Library publishes fascinating account of Limerick during Civil War

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

City-based librarian Mike Maguire
A FASCINATING insight into life in Limerick during the Civil War has been made available to all with the publication online of the Free State propaganda sheet Limerick War News.

A FASCINATING insight into life in Limerick during the Civil War has been made available to all with the publication online of the Free State propaganda sheet Limerick War News.

This is the latest periodical to have been scanned and uploaded by executive librarian Mike Maguire and his team at the local studies section at the City Library.

“This is a very rare publication and has not been made available online heretofore. The content is fascinating and gives a very interesting picture of life in Limerick during that time of great upheaval, albeit from a particular perspective,” explained Mr Maguire.

Editions from July to October 1922 – including coverage of the assassination of Michael Collins – are now available for all to view through the website of Limerick City and County Council.

The first edition of Limerick War News was published on July 14 when the fighting in the city was at its most intense with the Free State Army leading an offensive against the anti-Treaty Irregulars who were occupying army barracks and other strategic sites.

It begins dramatically: “Limerick is to be commiserated with insofar as at the moment all normal life has ceased, caused by the misguided attempts of some of her own sons, who not satisfied with freedom seized our City and entrenched themselves there, loyally helped by those who have been turned out from Dublin and Cork - both of which cities have refused to be made the butt of lost causes and wild dreams. Limerick is a City of the dead, but Dublin – thanks to the valour of the National Troops, and the loyalty and good sense of the people - has again resumed business, whilst Cork did not need troops as the people raised their voices and refused to have their business upset by the wild men who fight their political opponents with arms.”

Limerick in those July days of 1922 is the scene of vicious street to street fighting but the battle for hearts and minds is also heating up. Without a hint of irony, Limerick War News warns the population against propaganda printed by the Republicans.

The people of the city should “raise their voices against the men who allow yeast to rot in the New Barracks (Sarsfield Barracks) while you cannot get bread”. But the population is assured that the Free State authorities are arranging “to get daily supplies of yeast from Dublin by aeroplane”.

On July 15, Limerick War News reports on a Free State attack on Irregulars in the Strand Barracks.

“The left wing is on fire and smoke is issuing from the windows. The noise and bomb of gunfire can be heard all over the city. The morning was quiet in Limerick. Michael Collins has taken control of the National forces,” it records.

And while the gallantry of the Free State Army leaps form the pages, the anti-Treaty forces are dismissed as looters and vandals, as arsonists and war criminals and in one case as a cowardly cross-dresser!

This passage from the July fighting in the city is typical: “A sniper stationed in O’Connell Street on Friday and yesterday has reason to congratulate himself. He wounded a woman at the corner of Sarsfield Street on Friday, with the result that she died almost before admission to Barringtons. Yesterday morning, he wounded another woman slightly, and a young boy. No doubt he will get a military decoration for this fine piece of work. Another sniper was lucky enough to seriously wound a nun at the Mount Convent.”

After the Irregulars are finally driven out of the city, Limerick War News sounds the call for volunteers to take the fight to the enemy in their rural Munster strongholds but laments that so few from middle class Limerick answer the call.

“Is there no one of military age on the Ennis Road or O’Connell Avenue,” the propagandist asks.

Limerick War News reports nothing of the capture of Bruff by the Irregulars in that same month. While there is news of Free State valour in Mayo and Donegal, there is a news blackout closer to home until the Republicans are finally driven from Kilmallock, Bruree and Bruff, where some of the most intense fighting of the entire conflict took place in the summer of 1922.

It is not until August 8 that Limerick War News can report the fall of Kilmallock, the same day that the Free State forces took Newcastle West.

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