Section 8: The Road to Partition

In 1918 County Down, like many other Irish counties, had been transformed by the events of the First World War and by political change in Ireland. The 1916 rebellion in Dublin had resulted in the execution of its leaders and an outpouring of sympathy for them came from many people. A new political party, Sinn Fein, was growing stronger and many people supported its demand for full independence for Ireland rather than Home Rule. The Home Rule party was now in decline. In the general election held in December 1918, they lost many of their seats to Sinn Fein. In 1919 members of the Irish Volunteers attacked RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) members in Tipperary beginning the war of independence. Between 1919 and 1921 there was armed conflict between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the RIC and British Army.

Image A is an election poster for the constituency of East Down for the Irish Parliamentary Party (the Home Rule party) candidate Michael Johnston. Home Rule nationalists in East Down rejected the election pact with Sinn Fein that operated in many other areas of Ireland and ran a candidate in opposition to Sinn Fein.

Image B is a poster for a monster demonstration to be held in Downpatrick calling for Ireland to be represented at the Peace Conference held after the end of the First World War. The demonstration was to be addressed by the Sinn Fein leader, Eamon de Valera.
Find out what the Peace Conference was.

Why would Sinn Fein believe Ireland should be represented at the Peace Conference ?

Why would unionists believe Ireland should not be represented at the Peace conference ?
Why do you think these ‘monster demonstrations’ were all held at the same time across Ireland and why on St Patrick’s Day ?
Image C is a photograph of Ballykinler camp where IRA prisoners were sent from 1920 until 1922. Ballykinler camp had operated as a military camp for soldiers during the Boer War and World War I. During 1919 and 1920 the government opened a number of internment camps to hold IRA prisoners. Ballykinler was one of the largest. Men from all over Ireland were imprisoned here. Ballykinler operated as a prisoner-of-war camp rather than a prison. Prisoners had their own command structure within the camp and organised educational activities like Irish language classes. They also held concerts and put on plays. They produced their own camp newspaper and ‘autograph books’ were popular.

Image D is from an ‘autograph book’ produced by prisoners in the camp.

Why are the soldiers guarding the prisoners ‘looking for tunnels’ ?
Image E is an extract from the Down Recorder, a newspaper for Downpatrick and the surrounding area, from November 1920.

 'At Darragh (Darragh Cross near Saintfield) schoolhouse, about 10pm, on the 29th.., a dance organised by Miss Monahan, assistant teacher, in aid of the funds of the cookery class, was in progress when a motor-car arrived with four Sinn Feiners, who called upon the gaiety to cease, out of respect to the death of Lord Mayor Mc Swiney. Compliance (obedience) was instant. News of an even more high-handed affair on the same night comes from Crossgar. Returning home from an itinerant (travelling) picture show, which Sinn Fein had tried to inhibit (prevent) for the same reason, Mr Jos. (Joseph) O’Reilly, a school teacher, was seized by a number of men, who cut off his hair, worn long.'

What do you know about Terence McSwiney and his death ?

What does the extract tell you about the growing strength of Sinn Fein in the area ?
Between 1919 and 1921 violence raged in County Down, although not on the same scale as in other parts of Ireland. In 1920 the Government of Ireland Act was introduced. This established two parliaments in Ireland, one in Dublin and one in Belfast. In 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed which ended much of the conflict in Ireland. The Treaty was supported by the majority of people in Ireland even though it created two states, the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, rather than one. In 1922 those who opposed the treaty, because it did not give completed independence to Ireland and had two separate parliaments, one in Dublin and one in Belfast, fought against the new Irish government in a civil war.  In County Down and other parts of Ulster the IRA continued to operate against the new Northern Ireland government. There was widespread violence in Belfast and other areas.

Image F is an extract from the Down Recorder of 17 December 1921.

'In Castlewellan and neighbourhood, as well as in Newcastle, printed posters have been stuck on walls and trees demanding in menacing terms a boycott of banks having their headquarters in Belfast…'

Why would some people oppose banks having their headquarters in Belfast ?

Where did they think these headquarters should be ?
Image G is a photograph showing Old Court in Strangford, the home of the de Ros family which was burned down by the IRA in 1922.
Image H is an extract from the Down Recorder of 3 June 1922 reporting on attacks on other ‘big houses’ in the area.

'Myra Castle, near Strangford, the residence of Colonel R. H. Wallace, CB, who with his son Hugh, is away on a sea trip, was subjected to rebel rifle fire intermittently during the first four hours of Monday, to the no small alarm of Mrs Wallace and her daughters, and the household, but their safety was ensured by a guard of B’ specials’, and beyond the breaking of some window glass, little damage was done.
Similar hostile demonstrations were made at the respective mansions of Col, Perceval-Maxwell, D.S.O, of Finnebrogue, overnight on Saturday, and of Lord Roden, of Tollymore-park overnight on Wednesday.

Why did the IRA target the ‘big houses’ in the area ?

Can you find out anything more about Colonel Wallace ?

Why might he be a particular target for the IRA ?

Image I is an extract from the Down Recorder of 24 June 1922.

'The Curfew. James Stewart, of Killough, for whom Mr Johnston appears, was fined 5s for contravening the curfew order. His action was unwitting. He had motored four B ’specials’ to Ballykinlar, where he was so long detained over the question of a permit that he could not hope to reach Downpatrick before 11 p.m.'

What is a ‘curfew’ ?

Why do you think it was used at this time ?
Image J is an extract from the Down Recorder, 24 June 1922.

'South Down: To nobody has the present week been more welcome than the greenkeepers of the Newcastle golf links. Fairways and greens were becoming parched. In normal times many non-Irish golfers would now have been visiting Newcastle. Alas, these are not normal times and the cosmopolitans are conspicuous by their absence. The club-members, however, continue to make the most of their opportunities at the week-end. To men living in seething Belfast, the beauty and restfulness of Newcastle must be a blessed relief from harassing cares and worries which are a daily obsession.'

How are these not normal times ?

Why would the ‘cosmopolitans’ stay away from the Newcastle golf links?

Why is life in Belfast so difficult at this time ?
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