An article on a shootout in the town of Mullingar, Ireland, on the 27th April 1922, in the build-up to the Civil War, which saw two dead.
Bloodshed in Mullingar: Civil War Begins in Co. Westmeath, April 1922
Mullingar was increasingly a dangerous place from the start of 1922 due to the surge in crime, coupled with the lack of effective policing - the Royal Irish Constabulary were set to be disbanded as per the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Irish Volunteers alone were not enough to maintain the peace.
Worsening matters were the increasing numbers of armed men from either side of the Treaty divide who were coming into the town. As the British garrisons withdrew, they left their former barracks to be occupied by one of the two IRA factions competing to fill the power vacuum.
(British soldiers evacuating Athlone, 1922)
Westmeath seems to been largely pro-Treaty: the County Council voted for a resolution calling on their TDs to vote for the Treaty in the Dáil. One member of the Council, Seán Hurley, the former O/C of the Athlone IRA, went as far as to say that to reject the Treaty would lead to chaos, while accepting it would mean the power to create a fully independent Republic in time.
By April, the pro-Treaty soldiers had taken possession of the military barracks and the post office in Mullingar while the Anti-Treatyites had the County Buildings, New Technical School and the police barracks.
The simmering tension boiled over on the 27th April when the inhabitants were Mullingar were awoken shortly after 6 am by the sound of gunfire. By the time it was over, two men on either side had been killed. There was no clear winner, but the Free Staters were able to throw up barricades around the town, and the Anti-Treatyites withdrew their positions later that night.
The exact circumstances behind the violence were unclear, and several inquiries would not be enough to determine exactly who was at fault or which side made the first move. There were allegations that one of the slain men, Joseph Leavy had been led into an ambush while a prisoner by his captors, but that, as with much else from that period, remains unclear.
(wounded Free State soldiers)