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Thread: Liam Lynch, Ernie O'Malley and the politics of the Civil War, 1922

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    Default Liam Lynch, Ernie O'Malley and the politics of the Civil War, 1922

    Article on the working relationship between Liam Lynch and Ernie O'Malley during the Civil War, and their efforts towards victory in the face of the Free State's might, the IRA's mishaps and their own frequent disagreements.

    The Treachery of Peace: Liam Lynch, Ernie O’Malley and the Politics of the Civil War, 1922 (Part V)

    When O'Malley returned to Dublin in July 1922, after helping to cut a swathe through the countryside, he had been tasked by his Chief of Staff, Lynch, in setting up a command staff in the city, while simultaneously organising the IRA units in Leinster and Ulster.

    This was a tall order indeed, but O'Malley - remembering the quote of Wolfe Tone's that ’tis in vain for soldiers to complain" - got down to business.

    (Ernie O'Malley)

    Not that it was easy. Writing to Lynch on the 28th July, O'Malley's initial assessment was that:

    Enemy very active and in some cases whole coys [companies] have been picked up. This cannot be prevented, as the men must go to their daily work and there are not sufficient funds on hand to even maintain a strong column.
    Feeling that prolonged conflict would only whittle down the IRA's strength, OMalley asked for permission to carry out something ambitious, such as seizing a block of buildings for a day or two before melting away.

    A more cautious Lynch warned him against such risks. Instead, O’Malley was to focus on sabotaging wires and telegraph poles in order to better isolate enemy posts from each other. As Lynch explained: “I believe more effectual activities can be carried out on the lines of the old guerrilla tactics.”

    O'Malley was unimpressed, and griped to a colleague that “we are not going to win this war on purely guerrilla tactics as we did on the last war.”

    Taking an enemy post, particularly in Dublin, would have a far greater impact than their current piecemeal approach, O’Malley believed. “If we could by means of better armament bring the war home to the Staters in the Capital,” he ruminated, “it would have an immense effect on the people here and on the people in surrounding Counties.”

    But Lynch was not one to change his mind once it had been made up. Even the surprise landings by the enemy in early August along the Cork and Kerry coastlines did not shake his certainty. He announced to O'Malley that that he was “thoroughly satisfied with the situation now.”

    The guerrilla war he had always wanted was about to restart in Cork and Kerry, and Lynch had no doubt that “extensive operations will begin immediately” there. His main concern was with the “lying press propaganda” and the impact that may have on morale, as if the numerous setbacks were merely a case of adverse publicity.

    (Liam Lynch)

    As the war dragged, there were those who wondered if there could be an alternative to the violence, a way to resolve the differences without further bloodshed. Lynch appeared more irritated than interested in such suggestions. As he instructed O'Malley in September 1922:

    So many private and unauthorised individuals are engaged in endeavouring to bring about peace in various terms, and are putting forward so many different proposals that it is necessary to inform all these individuals that the only body on our side competent to consider any proposals or terms submitted to us, or to put forward terms on which Peace may be concluded is the whole Army Executive.
    “These scarcely need or deserve comment – we are sick of this sort of trash,” he said, more emphatically, to O'Malley, in response to the latest ‘peace offers’ that amounted to nothing more than a demand by the enemy for an unconditional surrender, which was the furthest thing from Lynch's mind.

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