British Empire
The end of the British empire - Ireland
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Film from 1920 showing scenes from the war between British forces and Irish Republicans
(British Pathe: 220.29)
  • This newsreel clip was shown to British audiences in 1920. It describes the situation in Ireland at the time.
  • The clip shows British forces on the streets of an Irish town. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) often ambushed these forces, although it was more common for ambushes to take place in the countryside. This clips shows two IRA suspects after they had been shot by British troops. It is not clear exactly what happened.
  • In January 1919 the Sinn Fein MPs who had been elected in the December 1918 election set themselves up as Dail Eireann to govern Ireland. In many areas of the country people accepted this new government and refused to co-operate with the British authorities.
  • At the same time, Republicans were also using armed force (hit-and-run tactics) against the RIC (police) and British army units. Both the IRA and the British forces used increasingly brutal tactics as the year went on.
  • The British poured troops into Ireland, but could not defeat the IRA. By the end of 1919 there were 43,000 British troops in Ireland, costing Britain 860,000 per year.
  • As this clip shows, the problems in Ireland continued into the 1920s. As well as the cost in lives and money, Britain faced increasing criticism for its policies, especially in America. By the end of 1920 the British were eager to find a solution to the problem of Ireland.
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