Book documents turbulent times in Irish history

Dramatic first hand accounts of people caught up in the War of Independence have been collected in a book documenting one of the most turbulent times in Irish history.

Including rare photographs, Comrades – Inside the War of Independence by retired teacher Annie Ryan vividly relates the guerilla tactics, reprisals and day to day lives of the foot soldiers.

The book draws on official witness statements taken in the late 1940s and held in the National Archives for decades before being released to the public in 2002.

It details ambushes, flying columns, the Black and Tans and also gives an insight into the minds of those running the struggle such as Michael Collins.

“There were ferocious things happening, it wasn’t a nice war. In one instance there was a reprisal in Newry where nine Protestants were killed in a farmhouse, that was terrible,” Ms Ryan said.

“But I try to keep my opinions out of it and let the testimony speak for itself.”

The book also includes many rare and unpublished images from the time.

“The men were enjoying it from time to time – well at least it reads like that,” Ms Ryan said.

And it also has an account of the overlooked Battle of Pettigo the only orthodox pitched battle of the war years and revelations about the final stages of the Treaty negotiations.

“That was a fascinating and extremely strategic battle. About 100 IRA men held the town for over a week,” the author added.

“They had everything thrown at them. In the end there were tanks, and aeroplanes – there was everything and they held it for a week.”

The events are written geographically covering all the areas of conflict with a chapter also dedicated to the significant role played by women throughout the conflict.

The book, a companion to Ms Ryan’s hugely successful Witnesses: Inside the Easter Rising will be launched by Senator Martin Mansergh in the National Library on Tuesday.

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