chapter  4
73 Pages

An Instrument of War

Free State prisoners, 1922–4
WithSeán McConville

The Anglo-Irish War and its mass sweeps and continuing arrests strained available prison accommodation, but when the problem looked as though it might become acute or, perhaps, unmanageable, considerable capacity was made available by opening detention camps. By the early autumn of 1924, a few months after the last of the republican leaders had been released, staffing totals showed the impact of the Civil War. As Dublin’s principal prison and the place where several hundred Irish Republican Army (IRA) men would be concentrated, it was to be expected that clashes and disturbances would be most intense and most decisive at Mountjoy. During the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and the imprisonment and internment arising from the Anglo-Irish War, the IRA realised that captivity, whilst to be avoided by every means possible, held its own attractions and opportunities. The prisons and camps were battlefields for popular support. A sophisticated publicity machine had been developed by Sinn Fein during the Anglo-Irish War.