Author(s): Michael Fewer
The Irish Civil War began at around four o'clock in the morning on June 28, 1922. An 18-pounder artillery piece commanded by soldiers loyal to Michael Collins and the new Irish government began to fire on the Four Courts--a beautiful 18th-century complex of buildings that housed Ireland's highest legal tribunals. Inside, a large party of IRA men were barricaded--a clear sign that the treaty ending the war of independence would never be accepted by passionate republicans. Collins had come under pressure from Winston Churchill and his cabinet colleagues to clear out the rebels. After three days of fighting, with the buildings in ruins, the garrison surrendered. But the Four Courts also housed Ireland's historical archives, and these irreplaceable documents were destroyed--a cultural disaster for the new state and its historical memory. The Civil War that followed led to generations of entrenched bitterness, with the two main Irish political parties owing their origins to the sides they chose in the war.