Crossbarry Memorial, Crossbarry, County Cork
The Kilmichael Ambush on November 28, 1920 was a turning point of the war as the Auxiliaries, previously thought “invincible,” were defeated by an IRA column – a fact which had a very negative impact on British morale.
In March 1921, 104 Irish Republican Army volunteers under the command of Tom Barry attacked and later escaped from an encircling manoeuvre by 1,200 British soldiers and Black and Tans.
During the negotiations that preceded the Truce that ended the war, the British had demanded that Barry be handed over to them before progress could be made on other matters. Michael Collins refused, although he afterwards jokingly told his fellow Cork men that he had been sorely tempted. Barry opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, because, according to him, it betrayed the Irish Republic and partitioned Ireland. He fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War (1922–1923) and was imprisoned by the Irish Free State after the Battle of Dublin in July 1922. Barry had voiced the opinion that, at the start of the Civil War, while the Republican side was stronger, they should have taken over Dublin and the major cities and forced a new confrontation with the British.
In September of that year, however, he escaped from an internment camp at Gormanston in north County Dublin and traveled south, to take command of the anti-Treaty IRA Second Southern Division. In November 1922, he led his men in the capture of a string of towns across the south midlands, including Carrick on Suir, Thomastown and Mullinavat, taking the Free State garrison there prisoner. However, due to a shortage of men and equipment, he was unable to hold these places, evacuating them before National Army reinforcements arrived. After this point, Barry increasingly argued with Liam Lynch, the Republican commander in chief, that the Civil War should be brought to an end, as there was no hope of victory. In March, Barry proposed to the IRA Army executive that a ceasefire should be called, but he was defeated by 6 votes to 5. The anti-treaty campaign was belatedly called off by Frank Aiken in May, after Liam Lynch had been killed in a skirmish with Free State troops. Barry was arrested shortly before Aiken’s order to “dump arms”, on 24 May 1923.