The Irish Civil War

by Mackenzie Chalfin and Julianna Burns

Precursor Events

  • Act of Union: (1800) Ireland merged with Britain to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; As a result, Ireland lost its parliament in Dublin and it was governed by a united parliament in London.

  • The Fenian Movement: (1850) The Fenian movement, also known as the Irish Republican Brotherhood group was created in spite of the signing of the Act of Union. This was a small, secret revolutionary body committed to the use of force to establish a independent Irish republic. They organized many uprisings in Irish Government sites, Canada, and England. However, none were effective until they created a sister group, the Irish Volunteers.
  • Irish Volunteers: (1913) Leaders of the Fenian Movement joined together to create this group. This group also believed in liberating Ireland from the United Kingdom and with that, forming a republic. This secret group did not become public until the following year, after their first successful revolt.
  • Easter Rising: (Easter Monday 1916)Irish Nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic and led a rebellion of nearly 1,600 people against the British Government in Ireland. The rebels seized buildings in Dublin and clashed with British troops. Within a week, the insurrection had been suppressed and more than 2,000 people were dead or injured. The leaders of the rebellion soon were executed. Not long after, the Irish supported the rebellion and hailed the leaders as martyrs . Patrick Pearse (one of the leaders) read a proclamation declaring Ireland an Independent republic and stating that provisional government had been appointed.
  • Sinn Fein Party Wins General Election(1918): The Sinn Fein party (those who were nationalists) won the General Election and created their own parliament, the Dail Eireann, but Britain was upset with this. As a result of Britain feeling threatened by this new parliament, they tried to compromise, which only led to another war.
  • The Irish War for Independence: (1919-1921)This war was the result of the conflict between Ireland and Britain based on the different opinions of the new parliament. It ended when Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith negotiated the Anglo-Irish treaty with Britain.
  • Anglo-Irish Treaty: (December 6th, 1921) This treaty was between Irish and British negotiators, it determined the shape of 20th century Ireland. Eamon de Valera was president of the Irish Republic and engaged in lots of negotiations with the British but did not want to be included in writing up the official settlement. This treaty promised three main points, “First, the unity of Ireland, second, the degree of independence an Irish government would have, and third the relationship of an Irish State to the British Empire.”. Essentially, they promised peace between Ireland and Britain. Irish representatives signed hoping Ireland would consider it a step towards independence. Those who opposed the treaty said it abandoned the Irish republic and went against what they believed.
  • After listing all of the precursor events, I noticed a comparison between the United States' civil war and Ireland's. Both countries wished to again become unified after breaking up, however Ireland never again came together.

Issues; Comparison

The United States Civil War was fought over slavery and the different views of the North and South whereas the Irish Civil War was fought for independence from Britain. Republican Ireland (26 southern counties of southern Ireland was free from Britain) disagreed with Anglo-Irish Treaty that would keep Northern Ireland and Republic Ireland apart (northern remaining under British rule). Northern Ireland supported it and this lead to the conflict that sparked the civil war.

Resources and Technology

Advances in weapons and other forms of artillery helped both sides of the war in their attacks. They used weapons like bombs (used when the Dublin court was bombed) and a variety of guns:

  • I.G. (Infanterie-Gewehr) Mod 71 German Mauser

  • Colt Model .32 Pocket Pistol

  • Krag-Jorgensen, standard US Army Rifle.

  • SMLE or Short, Magazine, Lee-Enfield No.1 Mark

  • Model 1871/88 Dutch Beaumont-Vitali rifle

  • Lewis Machine Gun

  • Webley Revolver

  • Mauser C96

  • British 18-pounder, Quick Fire Gun

These were all new, innovative guns at the time and were invented shortly before or during the war.


The Unionists had a strong alliance with Britain. This is because the Unionists were still loyal to England and still chose to abide by their rules. They opposed the treaty due to the fact that they enjoyed being ruled by Britain and felt safer in terms of beliefs and religion, Britain being This led to a strong advantage because it is evident that Britain’s strong army was able to ultimately overrule the IRA (Irish Republican Army). As for the IRA, since they were pressing for an independent republic, they did not have any alliances.

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Arms & Army

IRA: We believe that Republic Ireland, the Nationalist, Pro-Treaty group had an advantage due to their large size. They were more than double the size of Northern Ireland and the large amount of troops they had fighting for their side overpowered Northern Ireland. The Nationalists had a troop called the Irish Republican Army (IRA). The IRA was created in 1919 as successors of the Irish Volunteers. They wished to use armed forces to render British Rule in Ireland. The members of the IRA overlap with those involved with Sinn Fein. The Irish Republican Army ruled under Michael Collins and employed guerilla tactics including ambushes, raids, and sabotage- all in order to force a negotiation with Britain.

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Patrick Pearse- Led Irish volunteers to rebellion on Easter Monday

James Connolly- Led a smaller group (the Irish Citizens Army) which contributed to Pearse’s efforts. Both Pearse and Connolly proclaimed the Irish Republic and seized the Dublin City Center

Eamon de Valera- was a leader in the rebellion on Easter Monday; stood as a Sinn Fein candidate; Sinn Fein established an independent parliament to govern ireland, he was declared President of this new parliament, participated greatly in coming up with the Anglo-Irish Treaty (did not compose final document) (Dail Eireann)


Michael Collins: An Irish soldier and politician who was one of the leading figures in the fight for Irish independence. He advocated for pro-treaty signing.

Sir Henry Wilson: a 1st baronet field marshal serving for the British army. He was one of the senior officers during world war two and was briefly an Irish politician.

Sean Hales: an Irish pro-treaty unionist who served as a politician/political activist. He was an active member of Dáil Eireann and was assassinated during the war.

Leaders like Eamon de Valera can be compared to Robert E. Lee. With their well respected and honorable tone many people look up to them. Although Sean Hales was not exactly a founding father of Ireland, he did have a major contribution as a politician. Much like Abraham Lincoln, Hales was a political activists. Also, it was their beliefs that ultimately got them assassinated.

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During the nineteenth century in Ireland, there was an abundance of civil unrest between the Protestants and Catholics. It was in this century that these two religions divided into two over the home rule bill. Most Irish Catholics desired complete independence from Britain. On the other hand, Protestants feared living in a country with a massive amount of Catholic rule. Besides the fact, it was the roaring twenties in the United Kingdom. While the civil war flourished, not many sat and watched as they did during the American civil war. However, there was an economic struggle as there was no set central government due to the constant change and bickering between England and Ireland. But, after the jazz-era and after the war is fought and politicians are able to focus on starting a government. Soon, Southern Ireland would prove itself as its own country with a functioning government.