Journeys to a truce - 1921: Lord Mayor Donal Óg returns
Amongst Cork politicians, the truce was largely welcomed.
In his diary, Alderman Liam De Róiste of Cork Corporation and TD comments at length on the multitude of nuances and correspondence between Lloyd George and de Valera. The diary can be viewed in Cork City and County Archives.
He ultimately embraces the truce but acknowledges the long road ahead to create a mutually acceptable agreement on Irish and British sides.
On 9 July 1921, at 1pm Liam De Róiste writes: “The details of the truce are to be published today. There are many rough rocks in the road of peace yet, but this at least is the evidence of the will to peace. I am sure the mass of the people are filled with joy.
“As for me, I accept the matter calmly. We are not yet sure of our footsteps. The joy of my companions here is also subdued. They incline to be critical.
“A few moments ago, Black and Tans appeared: ‘here they are’; a rush to search a hiding place. They came on ordinary business to convey a poor patient to the institution. The rush shows that through the dawn of the peace appears with the announcement of the truce, the shadows of the night are still dark and thick over the land.”
The Lord Mayor of Cork Donal Óg O'Callaghan had recently returned after an eight months' public speech tour across America to grow interest in Irish independence and to raise finance for Dáil Éireann.
His campaign work, which wove with the visit of de Valera and Harry Boland to the United States is well captured in the fine book ‘Forgotten Lord Mayor Donal Óg O’Callaghan, 1920-1924’ by Aodh Quinlivan.
Aodh discovered that Donal Óg, on the whole, was welcomed by those communities he engaged with. There were a number of small exceptions.
Politically though, Donal’s journey ended as America’s Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby came under British diplomatic pressure to end his permission to stay longer in the States. Through the truce, Donal returned to a less threatening environment. Heretofore he was on a most wanted list by the Black and Tans.
ln the course of an interview with a Cork Examiner representative on 18 July 1921, Donal Óg noted that it was very gratifying to find the state of affairs which existed in Ireland.
“It seems possible that the just object for which the people of this country have been fighting for years is at last about to be secured through negotiations. Like the President, the people of Ireland heartily desired to see peace, to see the end of the state of war and destruction which has been obtaining in this country for some years past, desired to devote themselves to the work of reconstruction and to the general development of the prosperity of our country.”
The Lord Mayor continued that the manner in which the truce has been observed throughout the country was a tribute to the discipline and unity of the people of Ireland.
He noted: “Nowhere has it been more loyally observed than in Cork. While I would regret at the moment to say a word which might be construed as calculating to interfere with the existing peace, I feel bound to say that the truce doesn’t appear to have been on loyally kept by the British Army in Cork as it might have been.
“For the past few days I have seen police and military fully armed parading the streets; armoured cars and lorries containing armed troops driving through the city, in what I can only regard as a wantonly provocative planner.
“I trust that this matter will be immediately remedied, and that nothing will occur to mar the favourable conditions of the moment or the atmosphere of the negotiations about to take place, which we all sincerely hope will be successful, and will make the temporary peace of to-day the lasting peace of tomorrow,” he added.
In his press interview, the Lord Mayor also thanked the people of America for the manner in which they received him while in the United States, and to thank them, on behalf of the people of Ireland for the deep interest they took in Ireland fight for freedom and what he described as “the spirit animating them in doing all they could to assist in the fight”.
To the people of Cork he wished to say that he left Cork, and left momentarily the duties to which they had elected him, “as the result of an order from the Republican Government”. Only on such an order would he leave them or lreland under the circumstances.
He noted: “While the people of Ireland hoped to see their freedom achieved as a result of the present negotiations going on their spirit and determination are alike unimpaired, and should they have to continue the fight for freedom they will continue to rely on the liberty loving people of America for assistance.”
A few days after the 18 July, the Cork Examiner records that Cork Corporation had a council meeting but it was again chaired by Deputy Lord Mayor Cllr Barry Egan. Donal Óg had gone to Dublin to be part of the welcoming group for the peace delegates at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire).
De Valera had returned from talks in London with the British Prime Minster Lloyd George. A famous picture was taken by photographer WD Hogan of the welcoming group and this forms part of the National Library of Ireland photographic collection.
In the picture is Donal Óg as well as Chairman of Dublin County Council, H Friel, the acting Mayor of Limerick, Máire O’Donovan, Waterford TD Vincent White, Limerick TD Kate O’Callaghan, and Cork Corporation Alderman and TD Liam De Róiste.
All six greeted de Valera as well the large number of general public waiting. All six were also involved in the early peace talks in the summer of 1921 offering advice and support.