RTÉ

An RTÉ Brainstorm Photoessay

Dublin's revolutionary
years

Dublin was the location for many of the iconic events of the Irish revolution in the years after the Easter Rising. These photos and documents from 1918 to 1923 open a window into life in Ireland's capital city from the end of first World War to the aftermath of the Civil War

Ireland says no

The declaration of the Mansion House conference against conscription, convened by Laurence O’Neill, the lord mayor of Dublin, on 18 April 1918. Conscription was opposed by all shades of nationalist opinion, the Catholic Church and the labour movement.

Photo: © Dublin City Library and Archive

The Park from the air

The Phoenix Park, as photographed by the Royal Air Force on 21 August 1918, with the Viceregal lodge (now Áras an Uachtaráin) visible at the bottom of the picture

Photo: © Conor Dodd

The gravediggers

The burial register for Prospect (Glasnevin) Cemetery for 3-4 November 1918. Half of those buried were recorded as having died from influenza: a figure that dwarfs the death toll from political violence in this era. The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-18 killed 20,000 in Ireland, but the death toll from related illnesses was almost certainly much higher

Photo: © Glasnevin Trust

Here’s your P45

A note to May Noonan, a worker in the National Shell factory in Parkgate St, advising her that she would be let go as the factory ceased production following the end of the First World War.

Photo: © Conor Dodd

The above note to May Noonan, a worker in the National Shell factory in Parkgate St, advising that she would be let go as the factory ceased production following the end of the First World War. Such 'war industries', manufacturing munitions and other military material, existed in Ireland during the war, though never on the scale of their British counterparts.

Just as in the rest of what was then the UK, war industries brought Irish women into the workforce in unprecedented numbers.

On the run

A satirical postcard depicting the escape of 20 republican prisoners from Dublin's Mountjoy Prison on 29 March 1919

Photo: © Kilmainham Gaol Museum

The hunger strikers

A postcard to commemorate prisoners on hunger strike in Mountjoy prison in April and May 1920. The hunger strike was a common tactic used by Republican prisoners to protest at conditions and had powerful propaganda value.

Photo: © Military Archives

Dick McKee

The back of a memorial card for Dick McKee. The Officer Commanding the Dublin Brigade of the IRA, McKee was killed by British forces the night of Bloody Sunday presumably as a reprisal for the day’s events. The card is signed by Michael Collins and reads: in memory of two good friends – Dick   Peadar – and two of Ireland’s best soldiers. Míceál Ó Coileann, 25/11/20. “Peadar” refers to IRA member Peadar Clancy who was also killed

Photo: © Kilmainham Gaol Museum

Born in Dublin and a printer by trade, McKee fought in the Easter Rising and eventually became Officer Commanding the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. He was captured, along with his fellow IRA member Peadar Clancy and a civilian, Conor Clune, in a British raid the night before Bloody Sunday; all three were killed whilst in captivity that night, presumably as a reprisal. The official version of events claimed they were shot while trying to escape. It reads: In memory of two good friends – Dick and Peadar – and two of Ireland’s best soldiers. Míceál Ó Coileann, 25/11/20. Collins insisted on attending the funeral of both men. Members of the IRA subsequently raided the offices of the Evening Herald newspaper after it published a picture of Collins in the cortege as it made its way to Glasnevin, and they confiscated as many copies of the edition in question as possible across the city, lest the image be used by the British to identify Collins

“Every good wish”

A Christmas card from the British Army. Marlborough Barracks is now McKee Barracks

Photo: © Conor Dodd

Stop and Search

British soldiers questioning a civilian in a Dublin park in 1921

Photo: © Mercier Archives

The Custom House aftermath

Members of the IRA surrender after the attack on the Custom House on 25 May 1921. The IRA used paraffin and scrap fabric to start a blaze that engulfed the building. The operation resulted in the deaths of five IRA members and the capture of over 80 more

Photo: © Kilmainham Gaol Museum

The general arrives

The British General Officer Commanding in Ireland, General Neville Macready enters the Mansion House for a peace conference in July 1921. This was called by the Lord Mayor, Laurence O’Neill, and was attended by Sinn Féin and southern unionists amongst others.

Photo: © Military Archives

Waiting for the truce

Civilians outside Dublin Castle on 11 July 1921, waiting for the announcement of the truce that ended the War of Independence

Photo: © Mercier Archives

Standing guard

The National Army (the new military force of the Free State) take over guard duties at the Bank of Ireland’s headquarters on College Green, March 1922.

Photo: © Military Archives

The Bank of Ireland, founded in 1783, had been the official bank of the British administration in Ireland (hence the presence of a guard at its headquarters). While its management were politically unionist, Michael Collins, as head of the Provisional Government overseeing the handover of power, had invited it to serve in a similar role for the new Free State; this was accepted and the National Army took over the guard duties.

The building had opened in 1731 to house the Irish parliament that was later abolished by the 1801 Act of Union, but despite its symbolism, the Free State was in no position to purchase it as the venue for the Dáil

The Four Courts in ruins

The building was attacked by Free State forces on 28 June 1922, marking the outbreak of the Civil War. By the end of the War, three of Dublin’s most iconic Georgian public buildings – the GPO, the Customs House and the Four Courts – lay in ruins.

Photo: © Military Archives

The Four Courts had been attacked by Free State forces on 28 June 1922, marking the outbreak of the Civil War caused by the divisions over the December 1921 Treaty. The Four Courts had been occupied by the anti-Treaty IRA, who had been attacked by the National Army using artillery borrowed from the the remaining British garrison.

The fighting in Dublin around the Four Courts and O’Connell St was also the most destructive of the Civil War, and in terms of the revolutionary period, was only rivalled by the destruction caused by the Easter Rising of 1916 and the burning of Cork in 1920. By the end of the Civil War three of Dublin’s most iconic Georgian public buildings – the GPO, the Customs House, and the Four Courts – lay in ruins.

All three were reconstructed after independence; the Four Courts reopened in 1932

The propaganda war

A Free State poster condemning Republicans for the destruction of the Four Courts. The term ‘irregular’ was used by the Free State to avoid giving any sense of legitimacy to their opponents

Photo: © Dublin City Library

On patrol

A Free State armoured car on O’Connell Street which was a major theatre of conflict in Dublin during the Civil War. This terrace, which contained a number of hotels, including the Gresham Hotel, was dubbed the ‘block’ by the republicans who occupied it

Photo: © Military Archives

The walking wounded

Wounded members of the National Army during a lull in the fighting around O’Connell St

Photo: © Mercier Archives

Sean Cole and Alf Colley

A cartoon depicting the killing of two members of Na Fianna Éireann, Sean Cole (19 years old) and Alf Colley (21). Such killings by the Free State’s security forces became a familiar aspect of the conflict both in Dublin and beyond.

Photo: © Dublin City Library and Archive

Sean Cole (aged 19) and Alf Colley (aged 21) were senior members of Na Fianna who were apparently involved in reorganising it during the Civil War. They were picked up at Newcomen Bridge on the North Strand, taken out to Whitehall, north of the city, and shot dead. Some of their killers were reported to be wearing National Army uniforms. Such extrajudicial killings by the Free State’s security forces became a familiar aspect of the conflict both in Dublin and beyond

In memory

A flyer for a commemoration of the executed anti-Treaty republicans Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor, Richard Barrett and Joseph McKelvey, on the first anniversary of their deaths.

Photo: © Dublin City Library and Archive

All four had been imprisoned after the fall of the Four Courts. On 7 December 1922 the IRA attacked two members of the new Free State Dáil on Ormond Quay, killing one of them, the veteran Cork IRA leader Sean Hales. This was interpreted by the government, now led by long-standing Sinn Fein politician and 1916 veteran W.T. Cosgrave, as a direct assault on the new Free State, and as a deliberate reprisal these four men were executed without trial by firing squad in Mountjoy Prison the following morning.

The ruthlessness of the decision was magnified by the fact that O'Connor had, the previous year, served as the best man at the wedding of Kevin O'Higgins; as Minister for Home Affairs in the Free State government, O'Higgins' assented to the execution of his friend. As was the case after 1916, the deaths of republicans would be remembered after the Civil War to foster support for a cause that seemed to be defeated. As far as republicans were concerned, some, if not all, had lived to fight another day