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What is the Irish War of Independence?

The Irish War of Independence, also known as the Anglo-Irish War, was a guerrilla war launched by the Irish Republican Army in Ireland to oppose the British government’s rule in Ireland. The war began on January 21, 1919, and ended on July 11, 1921.

War background

For the purely Irish Republicans, the Irish War of Independence began with the declaration of the Republic of Ireland in the Easter Uprising of 1916.

The Republicans argued that the 1919-1921 conflict was only a dispute over the survival of the Republic. More directly, the war originated from the independent Irish Parliament, which was established by the majority of the Irish voters in the 1918 British Irish General Election and unilaterally declared the establishment of the independent Irish Parliament. The first Irish Parliament and the Irish Cabinet declared Irish independence. Members of Congress thought of asking the Irish Republican Army, as the “army of the Republic of Ireland”, to launch a war against the British government of Dublin Castle under the Governor of Ireland.

On January 21, 1919, Republican volunteers led by Dan Bolling killed two members of the Royal Irish Security Corps. In Soloheadbeg, County Tipperary, the two refused to hand over the Gerry Explosive Depository they had taken care of.

Although the parties were acting on their own, this was widely recognized as the beginning of the War of Independence. Three days later, Tipperary County declared military control. On the same day that the gunfire started, Congress convened a meeting in Dublin City Hall to approve the 1916 Declaration of Independence, issue a new Declaration of Independence, calling for the withdrawal of British troops, and calling on the “free nations of the world” to recognize Irish independence.

The result of the war

The war ended with a ceasefire agreement on July 11, 1921. In a sense, the conflict is deadlocked. The dialogue that seemed promising in the previous year dissipated in December, and Lloyd George insisted that the Republicans first lay down their arms and surrender. After the Prime Minister came under pressure from Herbert Henry Asquith, the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and the Confederation of British Trade Unions, a new dialogue began in the spring and a ceasefire agreement was concluded.

From the British government’s point of view, the Republican Army’s guerrilla warfare seems to go on indefinitely, causing the loss of British human and financial resources to continue to rise. More importantly, the British government is facing severe domestic and foreign condemnation for the actions of British troops in Ireland.

On the other hand, the leaders of the Republican Army, especially Michael Collins, felt that the actions of the Republican Army at that time could not continue indefinitely. It is under greater pressure, more regular British troops are deployed to Ireland, and there is a shortage of weapons and ammunition.

The initial breakthrough in the ceasefire agreement should be attributed to three people: King George V of England, General Jan Smoltz of South Africa and British Prime Minister Lloyd George.

The King’s dissatisfaction with the actions of the Black-Brown Forces in Ireland is well known in the government, and he was not satisfied with the pre-prepared speech to the new Northern Ireland Parliament. The establishment of this parliament was the result of the division of Ireland. Smozi was a close friend of the king and suggested that he should take this opportunity to call for reconciliation in Ireland. The king asked him to draft his ideas on paper.

Smozi prepared a draft and sent a copy to the king and Lloyd George. Lloyd George then invited Smozi to participate in a British cabinet consultation meeting to discuss an “interesting” proposal received by Lloyd George. Neither person told the Cabinet that the author of the proposal was Shi Mozi. Faced with Smozi, the king and the prime minister’s approval, the ministers reluctantly accepted the’Irish Reconciliation’ speech prepared by the king.

After this speech was published, it gained wide-ranging influence. Taking this opportunity, Lloyd George signed an initiative to negotiate with Eamon De Varela in July 1921.

The Irish did not realize that the speech did not represent all the views of the British government. It was just a “peace operation” directed by the King, Smoky and Lloyd George. The cabinet only reluctantly agreed. Ireland responded by agreeing to peace talks.

De Varela and Lloyd George finally agreed to a ceasefire agreement aimed at suspending the fighting and creating a basis for detailed negotiations. Negotiations were postponed for several months because the British government insisted that the Republican Army lay down its weapons first, but this request was eventually abandoned.

Britain agreed that British troops would not be allowed to step out of the barracks. Most grassroots Republican army officers interpreted the ceasefire agreement as merely a break in the war and continued to recruit and train volunteers. Many leaders of the Republican Army still maintained a fighting posture, which was one of the main factors in the outbreak of the Irish Civil War. They refused to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiated with the United Kingdom by Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.

In the end, the peace talks became the forerunner of the Anglo-Irish treaty negotiation, which was subsequently ratified by three parties: the approval of the Irish Parliament in December 1921 (giving legal status to the political system of the Republic of Ireland), and the approval of the Southern Ireland House of Commons in January 1922. And the approval of the upper and lower houses of the British Parliament.

The treaty allowed Northern Ireland, established under the Irish Government Act of 1920, to secede from the Free State if it agreed, and Northern Ireland did achieve independence in due course under the listed procedures. The two sides agreed to establish an Irish National Borders Commission to determine the exact direction of the border between the Free State and Northern Ireland.

The Irish negotiators understand that the committee will redraw the borders in accordance with local nationalist and coalition majority areas. The local elections in Ireland since 1920 have resulted in Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry and many of the constituencies in Armagh and Londonderry being completely nationalist, which may prevent Northern Ireland from being left alone. But the committee chose to keep the borders as they were; in exchange, Britain did not require the free states to repay the debts owed.

The treaty established a new system of government for the Irish Free State. Although the two governments coexisted in the first two years; one “cabinet” (Aireacht) was responsible to the Irish Parliament and was led by President Griffith; and another provisional government nominally Responsible to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, appointed by the Governor of Ireland (The complexity of the situation can be seen from the following example: Lord Fitcharan appointed Collins as the head of the interim government. According to the British side, they let Collins “kiss his hands” when they met. Fang argued that they met to get Collins to accept the surrender of Dublin Castle).

Most Irish independence leaders are willing to accept this compromise, at least temporarily, although many military republicans are not. A few of them participated in the civil war led by the resigned President Eamon de Valera, refused to accept the treaty and began to rebel against the neo-liberal government, condemning the latter for betraying the ideals of the Republic of Ireland.

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