• Stephen Callaghan

The Handover of Birr Barracks 100 years ago


Members of the IRA in Birr Barracks around February 1922

A century ago today, Birr Barracks was officially handed over to the National Army. The last of the Leinster Regiment had departed only days before, with a detachment of the Northamptonshire Regiment remaining to oversee the sale of the government stores. In addition to the remains of the British Army leaving Birr, the ‘Black and Tans’ also departed, to which little interest was taken.


The barracks was officially handed over to Commanding General Michael McCormack of the 3rd Southern Division, which the barracks was intended to act as their headquarters. During the initial days of occupation by the National Army the barracks was used for training cadets. The recently vacated workhouse in Birr was being used to quarter the South Offaly No. 2 Brigade.


The handover itself is only briefly documented in newspapers of the time, with no photographs of the event either. The Weekly Freeman’s Journal of 18 February 1922 summed it up as “When the British troops marched out the I.R.A. marched in”.


The evacuation of the British Army and handover to the National Army marked the end of 110 years of British Army occupation of the barracks. Initially constructed between 1809-1812 as a response to the threat of French invasion, various regiments of the British Army were stationed in the barracks as part of their home service.


Now in the hands of the National Army, the barracks days were numbered. We will pick up in July to discuss the ultimate faith of the barracks.

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