The following is a summary of the events of the Belfast pogroms of the early 1920s. It is a portion of TA Jackson
's Ireland Her Own, published 1947.
The Civil War and the Six Counties
The story of the Belfast pogroms.
The formal cause of the Civil War was the refusal of a majority section of the IRA, led by Rory O'Connor
and Liam Mellows
, to submit to the authority of the Free State Government. Its real cause was the fact of Partition
; and the response of the Six-County Government to the Treaty
. When the terms of the Treaty were made public, Orange zealots fastened on the terms of the Boundary Clause to raise a scare. The "inner ring" had private assurances, from their die-hard confederates in England, that all would be well; but it was "good politics" to let the zealots of "No Popery" [sound like someone else?]
work up as much excitement as they could.
A law was passed by the Northern Ireland[sic] Parliament imposing severe penalties for possessing fire-arms without a license; and upon membership of an seditious association. A new category of full-time Special Constables was establish and equipped; the number of the "occasional" Specials was increased. Any member of an Orange Lodge, or Unionist Association, could get an arms-license for the asking; no Catholic
could get one in any circumstances. Merely applying for one was ground for his arrest and detention "on suspicion".
The ground was prepared for a pogrom by a search of the Catholic quarter of Belfast ostensibly for concealed arms. As a result of previous pogroms the quarter was densely overcrowded. Families were living in sheds, and in shacks improvised in back-gardens, and on every spot of waste ground - as well as in halls and church crypts. When the Specials had satisfied themselves that the quarter was destitute of means of defence, the word was given. "Patriotic" Orange mobs marched in with revolvers, rifles and machine guns and set to work to destroy the entire quarter.
The Catholics fought back as well as they could. A party of young Protestant-Socialists beat off a murderous attack upon a convent (which had been fired) and helped to extinguish the flames. A few IRA men from the surrounding districts fought their way in to take part in the defence. Then the military, however, quelled the riot, temporarily; but as often as the soldiers retired riot broke out again and again! With brazen effrontery Orange apologists blamed the whole trouble upon "Sinn Fein gunmen."
When the riots finally died down, it was estimated that another 9,000 Catholics had been drive from their work, and that number rendered homeless had been increased to 23,000. Altogether between June 21st, 1920 and June 21st 1922, 428 had been killed and 1,766 wounded.
A reprisal, which excited much "horror" in the Tory press, was the shooting - on his own doorstep in London, by two Irish ex-servicemen - of Sir Henry Wilson
, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and chief Military Adviser to the Government of Northern Ireland. Wilson was generally believed to have instigated the pogroms from the first.
(part 2 of this excerpt tomorrow.)