December 18, 2015


Oxford English Dictionary: frightfulness2. b. Used during the War of 1914–18 to render G. schrecklichkeit, implying a deliberate policy of terrorizing the enemy (esp. non-combatants) as a military resource.

From The Irish Republic, by Dorothy Macardle (1937, 1938, 1951):

[Note:  These excerpts describing the frightfulness of the English war against the Irish Republic (declared by Dáil Éireann, representing a sweeping majority of the people, on January 21, 1919) are only illustrative and by no means exhaustive, and they do not include the pogroms in Ulster, particularly in Belfast and Derry, to drive Catholics out of their jobs, businesses, and homes (which did not abate after the truce and increased after approval of the free state treaty and partition).]

[Also see:  Ireland in Insurrection, by Hugh Martin (1921).]

* * * * *

A new phase of the hostilities opened in September in County Cork. Here the Volunteers were well led and well armed. Liam Lynch was Commandant of the Cork Number Two Brigade. In Fermoy, on the 7th [1919], with men of his brigade, he attacked a British military party on its way to Church and a soldier was killed. On the following day about two hundred British Regulars were let loose on the town and sacked and looted shops, doing damage estimated at about £3,000.

* * * * *

Dublin Castle employed both troops and police during the autumn [of 1919] in a campaign of incessant activity designed to make life impossible for a population resistant to British rule. They were employed to suppress or break up all the innumerable activities which Dublin Castle had proclaimed. They dispersed meetings, markets and fairs; classes in the Irish language; concerts were “seditious” recitations or national songs might be expected to be part of the programme; exhibitions of Irish produce; sittings of the Commission of Inquiry on Industrial Resources which had been organised by the Dáil; hurling matches or other games which had been organised by the Gaelic Athletic Association. They combined in searching a raiding private houses. They visited printing-presses and dismantled the machinery. They carried out searches for persons suspected of Republican sympathies, and if such persons were were found in possession of Republican literature, conveyed them in armed lorries to jail, where they were detained without charge or trial for an indefinite time, or tried by stipendiary magistrates of courts martial.

On September 5th John O’Sheehan of Roscommon was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for singing The Felons of Our Land. On September 26th P. O’Keeffe, member of Dáil Éireann for North cork, received a sentence of two years for a seditious speech. Numbers of of Republicans were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for reading at meetings the manifesto of Sinn Féin.

Every day had its tale of aggression, only a small fraction which was reported in the censored Press. A typical day – October 27th – showed ten houses raided in county Tipperary; a Cork man arrested for having his possession a copy of the prospectus of the Dáil Éireann Loan; a County Meath man sentenced by court martial to twelve months’ imprisonment for being in possession of a revolver, ammunition and seditious documents; a farmers’ meeting suppressed by police and military accompanied by tanks.

The next day’s list showed the machinery of the Southern Star dismantled; a Cork man sentenced for possession of seditious literature; a hurling match stopped by police and military at Limerick; a boy of fourteen short and seriously wounded by soldiers in county Mayo. On the following day Miss Brigid O’Mullane was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment, charged with incitement; a priest was deported, a many sentenced by court martial. On September 20th all Republican Papers were suppressed.

The number of raids on private houses reported in the censored Press during the nine months ending on September 30th was 5,588. … The troops which had sacked Fermoy in September were removed to Cork. There, on November 10th, the soldiers sacked and looted nearly every shop in the principal street of the city. Similar destruction by the military took place in Kinsale and Athlone.

The number of raids on private houses carried out by Crown forces during the years 1917, 1918 and 1919 was computed to amount to 12,589.

Within two weeks in October twenty-two journals which carried notices of the Dáil Loan were suppressed.

On November 25th a Proclamation was issued by which Sinn Féin, the Volunteers, Cumann na mBan and the Gaelic League were suppressed in twenty-seven counties. On the same day Noel Lemass was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour for being in possession of arms. Five days earlier F. Leonard, a Unionist of Enniskillen, for the same offence had been fined 2s. 6d.

* * * * *

The British régime of suppression was now intensified. Thurles in County Tipperary was a scene of violent police reprisals on January 20th. Outside the town on that morning a constable was shot dead. During the night, police and military rushed through the town, smashing windows, firing shots into houses and throwing hand-grenades into the premises of the local newspaper. They “shot up” about ten houses, including the houses of four newly elected councillors. …

During the month of January over one thousand raids by the Crown forces and two hundred and twenty arrests of Republicans were reported by the daily Press. In the four weeks of February raids numbered over four thousand and arrests two hundred and ninety-six. …

“Frightfulness” was now a definite feature of the British policy; another feature was a systematic attack on the economic life of the country, and particularly on all branches of the reconstructive efforts organised by Dáil Éireann and Sinn Féin. …

An effective blow had been struck at the economic life of the countryside by the suppression of fairs and markets in places under military law. … People coming to market with their produce were turned back. In February an old farmer, Thomas Caplis, on his way to the cattle fair at Nenagh, was arrested, charged with illegal assembly, and sentenced to one month’s imprisonment. …

The unofficial reprisals by police and military in the form of sabotage continued unchecked. Thurles was shot up again on March 1st and on March 7th. On March 12th, in Cork, houses were wrecked by troops. …

Two days after the murder of Tomás Mac Curtáin [Lord Mayor of Cork] soldiers in Dublin shot a young man and a a girl, killing both. On March 29th, in Thurles, J. McCarthy was murdered by police in his own home, and on the 30th, T. Dwyer of The Ragg, County Tipperary, was murdered in his bed by police.

* * * * *

In the late spring [1920] Ireland was full of troops. … The troops and police … tore through the streets and roads of Ireland in armoured cars and lorries, which sometimes carried machine guns; the men were in a savage condition of nervousness, expecting an ambush at every corner. They carried rifles at the ready and sometimes shot recklessly at people on the roads. …

Already, between January and June, besides the armed Volunteers who had fallen in combat thirteen unarmed people had be killed by indiscriminate firing by the Crown forces, five had been deliberately killed by them, and one hundred and seventy-two persons wounded. Fifteen reprisals on towns and villages had been carried out in these six months. ([footnote] January 22nd: Thurles, County Tipperary, sacked by troops. February 27th: three houses in Dublin wrecked by troops. March 1st: Thurles, County Tipperary, partially wrecked by troops. March 7th: several houses in Thurles, County Tipperary, wrecked by troops. March 12th: many houses in Cork City wrecked by police. March 22nd: many shop windows in Dublin wrecked by troops. April 17th: Bouladuff, County Tipperary, shot up by police. April 26th: Kilcommon, County Tipperary, partially wrecked by police. April 27th: many houses in Limerick City shot up by police. May 1st: Limerick City shot up by police. May 13th: houses at Thurles, County Tipperary, fired and bombed by police. May 15th: houses at Bantry, County cork, wrecked by police. May 18th: Limerick city shot up by police. May 19th: Kilcommon, County Tipperary, shot up by police. May 28th: Kilmallock, County Limerick, sacked by police.)

* * * * *

Between June 23rd and 28th acts of destruction by police occurred in Bantry, Limerick, Newcastlewest and Kilcommon. On July 1st, in Limerick City, newspaper offices were wrecked and fired by police. On July 3rd police shot up Union Hall, County Cork. Between July 6th and 22nd they bombed and wrecked houses in county Limerick and Arklow, shops and houses in Tralee, County Kerry, Ballagh, County Roscommon and Leap, County Cork. They fired into houses in Ballina, Galbally and cork City, wrecked a creamery at Emly and a National Foresters’ Hall at Enniscorthy. On July 20th the town of Tuam in county Galway was savagely sacked by drunken constables.

* * * * *

Less “haphazard” was the sabotage of Irish industrial life carried on during the Summer. Creameries had been wrecked during April; others were destroyed during July; now the destruction of the co-operative creameries, mills and bacon factories was systematised; two were burned down on August 6th, one on the 10th, others on the 16th and 17th. On August 22nd, one of the largest creameries in Ireland, that at Knocklong in County Limerick, was destroyed by bombs which were thrown into the engine-room by men of the R.I.C. …

[T]he police as well as the troops became increasingly reckless and savage. If, when raiding for a marked Republican, they failed to find him, they sometimes shot his father or brother instead. At Bantry, in August, a hunchback boy was murdered in this way.

In Hospital, County Limerick, on the night of August 14th soldiers came to the house of a man of forty named Patrick Lynch, ordered him to go with them and killed him the Fair Green. They “wanted” another Lynch, it was believed.

On the 27th, Seán and Batt Buckley, young volunteers, were captured in their home by Cameron Highlanders, guided by a policeman. They were handcuffed, placed on the floor of a lorry and driven along the road to Cork. When in the lorry both were shot, Seán fatally. “Shot while attempting to escape,” was the official formula used to cover the murders of arrested men. …

The Regulations made by the British Administration in Ireland under the new [Restoration of Order in Ireland] Act were promulgated on August 21st. They relieved the military forces in Ireland of almost all the restraints of law. … The British preparations for the final phase of the reconquest of Ireland were almost complete: the Irish nation had been outlawed; members of the Government’s forces had been indemnified in advance for excesses against Republicans; their campaign of terror had been categorically legalised.

On September 3rd, coroners’ inquests were abolished in ten counties and replaced by secret military courts of inquiry. With the following three weeks eighteen murders of unarmed persons were traced to the forces of the Crown.

* * * * *

The military conflict was growing more violent, and especially in the west. During September ambushes and reprisals were frequent; villages were “shot up”; houses of Republicans were destroyed by police and soldiers, there were fatalities on both sides.

… On September 20th, men of the Constabulary, Military, and Black and Tans wrecked houses in Carrick-on-Shannon and in Tuam. On the same night it was the turn of Drumshambo and Galway City, and Tuam was attacked again. On the 22nd, in County Clare, shops and houses were wrecked and ricks set on fire; Lahinch, Ennistymon, and Miltown-Malbay suffered reprisals and three young men were murdered. On the same night John Lynch of Kilmallock, a member of the Limerick County Council and Director of Elections for Sinn Féin, was murdered by military in his room in a Dublin hotel. …

Twenty-five houses in the village [of Balbriggan] were destroyed that night [of September 20th] and the smaller [hosiery] factory burnt out. The people fled to the country and lay hiding in ditches and barns. … Within the week following the sack of Balbriggan, destruction of the same kind was carried out by the police in the south, the midlands and the west. In Trim, a small market town in County Meath, Auxiliaries did damage estimated at £50,000. In Mallow, County Cork, as a reprisal for a successful attack on the barracks, military wrecked the Town Hall, did damage to the value of £200,000, and shot and wounded two men. In towns and villages in almost every county of Ireland now, people whose homes had been deliberately wrecked by the Crown forces were living in stables and barns.

* * * * *

On the day on which Kevin Barry was hanged in Dublin [November 1st, 1920] Ellen Quinn was shot dead in County Galway by police. She was sitting on her garden wall in Kiltartan with a child in her arms when they came tearing past in a lorry and fired. The only investigation made was a military inquiry at which the firing was found to have been “a precautionary measure.”

On the following day Thomas Wall of Tralee was killed by Crown forces; on the 4th John and Tom O’Brien of Nenagh were killed. … On the 5th the Crown forces killed Miss O’Connell and Michael Maguire of Ardfert; on the 6th William Mulcahy of Cork; on the 8th John Cantillon and Michael Brosnan in County Kerry; on the 10th Christopher Lucy of Cork and Frank Hoffman in County Kerry; on the 12th P. McMahon, J. Walsh and John Herlihy of Ballymacelligott. On the 13th, in Dublin, Annie O’Neill, aged eight, was killed when shots were fired from a lorry into a group standing in a gateway. A week later the body of another of their victims, Father Michael Griffin, was found in a Galway bog.

In the Intelligence Room of Dublin Castle ill-treatment and even torture of prisoners was being resorted to in the effort to secure information. …

Seventeen Irishmen were murdered in October … The number of Irish men and women killed by Crown forces during the month of November, other than the Volunteers killed in action, was thirty-three.

Among the operations conducted by the British forces in Ireland during November was the sacking of Granard in County Longford by men who arrived in eleven lorries with bombs and petrol and set four shops ablaze, and of Tralee in County Kerry where uniformed men came out of the police barracks armed with crowbars and hatchets, rifles and revolvers and supplies of petrol, and attacked the home of Republicans.

* * * * *

In Cork city on the following night [December 11th] fires broke out. They broke out first in Patrick Street, the principal business street of the city. On after another the shops blazed up. Later in the night, across the river, about a quarter of a mile away, the City Hall burst into flames. This hall, the centre of the Municipal Government, and the Free Library adjacent to it were completely demolished. The Fire Brigade was impotent against the terrific conflagration. Two members of the Brigade were wounded by bullets while at work. The damage done in that one night was estimated as between two and three million pounds. The streets were full, all night, of military and police.

On the following morning what had been the main thoroughfare of the city was nothing but a scene of wreckage and smouldering debris. Thousands of people had been thrown out of work. …

On the 14th a Proclamation was issued by the British Military Authorities in the counties under Martial Law to the effect that after December 27th any person convicted by a Military Court of certain offences would be liable to suffer death. The offences included the possession of arms, ammunition of explosives; wearing Irish Volunteer uniform or “clothing likely to deceive” and “harbouring and aiding or abetting” rebels – an offence with which nearly every member of nearly every family in Munster was chargeable at this time. …

On December 26th police broke into a dance hall at Bruff, County Limerick, and killed five young men and wounded seventeen.

The number of unarmed persons killed by Crown Forces in Ireland during the twelve months of 1920 reached two hundred and three; this included six women and twelve children under seventeen years of age. Sixty-nine were persons deliberately killed in the streets or their own homes; thirty-six were men killed while in custody; the rest were victims of indiscriminate firing by the Military and Police.

* * * * *

On New Year’s Day, 1921, seven householders in Midleton, Co Cork, received notice from the British Military authorities that in one hour’s time their houses would be destroyed. They had permission to remove valuable but not furniture. An ambush had been carried out in the neighbourhood and the inhabitants, it was officially stated, had “neglected to give information to the military and police.”

… By a proclamation of January 3rd [Major-General Strickland, Military Governor of Cork], commanded the people to refuse food and shelter, aid and comfort, to the Irish Volunteers, and to report to the British authorities any person suspected of being in possession of arms. Citizens failing to obey were to be prosecuted by Court Martial or “dealt with summarily.” An attitude of neutrality, the Proclamation stated, “is inconsistent with loyalty and will render the person liable under the order.”

The first execution under the new ordinance took place on February 1st, when Cornelius Murphy, charged with being in possession of a revolver and seven rounds of ammunition. was shot. His brother was arrested for failing to inform against him. … Internment camps, capable of holding thousands of prisoners, were set up at Ballykinlar, Gormanston and elsewhere. …

On February 28th, John Allen and five other young Irishmen, sentenced by Court Martial for possession of arms, were executed by shooting in Cork. …

Outside the Martial Law areas, also, executions continued. On March 14th, in Dublin, six Republican prisoners were hanged.

* * * * *

At Clonmult in County Cork, in February, a party of fifteen Volunteers was surrounded in a cottage by Auxiliaries and troops. They resisted, firing from windows, for about two hours, until the thatch was set ablaze. A military officer then called on them to surrender, promising that they would be properly treated, and the fifteen men came out, unarmed, with their hands up. The Auxiliaries fell on them, “like wild beasts,” one Volunteer said afterwards, killed nine of them, wounded five and tore from the dead and wounded watches, pens, religious medals, shouting and cursing the whole time. … Six of the Volunteers who had survived the surrender at Clonmult were court martialled and sentenced to death.

… In Limerick, in one night during Curfew hours, three of the leading citizens were killed – George Clancy, the Mayor; the former Mayor, Michael O’Callahan, and Joseph O’Donoghue.

… On April 25th Thomas Traynor was hanged in Mountjoy, and on the 28th four Volunteers, Patrick Sullivan, Patrick Roynane, Thomas Mulcahy and Maurice Moore, were executed by shooting in Cork. Patrick Casey was executed in Cork on the 2nd May and Dan O’Brien on the 16th.

* * * * *

The British Military, on the plea that a state of war was raging in Ireland, were hanging and shooting their prisoners. … Thomas Keane was shot in Limerick on June 4th. On June 7th, Edward Foley and Patrick Maher, charged with the shooting of a sergeant at Knocklong in May, 1919, were hanged.

Twenty-four Irish Volunteers were executed between November and June. In the first half of the year – between January and June, 1921 – Republicans killed, untried, while in custody were believed to number one hundred and thirty-one, and the people killed by indiscriminate firing to include seventeen children, five women and sixteen men.

The total number killed on the Irish side since the first meeting of Dáil Éireann in January, 1919, including civilians and volunteers, was estimated at about seven hundred. ([footnote] Between January 1st, 1919, and July 12th, 1921, 752 killed and 866 wounded. Estimate probably below the actual figure as numerous casualties were never reported.)

The unequal combat was rendered more unequal by the difference between the attitude to prisoners on the two sides. More than eight hundred members of the British Forces, captured by the I.R.A. between January, 1919, and June, 1921, were released unhurt; but, while the Volunteers, proud of their cause and eager to show themselves its worthy soldiers, were scrupulous in their treatment of captured combatants, no such ideal hampered the British Auxiliaries. An example of the difference which impressed English as well as Irish observers was the case of Commandant Seán McKeon.

Commandant McKeon, whose columns were active in County Longford, received a warning that he was to be shot at sight. On January 7th he saw police closing round Miss Martin’s cottage where he was living. In order to avert a fight in the house he rushed out, firing. there was an exchange of shots; District Inspector McGrath of the R.I.C. was fatally shot and Seán McKeon escaped. The Police seized five women as hostages and burned the cottage.

On February 2nd McKeon ambushed a reprisal party in lorries near Ballinalee; after a fight lasting three quarters of an hour, in which two Auxiliaries and a District Inspector of Police were killed, the surviving fifteen, of whom eight were wounded, surrendered and laid down their arms. The uninjured prisoners were released and given one of the captured lorries in order that they might convey their wounded comrades to hospital.

A month later, Commandant McKeon was captured and handcuffed; attempting to escape he was shot and wounded; he was recaptured and beaten with rifle butts. While in prison he was elected a member of Dáil Éireann for Longford and Westmeath. On June 14th he was charged before a Field General Court Martial in Dublin with the murder of District Inspector McGrath and sentenced to be hanged.

* * * * *

Truce: July 11, 1921

“Free State” treaty (with partition and loyalty to King):
  • Signed, under threat of immediate and merciless war of “re-conquest” and without consultation with Dublin: December 6, 1921
  • Ratified by U.K. Parliament: December 16
  • Approved (narrowly) by Dáil Éireann: January 7th, 1922
Constance (Countess) Markiewicz:  “It is the capitalists’ interests in England and Ireland that are pushing this Treaty to block the march of the working people in England and Ireland.”

January 14, 1922:  Southern Parliament (remainder of Dáil Éireann for 26 counties) approves treaty, selects a Provisional Government for transfer of British Powers; Provisional Government starts usurping powers and funds of Dáil Éireann and the Republic as well, including the abolition of Republican courts on July 25 in Dublin and on October 27 in the rest of the country

July 28:  Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith, at bidding and with support of English, attack the Republican Army in Dublin

August 11:  Last Republican-controlled town taken

August 12:  Arthur Griffith dies

August 22:  Michael Collins killed

October 25:  Republican Army and Éamon de Valera form a new Dáil Éireann; Free State constitution passed by Provisional Government

September 27:  Army Emergency Powers enacted by the Provisional Government to allow its forces to operate without law

October 10:  Irish Bishops condemn anti-Treaty Republicans, denying them communion

October 15:  Military Courts begin: all acts of rebellion against the Treaty, including possession of arms or ammunition, punishable by death

November 17:  Executions begin; continuing through May 2, 1923, they totaled 77, 55 of them before January 31, 1923

December 5:  U.K. approves Free State constitution

December 6:  Irish Free State established, neither treaty nor constitution having been put before voters

December 7:  Northern Ireland removes itself from the Free State, and thwarts a Boundary Commission

March 1923:  “The number of military prisoners in jails and internment camps in the Free State was estimated now as about twelve thousand. As a result of prolonged hardship and confinement the majority were in a low state of health. The practice of interrogating prisoners to the accompaniment of severe beating, kicking, and other forms of punishment was generally practised. Guards frequently fired into the prisoners’ cells and compounds. Mary Comerford was fired at and wounded in Mountjoy Prisons; Patrick Mulrennan was mortally wounded by an officer in Costume Barrack in Athlone [October 6, 1922], and eight men were killed in this way. The sufferings of men and women from cold, malnutrition, insanitary conditions and the lack of medical appliances increased with the overcrowding of the prisons and camps. … In the early morning of March 7th nine prisoners, one with a broken arm, another with a broken wrist, were taken in a lorry from Tralee prison to Ballyseed Cross, where a log with a mine beside it lay on the road. There the hands of each prisoner were tied behind him and each was tied by the arms and legs to the man on either side. A rope was passed around the nine men, holding htem in a ring, their backs to the mine which was in the centre. The soldiers then moved away and exploded the mine. … On the same day five prisoners were taken from Killarney prison to Countess Bridge where a mine had been placed against a barricade of stones. There the soldiers exploded the mine and then threw bombs. … At Cahirciveen on March 12th five prisoners were killed in the same way …”

April 30, 1923:  (7 years to the day after the final surrender ending the Easter Rising in Dublin) Republicans cease military actions, but Free State government continues activity against them, demanding surrender of arms and keeping loyalty oath to deny them political participation

May 1923:  “[T]he defeat of the Republicans was a victory for England, not for Ireland; the leaders who had achieved it had defeated their own cherished ends. They, too, had desired the Republic; they had agreed to the Treaty only for fear that refusal would bring another war on Ireland, and, in consenting, had brought war on Ireland themselves … they had accomplished for the English what the English might have failed to accomplish for themselves.”

August 15:  De Valera arrested at campaign appearance, held in solitary confinement until July 16, 1924

August 27:  Despite many still in prison, the rest threatened with arrest, and their campaign activities violently suppressed and sabotaged, Republicans (including de Valera) win 44 of 153 seats in Dáil, pro-treaty party (now called Cumann na nGaedheal) 63 – but Republicans barred by oath; Republicans up to 48 seats by March 11, 1924

October:  Republican prisoners, including 10 members of Dáil, start hunger strikes

January 16, 1924:  Free State government renews power to keep Republicans imprisoned without trial

April 3:  Treasonable Offences Act passed with only 30 out of 153 votes, joining and joined by other laws to exclude Republicans from public life – reminiscent of 18th-century Penal Laws

November:  Boundary Commission keeps nationalist areas of Ulster (Tyrone, Fermanagh, southern Down and Antrim, Derry City) in Northern Ireland, adds parts of Donegal to surround border towns

December 3:  Free State executives submit to partition and debt payments – passed by House of Commons November 8, House of Lords and Northern Parliament November 9, Free State Dáil December 10; “We have been burgled and we have bribed the burglar” (Maurice Moore)

March 1926:  After failing to persuade Sinn Féin Republicans to work within the Free State Dáil, de Valera forms Fianna Fáil, which also becomes much more centrist

June 9, 1927:  Fianna Fáil wins 44 seats in Dáil, Cumann na nGaedheal 47, Labour 22; Fianna Fáil deputies sit but refuse oath

July 10:  After murder of Minister of Justice Kevin O’Higgins, Fianna Fáil forced to take oath

February 1932:  Fianna Fáil wins 72 seats in Dáil, Cumann na nGaedheal 57 – remains largest party until 2011

March 7, 1932:  De Valera becomes Prime Minister

September 1933:  Cumann na nGaedheal absorbs National Centre Party and far-right Blueshirts to form Fine Gael

July 1, 1937:  Voters approve new Constitution, which takes effect December 29

April 18, 1949:  (Easter Monday) Ireland becomes a Republic