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The Irrelevance of Discourse: Liam Lynch and the Tightening of the Civil War, 1922-3

Posted March 16th, 2018 at 12:11 PM by Ascendant

Article on Liam Lynch and his management of the Irish Civil War as it dragged on.

The Irrelevance of Discourse: Liam Lynch and the Tightening of the Civil War, 1922-3 (Part VI)

A week after the start of the fighting in Dublin, many assumed that the war was as good as over. The Free State had triumphed, ran the conventional wisdom, thanks to the might and valour of its National Army. For those anti-Treaty guerillas who still held out, the Irish Times had nothing but scorn:

Quote:
While these men may be able to embarrass the Government for a while by raids from the Dublin Mountains, they are not likely to constitute anything in the nature of a serious menace to the State.
Except things did not work out like that.

Click the image to open in full size.

(Wreckage of the Hamman Hotel on O'Connell Street, Dublin)

The violence continued, taking the form of small-scale ambushes, sometimes in different areas at the same time. One night of shooting in Cork on the 26th August was described by a local newspaper as among "the most nerve-racking that Cork has experienced for quite a long time.”

Emmet Dalton, the Free State commander in Cork, complained at how he was “beginning to lose hope." Among his soldiers, "there is no zeal – no dash – no organisation or determination.”

Click the image to open in full size.

(National Army soldiers -looking notably youthful – are offered cigarettes by helpful civilians)

Satisfied that the tide was turning in his favour, Liam Lynch, Chief of Staff of the anti-Treaty forces, held a meeting of the IRA Executive in October 1922. There, the senior officers discussed how best to manage the country in the victorious aftermath. An onlooker might have assumed from the way they talked that the civil war had already been won.

The Executive took the opportunity to pledge support to the absent Éamon de Valera, asking him to form a new government, one which would preserve the continuity of the Republic. The Executive promised it:

Quote:
...our whole-hearted support and allegiance while it functions as the Government of the Republic, and we empower it to make an arrangement with the Free State Government, or with the British Government provided such arrangement does not bring the country in to the British Empire.
However, in case anyone was unclear as to who would be holding the leash: “Final decision on this question to be submitted for ratification to the Executive.”

Meanwhile, for all such confidence, the position for the IRA continued to worsen. As Liam Deasy, the Deputy Chief of Staff, studied the situation before him, he saw that:

Quote:
...no real resistance was being offered to the Free State Army, apart from the Second Kerry and Fifth Cork Brigades and that we could never achieve anything we hoped for. Despite all this, Lynch was entirely unmoved in his steady determination to continue the fight.
Lynch, in Deasy’s opinion, put far too much stock in the reports he received, many of which told him only what he wanted to believe. If only Lynch had seen more of the areas he was reading about, Deasy thought, and met the officers on the ground, he might have developed a more realistic view of what was possible – and what was not.

Click the image to open in full size.

(Liam Lynch)

But this still might not have been enough, Deasy concluded: “[Lynch] was however, so set on victory that I doubt even this would have changed his thinking.”

Deasy could not help but admire him all the same. His commander was “to the very end an idealist with the highest principles as his guide and it was not in his nature to surrender or to compromise."
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