Journeys to a Free State: The nation’s death knell
The build-up of Civil War action continued at pace across Ireland in late July 1922.
A Cork Examiner editorial on 20 July 1922 reported on the isolation of the south of Ireland owing to the stoppage of telegraphic communication with Dublin, Northern Ireland, the Midlands. East and West Limerick, Waterford and Britain. This had a knock-on effect of loss for businesses and their activities. The unsettled situation is also reflected in the accounts of the Cork Harbour Board, and the returns of tonnage dues and harbour dues showed in one week in late July as a fall of over £1,600. The dislocation of the services of the Great Southern and Western Railway was also considerable, and goods and passenger traffic were very much curtailed. On the main line, no trains ran beyond Limerick Junction and no trains connecting Waterford and Limerick were possible. The Limerick to Kerry service was only open to Newcastle West and on the Cork to Rosslare line, no train ran beyond Dungarvan.
The Cork Examiner editorial reported of the economic fall-out: “No country could keep its head over water in conditions such as these, which now exist in the south of Ireland, and one needs not be a pessimist to regard the present situation and the results that must inevitably accrue from it as being extremely grave.
“Poverty is already widespread in Cork city because men willing to work cannot procure it. Even the American tourists who reached the south during the weekend and have been unable to reach their destination are clearing out of Ireland as rapidly as possible. The whole situation is indeed, appalling, and sufficient to cause the utmost misgivings as to the future.”
Calls for peace were ongoing. A public meeting of the women electors of Cork city was held in City Courthouse on the evening of 1 August 1922 for the purpose of supporting the demand for the cessation of civil war in the country. The attendance was small and a Mrs Leader presided over the proceedings.
The chair said the women of Cork were anxious that the hostilities throughout their country should cease.
She intended to submit a resolution to the meeting, and if it were passed, to have it forwarded to Dáil Éireann. If it was considered necessary, they could hold a public meeting at a future date. Part of the resolution, Mrs Leader proposed, focused on the lack of a public mandate for civil war.
She commented: “We the mothers of the men and boys in conflict, and the women electors of Cork in meeting here assembled, resolve and demand that our Leaders call an immediate cessation of Civil War. The Irish people gave no gave no mandate for civil war and we hold that no individual despot should assume the right to proclaim war. Is civil war the fulfilment of your joint promise of a ‘triumph for the Irish nation’? We say it is the nation's death knell. The triumph of the enemy.”
The resolution continued: “We demand that the leaders on both sides shall meet in legislation and devise means of obtaining the concessions necessary for a satisfactory settlement. The Republican Army was Ireland's best asset during the fight for Independence. The men and boys of the Free State troops fought side by side with them for the same noble cause. They joined the Free State to protect us from foreign invasion, not for civil war.
“Are they all to be now unwillingly plunged into continuance of present fratricidal massacre? We, the mothers, must now assert authority over our men and boys, the mainstay of our homes and country. Our claim and right to do so is privileged beyond that of obdurate leaders.”
The resolution concluded: “We therefore call on and entreat our noble Irish sons and brothers in conflict on both sides to simultaneously lay down arms and thus end this cruel conflict, forced upon you and which is bringing mourning and desolation into your homes. We willingly gave you to fight the British foe, but the slaughter of one another, owing to the enemy and lack of statesmanship of leaders is only completing the object which the enemy failed to accomplish.”
The People's Rights Association (an assembly, which arose out of a public meeting at the Cork Harbour Commissioner Offices on 17 July) met local TDs in the Cork Harbour Board offices.
They had adopted resolutions, which called on the speaker of Dáil Eireann to summon meetings of the Second and Third Dáil asking for an armistice to the ongoing civil war erupting across the country.
They sent a deputation to Dáil Éireann and representations were sent to the general headquarters of the Republican forces. In response, Michael Collins wrote to them outlining his extant position that he would not back down from action until the Republican forces did.
On 7 August 1922, his letter was published in the Cork Examiner: “As the army is concerned, I am obeying the orders of the Government, and all the general staff and soldiers of the army are merely carrying out the instructions given in accordance with such orders. The Government have made it fully clear that its desire is to secure obedience to the proper authority.
“When an expression of such obedience comes from the Republican leaders, I take it there will no longer be any necessity for armed conflict. When the Republicans – leaders and men – see fit to obey the wishes of the people, as expressed through their elected representatives; when they will give up their arms and cease their depredations on the persons and property of Irish citizens, then there will be no longer need for hostilities.”