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War of Independence

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  • War of Independence

    Tomorrow marks the centenary of the first action of what became known as the War of Independence, the Soloheadbeg Ambush.

    And of course, it's being completely ignored by the President, Taoiseach/Minister for Defence and mini-Minister for Defence.

    The Soloheadbeg ambush - Sudden, bloody and unexpected

    What happened on an isolated road less than ten kilometres from Tipperary town in 1919 was sudden, bloody and unexpected.

    The full truth of the event has never been fully established but its political fallout resonates to this day.

    The Soloheadbeg ambush was a significant event because it happened – coincidentally – on the day of the sitting of the first Dáil and because it led to the deaths of two Irish Royal Irish Constabulary members – one from Cork and another from Mayo.

    They were the first IRA victims of what became the War of Independence – a war that would claim over 2,000 lives by the time it ended in 1921.

    IRA men in Tipperary – such as Seamus Robinson, Sean Treacy, Dan Breen and others - had been impatient that a full-scale conflict had not begun and were anxious to start one in the absence of such a commitment by their leadership.

    Although Sinn Féin had achieved a landslide majority in the election of 1918, there was no agreed mandate for war against Britain.

    Sean Treacy

    The target of the ambush was a convoy carrying a quantity of gelignite the IRA men badly wanted.

    As the convoy took a slow turn towards a quarry at Soloheadbeg, neither the two council workers bringing the consignment on a horse-drawn cart, or the two police men escorting it – could know that the fate of the two policemen soon be been sealed.

    Robinson, Treacy and Breen had carefully planned the ambush over several days but had only learned a short time before the ambush that the consignment was on its way.

    As the consignment neared the quarry, eight IRA men confronted the four men from a well-concealed hideout.

    Constables James McDonnell

    One of the central questions about what happened at Soloheadbeg is whether Constables James McDonnell from Mayo and Paddy O’Connell from Co Cork were killed without justification or whether they died fighting off the ambushers.

    Constable McDonnell was 56 and a widower with seven children. Patrick O’Connell was 36 and engaged to be married.So what do we know about what happened?

    Patrick O’Connell - believed to be the man in this family photograph

    Historians, such as Gabriel Doherty of UCC, point out that the full picture of what happened during the ambush has never emerged because the only accounts of detail came from the ambushers.

    The two constables had died and one of the council workers suffered a breakdown shortly afterwards.

    There is little doubt, however, that the IRA men were quite prepared to kill to achieve their aim that day. Dan Breen would later say he regretted there were only two RIC men instead of perhaps six, as that would have made a bigger impact.

    The following is an extract from an account of the ambush by Seamus Robinson:

    "Our job was to spring over the hedge the moment the challenge 'hands up' was given, and seize the horse while the RIC were covered. A few yards farther back the RIC had unslung their carbines, but it was clearly just routine. Still, it meant they were ready. The RIC were behind the cart, and, as they appeared opposite the gate, the high-pitched challenge "Hands Up" rang out.

    "Before the first sound had time to re-echo Dwyer and I were over the ditch and grabbing the reins. The RIC. seemed to be at first amused at the sight of Dan Breen's burly figure with nose and mouth covered with a handkerchief; but with a sweeping glance they saw his revolver and Dwyer and me - they could see only three of us.

    "In a flash their rifles were brought up, the bolts worked and triggers pressed two shots rang out, but not from the carbines: the cut-off had been overlooked: The two shots came from Treacy and Tim Crowe. Those shots were the signal for general firing. At the inquest the fatal wounds were ;caused by small-calibre bullets'.

    "When Paddy Dwyer and I landed on the road the horse took fright. I had only my left hand free to catch the reins and when the shots rang out it became frantic; it reared up on its hind legs and tried to break away; the reins slipped about two feet through my hand, but I recovered my grip near the bit when the horse's feet reached the ground again. Paddy Dwyer took charge of him and had him under control at once."

    The RIC was a force of mainly Irish men organised along paramilitary lines. Many of its members were Catholics and the sons of farmers, chosen for their "good character, physique and intelligence".

    The force was known for discipline and thoroughness. Its records were meticulous, collating everything from intelligence on local IRA activities to local commerce. Its local knowledge was both extensive strategically important in combating the IRA, which is why its members became key targets.

    Parade of RIC members

    It was a force hated by many Republicans as the eyes and ears of the Dublin Castle and its presence was everywhere. In 1919 there were 45 RIC stations in west Cork alone, but as the war progressed the RIC was made to retreat into larger barracks to defend itself from the increasing level of attacks.

    Far more RIC men were killed in this war than were soldiers. By the time it ended in 1921, some 405 RIC men had been killed compared to a figure of 150 soldiers.

    Dan Breen remained unrepentant about the activities of the IRA at the period, citing oppression of Ireland and its people as a driving force. He did not, he said, regret killings.

    Dan Breen

    No mention is made of the two constables who died at either of the two marked sites associated with the ambush.

    For one of Constable O’Connell’s family, the anniversary has made for sad reflection. One relative, Josephine O'Connell, says she does not believe the policemen were ever given "a fair chance" at Soloheadbeg. She points out that Paddy O'Connell's family could not attend his funeral because of fear of further attacks and that his fiancée became a nun after his death.

    "She too was a victim," she says.
    Last edited by Rhodes; 20 January 2019, 11:49.

  • #2
    The anniversary of the First Dail is being commemorated tomorrow.
    German 1: Private Schnutz, I have bad news for you.
    German 2: Private? I am a general!
    German 1: That is the bad news.


    • #3

      An account of Soloheadbeg from History Ireland a few years ago
      'He died who loved to live,' they'll say,
      'Unselfishly so we might have today!'
      Like hell! He fought because he had to fight;
      He died that's all. It was his unlucky night.


      • #4
        In the early days of the War of Independence, there was a sort of unofficial policy of challenging or calling out for the RIC men to give up and surrender their arms, as many of the local IRA knew them as decent local men, but this soon gave way to "shoot first and ask questions later", in the quest to get as many rifles, automatics and the requisite ammunition as possible. This also applied to ordinary British Army soldiers, many of whom were Irish. This did not apply to Tans or Auxiliaries, who were regarded as hard bastards who gave or recieved no quarter. The RIC soon began to shed men, as they resigned rather than be killed and many fled North or went to the UK. My Grandad fought in both this and the Civil war and reckoned that the latter was nastier and more spiteful and that it broke many families and caused lasting grief.


        • #5
          Any thoughts about this? In my view, it’s no different to any memorials in two years time to the events of the Civil War...

          Justice Minister insists RIC commemoration is not a celebration of the Black and Tans

          Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly
          Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has insisted that a State commemoration for members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) who were killed during the War of Independence is not "a commemoration of the Black and Tans".

          Mr Flanagan's comments come after Fianna Fail Mayor of Clare Cathal Crowe said he would not be attending the commemoration in Dublin Castle because he believed it to be a “betrayal” of those who fought for Irish freedom.

          Meanwhile, the Lord Mayor of Cork City John Sheehan has become the latest politician who says he will boycott a commemoration.

          The Fianna Fail councillor said he feels his attendance would be "inappropriate" as a former holder of his office, Tomás MacCurtain was shot dead by RIC members during the War of Independence.

          Speaking this evening, Mr Flanagan said that the event "is an acknowledgement of the historical importance of both the DMP and RIC".

          He added that it is "in no sense a commemoration of the Black and Tans or the Auxiliaries".

          Mr Flanagan said office holders like mayors and cathaoirligh have been invited as representatives of their county, city or party and not in a personal capacity.

          He said there is "no question but that there are very real sensitivities involved here."

          He said the RIC found itself "on the wrong side of history" and said it should be noted that the vast majority of Irish people that served as army or police officers "did so with honour and integrity".

          Mr Flanagan said: "That is why it is disappointing to see some public representatives abandon the principles of mutual understanding and reconciliation in an effort to gain headlines.

          "This attitude, combined with a distortion of the nature of the commemoration, is ill becoming of any public representative and represents a step backwards to a more narrow-minded past characterised by a hierarchy of Irishness."

          He said there are complexities in Irish history which are highlight when many people research their family background and often discovering ancestors who served in the army or police as well as playing a role in the fight for an Irish Republic or Home Rule.

          Mr Flangan said historian Diarmuid Ferriter and others have highlighted this in his writing noting that Michael Collins’ uncle served in the RIC while the author Sebastian Barry had one grandfather in the British Army and another who was an Irish Republican.

          He added: "The actor Michael Fassbender’s great grandfather was in the RIC while Fassbender is also related to Republican leader Michael Collins.

          "So many other Irish families share this complex history and these facts should be explored and acknowledged as all the threads of our history, within families and as a nation, make us who we are today as a people."

          Mr Flanagan said he is happy to endorse the recommendation of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemoration that the place in history of the RIC and DMP be remembered.

          Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has called on the Government to cancel the event.

          She said: "The Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police were not merely police forces - as the Minister for Justice seems to think - but they had a specific role in upholding what was oftentimes martial law and suppressing the will of the Irish people for self-determination and national independence.

          "In no other State would those who facilitated the suppression of national freedom be commemorated by the State and I am calling on the government to cancel this proposed State commemoration."

          Earlier today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it is “a shame” that some politicians have decided to boycott the State commemoration.

          The Taoiseach said Irish members of the two police forces should be commemorated in the same way as Irish soldiers are remembered for their role in fighting with the British Army in World War One.

          The Taoiseach said 10 or 15 years ago it was “very controversial” to commemorate the deaths of soldiers in World War One as some people believed they should not be remembered because they fought for the British.

          “That has changed,” he said, before adding: “Now we all accept, or almost all of us accept, that it is right and proper to remember Irish people, soldiers, who died in the First World War and I think the same thing really applies to police officers who were killed - Catholic and Protestant alike who were members of the RIC and the DMP.”

          Mr Varadkar said the families of the police officers who were killed are still alive and would like to remember them. “I think it's a shame that people are boycotting it but the Government stands over the decision to hold it (the commemoration),” he added

          In a statement on Sunday, Mr Crowe, who is a Fianna Fail general election candidate, said he had no “ill feeling” towards those who served in the RIC, adding that “many of them were decent people”.

          “I do however think it’s wrong to celebrate and eulogise an organisation that was the strong-arm of the British state in Ireland. The RIC joined army and auxiliaries (Black & Tans) in search parties and raids that resulted in our country-people being killed / tortured or having their homes torched,” he added.

          Meanwhile, Mr Sheehan told that there will be events this year in Cork remembering Thomás MacCurtain and another mayor of the city, Terence McSwiney who died in 1920.

          "The idea that I would go to a commemoration wearing the same chains that he [Mr MacCurtain] wore to commemorate the RIC would be totally inappropriate."

          Mr Sheehan said that's not to take away from individuals who had family members who joined the RIC to "better themselves" or in the belief that they were serving their country.

          "But to commemorate the RIC as an institution given its history in Cork I don’t think would be appropriate," Mr Sheehan added.

          Online Editors
          'He died who loved to live,' they'll say,
          'Unselfishly so we might have today!'
          Like hell! He fought because he had to fight;
          He died that's all. It was his unlucky night.


          • #6
            Head -v- heart

            The Auxiliaries and “Black & Tans” weren’t exactly nice policemen

            But it isn’t exactly the first Time we have remember the dead on the other side

            The whole point is it is supposed to be inclusive of everyone

            If this is causing an issue (I’ve seen someone post a Republican Sinn Fein petition you stop it (bit rich)) imagine what could happen in the lead up to 2022/23


            • #7
              There is already a RIC memorial in Dublin Castle.
              The Auxies and tans were scum pushed into the RIC the Irish police force at the time.


              • #8
                the great thing about the Eu is that it exposes us to other people and their view point and forces us to think differently and challenge our preconceived notions. If we don’t do that we end up like brexiters or national socialists like Mary Lou

                We are talking about people who lived and made decisions 100 years ago, good or bad, handsome or ugly, Rich or poor, they’re all equal now


                • #9
                  Originally posted by sofa View Post
                  There is already a RIC memorial in Dublin Castle.
                  The Auxies and tans were scum pushed into the RIC the Irish police force at the time.
                  They were usually recruited from ex-servicemen and in the case of the Auxiliaries, ex-officers who had served during WW1. (The same people who are commemorated on 11th Nov.)

                  Not defending their actions, just clarifying their origins...
                  Last edited by Flamingo; 7 January 2020, 07:39.
                  'He died who loved to live,' they'll say,
                  'Unselfishly so we might have today!'
                  Like hell! He fought because he had to fight;
                  He died that's all. It was his unlucky night.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sofa View Post
                    There is already a RIC memorial in Dublin Castle.
                    The Auxies and tans were scum pushed into the RIC the Irish police force at the time.
                    In the early 1970s I met my grand aunt who was at the time 94 but remembered as a young child meeting Parnell. She also told me that she had watched as her neighbour seamus quirke was dragged from his bed and shot by RIC men in reprisal for the shooting earlier in the day of a Black and Tan called Edward krumm! an ex soldier from Middlesex of German origins in Galway railway station. She also remembered the funeral of Fr Griffin who was lured to his death by an Irish speaking member of the RIC.

                    At the same time the war of independence is long over nobody remembers those times and we are part of a European wide peace process called the european Union which allows people all over Europe to bury ancestral hatreds, so we don't end up with National socialists like Mary Lou or Nigel farrage in charge, it’s in this spirit we should approach the proposed cermony
                    Last edited by paul g; 7 January 2020, 10:04.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Flamingo View Post
                      They were usually recruited from ex-servicemen and in the case of the Auxiliaries, ex-officers who had served during WW1. (The same people who are commemorated on 11th Nov.)

                      Not defending their actions, just clarifying their origins...
                      In a large part, they were also veterans of WWI, suffering from PTSD, etc. with the resultant problems of alcoholism, depression, mental illnesses. For them to have watched the butchery in the trenches and the callousness shown towards the millions of deaths, I'm surprised that things were not a lot worse. The actions of the Auxiliaries and the Black & Tans should be blamed on the true culprit - the British Government of the day. Then again, some of the Auxies and B&Ts were nothing more than thugs, criminals and opportunists. The same could also be said of some on the Old IRA side - some of the actions of the Old IRA are beyond criminal, but it was war and war before the Geneva Conventions.

                      I can see both sides. I do believe that the RIC in its entirety should be commemorated but it should also lead to a greater understanding of what occurred. History cannot all be one sided and events such as these should be used to educate, and to insure that these events are not forgotten or hijacked.

                      History should be studied by everyone, both what we want to celebrate and what we want to forget, otherwise it will be forgotten.
                      Last edited by Poiuyt; 7 January 2020, 11:02.


                      • #12
                        My father's aunt, 10 years old at the time, was coming home one sunday with her school friend from sunday mass, on a summers day. Her friend was daughter of the village constable, a Kerryman. Soon after the constable arrived to collect his child from the front door of my great Grandfathers pub, in rural west cork.
                        He was shot in the head from close range, and bled to death at the doorstep of our family home. In full view of two small children, one his daughter.
                        He was well liked locally, there are some photos of him about with a VC winner from a neighbouring town, whose family were not known for their imperialist views.
                        It is said he was killed by a criminal whom he had persued for poaching, who used the cloak of the war of independence to settle an old score.
                        I note the shinnerbots on twitter out in force to oppose the move to commemorate (not celebrate) the DMP and RIC. Many seem to forget that the DMP existed as a separate police force after independence. They also chose to ignore that the RIC as individuals, disliked having the squaddie put in police uniform and thrust upon them.
                        But these people would probably also be the same ones complaining about Gardai in riot gear at a "peaceful protest" or armed Gardai outside one of their own "commemorations".
                        It was a war. People died on both sides. Many from the RIC went on to lead the early Garda Siochana. They were not the tans. They were irishmen, serving their community.
                        German 1: Private Schnutz, I have bad news for you.
                        German 2: Private? I am a general!
                        German 1: That is the bad news.


                        • #13
                          I have been thinking about it since the story broke, and would have to wonder what genius in government decided that it would be a good idea to do this in the lead up to a General Election, and didn't have the forcite to see that certain political parties were going jump on the bandwagon.

                          Would it not have made more sense to hold a commemoration in 2022 for the Disbandment of the RIC and creation of the Civic Guard, and then hold another on in 2025 for the amalgamation of the DMP into An Garda Síochána.
                          It was the year of fire...the year of destruction...the year we took back what was ours.
                          It was the year of rebirth...the year of great sadness...the year of pain...and the year of joy.
                          It was a new age...It was the end of history.
                          It was the year everything changed.


                          • #14
                            Or an exhibition or something



                            • #15
                              And yet Mary loo turns up each year to "Honour" the Nazi collaborator sean Russell in Fairview park