Civil War fatalities

Systematic analysis of Irish political fatalities

Sir, – I note Diarmaid Ferriter’s significant observations regarding Civil War deaths, and his comments on The Dead of the Irish Revolution covering deaths arising from Irish political violence from 1916 to 1921 (“We still do not know how many lives were lost in Civil War”, Opinion & Analysis, May 26th). I can confirm that I am preparing a successor study covering the period from January 1922 to December 1923. This will address and individually describe all relevant deaths on an all-island (and beyond) basis.

It is historically and morally wrong to separate “civil war” deaths occurring between June 28, 1922, and May 24th, 1923, when IRA chief of staff Frank Aiken issued a “dump arms” order, from those seen across Ireland before the Four Courts battle, and after the anti-treatyites formally left the field. To separate fatal political violence experienced from January to June 1922 – whether that against perceived enemies of independence such as ex-policemen and alleged War of Independence informers, or that arising from conflict between the new pro-treaty army and the anti-treaty IRA, or those hundreds of deaths seen in the new province of Northern Ireland, where far more civilians were intentionally killed than in the southern “civil war” – from those which happened on or after June 28th, 1922, is downright misleading. The same applies for everyone who died across the island after Aiken’s May 1923 “dump arms” order, whatever their politics or religion, whether combatants or civilians, adults or children, men or women, whether in battle, by assassination or legal execution, through hunger-strikes, in cross-fire, or accidentally. All deserve equal consideration and commemoration.

This study will be supported by the extensive database which underpinned The Dead of the Irish Revolution, which covered Irish political fatalities between April 1916 and December 1921. Subject to appropriate funding and support, that database will eventually provide an unprecedented public tool for the systematic analysis of Irish political fatalities, that is of who died when, where, how, and by whose hand, and of their individual social and economic circumstances, throughout the entire revolutionary era, north, south and abroad. – Yours, etc,



Burns Scholar 2023,

Boston College.