Casualties of the Irish Civil War in Dublin

The Four Courts burning under bombardment in July 1922.

Towards a figure for civil war casualties in Dublin and environs, January 1922-November 1924. By John Dorney. (Final update September 2016)

It has always been a truism of the, very limited, writing on the period of civil war between Irish nationalists in 1922-23 that immediately followed the War of Independence, that no one had ever accurately counted the casualties.

Michael Hopkinson, in his history of the conflict, Green Against Green, wrote, “There are no means by which to arrive at even approximate figures for the dead and wounded. [Richard] Mulcahy stated that around 540 pro-Treaty troops were killed between the Treaty’s signing and the war’s end; the government referred to 800 army deaths between January 1922 and April 1924. There was no record of overall Republican deaths, which appear to have been very much higher. No figure exists for total civilian deaths.”[1]


Through local studies it is now becoming possible to determine casualty figure for the civil war of 1922-23

However, this lack of figures reflects not so much the impossibility of discovering how many died as the lack of will to do so. It was not only that the Civil War was bitter and savage – as limited guerrilla conflicts go, the War of Independence was at least as bad if not worse in this regard. It was also that the internecine bloodshed seemed so futile in hindsight. What was the point of dragging up what neighbours and in many cases former comrades had done to each other?

By now enough time has passed that we can look at the period at last with relative lack of emotion. And local studies are indeed beginning to tell us how many were killed and injured in the conflict.

 Local Studies and figures

Peter Hart’s study of County Cork, The IRA and its Enemies, gives us a figure of 180 killed and 295 wounded in that county. Of which fatal casualties, 1 was British Army, 70 were National or Free State Army, 51 were Anti-Treaty IRA, 28 were civilians and 30 were of unknown status.[2]

My own research has indicated 220 death in County Cork.

Dublin had more fatal casualties than Cork or Kerry and far more wounded, but fewer dead per capita than Kerry.

Tom Doyle’s, The Civil War in Kerry throws up a figure of fatal casualties of 170 people, of whom 85 were Free State Army, 72 Anti-Treaty IRA and 12 civilians.[3]

Michael Farry’s The Irish Revolution: Sligo 1912–23 gives 48 people killed in the county during the civil war, 19 Free State Army, 18 Anti-Treaty IRA and 11 civilians.

Phillip McConway found that a total of 22 people were killed in County Offaly during the conflict. 8 Free State Army, 11 Anti-Treaty IRA and 3 civilians.[4]

James Durney’s study of Kildare found 45 deaths, of whom 17 were Free State Army, 3 were police, 8 were Anti-Treaty IRA men executed. It is not clear how many civilians the remainder included.[5]

My own research into County Tipperary has found around 130 deaths there, of whom 67 were members of the Free State or pro-Treaty forces, 45 were anti-Treaty IRA Volunteers and 18 civilians.

Casualties of Civil War in Dublin

Going by these figures, Dublin was among the worst affected localities by the conflict. I have counted at least 258 killed and 538 wounded in the city and its environs from January 1922 to May 1923 due to political violence. See Map of Civil War deaths in Dublin.

A detailed breakdown is in the table below but the dead were; 95 Free State forces, 84 Anti-Treaty IRA and 72 civilians. The British Army had 6,000 troops in the city until December 1922 and while they did play a limited part in Free State operations,  I have found only 6 dead and an undetermined number wounded in the Civil War period.

The list of republican executed and assassinated is taken from the Wolfe Tone annual 1962. Other Republican dead are taken from the roll of honour ‘The Last Post’ (1985). Civilian and National Army and other Free State casualties are taken from the Irish Times archive, National Army files in Cathal Brugha Barracks (Primarily CW/OPS/07/) and also from the Cemetery records of Deans Grange, Glasnevin and Mount Jerome Cemeteries, the Dublin Coroner’s Court records and the Military Service Pension Collection. The Irish Medals website was also used.

This gives a higher total, 796 killed and wounded, than Joost Augustjein’s figure of 458 killed and wounded for 1919-21 in the city in the War of Independence. [6] However it is a lower rate of fatal casualties, counted by Eunan O’Halpin as 309 killed, in the ‘Tan War’, including about 150 civilians.[7]

One reason for this is that O’Halpin’s study counted as Dublin casualties people brought there for medical treatment who subsequently died from their wounds. I have only looked at casualties inflicted in Dublin.

The difference this might make is indicated by the Free State plot at Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin, where over 180 names of National Army soldiers are recorded as buried next to Michael Collins (see here), only a small proportion of whom (57) were actually killed in Dublin. If these or other casualties who died in hospital were counted, Dublin’s death toll would rise sharply.

The main reason for the high number of wounded in the civil war is the week’s conventional fighting that started the civil war, the likes of which had not been seen in the city since the Easter Rising, in which over three quarters of the wounded were hit .

Only where the dead were named and confirmed are they counted, not where claimed by the rival sides in internal reports and not verified by the other.

Another thing to stress is that the body count is probably not the most important statistic here. The pro-Treaty forces won the war by locking up over 12,000 republican guerrillas and sympathisers, not by killing them. In Dublin itself around 3,500 people were arrested and interned by Free State forces in Dublin including at least 1,300 active IRA fighters.

Chronology of Civil War deaths in Dublin

The most bloody periods in Dublin were in the initial week’s fighting around the Four Courts and O’Connell Street in late June/early July 1922 (in which over over 80 people were killed) and subsequently a period of about three months, from September to December 1922 when the republicans attempted to mount a high intensity guerrilla campaign. In this period well over 100 more people were killed in Dublin.  December and November also saw 12 of the 18 official executions in the city.

The bloodiest phase of the conflict in Dublin was the initial fighting in June and July 1922, followed by the autumn and early winter, casualties fell steeply thereafter.

Whether due to the terrorising effect of executions or the arrest of many senior figures in their ranks, the anti-Treaty campaign was unable to sustain its intensity after the winter of 1922 and January to June 1923 saw fewer than 50 more deaths in the city due to the war.

Much of the remaining Republican activity was destruction of property and ineffective sniping attacks.

The campaign against property could also be deadly however. Burning the houses of TDs and Senators in Dublin and claimed at least one life – TD Sean McGarry’s seven year old son Emmet, who died of burns in December 1922. A civil servant, Peter Carney died of burns inflicted when the income tax office he worked in was burned down in February 1923. On March 23, 1923 an anti-Treaty fighter, Patrick O’Brien was shot dead trying to blow up the Carlton cinema to enforce the Republicans’ ban on public entertainment in response to executions of their men in Kerry.

There was another flurry of assassinations by both sides in March 1923 as the war came to a close, including three Free State sentries who were killed at close range with revolvers and seven anti-treaty fighters killed anonymously by undercover Free State forces.

These killings did not end with the formal end of the Civil War in May 1923. Two more Republicans, Noel Lemass and Henry MacEntee were also abducted and killed by pro-Treaty forces in June and August 1923, after the Republicans had called a ceasefire as was a National Army soldier Joe Bergin, who was passing information to anti-Treaty forces.  I have also counted as civil war casualties two Jewish civilians killed by National Army soldiers (apparently in a private vendetta) in October 1923.


Combat, assassinations and executions

Poor training and very poor weapons safety meant that at least 33 National Army and other Free State personnel died in accidental shootings, ‘friendly fire’ or traffic accidents, which amounts to over a third of their total fatal casualties in the city.

By contrast there were relatively few self-inflicted anti-Treaty deaths – of the 6 I have counted, one was accidentally shot in the Four Courts before the start of the Civil War and 4 blew themselves up while preparing a mine on the Naas Road in November 1922 and another died on hunger strike in 1924. This was probably simply because they had far less access to weapons and thus less chance of having lethal accidents.

In addition, Republican wounded were obviously kept secret from the press and a number of these probably died. Similarly, a number of Free State soldiers and civilians probably succumbed to wounds later and are listed here as wounded rather than killed.

Dublin has a high proportion of civilians killed and injured compared to other places but generally through being hit in the crossfire rather than being directly targeted. 

Dublin has a comparable casualty rate to Cork and Kerry but has a much higher number of wounded due to fighting taking place in densely populated area and civilians being hit in the crossfire, both in the street battle in July 1922 at the start of the war and in subsequent street ambushes. Some 50 civilians were killed and several hundred wounded by one or other combatant side during armed engagements in the city.

However, despite the relatively high proportion of civilian casualties,Dublin were much more rarely targeted deliberately in this phase of the conflict than in that against the British in 1919-21. I have found no cases of fatal shootings of informers by the IRA in Dublin in the Civil War. There probably were some cases that I have missed, but the practice was not widespread.

By contrast, in 1921 alone, 13 civilians were killed in the city by the IRA as ‘spies’. [8] One reason for this is that the IRA’s assassination unit, the Squad was on the Free State side in the Civil War, but there also seems to have been a psychological block on killing civilians for talking to an Irish Army, which did not exist for those who cooperated with British forces.

That said, Republicans assassinated two Free State politicians (Sean Hales and Seamus O’Dwyer). While both were members of the armed forces, neither was armed at the time. The anti-Treatyites also killed another 9 civilians at least, mostly in raids on houses and shops where civilians resisted their taking money or supplies.

Free State forces also deliberately killed a number of civilians (five) suspected of republican sympathies.  For instance on March 11, 1923, a civilian, Hugh Haughton, whose brother was a known anti-Treatyite was shot dead by Intelligence officer from Wellington barracks on Donore Avenue.

Whereas elsewhere, the National Army tended to lose more men than the IRA, in Dublin they lost less, primarily due to the effect of assassinations and executions by their forces, which accounted for 44 of the 82 IRA dead I have counted. (Though if we count accidents the Free State forces lost slightly more – 93-88)

If deaths and wounded caused in combat only are counted the National Army suffered considerably more (58 killed in action compared to 30 combat deaths on the other side). This is consistent with a pattern seen elsewhere – as guerrillas could choose the time and place of their attacks and then melt away. Conventional forces could only ‘even the score’ with reprisals on disarmed and captured guerrillas – a factor that also accounts for a large proportion of anti-Treaty deaths in Kerry (some 30 prisoners were killed there in March 1923 alone).

In Dublin therefore, the Free State forces carried out considerably more assassinations (25 to 7) than did their opponents. Almost all of these killings seem to have been carried out by former Dublin pro-Treaty IRA members, many of them former members of Michael Collins Squad or Intelligence Department, by 1922 in the Criminal Investigation Department or National Army Intelligence.

Some were on-the spot-killings, such as the shooting of anti-Treatyites James Spain and Patrick Mannion (September and November 1922 respectively) who were found wounded after attacking Free State troops and finished off. But many were targeted assassinations such as, for instance the killing of Frank Lawlor on December 29 1922, who was arrested at his home, driven out to Millltown, south of the city and shot.

The republicans’ relative lack of such killings was probably not down to chivalry so much as a lack of good intelligence and reliable gunmen, who were mainly on the other side. We know there were lists of names drawn up for the killing of large numbers of Free State officers and politicians but these plans were only irregularly carried out.

(For a more intimate portrait of the civil war in Dublin see Wellington Barracks, a microcosm of the Irish Civil War. And for more on Free State assassinations in the city see; Who Shot Frank Lawlor? )

Towards a civil war casualty figure

Taken together with other studies this puts us some way towards a final casualty figure for the conflict. The number of dead and wounded was significant, but if counties Dublin, Tipperary Cork and Kerry together amount to about 800 dead and these were the worst affected localities, we can safely set aside the estimates of 4-5,000 deaths sometimes mentioned. There were also fairly high casualties in counties such as Mayo, Limerick and Clare, but nowhere near the amount that would make up the difference.

James Durney’s estimate of 1,300 deaths – 730 National Army, 350 IRA and 200 civilians[9] does not look to be too far off – though the IRA total looks too small based on the proportion of casualties in Dublin, Cork and Kerry. Moreover the IRA named about 400 of their Volunteers killed in the Civil War in ‘The Last Post’ in the late 1920s, which must surely be the minimum figure. Not all low-ranking Volunteers were probably counted so the true total is likely to be somewhat higher. However it is still likely to be below 2,000.

Altogether it appears as if somewhat fewer people died in the intra-nationalist fighting of 1922-23 than the 2,141 deaths from political violence in 1917-21 counted by Eunan O’Halpin and Daithí Ó Corráin in the Dead of the Irish Revolution project. The figure for wounded is harder to determine but in Dublin at least it is higher than in the preceding period.

See also, Casualties of the Civil War in County Tipperary.


Figures updated 22/9/2016

(KIA = killed in action. WIA = wounded in action)

Free State (National Army, Civic Guard and CID and CDF)
Killed: 95

 Of whom;
29 kia in first week of fighting (not including 3 accidental deaths in June/July 1922 battle).

26 kia in guerrilla phase, July 1922-May 192

33 killed in firearms accidents/friendly fire/ murder by own side or motor accidents

 7 assassinated by IRA (incl. Sean Hales and Seamus O’Dwyer, Hales and Dwyer  are counted as combatants due to membership of the National Army and Citizens’ Defence Force Respectively), and one other CDF man and 4 unarmed soldiers, 1 in December 1922 and 3 in March 1923)

              2 suicides – 1 NA soldier, 1 Civic Guard deliberately shot themselves 

           1 soldier executed for shooting a CID man armed robbery by the Free State in 1924


WIA: c. 250

Killed: 84

Of whom;

               3  killed in March /April 1922,before start of civil war, (1 kia, one shot in custody 1 killed in               accident in Four Courts)

15 kia in first week of fighting, Four Courts, O’Connell St. June/July 1922
16 kia in guerrilla phase July 1922- May 1923
25 assassinated or killed while prisoners.
18 officially executed
4 killed by own bomb
1 died on Hunger strike

4 died in imprisonment

WIA: uncertain

Tentative estimate of IRA Prisoners taken:

Irish Times reports 450 taken after July 1922 battle.

NA file (CW/P/3/5) gives 187 names arrested in ‘bridges job’ August 1922

Same file gives 310 names of prisoners processed through Wellington Barracks to Prisons/Camps in August 1922.

C. 300 names processed through in September 1922

C. 100 in October 1922

Data for prisoners missing for November and December 1922 and January 1923

NA reports (CW/P/03/06) Arrested in Dublin, 13 February 1923 – July 1923 gives 226 names.

Above gives c 1,300 arrested and interned in Dublin,

File (CW/P/03/01) gives over 2,600 names arrested and mostly interned in Dublin command December 1922-July1923

Tentative total c 3,500 arrested and interned.

KIA: 72

Of whom,

35 killed in first week fighting in crossfire.

8 killed by anti-Treaty IRA

13 killed by Free State forces

1 killed by British forces

15 killed in crossfire during armed engagements, or by accident July 1922- end of May 1923

WIA: c.288


British Army
Killed 6: 

1 kia, July 1922 in fighting on Talbot Street

1 suicide

3 assassinated by IRA, April and May 1922

WIA: no reliable figure

RIC 1 assassinated by IRA May 1922

WIA: c.538




[1] Michael Hopkinson, Green Against Green: The Irish Civil War, p272-3
[2] Peter Hart, The IRA and its Enemies, p 121
[3] Tom Doyle, The Civil War in Kerry, p328-331
[4] Philip McConway, The Civil War in Offaly, Offaly Tribune, 2 January 2008.
[5] James Durney, the Civil War in Kildare, p14-15
[6] Joost Augusteijn, Public Defiance to Guerrilla Warfare, p 179
[7] Eunan O’Halpin, Counting Terror, in Fitzpatrick Ed., Terror in Ireland p 152
[8] Augustein p170
[9] Durney, Civil War in Kildare, p159

Leave a Reply to John F Bragan MD Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *