The Civil War 1922 – 1923

Talks to find a solution began in Downing Street in London and ended in December 1921 when representatives of the Dáil signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The Treaty said that:

  • North and South Ireland would be partitioned.
  • Ireland would be called the 'Irish Free State' and a dominion of the British Commonwealth.
  • King George V would be Head of State.
  • Dáil would take Oath of Allegiance (a promise taken, often holding a bible or sacred text, to be loyal to the authority, monarch, etc.)
  • Royal Navy would keep three ports in Ireland.

Over the next months the British prepared to leave Ireland and hand over control to the Dáil Éireann.

Back in Ireland, a huge debate started over whether to accept or reject the Treaty.

  • The Dáil voted; 64 voted in favour, 57 against.
  • Eamon De Valera resigned as President and his supporters announced that they would not recognise the new Irish Free State.
  • The IRA also split into supporters of the Treaty under Michael Collins, 'The Regulars' and those who rejected it, 'The Irregulars'.
  • It was clear that a Civil War was near.

Public support for the Treaty was clear after pro-treaty candidates won an Irish general election in June 1922.

The conflict begins

  • In April 1922, the Irregulars occupied Dublin’s main court buildings which Michael Collins ordered to be bombed.
  • By July 1922, the Free State was in control of the Capital.
  • As the summer progressed, the better-equipped Regulars pushed the Irregulars out of the towns and cities.
  • In August 1922 the new state suffered two major loses. President Arthur Griffith died and 10 days later, Michael Collins was ambushed and killed.
  • In the north, Protestants and Catholics fought each other in a vicious sectarian war, which had begun in April 1920. It raged on until the end of 1922.
  • The new leadership of the Free State were much tougher. They arrested anti-treaty figures and had them hanged without trial.
  • In April 1923, the leader of the Irregulars was killed and his successor called on troops to surrender.
  • On 24th May, the Civil War ended.

Impact of The Civil War

  • 4,000 people were killed.
  • Damage was caused to property to the cost of 4 billion Euros (in today’s money).
  • The cost on the new state nearly bankrupted it.
  • It divided the country for almost 30 years - both sides never forgot the bitterness.