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The Irish War of Independence 1919-1921

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The Irish War of Independence

The Irish War of Independence took place during the years of 1919 – 1921 that was concluded by the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty between the Irish and British government. The total number killed in the guerrilla war of 1919–1921 between republicans and British forces in what became the Irish Free State came to over 1,400. Of these, 363 were police personnel, 261 were from the regular British Army, about 550 were IRA volunteers (including 24 official executions), and about 200 were civilians. Some other sources give higher figures. The Irish war of independence was followed by the Irish Civil War from 1922 to 1923


The aim of this project is to create a genealogical collection of profiles and familytrees of all people who were involved in the Irish war of independence.

Cogadh na Saoirse - The fight for freedom

The Irish War of Independence or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (IRA, the army of the Irish Republic) and the British security forces in Ireland. It was an escalation of the Irish revolutionary period into armed conflict.

In the December 1918 election, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin won a landslide victory in Ireland. On 21 January 1919 they formed a breakaway government (Dáil Éireann) and declared independence from Britain. Later that day, two members of the armed police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), were shot dead in County Tipperary by IRA members acting on their own initiative. This is often seen as the beginning of the conflict. For much of 1919, IRA activity primarily involved capturing weapons and freeing republican prisoners. In September that year the British government outlawed the Dáil and Sinn Féin, and the conflict intensified thereafter. The IRA began ambushing RIC and British Army patrols, attacking their barracks and forcing isolated barracks to be abandoned. The British government bolstered the RIC with recruits from Britain—the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries—who became notorious for ill-discipline and reprisal attacks on civilians. The conflict as a result is often referred to as the Black and Tan War or simply the Tan War.

While around 300 people had been killed in the conflict up to late 1920, there was a major escalation of violence in November that year. On Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, fourteen British intelligence operatives were assassinated in Dublin in the morning, then in the afternoon the RIC opened fire on a crowd at a football match in the city, killing fourteen civilians and wounding 65. A week later, seventeen Auxiliaries were killed by the IRA in an ambush at Kilmichael in County Cork. The British government declared martial law in much of southern Ireland. The centre of Cork City was burnt out by British forces in December 1920. Violence continued to escalate over the next seven months, when 1,000 people were killed and 4,500 republicans were interned. The fighting was heavily concentrated in Munster (particularly County Cork), Dublin and Belfast. These three locations saw over 75% of the conflict's fatalities. Violence in Ulster, especially Belfast, was notable for its sectarian character and its high number of Catholic civilian victims.

Both sides agreed to a truce on 11 July 1921. In May, Ireland had been partitioned by an Act of the British Parliament, which created Northern Ireland, despite the fact that County Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry City and border regions had voted by a majority for nationalist candidates in the 1918 General Election. The post-ceasefire talks led to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921. This treaty ended British rule in 26 counties of Ireland and, after a ten-month transitional period overseen by a provisional government, the Irish Free State was created as a self-governing state with Dominion status on 6 December 1922. However, six north-eastern counties remained within the United Kingdom. After the ceasefire, political and sectarian violence between republicans (usually Catholics) and loyalists (usually Protestants) continued in Northern Ireland for many months. In June 1922, disagreement among republicans over the Anglo-Irish Treaty led to an eleven-month civil war. The Irish Free State awarded 62,868 medals for service during the War of Independence, of which 15,224 were issued to fighting men of the flying columns.

The Head figures of the War of independence

Other then the above main figures the driving force of the war of independence was the newly formed breakaway government the Dáil Éireann and declared independence from Britain. Members of the Dáil Éireann at the time:

  • Joseph O' Doherty
  • S. Hayes
  • John J. O'Kelly
  • Seán T. O'Kelly
  • P. O'Malley
  • J.J Walsh
  • T. O'Kelly
  • S.McSwiney
  • K. O'Higgins
  • R.Barton
  • D. Buckley
  • R. Mulcahy
  • E. Duggan
  • C.Collins
  • P. Beazley
  • P. Shanahan
  • Dr. J. Ryan
  • Dr. Crowley
  • P. Ward
  • I.A. Burke
  • P.J Maloney
  • R. Sweetman

Constitution of Dáil Éireann 1st April 1919 The original constitution was agreed at the first meeting of the First Dáil on 21 January 1919. This version is that as subsequently amended on 1 April 1919.


This list shows some of the many people killed during the war of independence, it does not show the people involved and who survived . Please add every profile of people who were involved or died as a result of the war to this project

IRA members who were killed

  • 1919 : I.R.A. Volunteer Martin Savage was killed in an ambush in Ashtown on the Dublin Meath border
  • 1920: Seamus O’Brien killed outside his shop in Market Square, Rathdrum, County Wicklow.
  • 1920: Vice Commandant Martin Devitt was killed in action on the road between Fermoyle and Inagh County Clare.
  • 1920: John O’Loughlan at Canada Cross in Miltown Malbay County Clare
  • 1920: Thomas Mulholland shot and killed by RIC Sergeant Joseph Bustard at Bridge Street Dundalk.
  • 1920: Séan Breen shot dead by the RIC in County Clare
  • 1920: Francis Aidan Gleeson died as a result of hunger strike
  • 1920: Joseph Saunders shot dead by the RIC at Patrick Street Cork city
  • 1920: Patrick Meaney died of burns and shock may have been involved in burning of the abandoned Police Barracks at Ballybrack County Dublin
  • 1920: Liam Scully was shot and mortally wounded in an attack on the Barracks in Kilmallock County Limerick.
  • 1920: Thomas Brett aged 25 of Moyaliff Drombane Thurles County Tipperary died from gunshot wounds in the Mater Hospital Dublin
  • 1920: I.R.A. Volunteer James Dunne of Ballintray, Gorey, County Wexford was shot dead by R.I.C. Constable Henry Lenihan at Dunbar’s Public House in Ferns
  • 1920: James Cogan was shot dead by British Soldiers when a military check-point he was stopped at came under fire.
  • 1920: I.R.A. Volunteer Michael Conway was shot dead on the bridge in Ennistymon County Clare when he and two other I.R.A. Volunteers attempted to take revolvers from two British Army officers of The Royal Scots Regiment, one of the officers drew his revolver and shot Conway dead.
  • 1920: I.R.A. Volunteer Edward Nolan died accidently when he drowned while swimming in the Slaney River while on an I.R.A. weekend training camp. Nolan was a native of Askamore, Ferns co. Wexford

Civilians killed during the war of independence

  • 1919: Derry postman Daniel J. McGandy Mr. McGandy had disappeared six week ago and was not heard of until his body was found floating in the River Foyle.
  • 1919: On Saturday night at about eight o’clock at Killahurk near the village of Carrigallen County Leitrim a framer named John Hand aged 45 was shot dead, he was sitting at the kitchen table with his wife and children when a masked man entered with a gun and shot Mr. Hand in the head, he died instantly
  • 1919: Alfred Person aged 46 of Optic Lodge, 146 Richmond Road Dublin was shot dead in his home.

Online sources