BASIC IRISH POLITICAL HISTORY & THE STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE
I'd first better say that I'm not an expert on this subject. However, this was a piece of history that did capture my attention whilst researching it for the screenplay I was going to write. (By the way - the screenplay still has yet to be written. I have the story worked out etc. I'm just waiting for the right time to put the effort in to write it, as it is quite time & attention consuming). Below is a list of date, names & places which were all relevant to the course of events leading up to the Easter Uprising of 1916, war in Ireland until the truce in 1921, and Civil War, (internally), in Ireland.
1858 - Irish Republican Brotherhood founded. Had few zealots. 1893 - Gaelic League founded. Concerned with Irish culture. 1905 - Sinn Fein ( ‘Ourselves’/’We are it’), founded by Arthur Griffith. It's aim was to reduce British administration by ‘passive resistance’. 1913 - Irish Citizen Army formed in industrial troubles. 1914 - Irish Home Rule Bill passed. North not wanted to be ruled by South. Armed Ulster Volunteers drilled openly. 1914 - (April) - A cargo of German guns run into New Jersey ports. National Volunteers formed. 1914 - (July) - German arms ran into Howth, nr Dublin. (Kevin Barry ). Using Erskine Childer’s yacht ‘Asgard’. 1914 - (Nov) - Roger Casement went to Germany for support. Caught smuggling arms back. Tried and executed in England on August 3rd 1916 - after the ‘Easter Uprising’. 1916 - Easter Uprising.
The London Times Tue 2nd May 1916 “ . .meanwhile the ‘Irish Volunteers’ were established. A few months ago ‘The Secret History of the Irish Volunteers’ was written and published by the treasurer of the movement, The O’Reilly. .. .Most of the ‘secret history’ is devoted to describing and denouncing the efforts of the Irish Parliamentary Party to stop the movement, and then, seeing it’s success, to obtain control of it... .and shortly after the outbreak of the war, (WW 1), the movement split into ‘The Irish Volunteers’ (revolutionary), and ‘The National Volunteers’ (constitutional). Simultaneously with the formation of the Irish Volunteers, James Larkin started his ‘Citizen Army’, composed of the young members of the Transport Workers Union. After the war the aims of the bodies became identical - 'The enrolment and arming of the manhood of Ireland in order to secure and maintain the rights and liberties of the Irish people.’ But they preserved their separate organisations. Both wore a grey-green service uniform, but were distinguished by the slouch hat and feather of the Citizen Army, and the regulation cap - like that of the British soldier - of the Irish Volunteers.
On one of the rebels when he was captured was found a book entitled ‘The Simple and Efficient Demolition of Railways.’ .. Books on scouting also are frequently found on prisoners. It is believed that the rebels acted under the German direction. One of them was wearing a portion of a German uniform when he surrendered. On the other hand, much of the ammunition used is evidently of home manufacture, and the rebels had employed salmon tins in the making of their bombs. Some of their bullets, however, had come from other countries, and some had even been made for the British Army a long time ago. Both citizens and soldiers who were in Dublin last week declare that the rebels had machine-guns, and, in particular, one is spoken of as having done great execution from within the gates of the Botanical Gardens.”
Remember, one has to take the reports of the London Times with caution. Although not skilled in great propaganda wars, and perhaps by mis-information, some of their reports of events occurring in Ireland were, sometimes, 'incorrect'. (If I get through my research papers later, I'll give you some exact examples of this ).
The Easter Uprising held out for nearly a week. It was a disaster. (A 100,000 Catholic Irishmen were fighting in the British Army at the time). THIS WAS NOT ORGANISED BY SINN FEIN. General Sir John Maxwell, Commander of British troops in Ireland, had 15 of the rebel leaders shot over a number of days from May 3rd - May 9th 1916. James Connolly, the Socialist leader, who had been wounded in the fighting was shot strapped to a chair (!). Yes - that did really happen.
In the Spring of 1918, Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of Imperial General Staff, ( a Southern Irishmen with no sympathy for Home Rule or Republicans), persuaded a reluctant Cabinet, (Lloyd George’s), that conscription should be ‘forced’ upon Ireland for the dwindling ‘cannon fodder’ on the Western Front. This united the whole of Ireland against the British Government. May 1918 saw Field Marshal Lord French made First Governor of Ireland - to pave the way for the conscription bill. Lloyd George impressed upon him: “The onus for first shooting on the rebels”. Lord French, an old veteran of the Boer War thought Ireland was safe because "..aeroplanes, armoured cars, Maxims etc., would terrify the natives...". Shortly after his arrival, a ‘German plot’ was ‘discovered’, and Arthur Griffith and Eamon De Valera ( & 100’s of others) were rounded up and deported to England. Michael Collins (28) and Cathal Brugha (44) - alias Charles Burgess two veterans of the 1916 Uprising were left to run the show in Ireland.
Charles Burgess - The end of the war, (1914-1918 WWI), prevented him from going to shoot the ministers responsible if conscription were introduced. He started to build up the ‘Irish Republican Army’, I.R.A., from the volunteers who had joined up to avoid conscription. However, majority of Volunteers had no more thought of fighting for Ireland than for England.
Michael Collins - ‘Director of Organisation & Intelligence’ and member of the ‘Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Irish Republican Brotherhood’ - which he joined when working as a Postal Clerk in London. At a stormy meeting - well rigged by the Irish. Rep. Broth.- he browbeat the Sinn Fein Executive into accepting the policy of creating general disorder as being the best means of achieving their aims. . . . .( pre Sinn Fein victories a few months later in 1918 elections). It was not uncommon for the driver of a train conveying enemy troops to be the bearer of an I.R.A. despatch. Military historians agree that the work of Irish Intelligence Agents in the War of Independence had few parallels. The Intelligence Dept. of I.R.A. were in positions in the postal service in Ireland, London & on the mail boats.
Cork Examiner newspaper Tue 12 Nov 1918 - (Day after armistice signed with Germany) "Curfew restrictions introduced in Cork - Mon - Thu close 5.30, Fri close 7.00, Sat close not later than 9.30, Sun shut. Food shops that had stayed open later than 5.30/7.00 before this order were allowed to stay open to no later than 9.30 as long as they were shut between 3.30 and 600pm. Theatres could stay open until 10.3Opm. No lights could be seen after closing except for the first half hour after closing. Banks shut at 2.30pm. Fines of up to £100 under the Defence of the Realm Act."
Other important events around this time included:
Feb 1919 - De Valera escapes from Lincoln Jail and elected President of Dail on arrival back in Ireland. Paddy McCarthy of Newmkt, Ireland also escaped. The other prisoners were released in March 1919.
In order to fund their poilitical & military activities, the revolutionaries in Ireland, the IRA, needed money. Between May 1919 and Dec 1920, De Valera on U.S. tour raised £5,000,000 for the “National Loan” - declared illegal by Brit Govt. By himself, Michael Collins raised £379,000 in Ireland alone on a target of £250,000.
In the New Year of 1920 - A press advert by the Govt. said to go to specially opened offices in Glasgow & Liverpool to recruit into the Royal Irish Constabulary for men prepared to ‘face a rough & dangerous task’. Three months later, March 1920, the ‘Black & Tans’ landed in Ireland. Paid ‘10 shillings a day and all found’ - ex-Great War soldiers, not dregs from jail, as was often reported.
When the first recruits arrived in Ireland on March 25, 1920, after three months of training, they looked like the irregulars which they were. Since there were not enough RIC uniforms for the new men, they were equipped with khaki service dress supplemented with constabulary uniforms, so that they appeared in a strange mixture of khaki and dark green, some with khaki tunic and green trousers, others in all khaki, some with civilian hats, but most with green caps and black leather belts of the RIC. These uniforms led to theM being called "Black and Tans," after a famous pack of hounds.