In the 1918 election, Sinn Fein claimed they could win independence by passive resistance to the British government but many ordinary IRA Volunteers preferred the direct method of military action. Sinn Fein didn't control the Volunteers who had been founded separately in 1913, however when the Volunteers reorganised after the rising many of their leaders were also the leaders of Sinn Fein. Eamon De Valera was President of both organisations. Cathal Brugha was head of the Volunteer Executive and was Minister for Defence. Michael Collins was Minister for Finance and also Director of Organisation for the IRA. Richard Mulcahy was Commander-in-Chief of the IRA throughout the war of independence.
Violence was inevitable, but not great battles against the British. The only hope for the Volunteers, who were a small, untrained, poorly armed army, was to use guerrilla tactics. The leaders wanted to learn from the mistakes in 1916 and these hit and run tactics was the only option. Of the 100,00 Volunteers in the IRA only 15,000 were willing to fight. Gun shops were raided and some British soldiers sold their guns to the IRA. In 1919 IRA Volunteers killed 2 RIC constables who were guarding explosives, the constables lived locally and were quite popular in Soloheadbeg, Co. Tipperary. The attack was carried out without the permission of the Dail, who were having their first meeting, or Army Headquarters, however, it was the start of the War of Independence. .
In 1919 the war developed along two fronts. The first was the IRA working to remove the RIC from rural areas. Most policemen lived with their families in small barracks scattered throughout the country and were very vulnerable to attack. The RIC were forced to close small posts and concentrate its men in heavily fortified barracks in the larger towns after 19 policemen were killed in 1919.