Irish War of Independence

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The Irish War of Independence (1919-1921) was fought between Britain and Irish nationalists seeking to create an independent Irish republic. The protagonists were on the British side the British Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and on the Irish side the Irish Republican Army (IRA), formerly known as the Irish Volunteers.

The war was a guerrilla conflict, and the main areas of combat were Dublin and the remote areas of south-west Ireland. Assassinations and atrocities were carried out by both sides. The British government notoriously set up two paramilitary formations attached to the RIC: the Black and Tans, a reserve police unit recruited from British ex-servicemen and named for the mix of the dark green RIC uniforms and khaki British army uniforms that they wore, and the Police Auxiliaries (Auxies), recruited from ex-officers. Both the Tans and the Auxies gained a fearsome reputation for violence and indiscipline, and were implicated in the burning of the city centre of Cork in reprisal for an IRA attack. In the countryside of south-west Ireland, the IRA were able to establish some territorial control - British units could enter only in heavily armoured columns, and were prey to ambushes - but in Dublin it was restricted to hit-and-run attacks. There were two major exceptions. On 20 November 1920, known as 'Bloody Sunday', IRA gunmen killed 14 British secret service agents in the city; in reprisal, that afternoon British troops surrounded the Croke Park sports ground where a Gaelic Football match was taking place and fired into the crowd, killing 14 spectators. On 25 May 1921 a large IRA formation captured and burned the Custom House in Dublin, destroying the tax records of Ireland (and much other material besides).

Portrayal in Film

This era has been depicted in films such as John Ford's The Informer, Neil Jordan's biopic of Michael Collins, and The Wind that Shakes the Barley, by Marxist director Ken Loach.