Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution

By C. Desmond Greaves | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
NO KING IN ISRAEL

Man can do as he wills. But can he will as he wills?”—Artur Schopen-
hauer

Tausch wollt ich, wollte keinen Rauh.”—Goethe

THE three months beginning with the banned Convention and ending with the outbreak of civil war present the historian with a spectacle of extraordinary complexity. Some have discovered in it the quality of a Shakespearean tragedy where the chief characters move steadily to doom as necessity reveals itself in the clash of wills. To understand the period it is essential to know what that necessity was. It was the superior strength of imperialism confronting a national revolution that had cut itself off from its mass base. In all that happened the prime mover of reaction in Ireland was the British Government. The reiterated determination not to tolerate a Republic in Ireland was the fundamental cause of the division amongst Irishmen. These were being urged unwillingly towards civil war, when quite modest concessions from Britain would have restored a working harmony. British imperialism was bent on stamping out the last spark of revolt. Its policy can only be explained as part of its world and particularly its European strategy.

The map printed opposite shows which divisions of the I.R.A. supported or opposed the “Treaty”. When all necessary qualifications have been made the pattern revealed seems logical enough. In Ulster, divisions in the occupied area inclined to the Republic, in the evacuated area to the Provisional Government. In Southern and Western areas, with their land-hungry small farmers or large agricultural proletariat based on dairying, the tendency was Republican; in the midland ranching districts where, it is said, 500 acres can be managed by a man with a stick and a dog, it was towards the Provisional Government.

Dublin City presented a more complex picture. Oscar Traynor, the Commandant, and his assistant Scan Mooney were strongly for the Republic. About three-quarters of the Brigade staff followed them. Of the four territorial battalions, three, namely the first based on the

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