Poblacht na h-Eireann, War News No. 15 was published on Friday, 14 July, 1922. The articles published in this issue, seek to encourage the members of the Anti-Treaty IRA fighting in the Irish Civil War throughout the country. The Anti-Treaty IRA still controlled much of the country at this early stage in the Civil War, so the claims throughout this issue that they were winning or doing well, were still very much their perception at this point.
“To The End”
This article opens with the statement, “Fifteen days of war have made it clear that the Treaty cannot be fulfilled and the Free State set up. The general rising all over the country and the undisputed sway of the Republican troops in the South and the greater part of the West assure that result.” This supports the view of the Anti-Treaty IRA that they were the superior force in the Irish Civil War. During these early days of fighting, the Anti-Treaty IRA outnumbered the Irish Free State Army and did control much of the South and West. Cork, in particular, was a major Anti-Treaty IRA stronghold. The article warns readers to be wary of Free State leaders offering new “pacts” in an attempt to end fighting and force compromises that would forfeit the idea of the Republic. The article finally addresses the subject of Irishmen fighting Irishmen for the sake of independence, calling it “an unspeakable calamity.” However the author stresses that it is necessary to fight fellow Irishmen, who are in the service of England, so that the Irish Republic may be won. This seeks to ease the struggle that many faced in being unable to fight former comrades. Many were reluctant to fight their friends, but by portraying them as working with the English, the author hoped to encourage men to take up arms in the name of the Republic.
“Rory O’Connor Refutes The Explosion Lie”
This article contains a letter from Rory O’Connor, who was in command of the Anti-Treaty IRA garrison at the Four Courts during the outbreak of the Irish Civil War in Dublin. There was a large explosion in the Four Courts near the end of the fighting. The Free State government blamed the Anti-Treaty IRA, stating that they had deliberately mined the building, exploding the last mine after the fighting had ended. O’Connor’s statement in this article refutes the Free State Army claim and instead explains that the first explosion was accidental: the mine was exploded during their retreat (well before the fighting had ended).
O’Connor explained that upon occupying the Four Courts, his men has established a munitions shop, with the purpose of creating mines and explosives to use against the British. The explosive for the mines were stored in the main headquarters block, which caught fire during the Free State bombardment of the building. The fire spread to the gelignite, and ignited the first explosion. According to O’Connor the second explosion was deliberate; however, the mine was not exploded after the fighting had ended. The mine was exploded to cover the retreat of his men from the main building. He also stated that this was not exploded under in the Rotunda, but against the door of the Lord Chancellor’s Court. He concludes the article by pointing to the Free State Army as the aggressors during the battle of Dublin, and places the blame on them for the loss of life and property. Historical accounts show that the Free State did fire the first shots when they began the bombardment of the building. However, Free State forces felt at this point that they were forced to act or that the British military would begin to take control of the city again.
The section titled “The War” is a grouping of small updates on how the Anti-Treaty IRA is fairing during the Civil War, as well as general updates regarding the conflict. The first two updates are both in relation to Cork. The paper stated that Cork City was in complete control of the Anti-Treaty IRA, and the full administration of the city was run by the Republicans. This was an accurate claim, as Cork remained under Republican control until Free State troops under Emmet Dalton entered Cork City on 10 August, 1922. The second update regarding Cork stated that a British Cruiser with 2,000 marines approached Cork on 29th June. This is also plausible as the British would’ve wanted to safeguard their interests in Cork Harbor; however, these troops did not disembark to engage with members of the Anti-Treaty IRA in Cork.
The third update states that “the Field General Headquarters for the Southern Area have been moved from Mallow to Limerick.” It is interesting that the movement of headquarters would be noted in an open publication. This information likely fell into Free State Army hands, and could have been used to target headquarters staff. This update concludes by listing out the regions held by the Anti-Treaty forces, and provides a nice bridge into the fourth update which discusses Anti-Treaty victories. As claimed in both of these updates, the Anti-Treaty IRA did control most of the South and West of Ireland, and was also successful in overtaking Free State Army posts in these regions during the initial days of the Civil War. The fifth update also states that the Republican forces are active in the other major counties throughout Ireland, which serves to make sure that no group feels left out. These updates were designed to serve as a morale booster to all fighting on the Anti-Treaty IRA side. By reading about the victories and the territories held by their forces, the men would believe in the cause and continue the fight. In the early days of the conflict the Anti-Treaty forces certainly did have much to be hopeful for.
The final three updates, two of which appear in the far-left column, are aimed at highlighting Free State injustices. The update in the bottom right hand column states that “Every shell fired at the Four Courts cost 75 Pounds. Hundreds of Shells were fired.” This is aimed at showing the cost of war and how this cost is damaging the civilian population. The update suggests that the money spent on shells would have been better allocated to assist the unemployed. The first update at the bottom of the left-hand column states, “Mountjoy Jail is full. The other jails are filling.” It sarcastically implies that the mass arrests are the “will of the people” to make Ireland safe for democracy. Republicans felt that there was no democratic government in operation in Ireland during the Civil War because they were not allowed to have a voice in politics. If they stepped out to speak in public, they were interned. The final update at the bottom of the left-hand column states, “Free State troops are being poisoned against their fellow Irishmen by slanderous stories of faked atrocities. This is how Greenwood incensed his Black and Tans to murder and outrage the Irish People.” This statement, like ones made in issue number 14 of Poblacht na h-Eireann, is aimed at linking the Free State Army to the Black and Tans. By comparing the Free State Army to a group that was so widely hated throughout Ireland for the atrocities that they had committed during the War of Independence, the author hoped to turn public support against them.