"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


Irish War of Independence 1919-1921

From the Declaration of Independence issued by the Dáil on 21st January 1919, the Republican movement was now in open defiance of British control over Ireland. The tactics of the Republican movement between 1919 & 1921 were:

  • Guerilla Warfare
  • Hunger Strikes
  • Sinn Féin Courts 
  • Assassination of key intelligence personnel (The ‘Cairo Gang)

Now that Sinn Féin had effectively replaced British Administration with their own Parliament & Provisional Government, they also set up Sinn Féin Courts. These courts attempted to replace the British Courts in Ireland by acting as mediators in disputes and proved to be very popular amongst Irish civilians.


  • Guerilla Warfare: Hogan's_Flying_Column
    The IRA was organised in ‘Flying Columns’ i.e. 14-15 men who lived on the run, stayed in ‘safe houses’, ambushed convoys on country roads and attacked isolated RIC barracks, both for ammunition and to drive them out of the countryside. It proved to be most effective in pushing back the British Army presence to  major towns & cities.


  • Hunger Strikes:  2ocqn930ubywvi8z0wl9dhefnm6z926$tbuqr505ftszz0x39cmahc4hnkjpgvo
    In 1920, Tomas MacCurtain, the Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork City was murdered in Cork by ‘unknown gunmen’. A later British inquiry placed the blame for his murder on the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George. His replacement, Terence MacSwiney (1st Commandant of the IRA in Cork), also Sinn Féin was arrested by the RIC and put in prison in Brixton, England. MacSwiney went on hunger strike and died after 74 days. Hunger strikes were now a part of the Republican Strategy. MacSwiney wrote before he died:
“It is not those who can inflict the most, but those who can endure the most, who will be ultimately victorious”.
  • ‘Bloody Sunday’ 1920: _52809336_73381823
    Twelve intelligence officers from England, known as the ‘Cairo Gang’, were sent to Dublin to break up IRA activity and develop accurate intelligence on the IRA and Sinn Féin. On Sunday 21st November 1920, these twelve intelligence officers were assassinated by IRA gunmen. Later that day, ‘Black & Tans’ attacked civilians at Croke Park in reprisal. Fourteen people were killed, including a Tipperary GAA player, Michael Hogan.





  • Burning of Cork 1920 Burningof_cork

    IRA activity in Cork was particularly successful. Ambushes were commonplace and most of the RIC barracks in rural Cork had been abandoned to the IRA. On 11th December 1920, British Army, Black & Tans & Auxiliaries set fire to Cork city centre in reprisal for an IRA ambush earlier that day in the city.  


  • DeValera-Lloyd George Secret Talks LloydGeorgeDeValera
    During 1920, DeValera & Lloyd George communicated in letters over a possible settlement between Ireland & Britain. These discussions proved to deValera that Britain would never accept an Irish Republic, but only limited independence.



  • Government of Ireland Act (1920) Parliament_Buildings_Stormont_4

    In June 1920, the Ulster Unionists took the opportunity to secure their position within the UK, opening their own six-county parliament (Stormont Parliament). The six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Derry, Tyrone & Fermanagh were now part of the Northern Ireland State. At its opening in June 1921, King George V appealed for peace and conciliation between the different traditions in Ireland.


  • January – July 1921
    IRA activity in the last six months of the war increased. In May 1921, the IRA attacked the Local Government office in Dublin. The British Government had only two choices at this stage: total martial law or an offer of negotiations with Sinn Féin. Lloyd Geortge decided that an offer of negotiations should be made, a truce was singed on 9th July 1921 and came into effect on 11th of July 1921. This brought about an end to the War of Independence and paved the way for the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations three months later in October 1921.

The main detachments of British military & police control in Ireland between 1919 & 1921 were:

  • British Army
  • RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary)
  • Black & Tans
  • Auxiliaries





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