3rd Year: Irish Independence: The War of Independence, the Treaty & the Civil War

The Irish negotiating team who signed the Treaty.
Michael Collins is in the centre, with his head down.
Picture from stpaulscollege.ie
Main Article: The Struggle for Independence

By 1918, Home Rule had been forgotten as people in Ireland started campaigning for independence from Britain. Sinn Féin had become a republican party and after their huge win in the 1918 general election they refused to take their seats in Westminster and instead set up the first Dáil Éireann on 21 January 1919. Soon after, the War of Independence broke out. By 1921, the British government was negotiating with the Dáil. The President of the Dáil, Éamon de Valera, sent a team led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins to London to strike an agreement with Britain.

Those negotiations ended with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which gave most of Ireland independence as an Irish Free State but it would remain in the British Commonwealth. Six counties in Ulster were to remain in the UK - they became known as Northern Ireland. TDs in Dáil Éireann would still have to take an oath of alliegance to the King, and Britain would stay in control of three Irish ports (Berehaven, Lough Swilly and Cóbh).

Éamon de Valera, President of the Dáil.
He opposed the Treaty.
The Treaty caused a split in the Dáil. Most TDs voted in favour it and it was passed in 1922. But the disagreements over the conditions spilled over to the whole country. Soon, not long after the War of Independence had ended, a civil war had broken out: Sinn Féin, the IRA and the Irish people had each split into "pro-Treaty" or "anti-Treaty" groups, and they fought each other for a year. Eventually, after much death and destruction - including the death of Michael Collins - a truce was called. The Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin now led the government, and it had to rebuild a new Irish free state which had just experienced two very destructive wars. The story of modern Ireland was only beginning.

Continue to Cumann na nGaedheal

Go back to Irish Independence or Third Year

  • Who was involved in the War of Independence? Where did the first battle occur?
  • Who were the Black and Tans? What were the Flying Columns? What was the Squad?
  • Who was Terence McSwiney and what did he do?
  • What were the major events of the War of Independence?
  • The terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
  • The reasons for the civil war.
  • The main events of the civil war.
  • The results of the civil war.

Click here for exam questions you can be asked about this topic. (Higher and Ordinary)


A named leader in the struggle for Irish independence, 1900-21
(2011 HL, 2007 HL)

A person involved in the struggle for Irish independence, 1900-21
(2012 OL, 2008 OL)

A Pro-Treaty poster.
Click on it to read it.

© National Library of Ireland

An Anti-Treaty poster.
Click on it to read it.

From Irish Election Literature

Compare the two posters. What are they each saying? What are they each promising? 
Both are types of propaganda. Do you think they're effective?

Watch out for bias, prejudice and propaganda!

The War of Independence
BBC History: The Anglo-Irish War
The BBC have a feature on the War of Independence (also known as the Anglo-Irish War).

The War of Independence and Partition
This is an overview of the war and its aftermath.

Wikipedia: Timeline of the War of Independence
This is a detailed timeline of the events of the entire War of Independence. Read A Note on Wikipedia. 
Cork City Council: The Burning of Cork
Patrick Street in Cork was destroyed by the Black and Tans. Read about it here.

Cork City Council: The Death of Terence McSwiney
Terence McSwiney was the Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920. He was imprisoned and went on hunger strike. He died on 25 October 1920.

An Phoblacht: Soloheadbeg
Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD wrote an article about Soloheadbeg in 'An Phoblacht' (the Sinn Féin newsletter) on the 80th anniversary of the ambush in 1999. This is an article, so remember to read it like a historian would.

New York Times article on the War of Independence
The War of Independence made headlines all over the world. Read about the burning of the Custom House in Dublin here. (opens as a PDF)

The Independent (UK): The Black and Tans
There was a controversy in 2006 when Ben and Jerry's named one of their ice-creams "Black and Tan". Here is an article talking about the Black and Tans in response to that controversy. This is an article, so remember to read it like a historian would.

Cork's War of Independence
This site has detailed information about the War of Independence as it was fought in Cork. Ambushes could happen in any town in any part of the country. I learned from this site that the IRA ambushed and killed RIC soldiers in my home town of Glanmire. 

The Anglo-Irish Treaty
National Archives: The Treaty Exhibition
The National Archives (based in Dublin) have a site dedicated to the Anglo-Irish Treaty (which had actually sat in a box, unopened for decades, at the Department of An Taoiseach until 2002). View the photo gallery, look at the timeline, and read the reflections and overviews of what happened.

The Treaty Debates
The full transcripts of the First Dáil's debates on the Treaty are available here. They're quite a long read, but you might be interested to have a look.

Re-enactment of a Michael Collins speech in the Treaty Debates (video)
UCC held a re-enactment of the Treaty Debates. Here, a UCC student re-enacts a speech given by Collins justifying the Treaty. 

Irish Political Maps: The Anglo-Irish Treaty
On this site, which is also mine, you can view maps of how the TDs of the First Dáil voted on the Treaty.

The Civil War
Wikipedia: Timeline of the Civil War
Again, Wikipedia have a detailed timeline. Read A Note on Wikipedia.

The Civil War: A Tipperary Connection
This site gives a brief overview of the Civil War, as well as the events which took place in Tipperary. 

Memorabilia from the Civil War
This site has a lot of pictures of primary source material from the Civil War, from the constitution of the new Free State to newspapers.