Memo on North-East.
Seamus Woods to Richard Mulcahy (Dublin)
Dublin, 29 September 1922
As, I am inclined to believe, the attitude of the present Government towards its followers in the Six Counties, is not that of the late General Collins, I am writing this memo., with a view to ascertaining from you what exactly the position of my Division is now, and is likely to be in the future relative to G.H.Q., and I would also like to know through you what policy the Government has for its followers in the Divisional area.
When the Treaty was signed in December last we were given to understand by Gen. O’Duffy that although the Six Counties did not benefit as much as the rest of Ireland by it, it was the best that could possibly be got at the time, and it was the intention of the Dail members and the members of G.H.Q. Staff who supported it, to work and try to overcome the Treaty position with regard to Ulster.
During the three months following the signing of the Treaty I am satisfied that G.H.Q. did their best to assist the Army in the Six Counties, and when the split came in March I recommended to the Officers and men to stand with G.H.Q., as I considered that by so doing we were giving the people who supported the Treaty a better chance of overcoming the position in the North.
After the outbreak of hostilities between G.H.Q. and the Executive there was the danger that the position in Ulster would be more or less overlooked and allowed to drift, and in order to have a definition of our position and of the policy of the Government here, I asked for a meeting of the senior Officers of the Six County area G.H.Q. Staff.
Before that meeting was held I sent you a memo. dealing with the events in the Division from the time I took over Command and outlining the position generally at the end of July, as regards the morale and tactics of the enemy; the morale of our troops and the morale of the Catholic population; and their attitude towards the I.R.A.
On August 2nd. the meeting was held and the late Commander-in-Chief presided. At that meeting the situation in the Six Counties was discussed at great length, with a view to improving our organisation and training, and deciding on a policy to be adopted by our people in the North and which would have the sanction of the Government in Dublin. The late C-in-C. outlined the Policy we were to adopt – one of non-recognition of the Northern Government and passive resistance to its functioning. At the same time, from the Military point of view we were to avoid as far as possible coming into direct conflict with the armed forces of the Northern Government, and any action on our part would be purely protective. The late C-in-C. made it clear to us that the Government in Dublin intended to deal with the Ulster situation in a very definite way, and as far as this Division was concerned, every Officer present felt greatly encouraged to carry on
the work when we had a definite policy to pursue and an assurance that the Government here would stand by us. After the death of the late General Collins it was encouraging to us to see that the Government were determined to carry out his policy. I took it that this meant his Policy regarding Ulster also.
A new situation has now arisen. F. McArdle was up a fortnight ago with the President regarding the course of action to be adopted by our people in connection with the signing of a declaration of loyalty to H.M. the King and the Northern Govt. which that Government is imposing on certain people, and I expect through time will impose on every citizen in the Six County area. McArdle informed me that the President brought the matter before a meeting of the Cabinet and the decision was that the Government in Dublin had no objection to our people signing this. Owing to the position that has arisen in the rest of Ireland I take it the Government feel that they are not equal to the task of overcoming the Treaty position with regard to Ulster. If it is their intention to recognise the Northern Government, it is well that they should be acquainted with the present position in Ulster, and also have an idea of what the future of Ulster is likely to be as we visualise it.
There is grave internal trouble in the Northern Government. When their terror policy was broken up by our campaign of burning and destruction in Belfast, they turned to a policy of placation towards the Catholic population and when this proved fairly successful (we, of course, were at this time becoming inactive owing to the war in the rest of Ireland) they began to dispense with a number of their Specials. A desire for peace became popular amongst the better classes and the Northern Govt. took up the task of restoring order in good faith. There had been a number of high Officers in their Police Force who had been given unlimited powers during the Terror Campaign, notably D/I. Nixon, and all his Staff. Such people while they were in power would always be a menace to peace, and during the past few months have been pressing for promotion and reward for ‘distinguished service’ i.e. Murder. The Northern Government in their desire for peace have refused promotion or reward, and D/I. Nixon was asked to resign. He is at present organising the disbanded Specials and has threatened to lead them against the Northern Government on the same lines as the Irregulars in the South. He has also warned Col. Wickham, Inspector Gen. R.U.C. and the City Commissioner of Belfast that their lives are no longer safe. Last week Nixon and Co. attempted to shoot up the Catholic districts of Belfast in the hope that the I.R.A. would take the field and it would become evident to the Northern Government that there was a necessity to strengthen their forces rather than deplete them. I have issued special orders against retaliation until we see how the Official Forces of the Northern Government are going to deal with this trouble. In a particular area last week in Belfast the Official Specials returned the fire of some of Nixon’s Gang; this is a great change in Belfast.
Owing to the capture by us of all the files and military plans from H.Q., R.U.C., and the office of General Solly Flood, Craig’s Military Advisor, the Northern Govt. has been holding inquiries in all their Departments and the position at the moment is that every official is suspecting the other.
Recognition of the Northern Government, of course, will mean the breaking up of our Division. None of the Divisional, Brigade, or Battalion Officers could remain in the area except under war conditions, and that only for a short time, and even under guarantees from the Northern Government, if such will be arranged, these men would not be safe from unofficial murder-gangs. With the departure of these officers it would not be possible to maintain the I.R.A. Organisation, which is the only Irish Organisation in the Six Counties at the present time. The breaking up of this Organisation is the first step to making Partition permanent. If this must come, then there is very little hope of organising in Ulster on Gaelic lines for a long time. The Government here has still a certain responsibility to its followers in the Six-County area and the following points will require their serious consideration:-
(a). The question of our prisoners who are not recognising the Northern Government as per late C-in-C’s instructions.
(b). The position of the people who assisted us during the war against England and who are now singled out for harsh treatment by the Northern Government.
(c). The position of our Officers and men who have lost their means of living because of their activities against England.
(d). The position of our Officers and men from Co. Antrim and Co. Down, who are mostly of the farming class, and who cannot return to their homes, and whose people are accordingly victimised.
(e). The question of people who have come away from their area for no reason whatever and on the plea of being refugees have been taken into Govt. positions in Dublin. This is encouraging emigration.
On these points is it essential for me to have a definite ruling from you and I would be glad if you would let me have this by Tuesday next, 3rd. prox. Everyone is anxious to know how and where they stand.
C/O. 3rd. Northern Division
1 Commander of the IRA’s 3rd Northern Division and their effective leader in Belfast.