Irish War of Independence: Violence and Reprisals

We will continue our Centenary series on the War of Independence, and examine the events of January 1921, the month official reprisals began in earnest, assassinations continued, and ambushes continued to mount up.

Kevin Barry was executed in November and de Valera returned from America in late December. The Irish War of Independence was now entering its final year, and there was a new intensity to the conflict in the coming months, as things hurtled towards a political conclusion.

As 1921 began both sides remained nominally committed to the armed struggle, but both sides were also confused about what that armed struggle was supposed to achieve. The Irish preached republicanism publicly, while high-ranking figures actively sought a more limited form of self-government. The British openly encouraged a greater military effort to annihilate the Republic while happily moving forward with the already arranged partitioned parliaments, of which they knew the southern one would inevitably be dominated by the members of that same Republic. The paradoxes built and built: the seeds of the next war were already planted.