Remembering The Irish Revolutionary Liam Lynch
Lynch was born in the townland of Barnagurraha, County Limerick, near Mitchelstown, County Cork, to Jeremiah and Mary (née Kelly) Lynch. During his first 12 years of schooling, he attended Anglesboro School.
In 1910, at the age of 17, he started an apprenticeship in O'Neill's hardware trade in Mitchelstown, where he joined the Gaelic League and the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Later he worked at Barry's Timber Merchants in Fermoy. In the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising, he witnessed the shooting and arrest of David, Thomas and Richard Kent of Bawnard House by the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).
After this event, Lynch was determined to dedicate his life to Irish republicanism. In 1917 he was elected First Lieutenant of the Irish Volunteer Company, which resided in Fermoy.
In Cork, Lynch re-organised the Irish Volunteers, becoming commandant of the Cork No. 2 Brigade of the IRA during the Tan war. Lynch helped capture a senior British officer, General Cuthbert Lucas, in June 1920, shooting a Colonel Danford in the incident.
Lucas later escaped while being held by IRA men in County Clare. Lynch was captured, together with the other officers of the Cork No. 2 Brigade, in a British raid on Cork City Hall in August 1920.
Terence McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork, was among those captured; he later died on hunger strike in protest at his detention. Lynch, however, gave a false name and was released three days later. In the meantime, the British had killed two other innocent men named Lynch, whom they had confused with him.
In September 1920, Lynch, along with Ernie O'Malley, commanded a force that took the British Army barracks at Mallow. The arms in the barracks were seized and the building partially burnt.
Before the end of 1920, Lynch's brigade had successfully ambushed British troops on two other occasions. Lynch's guerrilla campaign continued into early 1921, with some successes such as the ambush and killing of 13 British soldiers near Millstreet Co Cork.
In April 1921, the IRA was re-organised into divisions based on regions. Lynch's reputation was such that he was made commander of the 1st Southern Division. From April 1921 until the Truce that ended the war in July 1921, Lynch's command was put under increasing pressure by the deployment of more British troops into the area and the British use of small mobile units to counter IRA guerrilla tactics.
Lynch was no longer in command of the Cork No. 2 Brigade, for he had to travel in secret to each of the nine IRA Brigades in Munster. By the time of the Truce, the IRA under Liam Lynch was increasingly hard-pressed and short of arms and ammunition. He, therefore, welcomed the Truce as a respite; however, he expected the war to continue after it ended.
Lynch like the vast majority of IRA leaders and Vols was against the treaty, as it usurped the 32 county Republic established on January 21st 1919, Lynch became Chief Of Staff of the IRA in March 1922.
However, Lynch did not want a split in the republican movement and hoped to reach a compromise with those who supported the Treaty ("Free Staters") by the publication of a republican constitution for the new Irish Free State. But the British would not accept this, as the Treaty had only just been signed and ratified, leading to a bitter split in Irish ranks and ultimately civil war.
Although Lynch opposed the seizure of the Four Courts in Dublin by Republicans, he joined its garrison in June 1922 when the newly formed Free State Army attacked it. The civil war had begun.
Lynch was arrested by the Free State forces but was allowed to leave Dublin, on the understanding that he would try and halt the fighting. Instead, he quickly began organising resistance elsewhere. Lynch wished to establish a 'Munster Republic', which he believed would frustrate the creation of the Free State.
The 'Munster Republic' would be defended by the "Limerick-Waterford Line", which consisted of, moving from east to west, the city of Waterford, the towns of Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Fethard, Cashel, Golden, and Tipperary, ending in the city of Limerick, where Lynch established his headquarters. He led its defence in July, but it fell to Free State troops on July 20th 1922.
Lynch retreated further south and set up his new headquarters at Fermoy. The 'Munster Republic' fell in August 1922, when Free State troops landed by sea in Cork and Kerry. Cork City was taken on 8 August, and Lynch abandoned Fermoy the next day. The Anti-Treaty forces then dispersed and pursued guerrilla tactics.
Lynch issued new orders known as the "orders of frightfulness" against the Free State administration on November 30th 1922. This General Order sanctioned the killing of Free State TDs and Senators, as well as certain judges and newspaper editors in reprisal for the Free State's execution of captured republicans.
On December 7th 1922, Hales was killed by IRA men as he left the 'Dáil'. Another TD, Pádraic Ó Máille, was also shot and severely wounded in the incident. In reprisal, the Free State executed four Republican prisoners Rory O'Connor, Liam Mellows, Dick Barrett and Joe McKelvey in Kilmainham Gaol the very next day.
The Free State officially executed of 77 republican prisoners and "unofficial" killing of roughly 150 other captured republicans during the civil war. Lynch's men for their part launched a concerted campaign against the homes of Free State administration members.
In March 1923, the Anti-Treaty IRA Army Executive met in a remote location in the Nire Valley. Several members of the executive proposed ending the civil war; however, Lynch opposed them and narrowly carried a vote to continue the fight.
On April 10th 1923, a Free State unit was seen approaching Lynch's secret headquarters in the Knockmealdown Mountains. Lynch was in possession of essential papers that he knew had to not fall into enemy hands, so he and his six comrades attempted to evade them. To their shock, they ran into another unit of 50 Free State soldiers approaching from the opposite direction.
Lynch was shortly afterwards hit by rifle fire from the road at the foot of the hill. Knowing the value of the papers they carried, he ordered his men to leave him behind.
When the Free State soldiers reached Lynch, they initially believed him to be Éamon de Valera, but he informed them – "I am Liam Lynch, Chief-of-Staff of the Irish Republican Army. Get me a priest and doctor; I'm dying."
Lynch was carried on an improvised stretcher manufactured from guns to "Nugents" pub in Newcastle, at the foot of the mountains, where he rested on a chair, and the said chair is still in possession of Mrs Rose Nugent.
Lynch was later brought to the hospital in Clonmel and died that evening at 8 p.m. Lynch was buried two days later at Kilcrumper Cemetery, near Fermoy, County Cork.
"We have declared for a Republic; We will live under no other law."
General Liam Lynch