Address To The Dublin Brigade

The “Address To The Dublin Brigade” was a memo written by Oscar Traynor, after the Anti-Treaty IRA was defeated in Dublin during the Irish Civil War.  Traynor had been a promising youth soccer player who joined the Irish Volunteers in 1914.  He fought during the 1916 Rising and was subsequently interned in Frongoch until the end of 1916.  Upon his release, he rejoined the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and quickly rose through the ranks before being appointed as the O/C of the Dublin Brigade IRA in the wake of Dick McKee’s death.  Traynor planned the attack on the Custom House and oversaw the operation which, while successful in destroying the Custom House, also resulted in the capture of a large portion of the Dublin Brigade.[1]

When the Civil War broke out, Oscar Traynor sided with the Anti-Treaty forces and assumed command of the Dublin Brigade of the Anti-Treaty IRA.  Traynor sought to provide relief to the men in the Four Courts, when the initial fighting began, by ordering the members of the Dublin Brigade to occupy buildings in O’Connell Street.  The Free State Army was ultimately able to force Traynor and his men to retreat from their positions on 5 July 1922.  Traynor fled the city and remained on the run in South County Dublin and Wicklow until he was captured in September 1922.  Traynor would spend the rest of the Irish Civil War in prison and was released in January 1924.[2]

The “Address To The Dublin Brigade” was most likely written in the period between Traynor fleeing O’Connell Street in Dublin on 5 July 1922 and his arrest in September 1922.  The document was written to attack the character of the Irish Free State Army and bolster the confidence of the men in the Anti-Treaty IRA to continue fighting. Traynor opens the document by stating that the Free State Army hoped “by force to compel us all to share the disgrace of their cowardly surrender.”  This line clearly lays out how Traynor wants the Anti-Treaty IRA men to feel about the Free State compromise with the British Government.  He is likely also implying that any of the Anti-Treaty men who surrender will be considered cowards for doing so.

Traynor then turns his attention to boosting the morale of his men by first drawing attention to Cathal Brugha’s noble sacrifice of staying behind to allow the brigade to escape Dublin. The concept of honor in sacrifice can be interpreted in this piece of the address and is alluded to again in the conclusion.  Traynor uses the rest of the address to call his men to action.  First instructing them to “revert to the tactics which made us invincible formerly,” which calls on them to resume guerilla warfare.  He then calls out the Republican heroes of the past rebellions to encourage the men to continue fighting for the Republic that they would have wanted.  Traynor stated that the country is fighting in arms with the men of the Dublin Brigade and that by their example others have been inspired.  Men across Ireland had sided with the Anti-Treaty IRA and taken up arms against the Free State, however an equal number of men had joined the Free State Army or chosen to remain neutral.

In regards to the general population, he remarked that the eyes of the people were opening to see that the Free State does not support the ideals of the Republic.  Traynor’s insinuation that the whole nation was behind them may have been a bit exaggerated, though, as many people were tired of the fighting, had sided with the Free State, and had supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty in hopes that it would bring peace to Ireland.  Traynor concludes by stating that “sacrifices have yet to be made, tortures may have to be endured, but the glorious manner in which you have faced the onslaught of the past week raises a great hope that it is beyond the power of any man to sell this nation as a vassal state.”  Here Traynor again alludes to the glory found in sacrifice and praises the determination of his men to stand firm in their beliefs and continue fighting for the Republic.

It is important to note that this document was published after a major defeat, with Traynor hoping to rally his forces and provide encouragement to many who were likely feeling uneasy about carrying on the fight.  The “Address to the Dublin Brigade” gives us valuable insight into the thinking of the Anti-Treaty forces, and particularly Oscar Traynor, after the Dublin Brigade was forced to retreat from Dublin City.  The document also provides insight in the importance of propaganda during the Irish Revolution should be preserved for future generations to study.