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The IRA in Britain, 1919-1923: ‘In the Heart of Enemy Lines', by Gerard Noonan

The IRA in Britain, 1919-1923: ‘In the Heart of Enemy Lines', by Gerard Noonan

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Making extensive use of archival sources and memoirs, The IRA in Britain is the first book to study this little known aspect of the Irish Revolutionary period.

Between 1919 and 1923, Ireland was engulfed by violence as the Irish Republican Army (IRA) fought a guerrilla campaign against the British state and later fellow Irishmen and women in pursuit of an Irish Republic. Police barracks and government offices were attacked and burned, soldiers and policemen were killed and the economic and social life of the country was dislocated.

Britain itself was a theatre in the war too. “In the heart of enemy lines”, as one IRA leader put it, cities such as London, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Glasgow and their environs saw the establishment of IRA companies, Irish Republican Brotherhood circles, Cumann na mBan branches and Na Fianna Éireann troops. Composed of Irish emigrants and the descendants of emigrants, these organizations worked to help their comrades across the Irish Sea. Their most important activity was gunrunning, acquiring and smuggling weapons to Ireland. In November 1920, setting fire to warehouses and timber yards in Liverpool, they launched a campaign of violence. Meanwhile, mass-membership organizations such as the Irish Self-Determination League of Great Britain and Sinn Féin sought to persuade the British public of Ireland’s right to independence. Republican leaders such as Michael Collins, Rory O’Connor and Liam Mellows took a keen interest in these exploits.

Tracing the history of the Irish Volunteers in Britain from their establishment in 1914 and participation in the Easter Rising two years later, through the weapon’s smuggling activities and violent operations of the War of Independence to the bitter divisions of the Civil War and the response of the authorities, The IRA in Britain highlights the important role played by those outside of Ireland in the Revolution.


"An intrinsically valuable work - intellectually serious, well-researched and original." — Dr Tim Wilson, University of St Andrews

"This is an important contribution to the historiography of the War of Independence and the Civil War. The author identified the gap in that historiography and has filled it with an original, meticulously researched and well-presented volume... it is essential reading." — Patrick McCarthy, The Irish Sword