables). The majority of the violence took place in Belfast: 452 people were killed there – 267 Catholics and 185 Protestants.
On 21 November 1921 the British army held a memorial service for its dead, of all ranks, of which it counted 162 up to the 1921 Truce and 18 killed afterwards. A number of these are buried in the Grangegorman Military Cemetery.
The total number killed in the guerrilla war of 1919–21 between Republicans and British forces in what became the Irish Free State came to over 1,400. Of these, 363 were police personnel, 261 were from the regular British Army, about 550 were IRA volunteers (including 24 official executions), and about 200 were civilians. Some other sources give higher figures.
What was the alternative? It was to plunge one small corner of the empire into an iron repression, which could not be carried out without an admixture of murder and counter-murder.... Only national self-preservation could have excused such a policy, and no reasonable man could allege that self-preservation was involved., reflected: Winston Churchill had so many eminent members. The British cabinet had not sought the war that had developed since 1919. By 1921 one of its members, American Committee for Relief in Ireland's propaganda campaign reduced the option of the British government to deepen the conflict; it worried in particular about the effect on British relations with the USA, where groups like the Sinn FéinWhile the military war made most of Ireland ungovernable from early 1920, it did not actually remove British forces from any part. But the success of
Desmond FitzGerald and Erskine Childers were active in producing the Irish Bulletin, which detailed government atrocities which Irish and British newspapers were unwilling or unable to cover. It was printed secretly and distributed throughout Ireland, and to international press agencies and US, European and sympathetic British politicians.
The Catholic Church hierarchy was critical of the violence of both sides, but especially that of the IRA, continuing a long tradition of condemning militant republicanism. The Bishop of Kilmore, Dr. Finnegan, said: "Any war... to be just and lawful must be backed by a well grounded hope of success. What hope of success have you against the mighty forces of the British Empire? None... none whatever and if it unlawful as it is, every life taken in pursuance of it is murder." Thomas Gilmartin, the Archbishop of Tuam, issued a letter saying that IRA men who took part in ambushes "have broken the truce of God, they have incurred the guilt of murder." However, in May 1921, Pope Benedict XV dismayed the British government when he issued a letter that exhorted the "English as well as Irish to calmly consider . . . some means of mutual agreement", as they had been pushing for a condemnation of the rebellion. They declared that his comments "put HMG (His Majesty's Government) and the Irish murder gang on a footing of equality".
The British government also collected material on the liaison between Sinn Féin and Soviet Russia, in an unsuccessful attempt to portray Sinn Féin as a crypto-communist movement.
Another feature of the war was the use of propaganda by both sides. The British tried to portray the IRA as anti-Protestant to encourage loyalism in Irish Protestants and win sympathy for their harsh tactics in Britain. For example, in their communiqués they would always mention the religion of spies or collaborators the IRA had killed if the victim was Protestant, but not if they were Catholic (which was more often), trying to give the impression, in Ireland and abroad, that the IRA were slaughtering Protestants. They encouraged newspaper editors, often forcefully, to do the same. In the summer of 1921, a series of articles appeared in a London magazine, entitled "Ireland under the New Terror, Living Under Martial Law". While purporting to be an impartial account of the situation in Ireland, it portrayed the IRA in a very unfavourable light when compared with the British forces. In reality the author, Ernest Dowdall, was an Auxiliary and the series was one of many articles planted by the Dublin Castle Propaganda Department (established in August 1920) to influence public opinion in a Britain increasingly dismayed at the behaviour of its security forces in Ireland.
By February 1923, under the 1922 Special Powers Act the British were detaining 263 men on the Argenta, which was moored in Belfast Lough. This was supplemented with internment at other land based sites such as Larne workhouse, Belfast Prison and Derry Gaol. Together, both the ship and the workhouse alone held 542 men without trial at the highest internment population level during June 1923.
During the 1920s, the HMS Argenta vessel was used as a military base and prison ship for the holding of Irish Republicans by the British government as part of their internment strategy after Bloody Sunday. Cloistered below decks in cages which held 50 internees, the prisoners were forced to use broken toilets which overflowed frequently into their communal area. Deprived of tables, the already weakened men ate off the floor, frequently succumbing to disease and illness as a result. There were several hunger strikes, including a major strike involving upwards of 150 men in the winter of 1923.
 Michael Collins held the British
, south Armagh. Three Special Constables were also killed in the shootings.Altnaveigh's IRA unit shot ten Protestant civilians, killing six in and around Frank Aiken On 17 June, in revenge for the killing of two Catholics by the B-Specials, .Dublin and Glasgow The cycle of sectarian atrocities against civilians however continued into June 1922. May saw 75 people killed in Belfast and another 30 died there in June. Several thousand Catholics fled the violence and sought refuge in , killing seven, wounding six and taking four prisoners. This was the last major confrontation between the IRA and British forces in the period 1919–1922.Pettigo The largest single clash came in June, when British troops used artillery to dislodge an IRA unit from the village of  On 22 May, after the assassination of West Belfast Unionist MP
In May and June 1922, Collins launched a guerilla IRA offensive against Northern Ireland. By this time, the IRA was split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, but both pro and anti-treaty units were involved in the operation. Some of the arms sent by the British to arm the new Irish Army were in fact given to IRA units and their weapons sent to the North. However, the offensive, launched with a series of IRA attacks in the North on 17–19 May, ultimately proved a failure. An IRA Belfast Brigade report in late May concluded that continuing the offensive was "futile and foolish...the only result of the attack was to place the Catholic population at the mercy of the Specials".
Winston Churchill arranged a meeting between Collins and James Craig on 21 January 1922 and the southern boycott of Belfast goods was lifted but then re-imposed after several weeks. The two leaders had several further meetings, but despite a joint declaration that "Peace is declared" on 30 March, the violence continued.
Moreover, despite the Dáil's acceptance of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922, which confirmed the future existence of Northern Ireland, there were clashes between the IRA and British forces along the new border from early 1922. In part, this reflected Michael Collins' view that the Treaty was a tactical move, or "stepping stone", rather than a final settlement. A number of IRA men were arrested in Derry when they travelled there as part of the Monaghan Gaelic football team. In retaliation, Michael Collins had forty-two loyalists taken hostage in Fermanagh and Tyrone. Right after this incident, a group of B-Specials were confronted by an IRA unit at Clones in Southern territory, who demanded that they surrender. The IRA unit's leader was shot dead and a gun battle broke out, in which four Special Constables were killed. The withdrawal of British troops from Ireland was temporarily suspended as a result of this event. Despite the setting up of a Border Commission to mediate between the two sides in late February, the IRA raided three British barracks along the border in March. All of these actions provoked retaliatory killings in Belfast. In the two days after the Fermanagh kidnappings, 30 people lost their lives in the city, including four Catholic children and two women who were killed by a Loyalist bomb on Weaver Street. In March, 60 died in Belfast, including six members of the Catholic McMahon family, who were targeted for assassination by members of the Special Constabulary in revenge for the IRA killing of two policemen (See McMahon murders). In April, another 30 people died in the Northern capital, including another so called 'uniform attack', the Arnon Street Massacre, when six Catholics were killed by uniformed policemen.
While the fighting in the south was largely ended by the Truce on 11 July 1921, in the north killings continued and actually escalated until the summer of 1922. In Belfast, 16 people were killed in the two days after the truce alone. The violence in the city took place in bursts, as attacks on both Catholics and Protestants were rapidly followed by reprisals on the other community. In this way, 20 people died in street fighting and assassinations in north and west Belfast over 29 August to 1 September 1921 and another 30 from 21–25 November. Loyalists had by this time taken to firing and throwing bombs randomly into Catholic areas and the IRA responded by bombing trams which took Protestant workers to their places of employment.
July 1921 – May 1922
Killings on the loyalist side were largely carried out by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), allegedly with the aid of the RIC and especially the auxiliary police force, the Ulster Special Constabulary or "B-Specials". The Special Constabulary (set up in September 1920), was largely recruited from Ulster Volunteer Force and Orange Lodges and, in the words of historian Michael Hopkinson, "amounted to an officially approved UVF". In May James Craig came to Dublin to meet the British Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord FitzAlan, and was smuggled by the IRA through Dublin to meet Éamon de Valera. The two leaders discussed the possibility of a truce in Ulster and an amnesty for prisoners. Craig proposed a compromise settlement based on the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, with limited independence for the South and autonomy for the North within a Home Rule context. However, the talks came to nothing and violence in the north continued.
After a lull in violence in the north over the new year, killings there intensified again in the spring of 1921. The northern IRA units came under pressure from the leadership in Dublin to step up attacks in line with the rest of the country. Predictably, this unleashed loyalist reprisals against Catholics. For example, in April 1921, the IRA in Belfast shot dead two Auxiliaries in Donegal Place in Belfast city centre. The same night, two Catholics were killed on the Falls Road. On 10 July 1921 the IRA ambushed British forces in Raglan street in Belfast. In the following week, sixteen Catholics were killed and 216 Catholic homes burned in reprisal – events known as Belfast's Bloody Sunday.
The first cycle of attacks and reprisals broke out in the summer of 1920. On 19 June a week of inter-sectarian rioting and sniping started in Dáil approved a partial boycott on 6 August and a more complete one was implemented by the end of 1920.
The , for instance, wrote in 1920: James CraigWhile IRA attacks were less common in the north-east than elsewhere, the unionist community saw itself as being besieged by armed Catholic nationalists who seemed to have taken over the rest of Ireland. As a result, they retaliated against the northern Catholic community as a whole. Such action was largely condoned by the unionist leadership and abetted by state forces.
In the Government of Ireland Act 1920 (enacted in December 1920), the British government attempted to solve the conflict by creating two Home Rule parliaments in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. While Dáil Éireann ignored this, deeming the Irish Republic to be already in existence, Unionists in the north-east accepted it and prepared to form their own government. In this part of Ireland, which was predominantly Protestant and Unionist, there was, as a result, a very different pattern of violence from the rest of the country. Whereas in the south and west, the conflict was between the IRA and British forces, in the north-east and particularly in Belfast, it often developed into a cycle of sectarian killings between Catholics, who were largely Nationalist, and Protestants, who were mostly Unionist.
The civil war ended in mid-1923 in defeat for the anti-treaty side.
Following the deaths of Griffith and Collins, W. T. Cosgrave became head of government. On 6 December 1922, following the coming into legal existence of the Irish Free State, W. T. Cosgrave became President of the Executive Council, the first internationally recognised head of an independent Irish government.
The subsequent Irish Civil War lasted until mid-1923 and cost the lives of many of the leaders of the independence movement, notably the head of the Provisional Government Michael Collins, ex minister Cathal Brugha, and anti-treaty Republicans Harry Boland, Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Liam Lynch and many others: total casualties have never been determined but were perhaps higher than those in the earlier fighting against the British. President Arthur Griffith also died of a stroke during the conflict.
While the violence in the North was still raging, the South of Ireland was preoccupied with the split in the Dáil and in the IRA over the treaty. In April 1922, an executive of IRA officers repudiated the treaty and the authority of the Provisional Government which had been set up to administer it. These Republicans held that the Dáil did not have the right to disestablish the Irish Republic. A hardline group of Anti-Treaty IRA men occupied several public buildings in Dublin in an effort to bring down the treaty and restart the war with the British. There were a number of armed confrontations between pro and anti-treaty troops before matters came to a head in late June 1922. Desperate to get the new Irish Free State off the ground and under British pressure, Michael Collins attacked the anti-treaty militants in Dublin, causing fighting to break out around the country.
Most of the Irish independence movement's leaders were willing to accept this compromise, at least for the time being, though many militant Republicans were not. A majority of the pre-Truce IRA who had fought in the War of Independence, led by Liam Lynch, refused to accept the Treaty and in March 1922 repudiated the authority of the Dáil and the new Free State government, which it accused of betraying the ideal of the Irish Republic. It also broke the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Republic which the Dáil had instated on 20 August 1919. The anti-treaty IRA were supported by the former president of the Republic, Éamon de Valera, and ministers Cathal Brugha and Austin Stack.
A new system of government was created for the new Irish Free State, though for the first year two governments co-existed; an Aireacht answerable to the Dáil and headed by President Griffith, and a Provisional Government nominally answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and appointed by the Lord Lieutenant. (The complexity of this was even shown in the manner by which Lord FitzAlan appointed Collins as head of the Provisional Government. In British theory, they met to allow Collins to "Kiss Hands". In republican theory, they met to allow Collins to take the surrender of Dublin Castle.)
The treaty allowed Northern Ireland, which had been created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, to opt out of the Free State if it wished, which it duly did on 8 December 1922 under the procedures laid down. As agreed, an Irish Boundary Commission was then created to decide on the precise location of the border of the Free State and Northern Ireland. The republican negotiators understood that the Commission would redraw the border according to local nationalist or unionist majorities. Since the 1920 local elections in Ireland had resulted in outright nationalist majorities in County Fermanagh, County Tyrone, the City of Derry and in many District Electoral Divisions of County Armagh and County Londonderry (all north and west of the "interim" border), this might well have left Northern Ireland unviable. However, the Commission chose to leave the border unchanged; as a trade-off, the money owed to Britain by the Free State under the Treaty was not demanded.
Ultimately, the peace talks led to the negotiation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921), which was then ratified in triplicate: by Dáil Éireann on 7 January 1922 (so giving it legal legitimacy under the governmental system of the Irish Republic), by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland in January 1922 (so giving it constitutional legitimacy according to British theory of who was the legal government in Ireland), and by both Houses of the British parliament.
The continuing resistance of many IRA leaders was one of the main factors in the outbreak of the Irish Civil War as they refused to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty that Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith had negotiated with the British.
Most IRA officers on the ground interpreted the Truce merely as a temporary respite and continued recruiting and training volunteers. Nor did attacks on the RIC or British Army cease altogether. Between December 1921 and February of the next year, there were 80 recorded attacks by the IRA on the soon to be disbanded RIC, leaving 12 dead. On 18 February 1922, Ernie O'Malley's IRA unit raided the RIC barracks at Clonmel, taking 40 policemen prisoner and seizing over 600 weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. In April 1922, in the Dunmanway killings, an IRA party in Cork killed 10 local suspected Protestant informers in retaliation for the shooting of one of their men. Those killed were named in captured British files as informers before the Truce signed the previous July. Over 100 Protestant families fled the area after the killings.
On 24 June 1921, the British Coalition Government's Cabinet decided to propose talks with the leader of Sinn Féin. Coalition Liberals and Unionists agreed that an offer to negotiate would strengthen the Government's position if Sinn Féin refused.  Sinn Féin responded by agreeing to talks. De Valera and Lloyd George ultimately agreed to a truce that was intended to end the fighting and lay the ground for detailed negotiations. Its terms were signed on 9 July and came into effect on 11 July. Negotiations on a settlement, however, were delayed for some months as the British government insisted that the IRA first decommission its weapons, but this demand was eventually dropped. It was agreed that British troops would remain confined to their barracks.
The initial breakthrough that led to the truce was credited to three people: 
The war of independence in Ireland ended with a truce on 11 July 1921. The conflict had reached a stalemate. Talks that had looked promising the previous year had petered out in December when Herbert Henry Asquith and the Liberal opposition, the Labour Party and the Trades Union Congress, resumed in the spring and resulted in the Truce. From the point of view of the British government, it appeared as if the IRA's guerrilla campaign would continue indefinitely, with spiralling costs in British casualties and in money. More importantly, the British government was facing severe criticism at home and abroad for the actions of British forces in Ireland. On 6 June 1921, the British made their first conciliatory gesture, calling off the policy of house burnings as reprisals. On the other side, IRA leaders and in particular Michael Collins, felt that the IRA as it was then organised could not continue indefinitely. It had been hard pressed by the deployment of more regular British soldiers to Ireland and by the lack of arms and ammunition.
Truce: July–December 1921
By the time of the truce, however, many Republican leaders, including Michael Collins, were convinced that if the war went on for much longer, there was a chance that the IRA campaign as it was then organised could be brought to a standstill. Because of this, plans were drawn up to "bring the war to England". The IRA did take the campaign to the streets of Glasgow. It was decided that key economic targets, such as the Liverpool docks, would be bombed. The units charged with these missions would more easily evade capture because England was not under, and British public opinion was unlikely to accept, martial law. These plans were abandoned because of the truce.
Still, many military historians have concluded that the IRA fought a largely successful and lethal guerrilla war, which forced the British government to conclude that the IRA could not be defeated militarily. The failure of the British efforts to put down the guerrillas was illustrated by the events of "Black Whitsun" on 13–15 May 1921. A general election for the Parliament of Southern Ireland was held on 13 May. Sinn Féin won 124 of the new parliament's 128 seats unopposed, but its elected members refused to take their seats. Under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, the Parliament of Southern Ireland was therefore dissolved, and executive and legislative authority over Southern Ireland was effectively transferred to the Lord Lieutenant (assisted by Crown appointees). Over the next two days (14–15 May), the IRA killed fifteen policemen. These events marked the complete failure of the British Coalition Government's Irish policy—both the failure to enforce a settlement without negotiating with Sinn Féin and a failure to defeat the IRA.
The biggest single loss for the IRA, however, came in Dublin. On 25 May 1921, several hundred IRA men from the Dublin Brigade occupied and burned the Custom House (the centre of local government in Ireland) in Dublin city centre. Symbolically, this was intended to show that British rule in Ireland was untenable. However, from a military point of view, it was a catastrophe in which five IRA men were killed and over eighty were captured. This showed the IRA was not well enough equipped or trained to take on British forces in a conventional manner. However, it did not, as is sometimes claimed, cripple the IRA in Dublin. The Dublin Brigade carried out 107 attacks in the city in May and 93 in June, showing a falloff in activity, but not a dramatic one. However, by July 1921, most IRA units were chronically short of both weapons and ammunition. Also, for all their effectiveness at guerrilla warfare, they had, as Richard Mulcahy recalled, "as yet not been able to drive the enemy out of anything but a fairly good sized police barracks".
On 19 March 1921, Tom Barry's 100-strong West Cork IRA unit fought a large-scale action against 1,200 British troops – the Crossbarry Ambush. Barry's men narrowly avoided being trapped by converging British columns and inflicted between ten and thirty killed on the British side. Just two days later, on 21 March, the Kerry IRA attacked a train at the Headford junction near Killarney. Twenty British soldiers were killed or injured, as well as two IRA men and three civilians. Most of the actions in the war were on a smaller scale than this, but the IRA did have other significant victories in ambushes, for example at Millstreet in Cork and at Scramogue in Roscommon, also in March 1921 and at Tourmakeady and Carowkennedy in Mayo in May and June. Equally common, however, were failed ambushes, the worst of which, for example at Upton and Clonmult in Cork in February 1921, saw three and twelve IRA men killed respectively and more captured. The IRA in Mayo suffered a comparable reverse at Kilmeena. Fears of informers after such failed ambushes often led to a spate of IRA shootings of informers, real and imagined.
Between 1 November 1920 and 7 June 1921 twenty-four men were executed by the British. The first IRA volunteer to be executed was unconsecrated ground inside Mountjoy Prison until 2001. On 1 February, the first execution under martial law of an IRA man took place. Cornelius Murphy of Millstreet, Cork was shot in Cork city. On 28 February, six more were executed, again in Cork.
During the following eight months until the Truce of July 1921, there was a spiralling of the death toll in the conflict, with 1,000 people including the RIC police, army, IRA volunteers and civilians, being killed in the months between January and July 1921 alone. This represents about 70% of the total casualties for the entire three-year conflict. In addition, 4,500 IRA personnel (or suspected sympathisers) were interned in this time. In the middle of this violence, the Dáil formally declared war on Britain in March 1921.
Peak of violence: December 1920 – July 1921
Attempts at a truce in December 1920 were scuppered by Hamar Greenwood, who insisted on a surrender of IRA weapons first.
On 11 December, the centre of Cork City was burnt out by the Black and Tans, who then shot at firefighters trying to tackle the blaze, in reprisal for an IRA ambush in the city on 11 December 1920 which killed one Auxiliary and wounded eleven.
These actions marked a significant escalation of the conflict. In response, Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary – all in the province of Munster – were put under martial law on 10 December under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act; this was followed on 5 January in the rest of Munster and in Counties Kilkenny and Wexford in the province of Leinster. Shortly afterwards, in January 1921, "official reprisals" were sanctioned by the British and they began with the burning of seven houses in Midleton in Cork.
On 28 November 1920, only a week after Bloody Sunday in Dublin, the west Cork unit of the IRA, under Tom Barry, ambushed a patrol of Auxiliaries at Kilmichael in County Cork, killing all but one of the 18-man patrol.
In response, RIC men drove in trucks into Croke Park (Dublin's GAA football and hurling ground) during a football match, shooting into the crowd. Fourteen civilians were killed, including one of the players, Michael Hogan and a further 65 people were wounded. Later that day two republican prisoners, Dick McKee, Peadar Clancy and an unassociated friend, Conor Clune who had been arrested with them, were killed in Dublin Castle. The official account was that the three men were shot "while trying to escape", which was rejected by Irish nationalists, who were certain the men had been tortured then murdered. This day became known as Bloody Sunday.
Then, on 21 November 1920, there was a day of dramatic bloodshed in Dublin. In the early morning, Collins' Squad attempted to wipe out the leading British intelligence operatives in the capital. The Squad shot 19 people, killing 14 and wounding 5. These consisted of British Army officers, police officers and civilians. The dead included members of the Cairo Gang and a courts-martial officer, and were killed at different places around Dublin.
A number of events dramatically escalated the conflict in late 1920. First the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, died on hunger strike in Brixton Prison in London in October, while two other IRA prisoners on hunger strike, Joe Murphy and Michael Fitzgerald, died in Cork Jail.
Escalation: October–December 1920
. Two were killed whilst trying to storm an armoury and one was later executed.) India, stationed in Connaught Rangers broke out among the mutiny As a result, violence escalated steadily from that summer and sharply after November 1920 until July 1921. (It was in this period that a large-scale  On 9 August 1920, the British Parliament passed the
In July 1920, another quasi-military police body, the Auxiliaries, consisting of 2,215 former British army officers, arrived in Ireland. The Auxiliary Division had a reputation just as bad as the Tans for their mistreatment of the civilian population but tended to be more effective and more willing to take on the IRA. The policy of reprisals, which involved public denunciation or denial and private approval, was famously satirised by Lord Hugh Cecil when he said: "It seems to be agreed that there is no such thing as reprisals but they are having a good effect."
The British increased the use of force; reluctant to deploy the regular British Army into the country in greater numbers, they set up two paramilitary police units to aid the RIC. The Black and Tans were seven thousand strong, mainly ex-British soldiers demobilised after World War I. Deployed to Ireland in March 1920, most came from English and Scottish cities. While officially they were part of the RIC, in reality they were a paramilitary force. After their deployment in March 1920, they rapidly gained a reputation for drunkenness and ill discipline, that did more harm to the British government's moral authority in Ireland than any other group. In response to IRA actions, in the summer of 1920, the Tans burned and sacked numerous small towns throughout Ireland, including Balbriggan, Trim, Templemore and others.
While the paper membership of the IRA, carried over from the Cumann na mBan (the IRA women's group) and Fianna Éireann (youth movement), who carried weapons and intelligence for IRA men and secured food and lodgings for them. The IRA benefitted from the widespread help given to them by the general Irish population, who generally refused to pass information to the RIC and the British military and who often provided "safe houses" and provisions to IRA units "on the run". Much of the IRA's popularity arose from the excessive reaction of the British forces to IRA activity. When Éamon de Valera returned from the United States, he demanded in the Dáil that the IRA desist from the ambushes and assassinations, which were allowing the British to portray it as a terrorist group and to take on the British forces with conventional military methods. The proposal was immediately dismissed.
Dublin Metropolitan Police's (DMP) "G division" and other important branches of the British administration. The G division men were a relatively small political division active in subverting the republican movement and were detested by the IRA as often they were used to identify volunteers, who would have been unknown to British soldiers or the later Black and Tans. Collins set up the "Squad", a group of men whose sole duty was to seek out and kill "G-men" and other British spies and agents. Collins' Squad began killing RIC intelligence officers in July 1919. Many G-men were offered a chance to resign or leave Ireland by the IRA. One spy who escaped with his life was F. Digby Hardy, who was exposed by Arthur Griffith before an "IRA" meeting, which in fact consisted of Irish and foreign journalists and then advised to take the next boat out of Dublin.
IRA organisation and operations
Lisburn, County Antrim. This pattern of killings and reprisals escalated in the second half of 1920 and in 1921.
The British forces, in trying to re-assert their control over the country, often resorted to arbitrary reprisals against republican activists and the civilian population. An unofficial government policy of reprisals began in September 1919 in Fermoy, County Cork, when 200 British soldiers looted and burned the main businesses of the town, after one of their number - a soldier of the King's Shropshire Light Infantry who was the first British Army death in the campaign - had been killed in an armed raid by the local IRA on a church parade the day before (7 September). The ambushers were a unit of the No 2 Cork Brigade, under command of Liam Lynch, who wounded four of the other soldiers and disarmed the rest before fleeing in their cars. The local coroner's inquest refused to return a murder verdict over the soldier and local businessmen who had sat on the jury were targeted in the reprisal.
The Inland Revenue ceased to operate in most of Ireland. People were instead encouraged to subscribe to Collins' "National Loan", set up to raise funds for the young government and its army. By the end of the year the loan had reached £358,000. It eventually reached £380,000. An even larger amount, totalling over $5 million, was raised in the United States by Irish Americans and sent to Ireland to finance the Republic. Rates were still paid to local councils but nine out of eleven of these were controlled by Sinn Féin, who naturally refused to pass them on to the British government. By mid-1920, the Irish Republic was a reality in the lives of many people, enforcing its own law, maintaining its own armed forces and collecting its own taxes. The British Liberal journal, The Nation, wrote in August 1920 that "the central fact of the present situation in Ireland is that the Irish Republic exists".
In early April 1922, 400 abandoned RIC barracks were burned to the ground to prevent them being used again, along with almost one hundred income tax offices. The RIC withdrew from much of the countryside, leaving it in the hands of IRA. In June–July 1920, assizes failed all across the south and west of Ireland; trials by jury could not be held because jurors would not attend. The collapse of the court system demoralised the RIC and many police resigned or retired. The Irish Republican Police (IRP) was founded between April and June 1920, under the authority of Dáil Éireann and the former IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Brugha to replace the RIC and to enforce the ruling of the Dáil Courts, set up under the Irish Republic. By 1920, the IRP had a presence in 21 of Ireland's 32 counties. The Dáil Courts were generally socially conservative, despite their revolutionary origins and halted the attempts of some landless farmers at redistribution of land from wealthier landowners to poorer farmers.
Collapse of the British administration
Similarly, in May 1920, Dublin dockers refused to handle any war matériel and were soon joined by the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, who banned railway drivers from carrying members of the British forces. Blackleg train drivers were brought over from England, after drivers refused to carry British troops. The strike badly hampered British troop movements until December 1920, when it was called off. The British government managed to bring the situation to an end, when they threatened to withhold grants from the railway companies, which would have meant that workers would no longer have been paid. Attacks by the IRA also steadily increased, and by early 1920, they were attacking isolated RIC stations in rural areas, causing them to be abandoned as the police retreated to the larger towns.
Other aspects of mass participation in the conflict included strikes by organised workers, in opposition to the British presence in Ireland. In Limerick in April 1919, a general strike was called by the Limerick Trades and Labour Council, as a protest against the declaration of a "Special Military Area" under the Defence of the Realm Act, which covered most of Limerick city and a part of the county. Special permits, to be issued by the RIC, would now be required to enter the city. The Trades Council's special Strike Committee controlled the city for fourteen days in an episode that is known as the Limerick Soviet.