Liam Lynch had sincere reasons for opposing treaty, former taoiseach tells commemoration

Lynch strove to prevent the Civil War and only committed to it after the Free State shelled the Four Courts, says Ahern

Revisionists who suggest that anti-Treaty IRA leaders such as Liam Lynch were unreconstructed militants and poor democrats fail to recognise that those who opposed the Treaty had sincere and valid reasons for doing so, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

Mr Ahern told the 100th General Liam Lynch Commemoration at the republican plot in Kilcrumper in Fermoy that while Lynch was a prominent opponent of the Anglo-Irish Treaty from the outset, he equally did his utmost to try and avoid the Civil War which cost so many lives, including his own.

“While some revisionists take a jaundiced view of our history and suggest that those, like Liam Lynch, who resolutely opposed the treaty were unreconstructed militants or poor democrats, I think it should be acknowledged that there were deep felt, sincere and very valid reasons to oppose a treaty that made Irish sovereignty subservient to British authority,” he said.

Recalling that Lynch grew up in a strongly nationalist home in Barnagurraha, Anglesboro, Co Limerick, Mr Ahern noted that Lynch’s fervent dedication to Irish freedom was forged by witnessing Thomas Kent being marched across Fermoy Bridge by British troops after the 1916 Rising.


His leadership of the Cork No 2 Brigade of the IRA along with fellow IRA leaders such as Tom Barry and Sean Moylan marked him out as a significant figure in the War of Independence and his opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty led to him becoming chief of staff of the IRA in the Civil War.

“For Lynch, the treaty was a failure; he wrote: ‘We have declared for an Irish republic and will not live under any other law.’ Nevertheless, between March and June 1922 Liam Lynch strove to prevent a civil war. He believed unity could be maintained, even under the treaty, if a republican constitution could be enacted; and he cooperated with Michael Collins in promoting IRA activity in Ulster.

“It was only after Free State forces – with cannons borrowed from the British - shelled the Four Courts that Lynch once again took up arms, though he harboured deep regret over the division among former comrades.

“Though Lynch was to take on a leading role on the republican side of the conflict, he stood steadfast against the tide of bitterness and retaliation that was tragically encompassing Ireland. His respect for former comrades, who now politically and militarily opposed him, remained undiminished.”

Mr Ahern, whose own Cork-born father, Con Ahern also took the anti-treaty side, pointed out that Lynch was adamant that there should be no reprisals by the anti-treaty IRA against National Army troops, even after the latter had committed atrocities in the course of the conflict.

He noted that Lynch mourned the death of Commander in Chief of the National Army, General Michael Collins when he was killed in anti-Treaty IRA ambush at Beal na Bláth in West Cork on August 22nd, 1922.

“Lynch’s mourning for the fallen Michael Collins, whom he admired as both a soldier and a man, speaks to the complexities of their shared journey,” Mr Ahern told the commemoration which was attended by a crowd of about 200 people.

Lynch was fatally injured in the Knockmealdown Mountains while fleeing from a party of National Army troops on April 10th, 1923.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times