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The Self-Deceit of Honour: Liam Lynch and the Civil War, 1922 (Part IV)

Posted January 20th, 2018 at 10:14 AM by Ascendant

Article on Liam Lynch and how his decisions helped determine the struggle for Limerick and then Cork during the Civil War.

The Self-Deceit of Honour: Liam Lynch and the Civil War, 1922 (Part IV)


The ten-day battle for Limerick reached its weary climax before midnight on the 19th July 1922 when the anti-Treaty IRA decided that enough was enough. Following the orders of their Chief of Staff, Liam Lynch, the men left the city in a line of motorcars.

At the start of the conflict, both sides had recognised the importance of Limerick. “The whole Civil War really turned on Limerick,” said Michael Brennan, the Free State general for the city. “The Shannon was the barricade and whoever held Limerick held the south and the west.”

Some in the IRA were impatient to begin. "There is no use in fooling with this question any longer," wrote one. "Send on the men and let us get on with the war.”

Instead, Lynch agreed to a truce with the Pro-Treatyites on the 4th July 1922, hoping to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. He and Brennan subsequently met for talks, with Brennan judging his IRA counterpart as “an innocent sort of man, very attractive, of unquestionable courage, the kind of man who gets others to follow him.”

Despite such efforts, the truce broke down and fighting began on the 11th July. Men from both sides scrambled to secure vantage points about the city, from factories, business establishments private dwellings, public institutions or even church belfries. When the Pro-Treatyites began bombarding the IRA positions with artillery, Lynch gave the order to withdraw.

Click the image to open in full size.

(The affect results of artillery bombing on Strand Barracks, Limerick, by the Free State)

Opinions on Lynch's decision to delay fighting in the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution were mixed among his subordinates. Some were relatively sympathetic, with one concluding that “the honesty of purpose of our leaders and their belief in the honesty of purpose of the enemy” was what lost Limerick.

Others were less merciful in their assessments. One was “thoroughly disgusted” by the inactivity forced on the men, and that “I could see our incompetence and limitations for this type of fighting for we had no military men between the whole lot of us.”

Another was even harsher: “Liam Lynch and his bloody Truce ruined us in the Civil War.”

Click the image to open in full size.

(National Army soldiers behind a barricade)
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