10th April 1923 - the death of Liam Lynch

Éireann_Ascendant

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Article on Liam Lynch and his death on the 10th April 1923 (last in a seven-part series).

The Weakness of Conviction: The End of Liam Lynch in the Civil War, 1923 (Part VII)

As the Civil War escalated, Liam Lynch ordered in December for "three enemy officers to be arrested and imprisoned in each Brigade area", to be killed in turn for every anti-Treaty prisoner executed. A month later, a list of Free State senators was circulated among the IRA, with instructions for their homes to be destroyed and the senators themselves targeted, man for man, in the event of further POW death sentences

As far as Lynch was concerned, he was merely fighting fire with fire. When Éamon de Valera warned him that "an eye for an eye is not going to win the people to us, and without the people we can never win," Lynch was unmoved.

"We must adopt severe measures or else chuck it at once," he replied, stressing that, up to now, the Anti-Treatyites had been blameless: "IRA in this war as in the last wish to fight with clean hands." It was the enemy who "has outraged all rules of warfare", and were consequently responsible for everything that ensued.



(Liam Lynch)

Meanwhile, the position of the hard-pressed IRA continued to deteriorate. When Lynch asked his new adjutant, Todd Andrews, for his opinion, he was unsparing:

As far as I had the opportunity to observe at first hand, the military situation was going very badly. Nothing, of course, was happening north of the [Ulster] Border and between Dublin and the Border, except for Frank Aiken’s men, the IRA had virtually ceased to exist. I told him that I thought the Dublin Brigade was so reduced in personnel as to be militarily ineffective.
Not that Lynch took heed, as convinced as ever that victory was just around the corner. It was if he had, thought Andrews, "developed some mental blockage which prevented him from believing that we could be beaten."

This denial was in full effect at a meeting with his officers in the Cork and Kerry brigades in February 1923. The overwhelming consensus was that, with the state the IRA was in, they would not last the summer. The one dissenting voice to this pessimism was Lynch's, who assured the others that he had "reviewed the position in the rest of the country and although the position in the South was pretty bad he felt the situation in general was very good and held great hopes for the future."

Afterwards, Lynch appeared more offended that his officers would speak up so than worried at what they had to tell him.

One result from this meeting was an agreement to hold a session of the IRA Executive soon to discuss what to do next. It was something Lynch had been hoping to put off, wary that the others would push forward a compromise, the last thing he would ever agree to.

Another thorn in his side was Tom Barry. When Lynch told him to cease and desist in his efforts at peace talks with the Free State, Barry angrily confronted his commander, as witnessed by Andrews:

Then followed a tirade of abuse from Barry mainly directed at asserting the superiority of his fighting record. Barry’s peroration was dramatic: ‘I fought more in a week than you did in your life.’ Liam simply said nothing. Having emptied himself of indignation, Barry withdrew, slamming the door.
Still, Lynch was proving adept at getting his own way. After meeting with Barry again, the two withdrew with no change to IRA policy, which was exactly what Lynch wanted.



(Tom Barry)

This stonewalling was repeated at the subsequent IRA Executive conclave in March 1923. When Barry raised a motion to cease military operations, it was defeated by six votes to five. Lynch had provided the deciding vote.

For want of anything else to say, it was agreed to hold another such meeting on the 10th April. Lynch was on his way to this when he and his party were confronted by Free State soldiers on the Knockmealdown Mountains. A shootout ensued, with the Anti-Treayites doing their best to flee across the mountain of Crohan West amongst a hail of bullets.



(Crohan West)

The firing had abruptly ceased, as if both sides were holding their breath, when a single shot rang out. Lynch fell.

"My God! I’m hit, lads!" he cried.

With nothing left do, the others fled. The Free State soldiers found their victim lying face up on some shrubbery, his clothes dark with blood.

"Are you de Valera?" one of the soldiers asked.

"I am not," he replied. "I am Liam Lynch."

Upon further inspection, two bullet wounds on either side of Lynch's body's, between his rib cage and hip, caused by the same bullet tearing through. He died later that day of shock and haemorrhaging.

"The death of Liam Lynch removes one of the most important – if he was not actually the most important – of the leaders of the Republican party," wrote the Irish Times, which described him as "the most obstinate and unflinching of the Government’s opponents."



(Liam Lynch in his coffin)
 


louis bernard

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I'm sure anyone with a passing knowledge of the Irish civil war is aware of all this. So what is the point of your post?
 

Socratus O' Pericles

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I'm sure anyone with a passing knowledge of the Irish civil war is aware of all this. So what is the point of your post?
He wouldn’t be the first lad to publicise his blog here. Tbf I didn’t know as Lynch lay dying he was asked if he was De Valera what a horrible insult to bring to the grave.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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He wouldn’t be the first lad to publicise his blog here. Tbf I didn’t know as Lynch lay dying he was asked if he was De Valera what a horrible insult to bring to the grave.
Talk about a final indignity. But then, the Free State seems to have been pretty naive about its enemy in some ways, thinking that all the trouble originated from Dev, with Erskine Childers playing the role of an Anglo-Irish Iago. Perhaps it was easier for Collins and Mulcahy to think they were really fighting slippery politicians rather than former comrades like Lynch.
 

Skin the Goat

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Weird. I never realised that the Good Friday Agreement, which effectively ended the so called "troubles" was signed on the 75th anniversary of the shot which effectively ended the Civil War. Thanks for that.
 

farnaby

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This denial was in full effect at a meeting with his officers in the Cork and Kerry brigades in February 1923. The overwhelming consensus was that, with the state the IRA was in, they would not last the summer. The one dissenting voice to this pessimism was Lynch's, who assured the others that he had "reviewed the position in the rest of the country and although the position in the South was pretty bad he felt the situation in general was very good and held great hopes for the future."

Afterwards, Lynch appeared more offended that his officers would speak up so than worried at what they had to tell him.
There's a place in leadership for bull-headed intransigence to help turn things around but Lynch here seems to have nothing else to back it up and motivate the troops.

His disdain for those trying to report the facts reminds me of that scene from Downfall, and his willingness to triple the atrocities of the Free State only adds to that sense he is in the mould of future fascist dictators.

When you consider also the opposition from anti-Treatyites like Barry, O'Malley and De Valera to his leadership it really doesn't paint him - or those who venerate him - in a good light.
 

Éireann_Ascendant

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Weird. I never realised that the Good Friday Agreement, which effectively ended the so called "troubles" was signed on the 75th anniversary of the shot which effectively ended the Civil War. Thanks for that.
I only just noticed that myself!

The hand of history seems to have been particularly busy that date.
 

The Field Marshal

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The more one hears of this Lynch character the more one dislikes him.

He seems to typify the cold socialist ideologue prepared to slaughter millions for his idea.
Thankfully these types rarely get their hands on real power as like Pol Pot when they do the results are horrific.
 

shutuplaura

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Talk about a final indignity. But then, the Free State seems to have been pretty naive about its enemy in some ways, thinking that all the trouble originated from Dev, with Erskine Childers playing the role of an Anglo-Irish Iago. Perhaps it was easier for Collins and Mulcahy to think they were really fighting slippery politicians rather than former comrades like Lynch.
I wouldn't read too much into it. They look alike. I think there was an element of score settling in the execution policy which saw the likes of Childers shot. Then they spun a line to excuse their actions. I don't think they were naive at all.
 

shutuplaura

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Also, you can go to the village of Newcastle and have a drink in the pub they brought Lynch too to await the ambulance from Clonmel. Hasn't changed too much, except for the pool table. Probably haven't updated the jukebox since Lynch's time either!
 

The Field Marshal

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I wouldn't read too much into it. They look alike. I think there was an element of score settling in the execution policy which saw the likes of Childers shot. Then they spun a line to excuse their actions. I don't think they were naive at all.
Childers was rightly never fully trusted by either side during the civil war.
IINM he had links to General John Charteris chief of British military intelligence.

It is certain that his work for British naval intelligence during his stint in their navy was not forgotten.

That he sided with Valera during the Irish civil war was never going to go down well with anybody and did,nt even with many of the the anti treaty
people themselves .
 

shutuplaura

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Childers was rightly never fully trusted by either side during the civil war.
IINM he had links to General John Charteris chief of British military intelligence.

It is certain that his work for British naval intelligence during his stint in their navy was not forgotten.

That he sided with Valera during the Irish civil war was never going to go down well with anybody and did,nt even with many of the the anti treaty
people themselves .
And shot him while he had an appeal pending, such was their haste to settle the score.
 

The Field Marshal

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And shot him while he had an appeal pending, such was their haste to settle the score.

There is no appeal from the sentence of a military court.
In war such luxuries must usually be dispensed with.

AFAIK Childers was sentenced by a military court.

Your point about an appeal is not accurate imo.

However your point about haste has some merit because Childers was widely reviled and hated by many on all sides and most saw him as a two faced English spy fomenting trouble in Ireland.

Only mourned by his immediate family .
 

automaticforthepeople

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Sadly if Lynch had seem sense to end the slaughter at the previous army council meeting to his death, he may have played a meaningful roll in giving us a better state than the cuter Dev nobbled.

Were we the better for having an extra dead body in the grave this day in 1923?

I don't think so.
 

Civic_critic2

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Perhaps Lynch understood the reactionary nature of the state in the making and decided it was worth it to fight for an actual republic. He wasn't wrong.
 

McTell

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No
//

The firing had abruptly ceased, as if both sides were holding their breath, when a single shot rang out. Lynch fell.

"My God! I’m hit, lads!" he cried.

With nothing left do, the others fled. The Free State soldiers found their victim lying face up on some shrubbery, his clothes dark with blood.//

Great comrades, running off, when most soldiers would try to retrieve the body.
 


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