On January 11 1923, Sligo Railway Station, one of the country’s finest at the time, was set alight by Republican forces. They managed to douse it in gasoline under the cover of darkness. It took no time for the inferno to take off. Both the ticket and parcel offices were completely destroyed, causing damage worth £80,000. It was one of many stations wrecked at the time. The railways were being destroyed at such a rapid rate that numerous newspapers at the time coined the phrase “War on the Railways.”
Because Sligo was a garrison town with a large number of army troops on duty, many questions were raised about its station’s destruction. The number of soldiers on duty was greatly exaggerated in the press, which suggested that a garrison of 500 men was present in the town the night of the attack. There were only 70. They were distributed at four locations around the town, one of which was guarding 100 prisoners as well as at least three strategic posts. The matter was brought before the Dail by Darrell Figgis, who questioned the Minister for Defense, Richard Mulcahy:
During the Civil War, Republican forces revived their campaign to burn down big houses. The campaign was facilitated by the absence of any forces of law and order in the countryside as a result of the withdrawal of the Crown forces in 1922 and the abolition of the RIC, but the elimination of signs of British rule in Ireland was the underlying motivation behind the destruction. The Republicans were also running dangerously low in arms so destruction of property was one of few acts of guerrilla warfare left at their disposal.
The big houses were burned down during the War of Independence as a way for the IRA to assert their authority. However, during the Civil War, many of the mansions abandoned by their owners for fear of attack were taken over by the anti-Treatyites and only destroyed when they were forced to leave when the National Army moved in on them.
Below were a few of many set alight in early 1923:
January 29 The Earl of Mayo’s Dublin residence is set alight by Republicans.
Sir Horace Plunkett’s Art Treasures are Destroyed
1 February: Moore Hall near Claremorris in County Mayo is burned down by Republicans.