The General half-smiled for the cameras but his mind was already elsewhere.

The cheering, swaying crowd outside the Mansion House that humid July evening made the proceedings look like a cross between a film premiere and a political rally, but it did little to lift Nevil Macready's mood.

As he got back into his staff car to return to his headquarters in Kilmainham, he was already preparing for the phone call he had to make to his political master, Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

As Commander of British forces in Ireland, he had just agreed to a set of terms for an end to hostilities with the Irish Republican Army.

An 'Army' he had confidently predicted he would crush just six months earlier.

An 'Army' he and the rest of the military command regarded as a criminal gang of counter-jumping backshooters.

An 'Army' simply referred to by Lloyd George as 'Murder'.

An 'Army' he had just acknowledged, by his very presence in the Mansion House that evening, had fought its way to a place at the negotiating table.

IRA Chief of Staff Richard Mulcahy had waited in a house around the corner from the Mansion House, in case he was needed. In the end, he wasn't.

No IRA officer was in the room that evening, but it didn't matter. Nothing would happen without them.

Over in 10 Downing Street, Lloyd George waited for the General's call. He needed details, fast, before he could break the news of the ceasefire to his Cabinet.

Macready consoled himself with the fact that he had not actually signed anything. He couldn't even bring himself to use the word 'Truce'.

But when he took the piece of paper out of his pocket to look at his notes from the meeting, there they were, in his own handwriting.

The terms.

Macready had agreed to:

Cessation by the military and police of raids and searches.

No reinforcements from Britain.

An end to curfews.

An end to Courts Martial of Irish prisoners.

No pursuit of (IRA) officers, men or war material.

No interference with Republican communications.

No spying on the IRA or Sinn Féin.

In return, Macready got a commitment from the IRA that:

Attacks on Crown Forces to cease.

No 'Provocative' displays of force.

No interference with government property.

Image - THE FIRST DRAFT OF FREEDOM: How the Truce evolved from Michael Collins' handwritten first draft to the final instructions issued to IRA officers across the country (By kind permission of the National Archives / Bureau Collection in Military Archives)

THE FIRST DRAFT OF FREEDOM: How the Truce evolved from Michael Collins' handwritten first draft to the final instructions issued to IRA officers across the country (By kind permission of the National Archives / Bureau Collection in Military Archives)

The announcement of the Truce took combatants on both sides totally by surprise.

Frontline British troops and officers believed their government had lost its nerve, just as the tide of the war was turning in their favour. Some of that reaction can be put down to professional face-saving; the politicians accused of losing their nerve could point to repeated declarations by the generals, of imminent victory. Declarations that were usually followed by another spike in casualties.

The British 5th Infantry Division's history recorded the humiliation felt by officers who, in keeping to the terms of the commitments made by General Macready in the Mansion House, now had to deal "....on equal terms with those whom they regarded as callous and treacherous murderers".

Most volunteers were relieved that the constant pressure from army and police was now withdrawn, but emotions were mixed.

Charles Dalton was a member of Collins' squad.

"I saw our Tricolour flag waving from every window. I am not going to describe my emotions. I felt like a kid, a lump in my throat, trying not to burst out crying."

Connemara Officer Peter McDonnell got the news from a courier direct from IRA headquarters.

"I cannot say that we went wild at the news. To say we were stunned would be nearer the mark, until it began to sink in that the British had been forced by men just like us fighting all over the country to agree to a Truce".

Others were suspicious about the reason for the British agreeing to the Truce. Dublin IRA man Sean Prendergast recalled the less than joyous reaction to the news:

"Some there were who feared that the Truce was only a trap designed to break our discipline, to take us off our guard and cause us to weaken our hold on things generally. But, in the main, the majority looked upon it in the light of being a military order and as such deserving respect and compliance".*


Image - Michael Collins' own first draft of what would become the Truce document. It might have been written in haste, but the laser-like focus on the priorities for the IRA is already obvious. 

Credit: By kind permission of the National Archives.

Michael Collins' own first draft of what would become the Truce document. It might have been written in haste, but the laser-like focus on the priorities for the IRA is already obvious. Credit: By kind permission of the National Archives.

Image - The terms were tidied up the next day ... (Credit: By kind permission of the National Archive)

The terms were tidied up the next day ... (Credit: By kind permission of the National Archive)

Image -
Image - ... before becoming the final instructions issued to IRA officers across the land. (Credit: Bureau Collection in Military Archives)

... before becoming the final instructions issued to IRA officers across the land. (Credit: Bureau Collection in Military Archives)

Image - IRA Deputy Director of Intelligence Frank Thornton, photographed at his headquarters in Dublin, the day the Truce came into effect. The body language doesn't fit the defiant pose. Credit: Bureau Collection in Military Archives

IRA Deputy Director of Intelligence Frank Thornton, photographed at his headquarters in Dublin, the day the Truce came into effect. The body language doesn't fit the defiant pose. Credit: Bureau Collection in Military Archives


Why did the Truce not come immediately into force that Friday evening? The delay until the Monday was to give the IRA and British forces time to get the word out to their units in the field. Even in 1921, news travelled slowly. At least one IRA unit carried out an ambush after the Truce came into force, and refused to believe their Auxiliary prisoners, that any such thing had happened.


"... the citizens played holiday round their streets until well past midnight each night, rejoicing in their new found liberty"

Image - The scenes outside the Mansion House in the days after the Truce were like a combination of film premiere and political rally. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

The scenes outside the Mansion House in the days after the Truce were like a combination of film premiere and political rally. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

Image - Joy on the streets of Dublin after the Truce was declared: children wave Tricolours. (Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum.19PO-1A33-24)

Joy on the streets of Dublin after the Truce was declared: children wave Tricolours. (Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum.19PO-1A33-24)

THE JOY OF CROWDS

As Macready's car was driven through the city streets to Kilmainham, something else besides news of the Truce rippled outwards from the Mansion House. Unseen and unheard, it moved down lanes and alleys, along roads and avenues, squares and crescents, it crossed valleys and fields, knowing no barrier.

A feeling.

Joy.

An engineer with the Cork No 1 Brigade Michael V O'Donoghue passed through Cork City as military and police rule faded from the streets of a city that had borne the worst of the war. After two-and-a-half years of conflict, he was astounded at the change in the public mood:

"At 10pm, they could be seen sitting on the pavements, in doorways everywhere, on the streets under the open air, as if they were trying to assure themselves that it was really true, that British tyranny no longer operated, and that they were now free and no longer under the baleful hostile gun-muzzle of Tan and Tommy ...

"... the citizens played holiday round their streets until well past midnight each night, rejoicing in their newfound liberty".

But his own mood darkened in the coming days, as others less welcome appeared on the streets.

Image - The despised Trucileers. The poster is from a year later, but captures the mood of the summer of 1921. Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum 20NO-1D12-06

The despised Trucileers. The poster is from a year later, but captures the mood of the summer of 1921. Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum 20NO-1D12-06

'TRUCILEERS' AND 'SLICK CLEVER CHANCERS'

These men managed the impossible: to unite the British Army and IRA in contempt: Trucileers.

This was the term applied to those men who, with peace imminent, and retribution for any armed action unlikely, suddenly appeared on the streets, armed, but strangers to the men who had done the fighting, and the women who had supported them.

Men anxious to make themselves a quick and easy reputation.

Years later, O'Donoghue summed it up like this:

"Men who had been neutral during the war, but decided to leap on the bandwagon, showing hitherto unexpected depths of ardour ... The Trucileers or truce warriors deceived the public, then wormed their way into jobs in the new State, feathering their nests ... slick, clever chancers."*

'THEY KILLED RIGHT UP TO THE ARMISTICE'

This was a diary entry for the second full day of the Truce, by Dublin Castle administration official Mark Sturgis.

In the few days between the declaration of the Truce and its coming into force, men and women continued to die, soldiers, policemen, Volunteers, civilians caught in the crossfire. Sixty-three people are recorded as having died in the conflict, between the evening of 8 July, and noon on 11 July.

Every war ends with unfinished business, and the War of Independence had plenty of that.

For all the detail in the instructions issued to IRA officers about how to operate after the Truce came into effect, there was nothing about how to operate before it took effect.

By contrast with the instructions issued to IRA units, those issued to police and army units on 9 July were categorical in ordering a cessation of all operations "WITHOUT WAITING FOR THE OFFICIAL HOUR ON JULY 11TH".

Historians have fallen out over allegations that some IRA units, knowing that the Truce was to come into force at a set time on 11 July, went on a murder spree, in the knowledge that there could be no retribution.

How many of the dead of those days were killed because of the approaching Truce?

Of the 63 deaths, those on 8 July can be discounted, as no frontline soldiers, policemen or volunteers would have received any orders related to the Truce by the end of that day.

Two civilians and an unarmed volunteer were killed in suspicious circumstances by the army on 9 July.

The killing of four unarmed soldiers by the IRA in Cork City on 10 July was carried out in the knowledge the Truce was imminent.

The killings on 11 July itself, are far more likely than the rest, to be related to the imminent Truce.

Two RIC officers, long on the IRA's target list, were killed; one in Skibbereen, one in Castlerea.

One soldier was killed in an ambush aimed at killing an army officer on the IRA's target list.

Image - 'Shot while trying to escape'. Cork volunteer Denis Spriggs (Credit: Padraig O'Ruairc Collection)

'Shot while trying to escape'. Cork volunteer Denis Spriggs (Credit: Padraig O'Ruairc Collection)

Image - Retribution for Spriggs' killing was swift and terrible. Credit: Imperial War Museum.

Retribution for Spriggs' killing was swift and terrible. Credit: Imperial War Museum.

And one soldier's death was definitely linked to the Truce.

Probably the most notorious incident was the Ellis Quarry killings, when four unarmed soldiers were abducted by an IRA unit in Cork City, on the evening before the Truce came into effect. They were taken to a nearby quarry, where they were shot dead within an hour of capture.

No definitive reason was ever given, but two of the dead soldiers came from a regiment, the South Staffordshires, blamed for the deaths of two unarmed volunteers in the last weeks of the war. One of the volunteers, Denis Spriggs, was killed by the Staffordshires "while trying to escape", the day before.

The streets of Killarney were the setting for the last recorded deaths of the war. Two people died there in the last 15 minutes before the Truce came into effect.

Two Mess Sergeants, CF Mears and FG Clark, walked unarmed out of the barracks and headed into town, to place orders for supplies. By 11.45am, they had reached High Street. They were surrounded by half a dozen IRA men, carrying revolvers. Both sergeants were shot. Mears died of his wounds, Clark survived.

The sergeants are recorded as the last military casualties of the war, but in those last minutes, the killing on the streets of Killarney had not yet finished.

'I AM DONE': THE LAST CASUALTY

Hannah Carey was a waitress at the Imperial Hotel. At five minutes to noon, she was standing at the main entrance when an RIC truck came speeding around the corner, heading for the scene of the shooting of the sergeants.

A shot was fired from the truck. Hannah staggered back into the lobby, clutching her throat. She fell into the arms of the hotel owner, Marie Slattery. Slattery said later that she saw something fall to the floor, a spent bullet. Hannah moaned softly "I am done".

The hotel chef frantically loosened Hannah's clothes, to see where the damage was, and discovered the bullet wound to her throat. Two doctors were on the scene within minutes, and tried in vain to save her. She died two hours later.

The official inquest a few days later concluded that the cause of death was asphyxia, following a bullet wound to the thorax.

The policemen in the truck told the inquest that they approached the scene at speed, guns at the ready, not knowing if the shooting of the sergeants was a ruse to draw them into the open. The driver testified that his gun went off by accident. He told the inquest that he was carrying his revolver, loaded and cocked, while at the same time trying to steer the vehicle around the corner.

His actions earned him a rebuke from the Court of Inquiry.**

Image - The Imperial Hotel Killarney. The last person to die in the war fell at the front door.
Credit: National Library of Ireland.

The Imperial Hotel Killarney. The last person to die in the war fell at the front door. Credit: National Library of Ireland.

CLOSE CALLS AND LAST HURRAHS

Many actions in those last hours were part of a last hurrah. Some barracks were peppered at long range with gunfire, more as a morale-booster than for any actual gain.

But there were more serious operations, too.

An army patrol out of Castleisland barracks in Co Kerry was ambushed on the Sunday evening. Four soldiers and three volunteers were killed. A planned attack on Killorglin RIC station the same evening, which was to begin with a demolition of the outer wall, was called off because of the danger to civilian homes nearby, with the Truce being so close.

On the very evening the Truce was agreed, a massive IRA operation planned to hit troops and police, armed and unarmed all across Dublin city, was within an hour of being launched when Eamon de Valera, just out of the meeting with Macready, had to rush to order it cancelled.

One example of the difficulty in attributing killings by British soldiers to score-settling is what has become known as the Kilgobinet mine disaster, or Kilgobinet booby trap.

All over the country during the conflict, IRA units routinely 'trenched' roads to hamper motorised patrols, and in a bid to counter the trenchings, British soldiers sometimes booby-trapped any they found half-finished.

This seems to have happened in Kilgobinet, Co Waterford, the very night the Truce was declared. At some time that night, into the early hours of 9 July, soldiers of the East Kent Regiment boobytrapped a road trench dug by the West Waterford IRA. The trench was dug in the days previously, as part of a plan to ambush a patrol of that same regiment. After it was part backfilled to allow a funeral cortege pass, the IRA and some local men were re-digging the trench when a landmine hidden in the dirt exploded. One volunteer and at least five civilian helpers were killed.

Official British accounts marked down the explosion as a successful operation, and claimed all the fatalities were volunteers.

Any idea that it happened under cover of the Truce is hard to credit. Even the British cabinet were only being informed of the Truce on the night of 8 July, when the landmine was being planted. The order to British troops to cease operations once they heard about the Truce, only reached most units on the evening of 9 July.

NO TRUCE IN BELFAST

The tragic events in Belfast that weekend unfolded at their own pace; the Truce went almost unnoticed. Belfast IRA Officer Roger McCorley estimated the respite lasted six hours in the city.

The new entity of Northern Ireland, its parliament given a priceless endorsement by the presence of King George V at its opening just over two weeks earlier, was wracked by violence over the weekend between the calling of the Truce and its beginning.

The sectarian violence did not erupt from a vacuum; the atmosphere had been getting steadily worse since the previous summer. Unionist leader Sir Edward Carson made an incendiary speech at Finaghy outside Belfast in July 1920. It was closely followed by the violent, mass expulsion of Catholic workers from major employers across Belfast. Neither the employers whose workers had fled in fear of their lives, nor the new Northern Ireland government, seemed interested in doing anything to help, or to reverse the expulsions.

The shooting by the Cork IRA that summer of two senior RIC men with Northern connections triggered more riots and expulsions of Catholics from their homes.

The summer of 1921 brought no relief. In the week the King opened parliament, 150 Catholic families were expelled from their homes in Belfast.

The declaration of the Truce in Dublin brought no respite to Belfast; 10 July 1921 saw a day of violence so intense that it was later dubbed 'Belfast's Bloody Sunday'. Set off by an IRA ambush of an RIC patrol in the city the night before - a patrol, the Belfast IRA alleged, was in fact nothing more than a 'murder gang' - 16 people lost their lives in rioting that day, the highest daily total in Belfast in the whole of the revolutionary period.

A GROWING DIVIDE IN THE IRA: READY TO GO AGAIN, OR NOT?


"At the advent of the Truce we were all in good fighting order, and looking for fight"

"we would have found ourselves very hard set to continue the fight with any degree of intensity owing to that very serious shortage of ammunition, because men ... cannot fight with their bare hands"

Even before there was a Treaty to split the ranks of the IRA, there was a deep divide between those who believed the IRA should be prepared to resume the fight if negotiations did not give total success, and those who believed that the Volunteers had reached the limit of what could be achieved.

None of them doubted how parlous the IRA's situation was, in terms of the means to resume the war. The difference was what they drew from that.

For men like Dan Breen and Tom Barry, their position could be summarised thus:

What they lacked – guns and ammunition of all calibres – was just Stuff. Things, tangible things, that money, contacts, daring and luck could go out and get.

In their own minds, what they DID have – fighting spirit, esprit de corps, confidence in their growing expertise and in each other – could not be bought for all the money in the world.

Longford IRA officer Bernard Garraghan embodied the defiant view:

"At the advent of the Truce we were all in good fighting order, and looking for fight. Our ammunition supply was not too good, but we bad at least 25 rounds per man, and there was always the chance of capturing more".*

Frank Thornton, the IRA's Deputy Director of Intelligence, said this:

"Whether that truce was a good thing or not remains for historians to record, but in my humble opinion had it not taken place we would have found ourselves very hard set to continue the fight with any degree of intensity owing to that very serious shortage of ammunition, - because men ... cannot fight with their bare hands".*

Officers like Thornton were so worried because they could not see past the facts.

At the time of the Truce, there were fewer than 10,000 active volunteers, between flying columns and regular units. They could put their hands on barely more than 3,000 rifles, 6,000 pistols, 50 Thompson Sub-machine guns, 15,000 shotguns of varying calibre and reliability.

There were more than 70,000 troops and police in Ireland by June 1921. The British were also about to open another front in the war – from the air. The RAF had been given clearance to begin flying ground-attack missions, which would have wreaked havoc on flying columns manoeuvering across the countryside.

Image - SECRET NO MORE: IRA Chief of Staff Richard Mulcahy is filmed by Pathé News. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

SECRET NO MORE: IRA Chief of Staff Richard Mulcahy is filmed by Pathé News. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

OUT OF THE SHADOWS, AND INTO THE LIGHT: A SECRET ARMY NO MORE

The Truce was also to deprive the IRA of one irreplaceable ally – anonymity.

The beginning of the peace process and the need to liaise with the security forces meant that IRA officers, from Mulcahy and Collins down, had to emerge from the shadows. Their identities and faces were known now, and that could never be undone.

Cork IRA officer Michael V O'Donoghue mused on this years later, when he contemplated the sudden and near-indiscriminate expansion of IRA units after the Truce.

"It was a fatal blunder by the IRA supreme authorities. The effectiveness of the IRA lay in its elusiveness, its unpredictable military tactics, its secret and mysterious character. The reticence and anonymity of its leaders, local and national, helped to build up a formidable picture of a rigidly and ruthlessly loyal military body, whose intangibility and mobility had reduced the British War Office to a state of distraction. The publicising of the IRA, plus indiscriminate recruiting, proved a God-send to the British Intelligence Service. The veil of secrecy and mystery was drawn aside and Ireland's underground army of the Republic was exposed as consisting of a number of small commandos, pitifully few in number and poorly armed".*

Those who believed the IRA had achieved all it could, were not so much afraid of what the British Armed Forces would do if war resumed, as they were of what they could do, if their political masters believed the now highly visible IRA units could be engaged and beaten out in the open, in a short, sharp campaign.

AN 'UNREAL AND UNSTABLE TRUCE'. DISCIPLINE BREAKS DOWN

Churchill had predicted that the IRA would find it very difficult to go back to war after a long truce period. Richard Mulcahy was to discover how true Churchill's prediction would prove to be.

North Dublin IRA officer Joseph V Lawless later gave his opinion of the effect of the long Truce period, on individual IRA units' assessment of their military situation:

"Day by day the conviction grew that the IRA had been victorious in its fight and a morale that had sunk pretty low under enemy action and lack of munitions at the date of the Truce, was now boosting into a misleading conceit that was to have disastrous consequences a little later".

"... the armed opposition to the acceptance of the Treaty by a large section of the IRA was due in a large measure to the long truce period, from July to December, during which the realities of the situation as they existed before the truce had become obscured by the unreal and unstable truce conditions".*

There had been certainties in the War of Independence, despite the constant danger, and the shortages, there was certainty about the simplicity of the cause, and confidence in and between men and women who had proven themselves. Now the certainty about the simplicity of the cause was replaced by complexity and competing priorities, and the new six counties entity. And then there was the influx of new men, unproven, who no one had seen in service in the WOI, but the leadership believed were desperately needed if there was to be a credible army as a factor in the negotiations.

Dan Breen later recalled the growing sense that discipline was breaking down in some units, as the Truce period went on:

"Some observers appeared to detect a growing militaristic spirit in the ranks of the volunteers, and certain volunteer officers undoubtedly provoked such criticism by their aggressive attitude towards civilians.

"An arrogant and domineering attitude, coupled with an ill-concealed sense of superiority over the civilian population, was not calculated to strengthen the bonds which had hitherto existed between the volunteer and the man in the street".*

RED FLAGS AND NEAR-ANARCHY

In parts of the country, the withdrawal of the police and military to barracks engendered near-anarchy. Some IRA units were 'commandeering' - ie hijacking - civilian transport, without penalty. The Republican Police were the enforcers of order in the post-Truce country. In Tipperary they had to deal with the takeover of creameries by their workforces, and in some cases the hoisting of red flags. Turned away at the gates, farmers stood outside with their milk churns, dumbfounded. Many had to pour spoiled milk down the drains.

Michael Davern was an officer in the Republican Police. He recalled one such incident, at the Black Bridge dairy.

"I notified about 20 members of the Republican Police Force to attend at the Black Bridge on the following morning. Only two turned up - William Freeny and Patrick Browne.

"There was a very hostile crowd of about 150 there. I tried, first of all, to settle the dispute by negotiations but without result. I then ordered the two men to fire at the (red) flag and shoot it down. They missed the flag, to the boos of the crowd. I took one of the carbine rifles from them and, by the grace of God, I struck it and down it came. I burned it in front of them, ordered them out of the place, and had actually to fire shots over their heads before they got out of the creamery premises...

"... I had to shoot the lock off the door to gain entrance, I seized all the books, cash, etc, in the desk and handed them over to the owners of the creamery who had arrived on a lorry".*



Image - Training camps were set up across the country. This photograph was taken in Mayo, two weeks after the Truce.

Credit: JJ Leonard Collection.

Training camps were set up across the country. This photograph was taken in Mayo, two weeks after the Truce. Credit: JJ Leonard Collection.

Image - From the same camp, veterans showed off the new heavy weaponry, including here, a Lewis Gun, and the first Thompson Sub-Machine Gun brought west of the Shannon.

Credit: JJ Leonard Collection.

From the same camp, veterans showed off the new heavy weaponry, including here, a Lewis Gun, and the first Thompson Sub-Machine Gun brought west of the Shannon. Credit: JJ Leonard Collection.

Image - Some in the training camps liked to present a raffish, tough-guy image to the world. (Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum KMGLM.19PO-3N22-22)

Some in the training camps liked to present a raffish, tough-guy image to the world. (Credit: Courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum KMGLM.19PO-3N22-22)

Richard Mulcahy organised training camps across the country, not just to try to process the new, untested recruits that flowed into the IRA ranks, but to give the veterans focus and purpose, now that the danger of death, wounds and betrayal had receded – for now. The fall of the cloak of anonymity worried him; he wanted the training camps away from towns, to keep military and police eyes off the IRA officers.


THE POLITICIANS AND THE SOLDIERS FALL OUT

A LEADERSHIP DIVIDED:

Image - Minister for Defence Cathal Brugha was determined to keep the IRA, now referred to as 'The Irish Army', under government control.

Credit: National Library of Ireland.

Minister for Defence Cathal Brugha was determined to keep the IRA, now referred to as 'The Irish Army', under government control. Credit: National Library of Ireland.

Image - This was deeply resented by the Chief of Staff, Richard Mulcahy. Brugha attempted to dismiss him from office. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

This was deeply resented by the Chief of Staff, Richard Mulcahy. Brugha attempted to dismiss him from office. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

Image - At one stage, Michael Collins himself was accused of misuse of funds during weapons purchases.

Credit: Getty Images.

Credit: National Library of Ireland.

At one stage, Michael Collins himself was accused of misuse of funds during weapons purchases. Credit: Getty Images. Credit: National Library of Ireland.

Image - At the moment of greatest danger of collapse of his talks with Prime Minister Lloyd George, Sinn Féin President Eamon de Valera had to mediate in the festering disputes among his most senior officers. (Credit: Alamy Images)

At the moment of greatest danger of collapse of his talks with Prime Minister Lloyd George, Sinn Féin President Eamon de Valera had to mediate in the festering disputes among his most senior officers. (Credit: Alamy Images)


Of even greater concern to Mulcahy was the way the consensus and solidarity in the Republican leadership, forged in time of war and ever-present danger, began to fray and fracture in a time of Truce, and as thoughts turned to the monumental task of engaging with the British, to make the peace permanent, while securing the core Republican goals.

One of the worst fissures was between Cathal Brugha, as Minister for Defence, and the IRA's senior officers, Mulcahy himself, as Chief of Staff, and Michael Collins, as Director of Intelligence. The fact of the tension was not new; the IRA derived its legitimacy from its subordination to the Dáil government, and Brugha was a jealous guardian of this relationship dynamic. Back in November, he had intervened to drastically cut back the list of British officers Collins had proposed to kill as part of the Bloody Sunday operation, from 50 to 20.

Brugha regarded his own activities that Truce summer, in asking questions of the weapons procurement programme and other military matters, as just him doing his job as Minister. Mulcahy regarded Brugha's actions as interference, especially when the minister questioned the expertise of both him and Collins, to the point where Brugha was accusing Collins of misuse of funds raised for arms purchases.

Things came to a head in August, when de Valera had to intervene after Brugha effectively sacked Mulcahy as Chief of Staff of the Army. This de Valera had to deal with, at the very moment his talks with Lloyd George seemed on the verge of collapse. Mulcahy was reinstated, but the question of political control of the army would not be resolved, and would erupt again, even as the Treaty negotiations in London were at their most intense.

By August, even as the deadlock in the talks about talks between de Valera and Lloyd George continued, the British side was aware of a growing divergence in the Republican leadership, on how hard a line to take, should formal treaty talks begin. Mark Sturgis' diaries refer to awareness by the British that that divergence was coalescing around de Valera on one side, and Griffith on the other.

NOTHING IS GUARANTEED

Looking back on the events of the summer and autumn of 1921, it might seem that the narrative was of linear progress, towards inevitable talks.

In fact talks, even to agree a basis for talks dragged on for three months. By September, the belief in some circles of both the IRA and the Security forces that the Truce would inevitably break down, was tested. IRA officers and men were left in no doubt that the leadership needed them to prepare for a return to war.

How much of this was just reassurance to the more hardline units that there would not be peace at any price, cannot be known.

What is known that the Republican Police made plans to evacuate the Dáil offices in the event of a breakdown in talks, and a resumption of the war.

The Truce was not three weeks old before GHQ was warning units to keep amassing ammunition supplies; Richard Mulcahy addressed men in the training camps, warning them that what the shooting war would be back on if the talking failed.

On the British side, by August, as the deadlock between the Republican leadership and the British government hardened, General Macready had drawn up a broad plan of how a resumed conflict would be prosecuted.

It envisaged the asphyxiation of all normal life in Ireland, outside the six counties.

Mark Sturgis, of the Dublin Castle Administration, summed it up thus, in his diaries:

"Martial Law for 26 counties entailing full recognition of state of war, belligerent status of IRA, as long as they conform to the rules of war, blockade, complete shutting down of civil services such as Post Office etc ... in the South, the GOC (General Officer Commanding, ie Macready) and his divisional generals would in fact constitute a sort of Crown Colony Government'.

But the Truce did hold. That was despite the constant disrespect shown by the British towards the IRA Liaison officers. The detailed instructions issued by GHQ show how seriously the Republican leadership regarded the task of ensuring no flashpoints, but they were at times sorely tested by British attitudes. Dublin Castle Under Secretary James MacMahon railed against the arrogance and tactlessness of the British officers in Cork, in their dealings with IRA officers.

Tom Barry was appointed as a liaison officer in Cork, to the disgust of the British officers there, realising they were dealing with the 'organiser of the Kilmichael ambush'. When he turned up at the gates of Victoria Barracks in Cork, to confer with the commander of the local British Brigade, he was wearing his volunteer uniform. Far from regarding this as logical, given the need for liaison officers to be recognisable to all sides, the British in the barracks took this as the final insult. He was refused entry until he returned in a civilian suit.

TRUCE SUMMER, TREATY AUTUMN

August-September saw the Truce summer give way to the Treaty autumn. The narrative moves into a new phase, the wary circling and serial deadlocks gave way to a broad, if deliberately vague, agreement on where the definitive talks would start from.

That process is a story in itself, which will need its own chapter.

For our purposes here, in as much as the twists and turns of the talks threatened to send the IRA back to war with the British, these are the headline moments:

14 July: De Valera and Lloyd George finally meet face-to-face at 10 Downing Street.

Image - Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and the delegation in London for the first talks with Prime Minister David Lloyd George, just a few days after the declaration of the Truce. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith and the delegation in London for the first talks with Prime Minister David Lloyd George, just a few days after the declaration of the Truce. (Credit: National Library of Ireland)

Image - Face to Face at last. The Illustrated London News front page illustration of the first meeting in Downing Street, of Eamon de Valera and David Lloyd George. (Credit: Alamy images)

Face to Face at last. The Illustrated London News front page illustration of the first meeting in Downing Street, of Eamon de Valera and David Lloyd George. (Credit: Alamy images)

20 July: Lloyd George makes a formal offer to de Valera. The opposing positions, as the talks began, could be summarised thus:

OFFERED BY BRITAIN

Self-governing Dominion status for the 26 Counties, on a par with Canada, or Australia. Important powers, such as taxation, to be included. The new entity to assume its share of the UK's debt from the Great War. The new entity to have its own army. 'Ulster' not to be included in the settlement. No naval forces, Britain to retain control of the seas around Ireland.

THE REPUBLICAN POSITION

Dominion status acceptable – but only for the entire Island, to be ruled from Dublin. If 'Ulster' is to be excluded from the final settlement, then Republic status for the 26 counties. The question of naval forces to be decided at a later date.

Lloyd George concluded from these irreconcilable positions, that there only remained to discuss how to end the Truce.

13 August: The British cabinet meets to decide if de Valera's counter-position is in effect a refusal to negotiate, and therefore the Truce must be ended, or if it is a negotiating position.

17 August: A Cabinet Committee is established to assess the military options in Ireland if it is decided that de Valera has rejected the terms offered. This committee was not ad-hoc; it provided the nucleus of the British team that would go on to negotiate the Treaty.

7 September: The British cabinet meets to decide if de Valera is to be invited to a conference to negotiate, or to be made a take-it-or-leave-it deal, on the lines above.

An offer to negotiate is drafted. Lloyd George's formula of words is designed to bring the Dáil government to the negotiating table, without making preconditions that would constitute an irreconcilable ultimatum on Ireland's position within the empire:

The question to Dublin was:

Would de Valera be "prepared to enter a Conference to ascertain how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire, can best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations".

9 September: Dáil cabinet meets, agrees to the offer, and appoints the negotiating team.

14 September: The names of the team are released to the press.

30 September: Eamon de Valera accepts an invitation to attend a conference in London on 11 October.

The advent of the Truce had begun a new phase of the conflict, in which the old certainties about the rights and wrongs of the cause vanished forever. Those certainties receded further and further into the past, as the stakes increased, and the task began, of engaging face-to-face with the formidable negotiators of the British State and Empire, to secure a workable settlement.

If the men and women of the Republican cause believed the end of the shooting war had cast them all into a new and uncertain world, that was nothing compared to what was coming.

To be continued.....

NOTE: ** Thanks to Kerry Historian Owen O'Shea for important details of Hannah Carey's last hours.

NOTE: * In the text means the quotes are from testimony to the Bureau of Military History given between 1947 and 1957. Access the collection here