This map shows the Irish railway lines affected by the 'munitions strike' of May to December 1920. The munitions strike represented the largest manifestation of passive resistance during the war of independence. The campaign was undertaken by railwaymen who refused to handle or to operate trains carrying munitions of war or armed troops and police.
The phrase 'strike' is a misnomer, because the action involved individuals (mainly locomotive crew or train guards) refusing to handle traffic and being dismissed. The Irish railway companies had been under wartime government control since December 1916, and management were divided on the government-imposed dismissals policy.
This map shows Ireland's train network in 1920. Slide over to see what lines were affected.
As Autumn turned to Winter, the British pursued a policy of partial or total closure of lines, the full extent of which is shown in the map. This added to the economic hardship already being suffered by the civilian population.
The strike was co-ordinated by Michael Collins, and received the support of railway workers in the south and west. On the Great Northern Railway (GNR), which owned the Dublin-Belfast main line together with lines to Derry, Cavan and the north-west, the application of the strike was patchy. Train crews of loyalist political views were happy to work military traffic – the more so because it was frequently done on overtime.
When the British government threatened to close the entire railway system a special conference organised by the Irish Labour Party & Trade Union Congress in November 1920 decided to accept all traffic offering. Dismissed men were reinstated, except on the GNR, where re-instatement was not completed until early 1923.
This map and article are based on The Atlas of the Irish Revolution edited by John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil, Mike Murphy and John Borgonovo, and its contents do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ