Please delete if not allowed, think it would be of some interest. It’s not Irish in anyway.
Talked about the north etc and he asked me had had I heard of the Welsh group know had the the Sons of Glyndwr. Here is a little copy and paste from Wikipedia.
The group first came to prominence in 1979. In the first wave of attacks, eight English-owned holiday homes were destroyed within the space of a month. In 1980 Welsh Police carried out a series of raids in Operation Tân. Within the next ten years around 220 properties were damaged by the campaign. It peaked in the late 1980s with the targeting of Conservative MPs’ homes and David Hunt, the then Welsh secretary, was a target in 1990.
Responsibility for the bombings had been taken by four separate movements: Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (the movement to defend Wales), Cadwyr Cymru (the keepers of Wales), Meibion Glyndŵr, and The Welsh Army for the Workers Republic (WAWR) whose attacks were on political targets in the early 1980s. However, Meibion Glyndŵr has been the only group to have had any claim to long-term success, although since the mid-1990s the group has been inactive and Welsh nationalist violence has ceased, at least on an organisational level. Letters claiming responsibility for attacks were signed “Rhys Gethin”, in homage to one of Owain Glyndŵr’s most prominent followers.
A reinvestigation into postal bombings led to the conviction of Sion Aubrey Roberts in 1993. A Plaid Cymru member of parliament, Elfyn Llwyd, speculated that the group was an MI5 front.
With many thanks to: Shane Meade – All that is Irish past and present.
Vincent (Vinny) Byrne Joined the Irish volunteers in 1915 at the age of 14. He fought in E Company, 2nd Battalion during the 1916 Easter Rising at Jacobs Biscuit Factory on Bishop Street, Dublin seeing for the first time a man killed by gunfire. At one point armed with a .22 rifle the 14 year old Byrne held 2 policemen prisoner. He fought here alongside men such as Thomas MacDonagh, John McBride (a veteran of the Boer War) and Mick McDonnell (later leader of the Squad). After the surrender order he escaped and was arrested in a British Army sweep on the following Saturday. A group of the younger rebels were then held in Richmond Barracks (generally treated well in comparison to those at the Rotunda). One of the DMP men who fingerprinted him at Richmond Barracks was Detective Johnny Barton (later killed by Collins Squad on 29th November 1919). During questioning he was asked “Why did I not join the British Army. I said I would be fighting for England then and not for Ireland.” Due to their age they were released the following Friday evening (the older men being deported to Stafford Jail and then Frongoch Concentration Camp in Wales). In his statement to the Bureau of Military History he noted that “It might be well to mention that, strangely enough, in later years I was officer commanding this same barracks where I was held prisoner.”
Vinny Byrne went on the fight with Michael Collins counter intelligence unit ‘The Squad’, taking part in the standard guerilla warfare activities of intelligence gathering, raids for weapons, vehicles and supplies, ambushes, attacks and assasinations all throughout the Irish War of Independence (January 1919 – Truce July 1921). Below is an incomplete timeline of some of the operations he took part in from November 1919 through to Bloody Sunday of November 1920. It may be worth reading the notes at the end as some of this information is conflictive.
Sample one year timeline of Vinny Byrne activity Irish War of Independence :
November 1919 worked with Jim Slattery at Irish Woodworkers. At a meeting of Jim Slattery, Mick McDonnell & Tom Keogh at McDonnells House 29th November 1919 the possibility of Vinny Byrne taking part in the execution of Johnny Barton was discussed. He was a member of this party but did not fire the shot.
30 November 1919 – involved in the execution of Detective Sergeant Johnny Barton executed (15 minutes after he had agreed to do ‘Political Work’). Barton had been known to extort ‘Flyboys’ British men avoiding conscription in Ireland during WWI. Paddy O’Daly, Joe Leonard, Ben Barrett, Vincent Byrne.
p 66-67 ‘The Squad: and the intelligence operations of Michael Collins’ by T. Ryle Dwyer
(This execution is ascribed to Seán Treacy in The Anglo-Irish War: The Troubles of 1913-1922 By Peter Cottrell)
19th December 1919 – Attempted assasination of Lord Lieutenant, Field Marshall Sir John French at Ashtown. This action involved men of the Squad along with the men from Soloheadbeg who had initiated the Irish war of Independence.
Mick McDonnell, Sean Treacy, Dan Breen, Seamus Robinson, J.J. Hogan, Paddy O’Daly, Martin Savage, Tom Keogh, Jim Slattery, Vincent Byrne, Joe Leonard. P 71-
21st January 1920 – Detective Inspector W.C. Forbes Redmond (from Belfast & head of G Division) Executed. Tom Keogh, Vinny Byrne, Jim slattery, Joe Leonard, Séan Doyle, Paddy O’Daly. P81 –
5th February 1920 – Raid on Navy and Army Garage. Haul included tools, parts, motorcycles, 2x ford Trucks later used in several operations. Mick McDonnell, Jim Slattery, Vinny Byrne, Peader clancy (Dublin Brigade Vice-Brigadier). P83 –
12 February 1920 – The hold up of Military escort in attempt to free Robert Barton. (Jim Slattery, Peadar Clancy, Mick McDonnell, Entire Squad + E Company 2nd Battalion) P83 –
13th February 1920 – attempt on Ammunition Train (mixed reports) Squad + Dublin Brigade. P 85
19th February 1920 – Raid on Irish Steam Packet Company – Sir John Rogersons Quay. This raid was unsuccessful as the British Military had removed all ammunition stocks the day before. Vinny Byrne, Squad & Dublin Brigade. P87
2nd March 1920 – Execution of British Agent – John Charles Byrne. Paddy O’Daly, Ben Barrett, Tom Kilcoyne, (Liam Tobin, Tom Cullen). P89 –
3rd March 1920 – Seizure of Dublin Castle Mail. Jim Slattery, Joe Dolan, Paddy Kennedy, Charlie Dalton, Tom Keogh, Vinny Byrne, Pat McCrae. P90 –
9th March 1920 – Vinny Byrne and Joe Slattery quit jobs to work fulltime with the Squad.
Squad formalised with twelve men : Mick McDonnell, Tom Keogh, Jimmy Slattery, Paddy O’Doyle, Joe Leonard, Ben Barrett, Vinny Byrne, Séan Doyle, Paddy Griffin, Eddie Byrne, Mick Reilly, Jimmy Conroy. Reported directly to Collins as Director of Intelligence (or his Deputy Liam Tobin). Based at 100 Seville Place, then later Oriel Street, then to a Builders Yard off Abbey street using the sign ‘Geo.Moreland, Cabinet Maker’. At this point Byrne and Slattery wore Carpenters aprons covering their guns posing as Carpenters for trade. P91 –
March 24th 1920 – Private Fergus Brian Molloy – British agent executed. (Vinny Byrne, Mick McDonnell, Jim Slattery, Tom Keogh). P97
26th March 1920 – Alan Bell Magistrate (former RIC) taken from tram and executed (for more context see note below). (Mick McDonnel, Jim Slattery, Vinny Byrne, Guilfoyle) P 99
20th April 1920 – Detective Constable Laurence Dalton executed.(Mick McDonnell, Tom Keogh, Jim Slattery, Joe Dolan, Vinny Byrne. P102
Sergant Revell shot – (Tom Keogh, Paddy O’Daly, vinny Byrne). P103
30th July 1920 – Frank Brooke Railroad executive & advisor to Lord Lieutenant French executed at Westland Row
(Tom Keogh, Jim Slattery, Vinny Byrne). P123
Late September 1920 – Attempt on G Division
The Squad and the men from Soloheadbeg including ;
Paddy O’Daly, Joe Leonard, Mick McDonnell, Vinny Byrne, Charlie Dalton, Sean Treacy, Dan Breen, JJ Hogan, Seamus Robinson + Tom Cullen, Hugo McNeill, Jim Brennan. This was the planned attack on 8 to a dozen Dublin Castle political branch G division detectives. Aborted due to presence of Joe McNamara (Republican agent) among targets. 2nd failed Attempt a week later due to targets change of plans. As a result of the many roadblocks this 2nd attempt became attack on military at Binn’s bridge wounding 2 British Army soldiers. 3rd attempt following week cancelled by Michael Collins due to the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney’s Hunger strike in Brixton prison. P146
11th October 1920 Dan Breen and Séan Treacy surrounded at safe house and shoot their way out, killing Major Gerald Smyth (brother of Colonel Ferguson Smyth of Listowel infamy) & Captain A.P.White. On 14th October at the funeral of White and Smyth a planned attempt on Hamar Greenwood, General Tudor and prominent officers by members of the Squad was aborted on late receipt of information that they would not after all be present. P151
Bloody Sunday 21 November 1920 – In all 19 men were shot by the IRA, 14 died, also one more later died of wounds. Cairo Gang’ agents (mostly) were executed across Dublin on this morning by multiple units typically led by Squad men and staffed by volunteers. It is said that the list originally included 50 names and was reduced to 35 by Cathal Brugha. In the event about one third were killed the rest escaped or were not present (one being saved by an overnight stay at a brothel). After this event Dublin castle was the destination of an exodus of agents from their lodgings all over Dublin fleeing to the safety of the Castle.
Executions of Captain Peter Ames of the Grenadier Guards and Lieutenant George Bennett (believed head of the Cairo Gang) at 38 Upper Mount Sreet, Dublin. Tom Keogh, Vinny Byrne, Séan Doyle, Herbie Conroy, Frank Saurin, Tom Ennis, Tom Duffy. Of this attack Vinny Byrne is quoted as saying “The Lord have mercy on your souls. I then opened fire with my Peter. They both fell dead.’ This was confirmed in later years during a Television interview which included a re-enactment when Vinny Byrne recalled these words.
Of this momentous day in Irish history Michael Collins wrote: “I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed. Perjury and torture are words too easily known to them. If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile. By their destruction the very air is made sweeter. That should be the future’s judgement on this particular event. For myself my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.”
Later that Sunday afternoon the black and tans/auxiliaries drove to Croke Park and fired 228 rounds into the crowd (not counting 50 rounds from an armoured car). They shot 68 people, killing 15. Including a 10 yr old boy, a 14 yr old boy and also a player for the Tipperary team. This event damaged the British intelligence gathering and operational capability in Ireland and the reprisal at Croke Park massively increased popular support for the IRA. P170 –
Late November 1920 – Abortive attempt on the ‘Igoe Gang’. Thomas Newell, Charlie Dalton, Jim Hughes, Dan Mc Donnell, Tom Keogh, Vinny Byrne, Jim Slattery, Liam Tobin – resulted in the unarmed Newell being interrogated on the street then shot 4 times. P205
Above page numbers refer to :
‘The Squad: and the intelligence operations of Michael Collins’ by T. Ryle Dwyer
.One of the most notable later operations of the Irish War of Independence was the IRA attack on the Customs house in which Vinny Byrne took part.
Vinny Byrne on the Customs House attack :
‘However a 25 May IRA attack on the Customs House in Dublin made it clear that the advocates of continued force within the Irish Independence movement were more than content to keep the fight going. The attack, waged largely by the Dublin Brigade’s 2nd Battalion, marked the largest armed deployment by the rebel forces since the Easter Rising. With some 200 men involved in all, the attack in retrospect might be judged to have been as foolhardy for the IRA as it was dramatic in scale. While the objective of damaging the Customs House and destroying thousands of tax records was achieved, in all the attack resulted in the loss of some seventy-five members of the Dublin Brigade due to arrests at the scene and the deaths of six others. An entry in the diary of Mark Sturgis the day after the attack noted that the structure was ‘still burning this morning’. “O” is in high glee had a most successful raid tihs afternoon and cleared out Michael Colllin’s [sic] new headquarters office. Among the captured documents a letter written to M.C [Michael Collins] saying that a bloody business it was “that we lost all those galant fellows yesterday at the Customs House”. Collins’ attitude to the attack beforehand remains unclear. But given his gut reaction afterwards, the assessment offered by Dublin Brigade Commander, Oscar Traynor that ‘the objective we set out to accomplish has been achieved’ was less than a cause for celebration.
The objective for attacking the Customs House in fact dated back to the end of 1918, when the Irish Volunteers devised a plan for the building’s destruction if and when the British Government imposed conscription on Ireland. Vincent Byrne, a member of the execution gang attached to Michael Collins Intelligence Department, recalled his role in the attack and subsequent escape.
I got a tin of petrol and proceeded to the second floor. I opened the door and sitting inside there were a lady and a gentleman, civil servants having tea. I requested them to leave, stating that I was going to set fire to the office. The gentleman stood up and said ‘Oh, you can’t do that.’ I showed him my gun and told him I was serious. . . The lady then asked me if she could get her coat, and I replied: ‘Miss, you’ll be lucky if you get out with your life.’
Byrne, like other Brigade members, was able to escape in the confusion caused by the smoke that engulfed the building and the mayhem that prevailed outside, as harried British Auxiliaries sought to round up suspects, who were indistinguishable from the rest of the population. Byrne, in fact, relied on his wits to escape from a situation in which he had been detained by joining a crowd that was being questioned by an officer.
Now it came my turn to come before the officer. I humbly asked him:’Could I go home now? He looked at me and said, ‘What are you doing here?’ I replied:’Sir, I was on my way to Brook Thomas to buy some timber.’ He ran his hand all over me and out of my back pocket he pulled a carpenters rule and a few pieces of paper. The paper showed different sizes of timber which I usually carried as a decoy. Handing me back my rule and papers he said’Get to Hell out of this.’ I said, ‘Thank you, sir.’ I was once more clear.
Byrne was much luckier than several IRA men in Cork one month earlier, who were executed by the British authorities in Cork City.’
The Irish Revolution and its Aftermath 1916-1923 – Years of Revolt Francis Costello
Activity of Vinny Byrne during the Irish Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923) which followed the signing of the treaty is less well documented. It is said that some former members of the squad were involved in executions of Anti-Treaty IRA men however this would not be indicative of their overall Civil War era activity as is outlined throughout the Scrapbook cuttings & documents with plentiful reference to large scale engagements.
Other miscellaneous references :
Vinny Byrne at the outbreak of the Irish Civil War:
When the soldiers guarding the Bank of Ireland Building in the centre of Dublin mutinied, shortly after the Army Convention of 26th March, the quick thinking of Vinny Byrne, who was in command of them, prevented a complete collapse by insisting, gun at the ready, that only those stating definite loyalty to the government could remain. He was rescued at the last moment by Beggars’ Bush reinforcements. While the mutiny was in process Oscar Traynor was outside the building ready to occupy it with a force from his Dublin no.1 Brigade. According to J.J O’Connell only 6 of the 50 men there had been prepared to declare their loyalty to GHQ, and a new guard had to be enlisted. After that the anti-Treaty IRA plans to storm Beggars’ Bush, by means of collusion from within, proved stillborn.
Green Against Green – The Irish Civil War Michael Hopkinson
On Michael Collins & joining the Squad:
The first members of the squad were Joe Leonard, Sean Doyle, Jim Slattery, Bill Stapleton, Pat McCrae, James Conroy, Ben Barrett and Daly. Then in January 1920 Collins added Tom Keogh, Mick O’Reilly and Vincent Byrne. The expanded squad became known as the ‘Twelve Apostles’.
Vinny Byrne told me:
we were all young, twenty, twenty-one. We never thought we’d win or lose. We just wanted to have a go. We’d go out in pairs, walk up to the target, do it, then split. You wouldn’t be nervous while you’d be waiting to plug him, but you’d imagine everyone was looking into your face. On a typical job we’d use about eight, including the back-up. Nobody got in our way. One of us would knock him over with the first shot, and the other would finish him off with a shot to the head.
Collins was a marvel. If he hadn’t done the work he did, we’d still be under Britain. Informers and drink would have taken care of us. But our movement was temperate. Collins would meet us from time to time and say, ‘You’re doing great work, lads.’ There was no formality about him. I remember after the Irish Government was set up I was on guard duty at Government Buildings, and he was Commander-in-Chief. He saw me and came over to me and put his arm around me and said, ‘How are you going on, Vinny?’
You got your orders. He was your target. That was your job and it was up to you to see that it was done however you went about it.
14th January 1988 interview Tim Pat Coogan and Vincent Byrne for ‘Michael Collins’ a biography by Tim Pat Coogan
Notes on Alan Bell execution :
Following the near miss of the IRA’s attempt to assasinate Lord French in December 1919, and the shooting of Redmond, the British authorities at last gave priority to reforming intelligence. A small, secret committee, including Alan Bell, a veteran of detective work in the land league days, was forced to consider the consequences of what G.C. Duggan described as the virtual extermination of the Intelligence system. Bell has generally been depicted at this time as leading an investigation into the location of Sinn Féin bank accounts but it is clear from his personal papers that he was involved in detective work relating to the French and Redmond shootings. While the committee was still sitting, Bell was shot dead by Collins’ men: the fact that he was unarmed and unprotected and travelling on his regular route by public transport between Monkstown and the city of Dublin says little for his idea of sensible precautions.
Michael Hopkinson – The Irish War of Independence p55
The Irish Times reported on March 9, 1920 :
Irish Banks and Sinn Fein – Opening of Inquiry
The inquiry authorised by the attorney-General for Ireland under the Crimes Act, for the purpose of ascertaining the relations alleged to exsist between certain Irish banks and Sinn Fein, was opened before Mr Alan Bell, R.M., in a room in the Dublin Police Court Buildings yesterday morning. The proceedings were conducted in private, no persons being present but an official shorthand writer and the witness who for the time being was under examination.
On March 27, 1920 The Irish Times reported :
The murder of Mr. Alan Bell establishes a link between the two most dreadful chapters in the modern history of Ireland. He served the Irish Government loyally in the worst days of the Land League, and helped to defeat that conspiracy of crime.
On March 29, 1920 The Irish Times reported :
Mr Bell had recently been engaged on what he (the Coroner) might describe as quasi-political work in connection with his office, and this, apparently, was sufficient to mark him down for destruction.
On the conflicting information around the official formation of the Squad :
In a written account of the formation of the Squad Major-General Paddy Daly has stated that eight men – Daly himself, Joe Leonard, Ben Barrett, Sean Doyle, Tom Keogh, Jim Slattery, Vincent Byrne, and Mick McDonnell – were called to a meeting early in September 1919 by Collins and Mulcahy, at which the Squad was formed, only the first four being then selected. Comdt Vincent Byrne, in a statement to the author, can recall atending no such meeting, and points out that it would have been strange to announce what was afoot to eight men and then select only four of them. His impression is that Smith was shot by ordinary Volunteers chosen in the main from 2nd Battn, Dublin Brigade, and that two ‘unofficial’ squads of four men each, under Daly and McDonnell respectively, carried out the shoooting of the G-man,Barton in November under authority of Collins, the Squad proper being formed in March 1920, when Comdt Byrne himself and Jim Slattery left their civil employment to join it in a full time capacity.
With many thanks to: AllthatisIrishpastandpresent.
Resharing some family history This is my Grandad Patrick Leonard who was Lieutenant in C Company, 3rd Batt. North Tlpperary Brigade I.R.A., and took part in many engagements during the War of Independence . He served terms of imprisonment under the Crown Forces at the Curragh ,Gormanstown and Limerick. While imprisoned in the Curragh he took part in a hunger strike. He was arrested during the Civil War for carrying weapons.His comrades from the IRA carried his Coffin his Coffin draped in the tri-colour.He had 8 daughters and 1 son,and the son John Leonard was my father also a Republican .
With many thanks to: OliviaLeonard – All that is Irish past and present.
Born in West Cork in 1895 Tom Kelleher has the distinction of being involved in many of the key events in the tan and civil wars in Cork. He fired the first shot against the british in the area at the Newcestown ambush, his next major engagement, that of ambushing a train carrying British military at Upton in February 1921, was to be the one which clearly stamped him as a man, quoting Tom Barry of “undoubted courage, ability and leadership”.
These qualities were exemplified by his rescue of the injured brigade OC Charlie Hurley whom he found wounded, carried him on his back, and amid heavy gunfire brought him to safety from the ambush.
Gen. Barry said in his memoirs: ‘It was the toughest fought battle I experienced in my entire period with the Third West Cork Brigade’.
Kelleher was promoted at the time to the rank of section commander. No. 5 section, at the greatest encounter of the Cork Brigade’s campaign when at Crossbarry 100 IRA men inflicted huge losses in a complete rout of the British forces.
His next major engagement was at Roscarbery when Gen. Barry asked Kelleher and three others to take a mine to the front door of the barracks.
He was oppossed to the treaty “we could not believe the news of a truce at first. No, we did not think the fight was won. Far from it. Later when the treaty came and we inquired about the north we were not too pleased. we still hoped however, that the north would come in and it would be one government for the whole lot. We were not too pleased when they had a part of our country in subjection. A bad job; we could see it would be another fight”
He commanded the flying column that engaged Michael Collins’ convoy at Béal na mBláth, though adamant the fatal shot did not come from his side. Captured and interned in Cork Jail in September 1923 upon his release he reengaged with the IRA and remained a committed republican until his death – opposing de Valera and Fianna Fail who again interned him in the Curragh. “I came out in December 1923 and said we’ll not stop now. We will go on until the country is free, and we will get in the six counties eventually. I always said, break the connection and when England goes it will resolve itself out after. I am under the impression that if England leaves, the people there who oppose us now, will make no fight. I satisfied myself on that during the days i spent at Máire Drumm’s funeral. They all told me that, there is a great fighting spirit there”
Kelleher never wavered in his beliefs and travelled the country into his 80’s attending commemorations and supporting the 1980/81 hungerstrikes.
One of the last survivors of the famous West Cork Flying Column, Comdt. Tom Kelleher, died in hospital in Cork 1984, aged 89
With many thanks to: AllthatisIrish past and present.
Became noted across the American West and in western Canada as a nurse, restaurateur, businesswoman, Roman Catholic philanthropist in Arizona, and gold prospector in Alaska. A native of County Cork, Ireland, she and her sister were brought as young children to the United States by their mother about 1850 to escape the poverty of the Great Famine. The family lived first in Boston, Massachusetts, where the girls also worked when old enough, before migrating to San Francisco, California, in 1865.
Cashman established her first boarding house for miners in British Columbia during the Klondike Gold Rush, asking for donations to the Sisters of St. Anne in return. During her time there, she led a rescue of tens of miners in the Cassiar Mountains.
After moving to Tombstone, Arizona, c. 1880, Cashman built the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and did charitable work with the Sisters of St. Joseph. She successfully reared the five children of her sister Fanny after they were orphaned in 1883. In the late 1880s, Cashman set up several restaurants and boardinghouses in Arizona.
In 1898 she went to the Yukon for gold prospecting, working there until 1905. She became nationally known as a frontierswoman, with the Associated Press covering a later trip. In 2006 Cashman was inducted into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame.
With many thanks to: All that is Irish past and present
Following establishment of the Irish Free State, three deep water Treaty Ports at Berehaven, Queenstown (modern Cobh) and Lough Swilly were retained by the United Kingdom in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921.Formerly, when the country was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Royal Navy had designated its Ireland Station as a long-standing separate command.Location of the Treaty Ports in the Irish Free State, renamed Ireland in 1937 (1922-1938)
The main reason for the retention of the ports was the U-boat Campaign around Irish coasts during World War I and the concern of the British government that it might recur. As a part of the overall Anglo-Irish settlement it was envisaged that all other Royal Navy, British Army and RAF personnel and equipment were to evacuate the Free State.
As part of the settlement of the Anglo-Irish Trade War in the 1930s, the ports were transferred to Ireland (the Free State’s successor) in 1938 following agreements reached between the British and Irish Governments.
Terms of the treaty
In 1921 Éamon de Valera originally offered – in an early version of the Anglo-Irish Treaty – to allow the British to continue to use the ports for a further period of five years. The British would also be able to use whatever harbours they required in wartime.
8. That for five years, pending the establishment of Irish coastal defence forces, or for such other period as the Governments of the two countries may later agree upon, facilities for the coastal defence of Ireland shall be given to the British Government as follows:
(a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed upon between the British Government and the Government of Ireland.
(b) In time of war such harbour and other Naval facilities as the British Government may reasonably require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
However Article 8 was defeated by republicans within de Valera’s own party and removed from the final terms of the treaty. Instead the issue of the ports was addressed in Article 7:
The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty’s Imperial Forces:
(a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
The Annex referred to in that Article read as follows:
The following are the specific facilities required:
Dockyard Port at Berehaven
(a) Admiralty property and rights to be retained as at the rate hereof. Harbour defences to remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties.
(b) Harbour defences to remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties. Certain mooring buoys to be retained for use of His Majesty’s ships.
(c) Harbour defences to remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties.
(d) Harbour defences to remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties.
(e) Facilities in the neighbourhood of the above Ports for coastal defence by air.
Oil Fuel Storage
(f) Haulbowline, Rathmullen – To be offered for sale to commercial companies under guarantee that purchasers shall maintain a certain minimum stock for Admiralty purposes.
The Annex included reference to Belfast Lough because Northern Ireland was included within the original territory of the Irish Free State although under the Treaty it had the right to opt out of the Free State and back into the U.K.. It did so on 8 December 1922. With the departure of Northern Ireland from the Free State, this left three United Kingdom bases in the territory of the Free State (subsequently renamed Ireland in 1937). The continued occupation by the United Kingdom of these bases was a thorn in the side of Irish leaders at the time.
Notably, the position of the Treaty ports was raised by de Valera in correspondence with the British Government in 1932 shortly before the beginning of the Economic War, where he noted:
For Ireland, however, [ the Anglo-Irish Treaty ] has meant…[inter alia that] British maintenance parties are still in occupation in some of our principal ports, even in the area of the Free State. Our coastal defence is still retained in British hands. Britain claims the right in times of war or strained relations with a foreign Power to make demands upon Ireland which if granted will make our right to neutrality a mockery.
Agreement on transfer of Treaty Ports
By 1938 the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom had been involved in a long-running Anglo-Irish Trade War that was not in the interest of either country’s economy. Negotiations to settle the matters in dispute took place in 1938. One of the items the Irish side pushed for was the transfer of the Treaty Ports. The treaty was signed on 25 April 1938; the section relating to the Treaty Ports was as follows:
AN AGREEMENT REGARDING ARTICLES 6 AND 7 OF THE ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT OF DECEMBER 6, 1921
The Government of Éire and the Government of the United Kingdom have agreed as follows:
1. The provisions of Articles 6 and 7 of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland signed on the 6th day of December, 1921, and of the Annex thereto shall cease to have effect.
2. Thereafter the Government of the United Kingdom will transfer to the Government of Éire the Admiralty property and rights at Berehaven, and the harbour defences at Berehaven, Cobh (Queenstown) and Lough Swilly now occupied by care and maintenance parties furnished by the United Kingdom, together with buildings, magazines, emplacements, instruments and fixed armaments with ammunition therefor at present at the said ports.
3. The transfer will take place not later than the 31st December, 1938. In the meantime the detailed arrangements for the transfer will be the subject of discussion between the two Governments.
Done in duplicate at London, this 25th day of April, 1938.
The treaty was subject to parliamentary approval by both parties. The United Kingdom subsequently enacted the Eire (Confirmation of Agreements) Act 1938, which put in effect, among other things, the British government’s agreement to transfer the Treaty Ports. From an Irish point of view, the handover of the ports in the lead up to World War II was felt vital to consolidate Ireland’s neutrality during “The Emergency”.
Spike Island Handover (11 July 1938)
On 12 July 1938, The Times reported on the handover of Spike Island, near Cobh (51°50′2.15″N 8°17′5.97″W) on 11 July 1938 as follows:
CORK FORTS HANDED OVER – Amid the booming of guns the last British troops stationed at Spike Island in Cork Harbour this evening handed over custody of the island and the adjoining fortifications to the troops of Eire.
This is the first stage in pursuance of the defence provisions of the agreement recently concluded in London between the British Government and Mr. de Valera. The defences at Berehaven and at Lough Swilly will be handed over to Irish custody before the end of the year. Spike Island has had a long and interesting history, and for more than 150 years the British flag has flown over it as one of the main defence works on the southern coast. For years Spike was a penal settlement and was continued as such down to the truce of 1921. To-day was the seventeenth anniversary of the truce.
For the ceremony of taking over the fortifications the Government of Eire sent out a number of invitations, the guests including Ministers, members of the Dáil and Senate, and leaders of the old Irish Republican Army. A decorated train brought the guests from Dublin to Cobh, and a tender carried them to Spike Island, where about 300 Irish troops had already landed under Major Maher. Only a small party of British troops remained, and Captain O’Halloran, who was in charge, handed over the forts to Major Maher on behalf of the Eire Government at 6.20 p.m., and the Union Jack was lowered. The British soldiers then went aboard the motor-vessel Innisfallen and left for Fishguard, a salute being fired as the vessel departed.
The British had already departed when Mr. de Valera and Mr. Frank Aiken, the Minister for Defence, arrived in a launch, being greeted by a salute of 19 guns. The troops were formed up around the flagstaff and Mr. de Valera ran up the tricolour national flag of Eire over Westmoreland Fort to the accompaniment of a salute of 21 guns. As the flag was broken there were cheers, re-echoed by the thousands gathered on the mainland. Simultaneously the flag was saluted at barracks in Dublin, the Curragh, Athlone, and other military centres. The warship H.M.S. Acasta, which has been in the port on duty, left about the time the Innisfallen sailed, and both were well out to sea by the time the Irish flag was hoisted on the island.
The invitations to the Irish handover celebration read as follows:
The Minister for Defence on behalf of the Government of Ireland requests the honour of the company of XXX on the occasion of the handing over of the Cobh Harbour Defences and the raising of the National Flag at Spike Island, Cobh, Co. Cork on Monday, 11th July 1938 at 8pm – RSVP etc.
Berehaven Handover (29 September 1938)
On 6 October 1938, The Times reported the handover of forts and batteries (known collectively as Berehaven) around Castletownbere and on Bere Island (51.64°N 9.90°W) on 29 September 1938 as follows:
LAST BRITISH TROOPS LEAVE EIRE – The last of the British troops stationed at the Southern Irish coast defences left last night for England. British troops under Major Clarke on Thursday officially handed over the fort at Berehaven, 100 miles from Cork City, and yesterday they entrained at Bantry and arrived at Cork during the afternoon. After spending a few hours in the city, they embarked in the motor-vessel Innisfallen for Fishguard, being seen off by large crowds that gathered at the quayside.
The Times’ choice of headline was a little misleading in one respect – the British troops at Berehaven were not the last troops to leave the Irish state. The evacuation of Lough Swilly was yet to take place.
Lough Swilly Handover (3 October 1938) Edit
On 4 October 1938, The Times reported on the handover of Lough Swilly at Fort Dunree (55°11′48.26″N 7°33′10.95″W) on 3 October 1938 as follows:
FORTS HANDED OVER TO EIRE – Britain’s last forts in Eire, those on the gale-swept Lough Swilly at Dunree and Leenan, were surrendered to the Eire Defence Forces yesterday. The ceremony at Dunree was witnessed by only a dozen spectators. The Union Jack, was hauled down by two Royal Artillery N.C.O.s and the Eire green, white, and orange flag was run up by two N.C.O.s of the Coastal Artillery Defence Force. The ceremony was brought forward from October 26, the date originally fixed under the Anglo-Irish Pact, on account of the international situation. When the British troops left last evening en route for Shoeburyness, their new headquarters, they were given a cordial send off. By a coincidence Sergeant O’Flynn, of the Royal Artillery, who hauled down the Union Jack, and Sergeant McLaughlin, of the Eire force, who hoisted the tricolour, are brothers-in-law.
Two brothers in-law, one hauling down a Union Jack and the other hauling up an Irish tricolour was indeed a poignant end to the long history of British military presence in the territory of the Irish state. It was also the last time sovereignty over any territory was ceded to Ireland.
Following the agreement to handover the Treaty Ports to the Irish Free State, Winston Churchill was one of only a few MPs who were critical of the decision. In 1938 he addressed the UK’s Houses of parliament calling it a “folly”:
When I read this Agreement in the newspapers a week ago I was filled with surprise. On the face of it, we seem to give everything away and receive nothing in return…But then I supposed there was another side to the Agreement, and that we were to be granted some facilities and rights in Southern Ireland in time of war. That, I notice, was the view taken by a part of the Press, but soon Mr. de Valera in the Dáil made it clear that he was under no obligations of any kind and, as the Prime Minister confirmed …On the contrary, Mr. de Valera has not even abandoned his claim for the incorporation of Ulster…
We are told that we have ended the age-long quarrel between England and Ireland, but that is clearly not true, because Mr. de Valera has said that he will never rest until Partition is swept away. Therefore, the real conflict has yet to come…[The Anglo-Irish] Treaty has been kept in the letter and the spirit by Great Britain, but the Treaty has been violated and repudiated in every detail by Mr. de Valera….The ports in question, Queenstown, Berehaven and Lough Swilly, are to be handed over unconditionally, with no guarantees of any kind, as a gesture of our trust and good will, as the Prime Minister said, to the Government of the Irish Republic.
When the Irish Treaty was being shaped in 1922 I was instructed by the Cabinet to prepare that part of the Agreement which dealt with strategic reservations. I negotiated with Mr. Michael Collins, and I was advised by Admiral Beatty…The Admiralty of those days assured me that without the use of these ports it would be very difficult, perhaps almost impossible, to feed this Island in time of war. Queenstown and Berehaven shelter the flotillas which keep clear the approaches to the Bristol and English Channels, and Lough Swilly is the base from which the access to the Mersey and the Clyde is covered…If we are denied the use of Lough Swilly and have to work from Lamlash, we should strike 200 miles from the effective radius of our flotillas, out and home; and if we are denied Berehaven and Queenstown, and have to work from Pembroke Dock, we should strike 400 miles from their effective radius out and home. These ports are, in fact, the sentinel towers of the western approaches, by which the 45,000,000 people in this Island so enormously depend on foreign food for their daily bread, and by which they can carry on their trade, which is equally important to their existence.
In 1922 the Irish delegates made no difficulty about this. They saw that it was vital to our safety that we should be able to use these ports and, therefore, the matter passed into the structure of the Treaty without any serious controversy. Now we are to give them up, unconditionally, to an Irish Government led by men I do not want to use hard words whose rise to power has been proportionate to the animosity with which they have acted against this country, no doubt in pursuance of their own patriotic impulses, and whose present position in power is based upon the violation of solemn Treaty engagements.
But what guarantee have you that Southern Ireland, or the Irish Republic, as they claim to be and you do not contradict them will not declare neutrality if we are engaged in war with some powerful nation? Under this Agreement, it seems to me…that Mr. de Valera’s Government will at some supreme moment of emergency demand the surrender of Ulster as an alternative to declaring neutrality.
Mr. de Valera has given no undertaking, except to fight against Partition as the main object of his life. It would be a serious step for a Dublin Government to attack these forts while they are in our possession and while we have the right to occupy them. It would be an easy step for a Dublin Government to deny their use to us once we have gone…You are casting away real and important means of security and survival for vain shadows and for ease.
Churchill also remarked that the concessions under the Agreements of 1938 were “astonishing triumphs” for Irish leader, Éamon de Valera. Churchill also asked would it not be “far better to give up the £10,000,000 [a one-off Irish payment under the Agreement], and acquire the legal right, be it only on a lease granted by treaty, to use these harbours when necessary?” Mr Churchill also made a remark concerning the name by which the Irish state would henceforth be described in the UK (Eire) – “I have not been able to form a clear opinion on the exact juridical position of the Government of that portion of Ireland called Southern Ireland, which is now called Eire. That is a word which really has no application at the present time, and I must say, even from the point of view of the ordinary uses of English, that it is not customary to quote a term in a foreign language, a capital town, a geographical place, when there exists a perfectly well-known English equivalent [Ireland]. It is usual to say Paris not Paree.”
With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Churchill’s concerns appeared justified. The escort Groups refuelling facilities at Berehaven and Queenstown were 200 miles (320 km) further west than the nearest ones in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. To compensate for the distance, allied convoys from North America were routed via Iceland to the ports in Northern Ireland in the early months of the Battle of the Atlantic. However, this decision eventually proved more practical because the shorter sea lanes around Ireland’s southern coast soon became vulnerable to German anti-shipping air attacks following the fall of France in June 1940. The Iceland route also provided better air cover and escort refuelling for allied convoys. Nevertheless, many in the Royal Navy felt resentment towards the handover of the Irish Treaty Ports because they would have provided some cover to convoys heading south to Gibraltar and North Africa.
With many thanks to: All that is Irish past and present.