The Road to Freedom
The Rising of 1916, the disgraceful acts of the British Government and the continuing War of Independence that followed in 1919-21 had a profound influence on the shaping of modern Ireland. In 1914 the Irish Parliamentary Party, dedicated to autonomy for Ireland within the British Empire, appeared unassailable. After the General Election of 1918 the party disappeared from the Irish political scene. In the same election Sin Fein, dedicated to the establishment of an independent Republic, was returned as the virtually unopposed voice of Irish nationalism. This was followed by the setting up of an Irish parliament, Dail Eireann, and an even more comprehensive victory at the polls for Sinn Fein in 1921. The great swing in public opinion that brought about this change can only be explained in the context of 1916 and its aftermath.
The local elections of January 1920, conducted under the new system of proportional representation, resulted in another comprehensive victory for Sinn Fein. Irish American opinion was mobilized and a fund known as the Dail Loan was extended to the United States with considerable success. The various Dail departments continued to operate with varying degrees of effectiveness, despite surveillance. Gradually the existing judicial and local government systems crumbled or were taken over. This process, given increased momentum by the results of the 1921 election, continued up to the Treaty.
Increasingly frustrated by their failure to curb the IRA, British forces began to adopt a policy of reprisals, unofficially at first. Houses of suspected IRA members, creameries newspaper offices mills and whole villages were burned down by the Auxiliaries and Black and Tans as the violence escalated. On September 20,1920 the Black and Tans burned Balbriggan in County Dublin. Other towns such as Granard, County Longford, Trim, County Meath and Templemore, County Tipperary were also attacked, and on December 11 the Auxiliaries burned the centre of Cork. Official reprisals, such as the burning of houses whose inhabitants neglected to give information to the military and police became increasingly common, while on the other side the IRA shot informers and burned down the houses of active pro-unionists. Finally, with the military conflict in stalemate, and following preliminary negotiations, the terms of a Truce were agreed on July 9, 1921 and came into effect on July 11.