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Rare Irish Republican stamps from Cork (1922).

Often here in the museum we receive donations of objects people may have found when cleaning out their attic, or just some things they simply had lying around. As we receive quite a few of these, we can’t always put everything on display, but sometimes a real gem shows up! This week, for example, we made a really exciting discovery among a large donation of twentieth century material: Irish Republican stamps!

Following the signing of the Anglo Irish Treaty in 1922 ending the War of Independence, the Irish Free State was established. Although a majority in Ireland supported the treaty many IRA members rejected it as it did not offer an Irish Republic.

As British forces evacuated the country in the early months of 1922 much of the south and west of the country was occupied by the anti-Treaty IRA with its headquarters in Cork.

Fighting broke out between the opposing factions of the IRA in June 1922 and soon escalated into full-scale civil war as former comrades fought each other in a bitter struggle.

Early in the war, the anti-Treaty IRA decided to issue a series of postage stamps in an attempt to set up an alternative postal service in the territory under its control. These stamps were printed by the Eagle Printing Works in Cork, with the inscription ‘An Post Poblacht na hEireann’ (post of the Republic of Ireland).

Sheets of the stamps were delivered to IRA headquarters in Cork in late July or early August 1922. However because Cork was captured shortly afterwards most of these stamps were destroyed when IRA headquarters was burned and very few examples now survive. There are currently only 250 known examples left in the country – well, 255 now!