May 1922 – Leaders strive to prevent Civil War in Ireland

Photo 1922 meeting of pro- & anti-Treaty army officers, to avert Civil War: left to right Sean McEoin (Pro-Treaty), Sean Moylan (IRA), Eoin O’Duffy (Pro-Treaty), Liam Lynch (IRA), Gearóid O’Sullivan (Pro-Treaty) and Liam Mellows (IRA)

Photo 1922 meeting of pro- & anti-Treaty army officers, to avert Civil War: left to right Sean McEoin, Sean Moylan, Eoin O’Duffy, Liam Lynch, Gearóid O’Sullivan, and Liam Mellows

(Excerpts from the book
The Assassination of Michael Collins: What Happened at Béal na mBlath?“) 

The following statement, known as “The Army Document” was published on 1 May 1922, and signed by equal numbers of both pro- and anti-Treaty officers of the Irish Volunteers / IRA:

“We, the undersigned officers of the IRA, realising the gravity of the present situation in Ireland, and appreciating the fact that if the present drift is maintained a conflict of comrades is inevitable, declare that this would be the greatest calamity in Irish history, and would leave Ireland broken for generations.

“To avert this catastrophe we believe that a closing of the ranks all round is necessary.

“We suggest to all leaders, Army and political, and all citizens and soldiers of Ireland the advisability of a unification of forces on the basis of the acceptance and utilisation of our present national position in the best interests of Ireland, and we require that nothing shall be done that would prejudice our position or dissipate our strength.

“We feel that on this basis alone can the situation best be faced, viz.:

1) The acceptance of the fact – admitted by all sides – that the majority of the people of Ireland are willing to accept the Treaty.
2) An agreed election with a view to
3) Forming a Government which will have the confidence of the whole country.
4) Army unification on above basis ”

[Signed by:]
Dan Breen   Tom Hales    Owen O’Duffy  
H Murphy     S O’Hegerty
Gearoid O’Sullivan  
F O’Donoghue     Sean Boylan
Michael Collins
    RJ Mulcahy

Photo of Dan Breen

Dan Breen

The Civil War by no means broke out instantaneously or thoughtlessly. Tremendous efforts were carried on, for months on end, to avert the outbreak of hostilities. The Army Document (shown in its entirely at the head of this chapter) was only one statement, produced in one round of meetings.

Photo of Tom Hales

Tom Hales

Photo of Florence O'Donoghue (courtesy Irish Academic Press)

Florence O’Donoghue (courtesy Irish Academic Press)

Countless such parlays convened, from January (when the Dáil split) thru June 1922. The most painstaking debates were carried on interminably, by those who had risked every danger together for years. Many strove desperately to find some means of going forward without civil conflict.

Indeed, there is an awesome sense of tragedy, in reviewing the transcripts of these debates: to hear echo again the penetrating observations, poignant pleas, passionate oaths, of the greatest hearts and minds of that heroic era; many of whom would soon be silenced forever. Silenced by the outcome of their own relentless march: into the disaster which they all knew that this war would bring.

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The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?”

Book cover image - The Assassination of Michael Collins - What Happened at Béal na mBláth

by S M Sigerson

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Soloheadbeg: the shot heard round the world

Dan Breen wanted poster, War of Independence

Dan Breen

January 21 marks the anniversary of the Soloheadbeg raid:
first action of Ireland’s War of Independence.

Volunteers Dan Breen, Sean Treacy, & Seamus Robinson of Tipperary took a momentous decision to sieze the day, which proved a good judgement call.  Their timely blow opened an historic guerilla campaign, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of British forces from most of Ireland, after 700 years of military occupation.

In his entralling autobiography, My Fight For Irish Feeedom,  Dan Breen explains how it came about.  His unit set the pattern for how the flying columns would take the lead: assessing the situation in their own regions, and planning tactical operations independently, according to local knowledge, and their own strengths.

Breen also recounts the ordeal he and his comrades in arms suffered in the wake of their daring action.  For months they dodged an intensive manhunt, with next to no official support from the political leadership of the independence movement.

When the first support came at last, it came directly from Michael Collins

“The Volunteers were in great danger of becoming merely a political adjunct to the Sinn Fein organization.  Treacy remarked to me that we had had enough of being pushed around and getting our men imprisoned while we remained inactive. It was high time that we did a bit of the pushing.  We considered that this business of getting in and out of jail was leading us nowhere. At the moment we had nothing definite in mind, but we proposed to engage in some enterprise that would get the ball rolling in Tipperary. We had previously discussed the feasibility of attacking the RIC escort which accompanied consignments of explosives on their way to Soloheadbeg quarry.  The Volunteers were in need of high explosives for grenades and demolition work.  Apart from that, Treacy believed that the forcible taking of the gelignite from a police escort would have a salutary effect on the morale of the Volunteers. In this mood the Soloheadbeg ambush was planned … ”

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Book cover - My Fight For Irish Freedom by Dan Breen

My Fight For Irish Freedom
by Dan Breen


The Assassination of Michael Collins:
What Happened At Béal na mBláth?
by S M Sigerson

Paperback or Kindle edition here: of Michael Collins COVER

All other e-reader formats:

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Or ask at your local book shop