The Birth of the Irish Free State, 1921-1923

By Joseph M. Curran | Go to book overview

Chapter 16

From Dublin to
Beal na mBlath

As its troops blazed away at the Four Courts, the Provisional Government declared its determination to end Republican outrages and restore law and order under free institutions. All citizens were urged to cooperate actively with the government's efforts. 1 Angry IRA leaders were quick to reply. The Free State attack closed the breach between the forces of Lynch and O'Connor, with the result that Lynch and other senior officers outside the Four Courts issued a defiant proclamation on June 28. Addressed to "Fellow Citizens of the Irish Republic," the manifesto denounced the government's treachery and appealed to all patriotic citizens to support the fight against British oppression. 2

De Valera at first refused to believe that the Free Staters were attacking the Four Courts. However, by the time he arrived in the city center (from his home), he realized the news must be true. Brugha and Stack confirmed it, but when de Valera appealed for their help to stop the fighting, both men said it was too late. De Valera issued a statement blaming England for the civil war and calling on the IRA and the people to support the men in the Four Courts, "the best and bravest of our nation." Feeling he had no choice but to stand with the men who embodied "the unbought indomitable soul of Ireland," de Valera rejoined his old battalion. However, he refused to assume any position of command, seeking instead to end the war by political compromise. 3

On the evening of the 28th, the Free Staters ran out of high-explosive shells, and Macready refused to supply more, claiming his stock had been reduced to the minimum required for his troops' security. While frantic efforts were made to expedite British ammunition shipments to Dublin, Dalton informed Macready that his men would give up the fight if the artillery fire ceased. Macready thereupon gave him fifty rounds of shrapnel to maintain a noisy if ineffective bombardment through the night. 4

News of the fighting in Dublin caused a great stir in Whitehall, and four high-level conferences were held on June 28-29 to discuss the situation. At 11:30 a.m. on the 28th, the prime minister met with Churchill, the war secretary, and General Lord Cavan and was assured that Macready had been told to give the Irish government whatever support it requested, including troops. The progress of the fighting was dis

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