A Grim Centenary

Today marks the centenary of the “official” outbreak of the Irish Civil War. Full-scale conflict had been threatening to erupt since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 as many people who had fought so hard for independence were profoundly unhappy that the treaty had not delivered the Republic that was their wish. For example, members of the Dáil Éireann of the “Irish Free State” formed in 1921 still had to swear allegiance to the British Monarchy. Ireland did not formally become a Republic until 1949.

Exhausted by the War of Independence and fearful of British threats should the Treaty fail, a majority of the general population in Ireland accepted its terms, but a sizeable minority were determined in their opposition. In April 1922 anti-Treaty forces seized and occupied the Four Courts in Dublin with the aim of paralyzing the administration of the Free State. On June 22nd 1922 Field Marshal Henry Wilson was assassinated outside his home in London, allegedly by members of the anti-Treaty IRA. British authorities ordered their troops to attack Dublin in response, but the attack didn’t go ahead.

At dawn on 28th June 1922, one hundred years ago today, pro-Treaty forces began bombarding the Four Courts in Dublin with two 18-pounder field guns, borrowed from the British Army, in an attempt to dislodge the anti-Treaty forces. In a week of fighting the Four Courts were destroyed along with many important documents, and an archive going back 1,000 years.

So began a terrible Civil War which lasted almost a year.

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