Society of Ireland

The freedom to achieve

The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the army of the Irish Republic, against the British Government and its forces in Ireland. It began on 21 January 1919, when two members of the armed police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), were attacked and killed in County Tipperary. The Irish Republic had issued a Declaration of Independence in Dublin earlier that same day. The Irish Volunteers—later renamed the Irish Republican Army (IRA)—targeted RIC and British Army barracks and ambushed their patrols, capturing arms and forcing the closure of barracks in isolated areas. 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 war 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 and wounding 65 others. 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 interned. The fighting was heavily concentrated in Munster (particularly County Cork), Dublin and Belfast. Between them these three locations saw over 75% of the conflict's fatalities. Violence in the north and especially Belfast was notable for its sectarian character and its disproportionately 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. The post-ceasefire talks led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921. This treaty ended British rule in most 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, Northern Ireland remained within the United Kingdom. After the ceasefire, political and sectarian violence (between republicans and loyalists, and between Irish Catholics and 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.



ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary