It was a great pleasure to be asked to speak in the National Library of Ireland on Tuesday 21 January 2020. This was the first lecture in a series of planned events that the NLI have for 2020 and the topic was the IRA’s Guerrilla Campaign 1919-21. Seven o’clock on a Tuesday, you wouldn’t expect many people to turn up but we had a full house of enthusiastic history lovers.
Using a power point with heaps of images from the NLI I worked my way from the Fenians up to 1916 and the development of the IRA. We examined all of the main events of the War of Independence and took a look at the Black and Tans, Auxiliaries and British Army too. We looked at the contribution women made, the tactics of the Flying Columns and the political efforts of Sinn Féin. We spoke about Tom Barry and Kilmichael and the battle of Clonmult when the Tans shot eight IRA Volunteers after they surrendered. One of those lads who was shot survived. Pat Higgins was his name. Then the British Army sentenced him to be executed but he was reprieved when the Truce came in July 1921.
Often missed in these talks is the events that were going on in the northern part of our nation so I explained the expulsions from the shipyards at the start of Belfast Pogroms, which saw 470 people killed between 1920 and 1922, the foundation of the hated A,B and C Ulster Special Constabulary and the effects of the Government of Ireland Act in 1920 which split our nation into two.
There was an interested Q & A at the end where two people, one from Armagh and one from Antrim, said they lived through the same comparable terror that the Black and Tans rained on the Irish in 1920-21, only this time it was the B Specials. I spoke a little about Ireland’s Future which is an organisation that I am involved with and our desire to see a Citizens Assembly established to discuss the best way to bring about a Border Poll and a United Ireland. Great contributions from the floor and fine questions (probably answered poorly) but no one came up to berate me at the end so it must have been okay! I hope to do this talk again in 2020 a few more times so if anyone is interested in hosting it for your historical society or library give me a shout.
Thanks to Brid O’Sullivan for organising the talk and for the lovely poster.