One hundred years ago today, the Chief of Staff of the anti-Treaty IRA Liam Lynch was fatally shot by soldiers of a Free State Army unit, during a search operation in the Knockmealdown Mountains on the Tipperary/Waterford border.
Liam Lynch was in the mountains for a planned summit of senior officers of the anti-Treaty IRA Executive.
The meeting had been sought by those officers to decide on future strategy, in light of how the Civil War had swung decisively against the IRA in that Spring of 1923.
Lynch had not wanted to call the meeting. He was concerned that both the IRA Executive and the anti-Treaty 'Government in exile' led by Eamon de Valera, were capable of accepting a compromise with the Free State government on the issue of an Irish republic.
To Lynch, there could be no compromise with the Free State on the issue of an independent Ireland being a republic, and therefore free of the links with the British Empire that the Treaty had stipulated.
He agreed to the Executive meeting in order to impose on it his absolute conviction that the war could still be won, especially if hoped-for war surplus heavy German guns could be bought and smuggled into the country.
The first meeting of the Executive had voted against a motion proposed by the famed Cork IRA officer Tom Barry, that the war could not be won. The result was tight, only Liam Lynch’s own vote had swung the result.
It was so close, it was decided that the Executive should meet again, on 10 April.
Lynch arrived in the area of Newcastle, Co Tipperary, on 9 April. He and his fellow officers were lodged in safe houses around the area.
In the early hours of 10 April, in response to reports that high-ranking IRA officers were in the area, Free State troops divided into several columns began a wide sweep of the valleys and the mountains.
The IRA officers were alerted to the troop movements, and began to move to safe houses higher up the mountains.
When they realised there were more troops than first reported, and that they were spreading out across the mountains at speed, the IRA officers decided to break cover and attempt to outrun their pursuers across the top of the mountains.
Once in the open, they were spotted, and in the exchange of gunfire that followed, Lynch was seriously wounded.
Now helpless and bleeding heavily, Lynch ordered the officers to take his pistol and documents, and save themselves.
Lynch was captured within seconds by the Free State patrol. The soldiers attempted to staunch the flow of blood from Lynch’s catastrophic wounds, then carried him down the mountain on an improvised sling made of a greatcoat slung between two rifles.
The officer in charge of the soldiers, Lieutenant Laurence Clancy, decided to make for the village of Newcastle to get medical help.
Lynch was carried into the parlour of Nugent’s pub (then called Walsh’s), and he was attended by a civilian doctor, and then by an Army doctor.
It was all in vain. Liam Lynch died that night in St Joseph’s Hospital Clonmel.
Lynch’s death meant that the main barrier to an ending of the war was now removed. Within weeks his successor Frank Aiken ordered a cessation of IRA operations, and soon after told the remaining anti-Treaty units to hide their weapons in arms dumps.
The Civil War was over.
To mark the centenary of Liam Lynch’s death, events are being held this Easter weekend across the country in locations associated with him - Anglesborough in Co Limerick where he was born, Newcastle in Co Tipperary near where he was shot, and in Fermoy, where he is buried in the Republican Plot at Old Kilcrumper Cemetery.