16. EARLY EMPIRE CONTRACTIONS: “GUNBOAT
DIPLOMACY” YIELDS TO “CAVEAT PRE-EMPTOR”
Now –in the time of Liam and of Annie–
all over the land, hope had slowly turned to fervor;
now fervor was become a fever.
Change! — this change had been
a long time coming; a long time longing.
It was Change! Change! All at once!
Harsh & Bloody Change around the world,
and Harsh & Bloody Change in Ireland.
For all its attributes, an Empire essentially
founded and premised on the Civilizing
& Persuasive Force of Gunboats was now
–after 300 years– running out of steam!
A Season of Decline; A Winter of Discontent!
“Gunboat Diplomacy” is being relabeled as
“Caveat Pre-Emptor!”. (Winston Churchill
would be the last to know –but would soon
enough be finding out.)
17. THE 1916 EASTER RISING LEADS TO THE
WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (1919-22); LIAM’S LIFE
IN CONSTANT DANGER; ANNIE’S STORIES.
Upheaval. Change was now coming fast. The
old version of Ireland was coming apart: what
new version was coming together? Coming into
being? It would be an intense 7-years; a hard-
rain of fire. First came the 1916 Sacrificial
Rebellion –its leaders seized & shot by firing
squad.Then an intense period of preparation,
girding up: insurgents like Liam assembled &
drilled in secret all over the country.
Then followed the brutal War of Independence.
Liam sent Churchill a powerful message with his
daring kidnap in June,1920 of his top General,
Lucas, while fly-fishing on the River Blackwater.
Churchill, by all accounts, was livid!
[In the matter of Churchill v.Lynch: theirs was an
epic Battle of Wills –Blenheim Palace(Churchill)
v Barnagurraha Cottage (Liam).Churchill swore:
“Ireland shall never be free!” [Nev-ah!] He paid
his Black & Tans to terrorize, to brutalize Ireland.
But in the end, Churchill-Will would fail to measure
up to Lynch-Resolve –Liam who had famously
sworn that Ireland would accept “No other law.”)]
It was no “Game of Soldiers”, as Annie’s many
stories of mortal danger attested.[When a Black &
Tan sweep, unwitting, picked up Liam, he gave a
false name & was let go. But two other “Lynches”
(a popular Irish name) were swept up & shot
in cold blood –two other Liams who would never
know the reason why! [Churchill imported the
infamous Russian Secret Police “bullet in the
forehead” method that he admired so much.]
Picked up with Liam:Terence McSwiney,Cork’s
Lord Mayor.He died in a 74-day Hunger Strike.
[A London café dishwasher –one Ho Chi Minh–
remarked:”Such spirit will not be defeated!”]
Annie told how they set traps for Liam, watching
the Baldwin St. house. One night a disguised
Liam was up at the church at Confession –
“bless me Father”. Annie, now 13, was sent to
warn him:”Don’t come to the house tonight.” In
the box her warning went through the priest to
Liam opposite. [A “young bit of a girl” was a
perfect messenger, back& forth, unnoticed,
to Liam & his men. And to Liam’s betrothed.]
The grinding hard-fought war –guerilla against
counter-insurgent– proved Liam & the others
right: resolute guerillas with enough rifles,
fighting for their home turf, would more than
match the military might of the British Empire!
To which add here a “Little-Known Fact”. After
World War I’s huge costs, ENGLAND WAS
BROKE!!! It could NOT AFFORD Churchill’s
counter-insurgent shopping-list. (His minimum
for victory:100,000 troops;1000s armored cars;
etc!) Winston’s Nevah” (echoes of Randolph)
had bounced at the Bank of England!
18. THE CIVIL WAR PITS BROTHER AGAINST
BROTHER, LYNCH AGAINST COLLINS. BOTH
YOUNG LIVES WILL BE CONSUMED IN IT.
Incredibly, Ireland –Collins & Lynch & all the
guerillas—had actually won! 26 counties were
free. Independent.The Empire had acquiesced.
But not the Ulster six. Ulster was ferociously
opposed to separating from Britain, being part
of the Irish Republic –& “run from Rome”! It was
not to be an end to war. (Not for a long time.)
A compromising Anglo-Irish treaty was devised;
wily Lloyd George pressured, threatened,
out-foxed; the Irish contingent signed; Britain
would keep the Six Counties; The Irish Free
State now came into existence.
But Liam will accept NO LESS than a full, 32-
county Irish Republic; will live under “No Other
Law”. He forces Civil War. It was to be the
new Ireland’s bitter confrontation with itself.
The war pits the two head-strong Brothers-in-Arms,
the two Big Souls, Michael Collins against Liam
Lynch. Both came to see the war as wrong. It
would come to naught –to less than naught.
Their better angels would surely have done great
things after the war in the Ireland they had freed,
the Ireland they had forged.
IF only they could survive it.
IF only they could survive each other.
But in one grinding year, their Civil War
reduced a noble cause & great victory to a
bitter, sterile cycle of reprisal-on-reprisal. It
brought out the worst on both sides. In a
Brother-against-Brother war, the choices
are stark: Truce –or Fratricide!
19.REPRISAL-ON-REPRISAL: LIAM LYNCH
ISSUES HIS “ORDERS OF FRIGHTFULNESS”.
When in June 1920 Liam daringly kidnapped
General Lucas as he fly-fished on the Blackwater
his treatment of Lucas was hospitable, even
gentlemanly. (No doubt it irked Churchill.) Liam’s
daily captive-regimen for Lucas included hunting
& fishing –& a folded copy of The London Times
(warmed?) at breakfast. Lucas later expressed
his appreciation: ”…Lynch is a noble gentleman.”
But there was little that was noble now in the
dark conflict, with reprisal-killings by both sides.
To force Liam’s surrender, the Free-Staters
executed IRA prisoners by firing squad, many
of them close friends of Liam. He in turn issued
his infamous “Orders of Frightfulness” –his own
men were to “out-frightful” the Free-Staters.
‘Frightful’! It was a word Grandma O’Neill –or
Liam’s own mother– might have used. Hardly
a War Word –but it was the Right Word for
shootings & burnings; the Right Word for both
sides’ reprisal-atrocities. (A Civil War Etiquette
Tip: Be sure to keep your cruelest atrocities for
closest kin –that’s what Civil Wars are for! (Be
assured: the others will do the same for you!)
That it should come to this: it must have
sickened both sides –if only they could admit it
to themselves. Liam’s dying words –“This should
never have happened”—would say it all. Too late.
But most could not admit it. A remnant of the
war was to be a silent unforgiveness, a pall of
bitterness that haunted the new nation
for many years, depleting its spirit and its will
–instead reinforcing a stifling partisanship.
Deeply troubled by the dark shadow on the
face of the new Ireland, the vast majority had
turned against the war. They wanted it “over”.
[Next excerpt, #6, coming soon :
“SONG: “IT WILL NOT BE LONG, LOVE, ‘TIL
OUR WEDDING DAY.” LATE NOTICE: WEDDING
WILL NOT NOW TAKE PLACE.”
Both Liam Lynch and Michael Collins were
engaged to be married.
A fter the Civil War was over…. ]