IRA split in Galway, 29 March 1922

Home/IRA split in Galway, 29 March 1922

On 29 March 1922, one hundred years ago today, the anti-Treaty IRA evicted the pro-Treaty IRA from Renmore Barracks in Galway.  As with Dáil Éireann, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), whose volunteers had fought the War of Independence, was split over the merits or otherwise of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which granted the twenty-six counties of Ireland dominion status within the British Empire. The core of the IRA General Headquarters (GHQ) was pro-Treaty and formed the leadership of the fledgling National Army of the Irish Free State. However, many active volunteers, especially in Munster and Connacht, strongly opposed the Treaty.

On 26 March 1922, despite being prohibited by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State, an IRA Army Convention met in Dublin and repudiated the right of Dáil Éireann to accept the Treaty and annul the Irish Republic declared in January 1919. The following resolution was passed unanimously: “That the Army re-affirms its allegiance to the Irish Republic; that it shall be maintained as the Army of the Irish Republic, under an Executive appointed by the Convention”. The result was a split in the IRA between Free Staters under the Minister of Defence, Richard Mulcahy, and GHQ and Republicans under the new IRA Executive.

Three days later, on 29 March, there was a sudden and dramatic split in the Galway City IRA, which had been in possession of Renmore Barracks since 13 February. The ‘Connacht Tribune’ reported that ‘an incident, without parallel in the history of Galway, occurred at Renmore Barracks on Wednesday last, when the barracks, until then in the possession of the regular forces of the I.R.A., were suddenly taken over by the Republican section, who gave the others ten minutes to pack up and leave. It would appear that while on the parade grounds the Republicans separated themselves from those who favoured the Free State and, having disarmed the guard, marched into the barracks and formally took over possession. The Dáil Éireann section, numbering about 200, was given ten minutes to leave, and an extraordinary spectacle was witnessed when in a few minutes afterwards they all marched out of the barracks carrying their haversacks and other belongings. They had no arms, however’.

The evicted section of the army made their way to Eyre Square and found lodgings in the hotels about the square and in the Galway County Club (today Hibernian House). Afterwards, the Free Staters took over Galway Jail (where Galway Cathedral today stands), which became its headquarters, while the Republicans remained in control of Renmore Barracks.

In order to de-escalate simmering tensions, Commandant Austin Brennan of the National Army told his Galway troops that “you will avoid all friction with the men of the other force [Republicans]. It is unnecessary to say that there are as good Irishmen as we are on the other side, and it will be your duty now to behave in a manner that will not bring any discredit on you, or do anything which would be unworthy of an Irish soldier.”

IRA split 1922

Photo: IRA takeover Renmore Barracks, Galway on 13 February 1922. Courtesy of Tom Kenny


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