The eleven–month Irish Civil War ended on 24 May 1923. As few Protestants had been involved in the conflict as combatants the biggest impact of the conflict on members of the Church of Ireland concerned assaults on their persons and property. Compensation claims submitted subsequently to the Free State and British governments showed that the number of Protestants among victims in these categories was disproportionately higher. This was particularly visible in the cases of the number of ‘big houses’ damaged or destroyed in arson attacks during the conflict. Approximately 300 such houses were damaged or destroyed between 1920 and 1923, two–thirds during the Civil War.
One such residence was Cappoquin House in County Waterford, the home of Sir John Keane, targeted because of Keane’s appointment as a member of the new Irish Free State Senate. Keane was among those who chose to rebuild their homes and commit to life in the new Free State. He served in the Free State Senate until its abolition in 1934 and in Seanad Éireann between 1938 and his retirement in 1948, making him one of the longest serving Church of Ireland members of the Oireachtas in the early years of the State.
Keane’s decision to remain in Ireland reflected the fact that, once the Civil War ended, life in independent Ireland resorted to a largely peaceful state after nearly ten years of disruption during various armed conflicts. The historian R.B. McDowell noted that, apart from the constitutional and political situation, ‘there were remarkably few drastic changes’ to the overall lives of Protestants, noting the retention of Protestant influence in institutions such as Trinity College and The Irish Times.
While peace prevailed after 1923, the toll taken by the years on conflict became clear when the statistics for religion and birthplace from the 1926 Irish Free State census were published in 1929. This showed a decline of 34 per cent in the ‘Protestant Episcopalian’ (largely Church of Ireland) population of the twenty–six counties of the Free State since the previous census in 1911. In spite of this the resilience of the Church of Ireland minority to adapt to life in the changed circumstances of the 1920s was epitomised by the Venerable Henry J. Johnson, Archdeacon of Ardagh, in his address for the annual report of the Ardagh Synod in 1925: ‘… despite all the changes—social and political—which have fallen upon our country in the past years or may befall us in the future we have faith enough in the Providence of Almighty God to believe that our Church will never perish out of this land unless she deserves to do so’.