Easter 1916 saw the Irish Republican Brotherhood led by Pádraig Pearse, take over strategic positions in Dublin and declare an independent Ireland. The subsequent execution of the leaders led to a national outcry resulting in increased support for the Sinn Féin Republican party, wrongly blamed for the uprising. The conscription crisis further fuelled this movement resulting in that party winning the December 1918 elections and declaring a new parliament in Dublin. A War of Independence ensued that culminated in the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6th 1921. Mayo, in general, escaped the worst of the atrocities as volunteer activity was low, Mayo having only one active brigade (The East Mayo Brigade) until 1920. The West Brigade was formed in that year and it wasn’t until the last months of the war that any ambushes or major skirmishes occurred. The lack of activity can be largely attributed with the influence of the Irish Parliamentary Party. One incident does deserve mention and that was the murder of the Resident Magistrate assigned to Castlebar, John Charles Mills. The murder was condemned at a special meeting held in the linenhall and printed in the Connaught Telegraph. The nationalist Mayo News however, although condemning the murder, seemed less outraged. The result meant martial law for a number of towns throughout Mayo and the Royal Air Force were present over the skies of Castlebar who were stationed at the local airport, now closed down. In January 1920 local elections took place and a new town council was set up in Castlebar that declared its allegiance to Dáil Éireann. A Mayo County Council meeting was also held in Castlebar in that year and afterward a Sinn Féin flag was hoisted up over the courthouse. Although an independent Ireland had been achieved the signing of the treaty split the country and the resulting civil war might have proved more damaging to the nation than the previous colonial years.
Castlebar Coat of Arms. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland