Derry’s role in the War for Independence-Part 6

The Black and Tans were an auxiliary police force that brought terror tactics to the country.
The Black and Tans were an auxiliary police force that brought terror tactics to the country.
  • Sinn Fein won a resounding victory in the 1918 General Election
  • The Black and Tans were sent in as auxiliary police force
  • The suppresssion of the campaign for independence was underway

The British Government became alarmed at the solidarity and determination of the Irish people and after being warned of the consequences of such a step they hesitated and at last withdrew the threat of conscription in Ireland. The Irish people by their unity had scored another smashing blow against the British Government’s plan to rid itself of the Irish.

The 1918 General Election

With a large number of leading Sinn Feiners in jail and hundreds on the run throughout the country a general election came on and every ounce of energy was needed as the Sinn Fein party were fighting an uphill fight. But the people of Ireland were determined. They were finished with parliamentarianism and no longer would they wait on the crumbs that fall from the tables of Westminster.

The time had come for the Irish to show the world that they demanded their God-given right to live as a free people in their own Irish way without dictation from England or anyone else.

Workers were flocking to the Sinn Fein Clubs, sparing no pains and working day and night under the most handicapped conditions. They succeeded in building one of the greatest election machines that the country had ever seen.

In Derry Eoin MacNeill was selected as Republican candidate and his Unionist opponent was Sir Robert Anderson. Two great meetings were held in St. Columb’s Hall. Eamon MacDermott presided at the first and Rev. (now Monsignor) Lawrence Hegarty at the second at which a letter was read from the Bishop, Most Rev. Dr. McHugh, urging united support for the Republican candidate. Election addresses were sent to everyone on the Register no matter what his or her political opinions. On election day Sinn Fein had plenty of cars and every booth was fully manned. The Tricolour flew freely in the city. Scores of Cumann na mBann were helping at the booths. MacNeill had a sweeping victory.

The Black and Tans burned Cork City in reprisal for the killing of one and the wounding of eleven of their men in December, 1920.

The Black and Tans burned Cork City in reprisal for the killing of one and the wounding of eleven of their men in December, 1920.

North Donegal

In the election for North Donegal Joe O’Doherty, an officer of Derry Volunteers and a member of the Governing Committee of the Volunteers for all Ireland, was returned by a majority of 3,928 over the sitting Parliamentary member. When the election was over and the results from the whole country were returned the Republicans of Derry went into jubilation and a victory ceilidhe was held. Ireland has shown that she stood by the Republic proclaimed by the heroes of Easter Week. Sinn Fein, the Republican Party, had an over-whelming victory over all other parties.

The people turned out, in spite of intimidation to vote. Of the 105 seats Sinn Fein won 73. No country on earth had been so united as Ireland in its expressed claim to Sovereign Independence. The Proclamation of Pearse, Plunkett, Connolly, Clarke and the others had been endorsed by the Irish people. In January 1919, the first Dail met in the Mansion House, Dublin. Twenty-seven of the representatives were present. The rest were in jail or ‘on the run.’

I.R.A. Defend Republic

One of the first meetings of Dail Eireann in 1919.

One of the first meetings of Dail Eireann in 1919.

The British Government used every method to prevent the Dail from functioning but failed hopelessly. Republican Courts were set up and judges and justices appointed to carry out the law which was administered to the satisfaction of all sections of the population. A police force was recruited which carried out the normal duties of detecting crime, apprehending criminals and bringing them before the courts. They also traced and returned to the rightful owner stolen property.

A loan was floated to raise funds for the various Government schemes. £400,000 was subscribed in spite of the fact that the British Government had declared Dail Eireann an illegal assembly and made it a crime to advertise. collect or subscribe to the Loan.

The Irish Republican Army came under the control of Dail Eireann and the Minister for Defence. They became the guardians of the Government. When the British Government declared a state of war against the elected Government of the people, the I.R.A. could not stand idly by. Counter-measures had to be adopted. Attacks on police barracks became frequent and the flames of war spread to the four corners of Ireland. The I.R.A. realising what they were up against, prepared to meet the onslaught with an unflinching faith that right would triumph over might. With such a spirit they met the foe in many a battle and their courage and faith brought them victory. All National Organisations were declared illegal by the British Government. Public meetings were proclaimed and the numbers of raids, arrests, imprisonments and deportations were increasing until they reached momentous proportions. Fairs and markets were suppressed in many counties.

Britain’s Reign of Terror

Sinn Fein election poster for the 1918 General Election.

Sinn Fein election poster for the 1918 General Election.

The coming of the Black-and-Tans added fuel to the fire. This force was recruited from the slums of English cities and was given a free hand. ‘The more you kill the better we’ll like you’ seemed to have been the order of the day.

The Black-and-Tans carried it out without qualms of conscience. Curfew was imposed and everyone had to be indoors at nightfall, leaving the forces of the British Crown free to carry out their wanton attacks on defenceless women and children.

Doors were battered in and the occupants dragged from their beds in the middle of cold wintry nights, shivering, while the British Forces ransacked their homes. Innocent people were brutally murdered and sometimes their mangled bodies were thrown into drains or ditches as if they were not human beings at all. Then we had the systematic destruction of creameries, mills and stores and the wrecking, looting and fires that turned many an Irish city, village and town Into a blackened shambles.

Hierarchy’s condemnation

On October 19, 1920, the hierarchy at Maynooth passed a resolution condemning the British Administration in Ireland as characterised by terror and failure.

They declared outrages had been connived at and encouraged if not organised, not by obscure or irresponsible individuals but by the Government. They stated that men had been tortured with barbarous cruelty and that there were cases where young women were torn undressed from their mothers at the dead of night. They demanded a full inquiry into the facts and demanded for Ireland self-determination.

The Royal Irish Constabulary became embroiled in the fight against the IRA as well.

The Royal Irish Constabulary became embroiled in the fight against the IRA as well.

The British Government were pouring troops into the country with the intention of carrying on the war on a more extensive scale. There were more soldiers in Ireland than ever before. It was reliably estimated that Ireland then contained practically the whole of the British Home Garrison. It was stated that there were in Ireland eleven Brigades of Infantry constituting the command of four Major Generals, together with the requisite Artillery, Cavalry, Engineers and departmental forces. It was even said that the staff of the First Division at Aldershot had been transferred to Ireland. Thousands of raids and arrests were taking place. Curfew on an intensive and rigorous scale was imposed, and whole areas had been placed under Martial Law. Barricades were erected and the movements of people and trade were restricted.

The number of executions and nightly murders was ever increasing and the sky was reddened at night by the destructive fires started to terrorise the Irish people into subjection. There was also a wholesale destruction of food supplies with the main purpose of forcing a famine.

Events moved swiftly. The barbaric methods of England only served to unite the Irish people more closely together and to increase their determination, come what may, to continue the fight until the British Forces were driven from the land. Guerilla tactics were brought up to date and new methods of attack were carried out with great success. British Forces were being harrowed everywhere and there were constant attacks which kept them long hours on duty and gave them practically no rest. They were in such a nervous state that they seemed ready to crack up. The Republican Forces inflicted heavy losses upon them.

Ambushing of patrols and convoys became a constant occurrence. Surprise attacks were carried out with such thoroughness and great courage on the part of the Republican Forces that British Crown Forces were surrounded and dis-armed after a short fight. Prisoners were sometimes taken and were well treated by the Republican soldiers who released them in a few days, as was the case of Brig.-General Lucas captured near Fermoy. But when the British Forces captured prisoners they were court-martialled and executed for waging war against England’s king. The British Government used all classes of lying in their efforts to blacken Ireland’s name among the Nations of the earth but, in spite of their vast propaganda net, the truth of their doings leaked out and their own friends condemned them for their methods.

Next week...English politicians react against British actions in Ireland.