University of Limerick
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The Anglo - Irish truce: an analysis of its immediate military impact, 8 - 11 July 1921

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posted on 2023-02-21, 17:41 authored by Pádraig Óg Ó Ruairc
This thesis is a study of the dynamics of the Anglo-Irish Truce of 11 July 1921 which brought a formal conclusion to the Irish War of Independence. Although this work explores the origins, character and significance of the agreement, its primary focus is an analysis of the effect the announcement the impending armistice had on the use of lethal violence in the final days and hours of the conflict. It uses empirical data to interrogate existing hypotheses, and test popular theories surrounding the cessation of the Irish Republican Army’s military campaign. Furthermore, it examines in detail the hitherto neglected subject of the reaction and responses of the British forces in Ireland to the agreement. This study also establishes the role the advent of the Truce played in fomenting ‘Belfast’s Bloody Sunday’, one of the most intense outbreaks of sectarian violence in modern Irish history. This thesis addresses key questions which are central to understanding the Truce and the conflict as a whole. The new research presented in this study challenges an established historical narrative. The empirical findings make a useful contribution to the development of a more complex and comprehensive history of the Irish revolutionary period. The research contained in this thesis arrives at a number of defining conclusions. The rank and file of both the IRA and British forces were taken completely unawares by the advent of the ceasefire and, contrary to previous claims; there was no premeditated or concerted national campaign by either side in an attempt to inflict as many fatalities on their enemies as possible immediately before the conflict ended. A handful of provincial IRA units issued orders to launch fresh military offensives after the announcement of the Truce but these had a desultory effect. Contrary to previous claims these units concentrated on regular military operations such as ambushes and barrack attacks rather than so called ‘soft targets’ such as the execution of civilians and assassinations of members of the British forces. The vast majority of IRA operations which occurred nationally in the final days and hours of the conflict were motivated by local factors rather than national political developments. Although the IRA continued to use lethal violence right up to the beginning of the Truce, almost all of these attacks were typical of those which had developed during the conflict and were not specifically motivated by the announcement. The British forces in southern Ireland engaged in similar military operations but, like their enemies, there is no evidence to suggest that these operations were specifically motivated by the impending ceasefire. Only in Belfast, where there was sustained inter-communal violence in the final days of the war, can reaction to the Truce be said to have resulted in an upsurge. Even in that instance, negative loyalist reaction to the ceasefire was just one of a number of contributory causes, amongst which local factors predominated. Ultimately, the use of lethal violence in the immediate pre-Truce period, though often brutal, was largely typical of the conditions which had developed in that conflict. The events and killings in July 1921, often cited as having been conceived as a deliberate reaction to the announcement of the Truce, were infact almost wholly coincidental to the machinations which brought the conflict to a formal end.



  • Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Doctoral

First supervisor

O'Donnell, Ruán





Department or School

  • History

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