By Eamonn Duggan
As Ireland moved into 1919, the country braced itself for a new political beginning as a result of the general election of the previous December. The old relic that was the Irish Parliamentary Party had been replaced by the brash and modern thinking Sinn Féin party.
The new political order was determined to find a way forward for a free and independent Ireland.
With the opening of the first Dáil on 21 January, 1919, many were hopeful that a peaceful transition to self-determination would ensue – but the illusion was shattered that very same day with the ambush of an R.I.C convoy at Solohedbeag, in County Tipperary, during which two constables were shot dead.
The incident is widely seen as the opening salvo of the War of Independence and it gave the IRA the impetus it needed to commence a new campaign of violence against British authorities and forces in Ireland.
One man who quickly became involved in the struggle for independence was Vinny Byrne, a nineteen-year-old Dubliner who had participated in the Easter Rising and was an active member of the Irish Volunteers.
During 1919, Byrne became a member of the ‘unofficial squad’ under the guidance of Michael Collins and near the end of that year he took part in the first planned assassination by the group on a Dublin Metropolitan detective called John Barton.
Byrne had previously encountered Barton in 1916 when he was arrested, questioned and finger printed by him over his involvement in the Easter Rising.