Irregular News: Civil War and Republican ephemera

UCD Digital Library will soon make made available online a new collection entitled Irregular News: Civil War and Republican ephemera.  This collection contains a rich store of primary source material relating to the revolutionary period.  This material was collected by the Irish Franciscans and was originally held in their friary on Merchants Quay, which is located across from the Four Courts.  It was transferred to the Franciscan House of Studies in Killiney and from there to UCD in 2017 as part of the UCD OFM partnership agreement.  Over the centuries, the Franciscans were often given collections for safe-keeping, and it is likely that this is how the material came to be in their possession.

The collection consists of six bound volumes of Irish newspapers and ephemera, covering the period 1916 to 1940.  The majority of the material is from the Civil War period, 1922-23. These four volumes include long runs of the following anti-treaty publications: Poblacht na h-Eireann: War News, The Daily Sheet and the Daily Bulletin.  

In addition to these newspapers, there are a large number of ephemeral leaflets and short pamphlets produced by the anti-treaty forces during the Civil War.  This ephemeral material includes information on the circumstances and attitudes of imprisoned anti-treaty forces.  Many of these propaganda sheets are satirical in nature.

This primary source material gives detailed accounts of daily activities of the irregulars during the Civil War and also shows the reaction of the anti-treaty propaganda machine to the deaths of major figures in the conflict, such as Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Harry Boland.  

The report on the death of anti-treaty soldier Brian MacNeill, son of Free State minister and UCD professor Eoin MacNeill, at the hands of Free state in Sligo is another example of the interesting perspectives to be explored in this collection.  It is a stark reminder of the deep division that this war caused within many families.

In September 1922 the Scottish Edition of Phoblacht na hEireann published a letter signed by Maud Gonne MacBride under the headline ‘M’Bride House Raided’.  Gonne describes the raid by the Free State Forces and quotes a soldier as saying ‘it is a pity, there are no boys or man in this house or I would have shot them’.  In concluding the letter she says ‘This is the type of man the provisional government entrusts with raiding private houses and making arrests.  No wonder we hear of tortured and murdered prisoners.’  Furthermore, this newspaper, by advertising Irish republican events taking place in Glasgow, illustrates the importance and the involvement of the Irish community in Scotland, to the anti-treaty movement.

Preliminary research on the reporting of the Civil War in Poblacht na h-Eireann: War News has revealed the motivations and perspectives of the anti-treaty forces. It has also shown that these papers report events which do not  generally appear in timelines of the war.

Bound in with these Civil War materials are occasional items from 1916, the War of Independence and the early years of the Free State. The most notable of these is an issue of Na Bac Leis, which was a newspaper produced by the prisoners of Ballykinlar internment camp in Co. Down dated 1921.   Another volume contains a weekly newspaper entitled Nationality, covering the period September 1917 to February 1919. This newspaper was edited by Arthur Griffith.

Yet another interesting aspect of this collection is that is includes Republican material up to and including 1940.  Objections to the treaty did not disappear with the ending of the Civil War.  One of the news sheets from this later era entitled ‘War News’ included a report on a young Brendan Behan being sent to a borstal for his involvement in republican activity.

This digitisation project was funded through UCD Decade of Centenaries seed funding.  We very much look forward to making this collection of over 1000 images available publicly and hope that it will facilitate interdisciplinary academic scholarship, local studies research, and new creative expression.

Information on this collection can be found here.

  • This post was researched and written by Evelyn Flanagan, Head of Special Collections.

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