Originally Posted by gaiscioch
The straightforward answer to 'What was the cause of the Irish Civil War' is one/some/all of the 18 terms of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. But if we were to change the question to 'To what extent was the 1921 Treaty responsible for the Civil War', what other factors should be brought in?
To what extent were socio-economic factors which had been covered over during the 1917-1921 period a cause? In France, Germany, Italy and Britain fear of Godless, property-taking communism was a live issue following the October 1917 Russian Revolution. To what extent did that fear in Ireland intersect with Catholicism to propel people to support the Treaty?
Or should we assume all the blame for the Civil War rests with the anti-Treaty side, rather than the British essentially buying off one side against the other?
Or, quite simply, were older socio-economic divides made bare in the post-Treaty period and the CW was as much a rearguard action by the old Catholic Home Rule order against social change and radicalism generally? Could the CW be seen as a counterrevolution by the better-off, who had been protected by British rule and were now worried that a continuation of revolution would overthrow their wealth and influence now?
Some of the comments on poverty and the poor by Blythe, McGilligan, Walsh and others in the early 1920s were at least strongly authoritarian if not outright fascist. The language, too, was frequently riddled with derision about the 'dregs' of society. On the other side, was there any correlation with social radicalism and the areas of most resistance during the CW? I remember reading that recruiters in Kerry during the War of Independence would only recruit in the hills and mountains as there in the poor land was where the poor and radical were.
In short, what factors outside the Treaty were causes of the Irish Civil War?
The backbone of the IRA were middle class rural Catholic sons of small farmers educated by the CBS who opposed conscription in 1918. The majority of the IRA had little or no combat experience when the IRA campaign began in 1919 and intensified in 1920-21.
Wealthier Catholics or Anglo Irish Protestants had made up most of the Irish born officers in the British Army during WW1 and some of these men would join the IRA after 1918 and some later joined the National Army of the Free State.
The majority of British Army enlisted men in Irish regiments were the rural and urban Catholic poor who had joined the British Army Irish regiments for generations.
There was some economic factors. Anglo Irish Protestant gentry estates and large farms were still being liquidated for decades afterwards by the Land Commission. Many wealthy and upper middle class nationalists who supported Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party were supportive of Collins and Griffith and later the Cosgrave government and were Blueshirts in the 1930s and staunch Fine Gael supporters in subsequent decades.
Several die hard Fenians of the 1860s who supported Parnell in the 1880s and 1890s and Redmond in 1914 supported the 1921 Treaty and supported the Cosgrave government. Irish American leaders who fell out with De Valera during his tour of the US supported Collins and Griffith later.
Generally speaking the lower middle class and the poor tended to vote Fianna Fáil from the late 1920s onwards.
However it is too simplistic to say economics was the only factor.
Collins built a loyal network of activists and organizers and many people such as Harry Boland who were close friends refused to support the Treaty. Their oath to defend the Irish Republic and their loyalty to De Valera and to Cathal Brugha and the IRA leadership took precedence.
Swearing an oath of loyalty to the king was too much for them to bear.
Collins and his Squad - many of whom turned against him - was closer to the Dublin units of the IRA than rural units during the War of independence. Apart from general directives little or no arms or money was forthcoming from Dublin and many IRA units fought separate rather than co ordinated operations. Therefore if a local leader backed the Treaty personal loyalty meant other men would go along.
Brother did indeed go against brother.
During the Truce period the numbers on both sides of the IRA split were swelled by men who had taken no active part in the fight against the Tans and were derided as Truceleers.
Some men on either side defected to the other as the conflict erupted and others in a significant faction known as the Neutral IRA refused to take a side and stayed out of the fight entirely.
Men of every class and walk of life took one side or the other. The majority of the IRA and IRB of all socio economic classes opposed the Treaty in 1921 and 1922.
The rank and file of the National Army was made up of many men who had not fought in the WOI and their numbers swelled to overwhelm the under armed IRA.
Many Civil War veterans were embittered when the Boundary Commission resulted in a 6 county Northern Ireland and the Army mutiny led by some Collins loyalists and members of the Dublin Guard who had commited atrocities especially in Co. Kerry almost led to a renewed civil war. They questioned what they had fought and killed for.
The overall majorities enjoyed by De Valera for many years in government suggests that many who had fought against him in the Civil War were won over by FF in later years.