British Security Policy in Ireland 1920-1921

Ainsworth, John S. (2001) British Security Policy in Ireland 1920-1921. Australian Journal of Irish Studies, 1, pp. 176-190.


In the aftermath of victory in the Great War (1914-1918) and the conclusion to the peacemaking process at Versailles in 1919, the British Empire found itself in a situation of ‘imperial overstretch’, as indicated by ever-increasing demands for Crown forces to represent and maintain British interests in defeated Germany, the Baltic and Black Seas regions, the Middle East, India and elsewhere around the world. The strongest and most persistent demand in this regard came from Ireland (officially an integral part of the United Kingdom itself since the Act of Union came into effect from 1 January 1801), where the forces of militant Irish nationalism were proving difficult, if not impossible, to control.

Initially, Britain’s response was to allow the civil authorities in Ireland, based at Dublin Castle and heavily reliant on the enforcement powers of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), to deal with this situation. In 1920, however, with a demoralised administration in Ireland clearly outclassed in the increasingly violent struggle against the nationalists, London finally intervened and, in the expectation of achieving a decisive result, took measures which would set events in Ireland on a new, even more violent course and lead, ultimately, to the compromises for both sides contained in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921.

Consequently, the Irish administration at Dublin Castle was purged, the General Officer Commanding the British Army in Ireland replaced, new units and a new Chief of Police recruited for the RIC, and legislation providing for the Restoration of Order in Ireland passed by the Parliament at Westminster. But a security policy for Ireland, to be applied in association with these changes, seems never to have been clearly defined or articulated, leaving the new regime at Dublin Castle and the commanders of Crown forces in Ireland to determine such policy for themselves at the local level.

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ID Code: 293
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: This article has been made available with the kind permission of the copyright owner. Author contact details:
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Security policy, Britain, Ireland
ISSN: 1444-5409
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300) > European History (excl. British Classical Greek and Roman) (210307)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY (210000) > HISTORICAL STUDIES (210300) > British History (210305)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 Centre for Irish Studies at Murdoch University
Deposited On: 16 Jul 2004 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:21

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