Society of Ireland

After the Irish Free State

The Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstat Eireann Irish pronunciation; 6 December 1922 Ц 29 December 1937) was the state established in 1922 as a Dominion of the British Empire under the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed by British and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand.[2] On the day the Irish Free State was established, it comprised the entire island of Ireland, but as expected Northern Ireland almost immediately exercised its right under the treaty to remove itself from the new state. The Irish Free State effectively replaced both the self-proclaimed Irish Republic (founded 21 January 1919) and the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland. W. T. Cosgrave, the first President of the Irish Free State had led both of these "governments" since August 1922. The Irish Free State came to an end in 1937, when the citizens voted by referendum to replace the 1922 constitution. It was succeeded by the sovereign and current state of Ireland, which until 1949 was often referred to as Eire.

he Easter Rising of 1916, and in particular the decision of the Anglo-Irish Field Marshal Lord French to execute many of its leaders after courts-martial, generated sympathy for the republican cause in Ireland. Meanwhile there was increasing opposition to the ongoing war in Europe and the Middle East. Republicans and some independent Nationalists led opposition to the idea of compulsory military service for Irish men in the conscription crisis of early 1918. The Conscription Crisis brought an end to the Irish Convention before it could find a solution to the Irish Question. The Irish Parliamentary Party, who supported the Allied cause in World War I in response to the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill in 1914 was discredited by the crisis. Many people had begun to doubt whether the Bill, passed by Westminster in 1914 but suspended for the duration of World War I, would ever come into effect. Meanwhile Irish republicans were further emboldened by successful revolutions in the Russian Empire, the German Empire, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the December 1918 General Election, a large majority of Irish seats in the Westminster parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland were won by Sinn Fein, with 73 of 105 constituencies returning Sinn Fein members. Sinn Fein was a previously non-violent separatist party founded by Arthur Griffith in 1905. Under Eamon de Valera's leadership from 1917, it had campaigned aggressively for an Irish republic. On 21 January 1919, Sinn Fein MPs (who became known as Teachta Dala, TDs) refusing to sit in the British House of Commons at Westminster, assembled in Dublin and formed a single chamber Irish parliament called Dail Eireann (Assembly of Ireland). It affirmed the creation of an Irish Republic and passed a Declaration of Independence, calling itself Saorstat Eireann in Irish. Although it was accepted by the overwhelming majority of Irish people, only Soviet Russia recognised the Irish Republic internationally.[citation needed] The War of Independence was fought between the army of the Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (known now as the "Old IRA" to distinguish it from later organisations of that name), and the British Army, the Black and Tans, the Royal Irish Constabulary, the Auxiliary Division, the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Ulster Volunteer Force. On 9 July 1921, a truce was declared. On October 11 negotiations were opened under British Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Arthur Griffith, who headed the Irish Republic's delegation. The Irish Treaty delegation set up Headquarters in Hans Place, Knightsbridge and on 5 December 1921 at 11:15 am it was decided by the delegation during private discussions at 22 Hans Place to recommend the Treaty to the Dail Eireann; negotiations continued until 2:30 am on 6 December 1921 after which the Treaty was signed by the parties. That these negotiations would produce a form of Irish government short of the independence wished for by republicans was not in doubt. The United Kingdom could not offer a republican form of government without losing prestige and risking demands for something similar throughout the Empire. Furthermore, as one of the negotiators, Michael Collins, later admitted (and he was in a position to know, given his role in the independence war), the IRA at the time of the truce was weeks, if not days, from collapse, with a chronic shortage of ammunition. "Frankly, we thought they were mad", Collins said of the sudden British offer of a truce, although it was likely they would have continued in one form or another, given the level of public support. The President of the Republic, Eamon de Valera, realising that a republic was not on offer, decided not to be a part of the treaty delegation and so be tainted by more militant republicans as a "sellout". Yet his own proposals published in January 1922 fell far short of an autonomous all-Ireland republic.[citation needed] As expected, the Anglo-Irish Treaty explicitly ruled out a republic. What it offered was dominion status, as a state of the British Empire, equal to Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Though less than expected by the Sinn Fein leadership, it was substantially more than the initial form of home rule within the United Kingdom sought by Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, and a serious advancement on the Home Rule Act of 1914 that the Irish nationalist leader John Redmond had achieved through parliamentary proceedings. However, it all but confirmed the partition of Ireland between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. It was ratified by the Second Dail, splitting Sinn Fein in the process.



ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary