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The Black & Tans and Auxiliaries in Ireland, 1920-1921: Their Origins, Roles and Legacy

By John S. Ainsworth


From January 1919 until a truce came into effect on 11 July 1921, a state of undeclared war existed in some areas of Ireland between guerilla units of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), representing the independence aspirations of militant Irish nationalism, and the forces of the British Crown who were charged with the task of restoring law and order in this troubled part of the United Kingdom. With neither a state of war nor martial law being declared by the British authorities in Ireland – martial law did come eventually in December 1920/January 1921 but applied only to eight counties in the southern-most part of the country – the military was confined largely to a supporting role, leaving the civil administration based at Dublin Castle heavily reliant on the enforcement powers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in its efforts to curb the insurgent Irish nationalists. From the IRA’s perspective, the RIC was seen as "an instrument designed to overawe in every locality any opposition to the regime it served". In a response to this apparent menace, early in 1919 the IRA began a campaign of intimidation against officers of the RIC, who were subjected to threats, violent attacks and ostracizing of their families from the local community. Other locals who dared to show support or even sympathy for RIC families thereafter were similarly intimidated. The IRA killed 18 policemen altogether over the twelve-month period ending in December 1919. Six months later, police casualties had risen to a total of 55 killed and a further 74 wounded, indicating a considerable escalation early in 1920 in the IRA's campaign of violence against the RIC

Topics: 210307 European History (excl. British Classical Greek and Roman), 210305 British History, Black & Tans, Auxiliaries, Ireland
Year: 2001
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