An Cosantóir

June 2012

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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26 | Explosion at Four Courts, 30th June 1922 (Courtesy of the South Dublin Li- braries, from the T.J. Byrne Collection) O BY: Paul o'BRIeN Ma PHOTOS: PhotoS aS aCCReDIteD Courts on Inns Quay in Dublin, was enveloped in a cloud of dust as artil- lery shells pounded into its edifice. The Irish Civil War had commenced. As the War of Independence came to n Wednesday 28th June 1922 one of the most recognisable buildings in Ireland, the Four a close with the signing of a ceasefire in July 1921, Republican forces were divided in relation to ending the conflict. On 7th January 1922, follow- ing extensive peace negotiations, Dáil Éireann ratified the Anglo-Irish Treaty by 64 votes to 57. This action not only divided the Dáil but also divided the country. Throughout the country armed 1922 groups of pro- and anti-Treaty forces occupied strategic positions. On 14th April 1922 anti-Treaty forces under the command of Rory O'Connor occupied the Four Courts and several other buildings in Dublin city and a tense standoff between pro- and anti-Treaty forces commenced. Anti-Treaty forces hoped that their 'The Block' - The east side of Sackville St. (Courtesy of Military Archives) ment's authority in Dublin and remove those occupying the courts. On 2nd June 1922, two men assassinated the former soldier and Unionist politician Sir Henry Wilson in London. Though it was stated that the men were acting on their own initiative, it was suspected that they were acting on orders from anti-Treaty forces. This action produced an ultima- tum from the British government that they would attack anti-Treaty forces in the Four Courts unless the Free State government took action. In response Collins issued a final ultimatum to those occupying the courts. The three-armed parties involved had now reached a point of no return. Civil War was now inevitable. Rory O'Connor deployed his men in a occupation of the courts would ignite a confrontation with British troops and thus unite the pro- and anti-Treaty forces but this never materialised. Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith came under increasing pressure from London to assert the new govern- defensive role within the Four Courts. The complex had been well forti- fied, with Lewis machine-guns and rifles covering the main approaches to the building and a commandeered armoured car placed at the gates, its Vickers machine-gun covering any threat that might materialise. The armoured car could also be moved rapidly from point to point depending on the direction of the attack. Win- dows and doors had been barricaded and a number of improvised explosive devices had been placed at possible entry points. Outside the walls the newly es- command of the Free State forces. A frontal assault against a fortified building would be costly but those within the courts had to be removed as a matter of urgency. General Ennis had the use of two 18-pounder field- guns borrowed from the British army. Which he placed under the command of General Emmet Dalton and Colonel Tony Lawlor. The plan was to bombard the occupants into submission and on 28th June at 0410hrs the bombard- ment commenced. Shelling was to continue for a number of days. By Friday 30th June a fire was raging tablished Free State Army included many ex-British Army soldiers, many of whom were Irishmen who, having served in British regiments during the First World War, had gained extensive expertise in tactics and the handling of weapons, giving the National Army a distinct technical advantage. General Tom Ennis was placed in out of control in the headquarters block that also housed the records office. A huge explosion rocked the An Cosantóir June 2012

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