Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 7 July 2022
Journeys to a Free State: The Munster Republic
In the midst of the shelling by the National Army of the Irish Provisional Government of the Four Courts in Dublin from 28 June to 5 July 1922, ani-treaty champion Eamon de Valera issued a hard hitting press statement. On 7 July, he noted that the “so-called Provisional Government is not the Government”. He observed that the legitimate Government of Ireland is Dáil Éireann, which is the Government of the Republic. However, he highlighted that “the Republic has not been disestablished”.
De Valera further articulated that since January 1922 the President and Ministry of Dáil Éireann, relied on “alien powers” – that of Westminister – and observed; “They have in their executive acts ignored the regular legal and constitutional procedure, and acted in an arbitrary manner – assuming dictatorial powers for which they should be held amenable, in the Supreme Court of the Republic. These irregularities have led directly to the present situation. The men who are fighting to uphold the Republic are soldiers who took an oath of allegiance to the Republic and are acting literally in accordance with its explicit terms and the intention with which they took it”.
On the same day as De Valera’s press statement Lord Mayor of Cork Donal Óg O’Callaghan moved to squash fears of food scarcity in Cork City as anti-treaty IRA soldiers numbering up to 100 commandeered of food and equipment for manoeuvres in Cork and wider afield in Munster.
In his statement the Lord Mayor hoped to assist in putting an end to what he called “wild and unfounded rumours” that have circulated locally. The Lord Mayor asserted that they constituted a danger to public peace and security, and would lead to “scares and ultimate panic”. One of these rumours was the alleged inadequacy of the city’s food supply. The Lord Mayor moved to inform citizens that there was no cause whatever for alarm or anxiety, as ample provision was being met for normal circumstance. He noted: “Local manufacturers, importers, traders, and wholesale merchants in food and provisions are to meet and be formed into a food committee to consider and safeguard the position of the local food supply”. The Lord Mayor also announced that arrangements were being made for the maintenance, as far as possible, of all public services, postal, transit, etc, to protect the city’s commercial life pending any war.
About the same time as the Lord Mayor’s commitments the anti-treaty IRA/ Republican publicity department took charge of censoring the Cork Examiner and Cork Constitution newspapers, initially to protect sensitive military matters being published. A half a page began to appear in the Cork Examiner everyday for a few weeks describing in brief manoeuvres that had occurred to take over control of Munster. The aim was that such control of local newspapers would offset harsh national press, which promoted government censorship and was deemed one sided in its approach.
For example, in a Republican official bulletin on 10 July in the Cork Examiner, manoeuvres were commented about in the southern division. The bulletin briefly notes that policing posts were attacked on 29 June 1922 in Listowel, Foynes, Newcastle West, Shanagolden, Abbeyfeale, and Broadford. The bulletin records that Listowel surrendered with 150 rifles and its men after a short engagement. In County Cork the Skibbereen military post surrendered on 1 July 1922. Owing to certain negotiations it was not attacked until the 3 July. The garrison surrendered 43 rifles and 60 me after a hard fight. This County Cork Republican column moved onto towards Limerick to help with the battle for that city, which held out for 10 days.
As the days progressed, market town military posts from the western seaboard such as Sligo to the middle of the country such as Kilkenny fell. Cork, Limerick and Waterford were captured very quickly as part of a self-styled independent “Munster Republic”.
By 17 July 1922, the anti-treaty IRA republican side stood at c.13,000 soldiers. Pro Treaty forces stood at 15,000, up from 10,000. The Anti-Treaty side were not equipped to wage conventional war, lacking artillery and armoured units, both of which the Provisional Government obtained from the British. Liam Lynch, the Chief of Staff of the Anti-Treaty IRA, hoped to act purely on the defensive, holding their so called “Munster Republic” long enough to prevent the foundation of the Irish Free State and forcing the re-negotiation of the Treaty.
Hence the destruction of regional infrastructure began. The Cork Examiner records that telegraphic communication was stopped between Dublin, Northern Ireland, the Midlands. East and West Limerick, Waterford, and Britain. There was considerable dislocation of the services on the Great Southern and Western Railway, which hampered the transit of goods and passenger traffic. On the main Dublin-Cork line, no trains ran beyond Limerick junction to Cork, and no trains connected Limerick and Waterford. The unsettled state of affairs is also reflected in the accounts of the Cork Harbour Board, and the returns of tonnage dues and harbour dues significantly fell.
Most noticeably Cork’s Summer Show, hosted by the Munster Agricultural Society, was postponed. The Cork Examiner reported that the holding of shows in which cattle figured prominently as exhibits served to emphasise the importance of the Irish cattle industry, which in exports at the time represented something over £20m per annum.
In detailed research UCC’s Dr John Borgonova book entitled The Battle of Cork, July-August 1922 (and soon to be republished by Mercier Press), he comments that a series of manoeuvres were pursued to keep the City of Cork under some Republican control. Roadblocks were set up on thoroughfares entering and exiting Cork, and boat passengers were also searched and interrogated. Republican police ordered public houses to close promptly at 10pm. However, the anti-treaty IRA occupied very little structures beyond the Customs House, Cork Men’s Gaol, Victoria military barracks, and Union Quay RIC barracks.
To be continued…
Kieran’s July Tours:
Friday evening, 8 July 2022, The Lough and its Curiosities; historical walking tour; meet at green area at northern green of The Lough, entrance of Lough Road to The Lough, Lough Church end; 6.45pm (free, duration: two hours).
Saturday 16 July 2022, The Battle of Douglas, An Irish Civil War Story, historical walking tour with Kieran, from carpark and entrance to Old Railway Line, Harty’s Quay, Rochestown; 2pm, (free, 2 hours, finishes near Rochestown Road).
1158a. A National Army soldier brings a wounded anti-treaty fighter out of the Four Courts in Dublin, early July 1922 (source: National Library, Dublin).