In the first paragraph, O'Flaherty reveals that the two sides at war are the Republicans and the Free Staters. To put this into context, these two sides emerged during the Irish Civil War of 1922 - 1923. The Republicans wanted the whole of Ireland to be declared a free and independent nation, completely separate from Great Britain. Republicans soldiers fought under the banner of the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. In the story, the first sniper introduced to the reader belongs to the IRA.
In contrast, the Free Staters supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 in which Great Britain proposed the creation of the Irish Free State, a state comprising 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland. Great Britain proposed that the remaining six counties would stay under its control, thereby creating "Northern Ireland."
These differences provide the historical backdrop of the story and bring to life this very violent period of Irish history.
Readers are told that Ireland is currently in a civil war. We are not told what each side is exactly fighting for, but we are told the names of each side.
The name of one of the sides fighting in the conflict is the Republicans. The name of the other group is the Free Staters.
The protagonist sniper is a member of the Republican army, and the enemy sniper is therefore a Free Stater. As the story progresses, readers see that the Republican sniper is an efficient and merciless killer. He kills three enemy combatants all while under fire from the enemy sniper. As the story concludes, readers learn with the sniper that the enemy sniper is the brother of the protagonist.
The Sniper is a short story by Irish author Liam O’Flaherty about the Irish fight for independence. The story focuses on those who fight for the Free Staters who want Irelands independence from Britain and on the Republicans who disagree with seceding from Britain and want to stay part of the monarchy.
The focus of the story is on the main character who is a Republican sniper who over the course of the story finds that he has killed his brother who is fighting for the Free Stater side of the war.