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The People's Protectors? The Irish Republican Army and the “Belfast Pogrom,” 1920–1922

  • Robert Lynch
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1 Kenna, G. B., [Father John Hassan], Facts and Figures of the Belfast Pogrom (Dublin, 1922), 101–12. See also Hart, Peter, The IRA and Its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916–1923 (Oxford, 1998), 50.

2 See, e.g., the differing figures presented by Hart, Peter, The IRA at War, 1916–1923 (Oxford, 2003), 231; and by McDermott, Jim, Northern Divisions: The Old IRA and the Belfast Pogrom (Belfast, 2001), 95.

3 Irish Times, 15 August 1922; Belfast Newsletter, 26 June 1922; Freeman's Journal, July 1922; Kenna, Facts and Figures, 52–54.

4 The year 1922 saw horrific rioting in Belfast, which marked the birth of Northern Ireland; the period of unrest in 1935 was shorter but still turbulent, when street violence and IRA involvement occurred in the aftermath of the economic depression; and 1969 marked the first year of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

5 Morrison, Danny, quoted in Richard English, Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (Dublin, 2003), 121.

6 See Hart, IRA and Its Enemies; Farry, Michael, The Aftermath of Revolution: Sligo, 1921–1923 (Dublin, 2000); Augusteijn, Joost, From Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare (Dublin, 1996); and Coleman, Marie, County Longford and the Irish Revolution, 1910–1923 (Dublin, 2002). See also David Fitzpatrick's seminal study of County Clare, Politics and Irish Life, 1913–1921: Provincial Experience of War and Revolution (Dublin, 1977).

7 Phoenix, Eamon, Northern Nationalism: Nationalist Politics, Partition and the Catholic Minority in Northern Ireland, 1890–1940 (Belfast, 1994); Elliott, Marianne, The Catholics of Ulster: A History (London, 2000).

8 See, e.g., Garvin, Tom, The Evolution of Irish Nationalist Politics (Dublin, 1981); Hart, IRA at War; Phoenix, Northern Nationalism; Elliott, Catholics of Ulster; Parkinson, Alan F., Belfast's Unholy War: The Troubles of the 1920s (Dublin, 2004); Lynch, Robert, The Northern IRA and the Early Years of Partition, 1920–1922 (Dublin, 2006); Gallagher, Ronan, Violence and Nationalist Politics in Derry City, 1920–1923 (Dublin, 2003); Hopkinson, Michael, Green Against Green: The Irish Civil War (Dublin, 1988); Coogan, Tim Pat, Michael Collins (London, 1991); and McDermott, Northern Divisions.

9 In total, 636 people were killed between July 1920 and July 1922 in Northern Ireland. Approximately 460 of these deaths occurred in Belfast (258 Catholics, 159 Protestants, and 3 of unknown religion). However, as Catholics made up less than one-quarter of the population of the city, the per capita death rates were much higher. See Kenna, Facts and Figures, 23; Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Belfast, 1992), 494; and “Report on Deaths in Northern Ireland, Nov. 1921–July 1922,” Ministry of Home Affairs files, HA/5/219, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). For a detailed breakdown of these figures, see Hart, IRA at War, 248–49.

10 Roger McCorley, Bureau of Military History (BMH) Witness Statements (WS) 389, National Archives of Ireland (NAI).

11 See file on the Belfast Boycott, Ministry of Home Affairs files, HA/5/111, PRONI; “Reports on Internments during 1922–1924,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/46, PRONI; and “Documents Found in St. Mary's Hall, 18 March 1922,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/130, PRONI. Also see Niamh Brennan, “A Political Minefield: Southern Loyalists, the Irish Grants Committee and the British Government, 1922–1931,” Irish Historical Studies 30 (May 1997): 406–19; and Hart, IRA at War, 257.

12 See Hart, IRA at War, 251.

13 David McGuiness, unpublished memoir, quoted in McDermott, Northern Divisions, 13.

14 Belfast Newsletter, 13 July 1920. See also The Times, 13 July 1920, where the meeting is referred to as a “parade of anachronistic intolerance.”

15 For the background to Smyth's assassination, see Richard Abbott, Police Casualties in Ireland, 1919–1922 (Dublin, 2000), 96–103. For an account of the assassination itself, see Sean Culhane, BMH WS 746, NAI; and Sean Culhane, interview by Ernie O’Malley, O’Malley notebooks, P17b/108, University College Dublin Archives Department (UCDAD).

16 Kenna, Facts and Figures, 15–24; Ballymacarret Research Group, Lagan Enclave: A History of Conflict in the Short Strand, 1886–1997 (Belfast, 1997), 13–15; Irish News, 23–27 July 1920; Belfast Newsletter, 23–25 July 1920.

17 McCorley, BMH WS 389, NAI.

18 Manus O’Boyle, BMH WS 289, NAI.

19 Joe Murray, BMH WS 412, NAI.

20 McCorley, BMH WS 389, NAI.

21 John McCoy, BMH WS 492, NAI.

22 McCorley, BMH WS 389, NAI; see also the recollections of two other Belfast Volunteers, David McGuiness and Sean Montgomery, quoted in McDermott, Northern Divisions, 19.

23 Sweeney, Joe, quoted in Ken Griffith and Terence O’Grady, eds., Curious Journey: An Oral History of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution (Dublin, 1982), 166.

24 Monaghan AOH member, quoted in Phoenix, Northern Nationalism, 141.

25 Tom McNally, interview by Ernie O’Malley, O’Malley notebooks, P17b/99, UCDAD.

26 McCorley, BMH WS 389, NAI.

27 O’Boyle, BMH WS 289, NAI.

28 Seamus McKenna, BMH WS 1016, NAI.

29 Murray, BMH WS 412, NAI.

30 McKenna, BMH WS 1016, NAI.

31 Figures were drawn from a sample of sixty IRA officers (with rank of captain and higher) from across the two battalions of the Belfast Brigade. See, in particular, “Reports on Internments during 1922–1924,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/46, PRONI; “Documents Found in St. Mary's Hall, 18 March 1922,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/130, PRONI; and O’Boyle, BMH WS 289, NAI.

32 The IRA casualty figures were collated from 1920–22 reports in Irish Times, Belfast Newsletter, and Freeman's Journal; Kenna, Facts and Figures, 238–42.

33 Hart, IRA at War, 253.

34 For examples of IRA attacks and subsequent investigations, see “Reports on Truce Breaches,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/4, PRONI; “Documents Found in St. Mary's Hall, 18 March 1922,” Secret Series files, HA/32/1/130, PRONI; and RIC bimonthly reports, 1920–22, Ministry of Home Affairs files, HA/5/152, PRONI.

35 Hopkinson, Michael, The Irish War of Independence (Montreal, 2002), 6978.

36 Daniel McDevitt was a veteran Belfast republican. See McDermott, Northern Divisions, 221–22. See also file on Daniel McDevitt, Ministry of Home Affairs files, HA/5/650, PRONI.

37 McKenna, BMH WS 1016, NAI.

38 Montgomery, quoted in McDermott, Northern Divisions, 72. For further details of the shooting, see Irish News, 12 March 1921.

39 McCorley, BMH WS 389, NAI.

40 The economic effects of the boycott are dealt with in detail in Johnson, D. J., “The Belfast Boycott, 1920–1922,” in Irish Population, Economy and Society: Essays in Honour of the Late K. H. Connell, ed. Goldstrom, J. M. and Clarkson, J. A. (Oxford, 1981), 6985.

41 McKenna, BMH WS 1016, NAI.

42 See Hart, IRA and Its Enemies, 78–79.

43 Crawford, Fred, quoted in Patrick Buckland, Irish Unionism: The Anglo-Irish and the New Ireland, 1885–1923: A Documentary History (Belfast, 1973), 445.

44 Bishop McCrory, quoted in Phoenix, Northern Nationalism, 342.

45 Seamus Woods to Richard Mulcahy, 27 July 1922, Mulcahy papers, P7/B/77, UCDAD.

46 Seamus McGovern, Third Northern Divisional Adjutant, to GHQ, 7 July 1922, Mulcahy papers, P7/B/77, UCDAD.

48 Seamus Woods, memorandum, 3 August 1922, Mulcahy papers, P7/B/79, UCDAD.

49 See English, Armed Struggle; Hart, IRA and Its Enemies; and Parkinson, Belfast's Unholy War.

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