Kieran’s Our City, Our Town Article,
Cork Independent, 27 April 2023
Recasting Cork: The Cessation of Offensive Operations
The 27 April 1923 coincided with frustration and relief in Cork City – and all is one evening. At a meeting of Cork Corporation, the Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Ellis, presided. When some business had been disposed of, Councillor Fitzpatrick, said he was sorry to see that the Council had proceeded with the business of the evening, considering that ten men had been executed that week in Kerry. He moved that votes of sympathy be conveyed to the relatives of those executed men and that is as a mark of respect the council would adjourn to the following Monday 30 April.
Alderman Kenneally supported the motion for adjournment come out as he believed that the time had arrived when public bodies should take some steps to stop executions. He noted: “It is admitted that great men had come down on each side – men that the country would certainly require, men of intelligence and men of bravery – and it certainly was a sad thing when one took up the morning paper and read of the execution of such brave and noble men”. Alderman Kenneally was convinced that as long as hostilities this went on that they could not have peace in Ireland. He appealed that personal clashes in the Council Chamber should stop. He advocated that the Council needed to avail of every opportunity to secure call and call for peace and that every practical effort should be taken to achieve such an object.
Councillors O’Neill and Byrne argued for an amendment five minute adjournment instead of several days and that the motion of condolences would also contain two National Army officers who were killed. The Council voted seventeen to 12 in favour of their amendments.
On the same evening as the Cork Corporation meeting of 27 April, a proclamation from Éamon de Valera, and a covering order from Frank Aiken, Chief-of-Staff, ordered the immediate cessation of offensive operations as soon us may be, but not later than noon on the following Monday 30 April 1923. Frank Aiken had just been in the post under a week taking over directly after the death of Liam Lynch. It was declared, as evidence of their good will and in order to consider certain peace proposals contained in the proclamation. In the proclamation, six points were highlighted, which covered sovereign rights of the nation, the legitimate governmental authority of the people of Ireland, the need for citizen voices on disputed national questions, the inclusivity of citizens in national policy, freedom to express political or economic programmes, and that military forces of the nation were the “servants if the nation” and subject to the elected government.
During the Irish War of Independent Armagh-born Frank Aiken was Commandant of the 4th Northern Division of the IRA. When Dáil Éireann ratified the Treaty in January 1922, he put his energy into trying to avoid Civil War, but to no avail. He attempted to negotiate a Collins-DeValera electoral pact in the elections of May 1922, but that did not materialise. He tried to convince Richard Mulcahy to halt his seizure of Dublin’s Four Courts in July 1922.
Having no success in his endeavours, Frank returned to his IRA division. They had been held responsible of the murder of six innocent Presbyterians in Altnaveigh in County Down on 17 June 1922. Eventually Frank Aiken and 200 of his men were interned in Dundalk Gaol. On 28 July 1922 Frank led a mass escape of over a hundred prisoners. On 14 August, he then recaptured Dundalk and its military barracks imprisoning the 400 in number Free State soldiers whilst freeing remaining Republican prisoners.
Frank was invited to join the IRA executive but declined it until De Valera established a Republican government in October 1922. In County Waterford in March 1923, Frank supported de Valera’s peace resolution, which was defeated by six votes to five). He was present on 10 April 1923 on the slopes of the Knockmealdown mountains in Sout Tipperary when Liam Lynch was shot. On 20 April 1923 Frank was appointed Lynch’s successor as IRA chief of staff, a post he held until the end of 1925.
On 27 April 1923 some of the Cork theatres conveyed the information on cessation of offensive operations to its audience whilst others who received the informato went to the Cork Examiner offices on St Patrick’s Street to confirm the news. Days later on Monday 30 April, the suspension of hostilities in Dublin and Cork was not marked by any formality. The Free State lorries containing soldiers with rifles drove through the streets as usual.
On Wednesday 2 May 1923 edition, the Cork Examiner reported on the peace; “So far as Cork city and county are concerned, the terms of Mr De Valera’s order to the irregulars to cease fire seem to be fulfilled. The weekend was one of the quietest for many months, scarcely a shot been fired, while from noon on Monday when the proclamation came into force, nothing has been reported from either city or county to show that there has been any departure from the order given. Of course, people do not anticipate the dying out of the movement without an occasional outburst, but it is believed in well informed circles that should anything untoward occur, it will be the work of irresponsibles”.
1199a. The note that ended the Civil War. IRA Chief of Staff Frank Aiken’s order to all units to cease operations, 27 April 1923 (source: National Museum of Ireland).