Ireland in 20th Century British Politics

The Irish Problem in 20th Century British Politics
by Ronald M. Knowles © 2005

Background of the Problems

The Irish problem in British politics has been a complicated one for over 700 years. Ireland, before obtaining independence had occupied a unique position in the British Empire due to her closeness toEngland. This closeness toEnglandis perhaps the key toBritain’s policy towardIreland.  What the other dominions, such as Canada and Australia were able to gain merely because of distance from the mother county,Ireland  had to forego because England was right next door keeping close watch on everything that occurred.

One of the main fears of England throughout her history was that some foreign power might gain control of Ireland and thus create threat to England herself.

The English never did gain a cultural control over the people ofIrelandas they had in so many of their other colonies. Irelandhad a long definite culture of it’s own. Irelandis in a sense mother country to millions of Irish throughout the world. In this sense,Irelandnever was an English colony for it never ceased to be a separate nation in the minds and hearts of it’s people.  During the period of subjection to British rule, many Irish felt they had c\control over the destiny of England rather than the other way around.

It seems thatIrelandhas been the graveyard for the political careers of many important British figures. Englandwas constantly having trouble withIreland. While her other colonies settled down and supported England,Ireland was always a thorn in the side of the British Empire.

Henry II of Englandsent a representative to the only English pope in history, Adrian V, to obtain a claim on Ireland.  In 1155, Adrianbestowed the hereditary lordship or Irelandon Henry.  The “Bull Laudabiliter” as the title of the papal message. 1  Many disputes have arisen from the interpretation of the bull.  Some historians claim that the bull did not give the lordship to Henry, but only allowed him to attempt to restore the Church in Irland.2  There was loose control of Ireland by the English crown up to the ascendancy of Tudors.  Previous control of Ireland was limited to small area around the town of Dublin that was called the Pale. The control of the Irish gentry was broken with the Tudors.  The English monarchy came into strong control of Ireland by the early 16th century. 3

The O’Connors and O’Neills rebelled against Henry VIII in revenge for the murders of their relatives, but Henry soon put down the rebellion, and assumed the title of King of Ireland in 1542.4  Shane O’Neill, Desmond and Munster rebelled against the harshness of Queen Elizabeth’s rule in the latter part of the 16th century.5  The Irish peasants rose again in the rebellion of 1798, which was easily quelled by the English nobles.  This rebellion brought the Act of Union in 1800.  This act provided for the union of Ireland and England.  The Irish Parliament was abolished, and 100 Irish were sent to the English House of Commons, and 32 to the House of Lords.6  Another rebellion in 1848 was carried out unsuccessfully by enthusiastic your Irish patriots.7

Dermot MacMurrough, one of the kings of Ireland, asked Henry II for aid in re-establishing himself after he was thrown out of Ireland.  Henry allowed him to recrit forces, and Mac Murrough was successful, but later Henry became fearful of the growing power of some of the Irish and invaded the island in 1172.8  The Kilkenny Act of 1367 separated the English and Irish.  Englishmen were forbidden to marry Irish women, to use the Irish language, and any general association with the Irish people even to the extreme of prohibiting the wearing of a moustache in an Irish style was forbidden.9  The Irish had their own social customs older than the English and adopted little from them.

ElizabethI made the Anglican Church the official churchof Ireland.10  Years later, because of the  attitude of George III, Pitt could not allow the seating of Roman Catholics in the English Parliament, thus the Irish felt betrayed by the Act of Union.  The question of Catholic Emancipation felled the seemingly all powerful Tory ministry of 1829.  James I took over the entire territory of Ulster and sent 20,000 to 30,000 Scots there to settle.  The Scots organized their Presbyterian Church in Ireland during the reign of Charles I..  This is how the Scotch-Presbyterians came into existence in Ireland.11

As Irelandhad remained Catholic when Englandturned Protestant, the result was persecution for the Irish Catholics.  Elizabethstarted the terror throughout Ireland.  Cromwell was much stricter when he landed in Irelandin 1649.  In eleven years, 616,000 Irish had been killed, which was about 47 per-cent of the inhabitants of Irish descent.12

James II being deposed by Cromwell appealed to the Irish for help. The Irish Catholics fought not for James but against the English.  James blundered, and the Irish lost at the Battleof the River Boyne (July 12, 1691).13  The 18th century was one of legal persecution of the Catholics using the Penal Laws.  “Priest hunting” became a profitable occupation.14  Catholics were prevented from voting, practicing their religion, or holding office or buying land.  In 1778, Catholics were granted the right to own land and once again inherit property.15  The laws against the clergy were revoked in 1782, and in 1859 the Anglican Church was no longer the official church of Ireland.16  The discriminatory treatment of the Catholics deprived Ireland of some of it’s best and brightest as man y of them emigrated to other countries, especially to America.

It is interesting to note the population differences between Irelandand England.  In 1785, Ireland’s population was 4 019,000 compared to England’s 7,900,000. (Population of Ireland, 1750-1845 by K.M. Connell)  England had less than twice the population of Ireland in 1785 compared to ten times the population in 2005.  Today,Ireland’s population includingUlster (1.7 million) is about 6 million whileBritain’s population is 58 million (England – 50 million,Scotland – 5 million andWales – 3 million.

Economically, Ireland was divided.  Southern Irelandwas agrarian while the northern portion of the island was becoming highly industrialized in the later half of the 19th century. Ulster ornorthern Ireland was economically oriented towardEngland.  Thus, economically, socially, politically and religiously southern Ireland was much different from England and becoming increasingly estranged from Ulster.

Home Rule Attempts

In 1870 a politically action group was formed in Ireland to ask for home government of Home Rule, which was a form of compromise between independence and the union with England.17  Charles Stewart Parnell became the leader of this group in 1878.  Parnell became the Protestant leader of Catholic Ireland.  In 1886, Gladstone brought forth the first Home Rule Bill, but it was defeated by the House of Commons in the same year.18  Parnell had the balance of power between the Liberals and Conservatives and threw his support to Gladstone with the Irish members of Parliament in exchange for a Home Rule Bill. In the election of1886, Parnell had stated that if either party wanted his support they had better favor Home Rule.19  Gladstone managed to squeeze into power, and in April introduced the bill that provided for an Irish Parliament of two houses having legislative and executive control of Irish problems but still subject to the British Parliament.  A semblance of executive power was set up in the form of a Lord Lieutenant.20

Attempts were made to link Parnell with the PhoenixParkmurders , but this was disproven and only helped further his popular support.  When Parnell was at his height of popularity, the O’Shea divorce case came out and ruined him.  Parnell was reportedly having an affair with the English wife of Captain O’Shea.  O’Shea filed for divorce, and this was granted with no defense offered by his wife.  Parnell later married Mrs. Kitty O’Shea, but the Catholics withdrew their support from him, and his political career was ended.21

Gladstonewas again supported by the Irish Nationalists in the election of July 1892, and he was elected prime minister.  He introduced the second Home Rule Bill in February 1893.  This bill differed from the first bill in that 80 Irish members would be kept in attendance at the London Parliament, but would not vote on matters that only concerned England.  This bill passed the House of Commons but was killed in the House of Lords.  This defeat made it clear that Ireland could not get Home Rule unless the House of Lords was either done away with or completely limited in power.22

After the defeat of the second Home Rule Bill in February 1893, Arthur Balfour, the Chief Secretary of Ireland, and others began a “Kill Home Rule with Kindness” policy.  Following the divorced and second marriage of Parnell, the Nationalist Party broke into several groups not one of which was strong enough to gain popular support.23

The question of Irelandin the early 20th century divided the great factions of English politics.  The Conservative party ended up being much more predominantly a class party than it had been before.24  An Irish Council Bill was proposed by the British in 1907 which would have set up administrative departments in Ireland.  “Eight of the forty-five departments would have been under British control.  The bill did not provide for clergy representation and was so unpopular it was withdrawn.25

Asquith, the leader of the Liberal Party, had promised to establish a government in Irelandto take care or Irish problems.  He stated this just before the General Election of 1910.26  He was elected prime minister with the help of John Redmon and the Irish members of the House of Commons.  Redmon had taken over the leadership of the Irish Nationalist party after Parnell had resigned.  Asquith succeeded in passing the Parliament Act of 1911 that lessened the power of the House of Lords.  The act provided for the veto of the Lords to no longer mean the death of an act.  An act could become law if it could pass the House of Commons in three successive sessions.27

On April 11, 1912, the Government of Ireland Bill was introduced into the House of Commons providing for an Irish Parliament composed of forty members of an upper house and 164 members of a lower house.  The upper house would be limited as the English House of Lords was.  The establishment of a state religion was prohibited.  The Imperial British Parliament reserved the rights of grants of peerages, and the Irish Parliament would have no authority to question the succession to the thrown of England.  Forty-two Irish members would sit in the London Parliament.28

Asquith succeeded in passing the act through the House of Commons, but it was vetoed in the House of Lords. The Tories were much opposed to Home Rule but recognized that unless unusual circumstances prevailed, Irelandwould obtain the rule in a few years.29  In the Home Rule Bill proposed, Ireland was again handicapped by her close proximity to ‘England.  The new bill would significantly limit Ireland’s powers in relation to Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  England, during the period of pre-World War I, was still a country composed of very conservative, imperialistic and Protestant people.  Home rule for Ireland was popular only among the liberals.30  This third Home Rule Bill served to became the subject of heated debates until the events of the World War overshadowed it.

The people of Ulsterunited in opposition to the proposed bill.  The Churchof Ireland, (Anglican) and the Presbyterian Church joined forces  making the issue a religious one as well as a political one.31  The Ulsterites viewed Home Rule as Roman Rule and they feared Catholic supremacy. Northern Ireland was economically tied to England and wanted to stay linked with England.

The Home Rule Bill of 1912 varied from the first two bills in that it came from a federalist conception.  The position of Irelandwithin the British Empirewas no longer a special position except in an emergency such as a war.32  It has been stated that if the Liberals made a mistake in backing just one of the Irish parties, the Conservatives were just as much to blame in arousing the Ulsterites.  Bonar Law did much to increase the tension.  “But Bonar Law, not a strong man at any time, was in a weak position, and violent courses are the easiest for a politician so placed.”33

Again in 1913, the Home Rule Bill was passed thru the House of Commons to again be vetoed by the Lords.  This delayed the bill another year to 1914, the year in which war broke out in Europe.34  In May 1914, the bill again passed the House of Commons for the third time.  The House of Lords could still suggest amendments and wanted to exempt Ulster from the bill.  The Irish Nationalists opposed this with extreme pressure.  John Redmon considered Home Rule as a step in the direction of independence from England.35  Winston Churchill thought that dividing the country of Ireland into separate regions on a federalist plan might solve the Protestant question.36

Great fears were being experienced by the English members of Parliament for there were significant signs that Ulstermight appeal to Germanyto delver her from the Southern Irish Catholics if the third Home Rule Bill was passed.  The Unionist party of Ulsterwas constantly appealing to the king to reject the bill when it was brought for his signature.  It has been reported that George I was in sympathy with the Unionists.37  Redmon and the Catholics found themselves in a reverse position for Redmon. now was the supporter of the bill and the British Constitution against the rebellious inhabitants of Northern Ireland.  The Presbyterians olfUlster were very much against Home Rule for then they would be under the control of the Catholics.  The Ulsterites or Orangemen, however, had a very tightly organized opposition.38

As Northern Irelandgradually became more industrialized, the people became less tolerant of the Irish Nationalists.  Southern Irelandwas agrarian, Catholic and becoming more Gaelic.  At the same time, the As Irish Nationalists were vowing to fight if the country was to be divided, the Ulsterites were vowing to fight even the king if Irelandwas not divided.  The English government sent an envoy to Irelandto command the English officers in CountyKildarewho were to march to Ulsterto suppress the actions for rebellion or resign their commissions.  After almost every one of the officers resigned,  the English abandoned this idea.39  As Ulster organized its own volunteers,  Southern Ireland started the National Volunteer Forces under Eoin MacNeill and a “Citizen Army” led by James Connolly associated with the Irish Labour Party.40  The Ulster Volunteers actually started the practice of obtaining arms from Germany.

In 1914, the Home Rule Bill gained passage with the Royal assent but was postponed with the Suspensory Act which withheld Home Rule until after the war inEuropewas over.  This act was brought about by the minority Tory party that opposed Home Rule even though most of the Liberals and almost all of the Labour party favored it.41

Ireland in World War I

Germany felt that England would be too busy with Ireland to enter World War I.42  “One of the immediate causes” of the war was Northern Ireland’s threat to oppose Home Rule by rebellion.  The German Kaiser, as a result of the warlike attitude of the Ulsterites was convinced that England was unable to become involved in a European war.  Germany was convinced that England would be too buys to enter a war or at best would be of slight hindrance to Germany.43  Ulster’s open flaunting of the laws that prohibited no arms to be sent to Ireland, and the open drilling of the Ulster Volunteers threatening a civil war in Ireland, led Germany to believe that England was weak and would not interfere if she attacked France or Russia.

Germany also believed that the large numbers of Irish in the British army would revolt over the disturbances at home.44  John Redmon appealed to the people of Ireland as a whole to remain loyal to England.  He hoped that a untied front on the part of the Irish might result in a peaceful union following the war.  This probably would have worked had the leaders ofUlster cooperated withy Redmon, for during the fighting inEurope, many northern and southern Irish became friendly.  Unfortunately, the leaders ofUlster wopuld not put aside their private interests for the common good orIreland, and the generous acts of the Irish Nationalists were to no avail.

Discrimination by the English War Office were extremely noticeable in that the Protestants were permitted to form their own Irish companies but the Catholics were not. John Redmon volunteered the services of the Irish Volunteers to England.  Most of the members did fight for England, but a small minority followed strict Sinn Fein policy and refused to fight.  This group was in favor of neutrality.  They joined with the Labour Citizen Army and together formed an effective anti-British fighting force.  Eamon DeValera was part of this group.45  The passage of the National Service Act of January 1916 did not apply to Ireland but threat of future conscription in Ireland, was one of the causes of the Easter 1916 rising.47

In March 1918, John Redmon died and John Dillion took over as head of the Irish Nationalist party in the British Parliament.46  At this timeEngland passed an act conscripting the Irish.    This act played into the hands of the Sinn Feiners, and the resulting English bungling only succeeded in defeating the purpose of the act.  The main result of the act was the fact that the Catholic hierarchy, which had been the avowed foe of Sinn Fein, now joined them.   The Irish party in the British Parliament also joined the Sinn Fein movement,  and the Irish came out in a united front.  Conscription had always been a touchy problem in Ireland.

Sinn Fein

The Gaelic League was founded in 1893 for the purpose of re-establishing the Irish language and culture.48  The political outgrowth of the League was culminated in 1899 with the founding of the Sinn Fein movement, (We  Ourselves), by Arthur Griffith.49  This was an organization that supported withdrawing Irish members from the British Parliament and setting up and Irish Parliament along with abandoning constitutional methods of bringing about the repeal of the 18000 Act of Union.  Arthur Griffith’s plan was to follow the Hungarian example of 1861.  The plan called for a boycott of the British army and navy.  No Irish members were to be sent toLondon and an extra legal Irish Parliament to be established inDublin.  A court system would be set up, English goods boycotted and a general program of non-cooperation with the English was to be instituted.50

During 1910-1913, the Sinn Fein movement seemed dormant and was without a dynamic leader.51  Other Irish organizations were growing.  The Irish socialist leader, Larkin had obtained many new ideas from the Industrial  Workers of the World in theUnited States.  The Irish Republican Brotherhood was revived by James Connolly.52

According to the author of the Irish Home Rule Convention, the Sinn Feiners placed Home Rule and other various Irish problems above a victory for the allied powers.53  A German ship landed on the Irish coast on Good Friday evening 1916 bringing arms and ammunition with Sir Roger Casement as leader.  There was a plan for a general rebellion during the Easter season.54  Casement was captured by the British and taken toLondon for trial.  He was later hanged.  Martial law was declared inDublinCity and county.  The suspension of the right of a British subject to be tried by a civil court was seen as a sign of the seriousness of the situation.  Some of the Irish Nationalists inAmerica were said to have known of the intentions of the Easter rising a few weeks before it took place.

Easter 1916 Rising

The Gaelic American stated President Wilson knew of Casement’s intentions to land arms in Ireland and warned the British government.56  The Irish Republican Brotherhood had decided at the early stages of the was that a rebellion must occur at some time during the war.  Professor MacNeill, the nominal leader of the group had arranged for a p;arade to be held on Easter Sunday.  He later found out the parade was to be the base of the rebellion and cancelled the event.  By this time, the promised aid fromGermany had fallen through.  In spite of MacNeill’s order, a few Irish decided to go ahead with the rising.  James Connolly and Patrick Pearse were the leaders of the 1,000 man force.  On April 24, 1916, the Monday after Easter,  the small group took over several buildings inDublin.  Despite the great odds against them, the Irish patriots held out for about a week.

At this same time, Eamon DeValera had his big opportunity to come forth as one of the new leader of the Irish Nationalist movement.  He was able to conduct his part of the uprising with great skill.  Seven leaders of the rising proclaimed anIrishRepublic.  All seven of the signers were executed along with eight others.  DeValera, the only battalion commander not killed, was saved because Redmon proclaimed him an American citizen.  DeValera’s mother was an American, and he was born inNew York City.  His death sentence was communed to life imprisonment along with that of William T. Cosgrave.  The British did not want to execute and American citizen and risk alienating theUnited States. 57

John Redmon condemned the uprising and stated that too mujch encouragement had come from the Irish-Americans.58  The Easter 1916 rising provided a “blood sacrifice” for an Ireland that had becomeap;athetic.59  The rising was not supported by public opinion in Ireland.  Afterward, general incompetence on the part of the British government, and the arrests of thousands of men, some of who were taken to England, only served to arouse hatred for the English among the population.  The men who were executed were regarded as martyrs.  If the situation had been handled wisely by the British, the Irish radical cause and the Sinn Fein movement could have received a severe setback.   A quote from page 28 of the Irish Home Rule Convention by George Russell, “A muddling nation trying to govern one of the cleverest nations in the World.”60

As an aftermath of the rising about 50,000 British soldiers were stationed inIrelandwhich deprivedEnglandmuch needed men and equipment.  Recruitment inIrelandpractically stopped making a net loss to the firing line of 100,000 men.61

John Redmon died in 1918.  “He had outlived the day when mere Home Rule within the Empire would content the new Ireland.”62  After the close of World War I, the Sinn Feiners demanded independence for Ireland.  DeValera and his followers proceeded to act as an independent nation.  The old policy of the Conservatives had been altered by the war.63  The Sinn Feiners had adopted a policy that declared; “Sinn Fein aims at securing the international recognition ofIreland as an independentIrishRepublic.”64

The Sinn Fein party won 73 of 103 Irish seats in the British Parliament in the General Election of 1918.65  This victory has been called one of emotion rather than conviction.  The Sinn Fein policy was based on a separate appeal to the Versailles Conference for recognition of an independent Ireland and a pledge to carry on a home government in Ireland regardless of the attitude of England.66  The newly elected Sinn Fein members met in Dublin on January 21, 1919 keeping their promise not to travel to London.  This group demanded the prerogative to legislate for all of Ireland, declaring an Irish Free State or Saorstat Eireann.67  DeValera escaped from British jail, and on his return to Ireland took over leadership of he Dail Eireann or lower house of the Irish Parliament as president of the Executive Council.

The growing disturbance by the Sinn Feiners in Irelandwas of some embarrassment to Lloyd George at the Versailles Peace Conference.68  A delegation representing theIrishRepublic was sent to the conference to attempt to gain recognition of theIrishRepublic as independent ofEngland.  Woodrow Wilson was in great hopes of becoming the leader of his idealisticLeague of Nations and did not want to anger Lloyd George.  Needing the support of Lloyd George,Wilson refused to recognize the Irish delegates.

The Irish had substituted the revolutionary drive of the 20th century, bent on establishing an independent republic, for the constitutional drive of the 19th century. England could hardly put down the Irish immediately following a great was that had been fought for freedom.69

The strong pressure group of Irish Americans caused the British to reconsider the Irish question. Englandowed a large war debt to theUnited Statesand did not want to anger the American people.  The public opinion of the English was becoming more favorable to the Irish cause by early 1921.  At the end of the war, British public opinion concerning the future ofIrelandwas set forth in three points;

  1. Irelandshould be divided.
  2. Southern Irelandshould definitely be given more self-government than the 1912 Home Rule Bill, possibly even a dominion position.
  3. Ulstershould stay within the United Kingdomand continue sending members to the London Parliament.70

On April 1919, a convention of the Sinn Feiners elected DeValera president and Arthur Griffith vice-president. Griffithheaded the civil branch while DeValera led the military group.71

By December 1919, the time had come to put the Home Rule Bill of 1914 into effect.  Lloyd George had decided that the only answer to the Irish problem was partition of the nation and keeping both sections of Ireland within the empire.72  George amended the Act of 1914 with the Government of Ireland Act which gave self-government to Nationalist Southern Ireland and established two parliaments in Ireland for local legislation reserving imperial matters to the British Parliament in London.73  The act was made law in December 1920.  This act, also known as the Fourth Home Rule Bill, provided that the six counties in theProvince ofUlster would not come under the authority of the Dublin Parliament.74

Both northern and southern Irelandwere to have their own parliaments.  Ulsterfollowed this plan and is still being governed under it.75  The inhabitants ofUlster being largely the industrial center ofIreland believed their continued economic success was with the union withEngland.  The majority in the north felt any Irish national parliament would be controlled by farmers who would neglect their industrial needs.  They also feared the Roman Church would become dominant and their religious freedoms would be suppressed.76

The Sinn Feiners believed union withBritainwould destroy the ancient Irish culture and heritage.  This is the group that demanded complete independence for a unifiedIreland.  The Irish Nationalists followed a middle course.  They wanted a close association withEngland, but with Irish control over administrative and legislative matters.77

The main problem in setting up the 1921 treaty was Ulster.  The English had promised the Ulsterites that no coercion would be forced ujp[on them to join with southern Ireland.78  After much fighting and destruction of property had occurred,  the so called “Black and Tans’ were sent to Ireland to hunt down the radical Irish Republican leaders that had been creating havoc in Ireland.  The Black and Tans were composed of ex-officers and soldiers of the war, and were considered more vicious and destructive than the men they had been sent to capture.79

Asquith denounced the reprisal methods used by the British government in dealing with the Irish.80  The Black and Tans and the general policy of Lloyd George’s government came under bitter attack from the London Times and the Manchester Guardian.  Asquith assaulted the actions of the government in the House of Commons debates.  The Labour and Tory benches backed him up with such members as Oswald Mosley, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Hugh Cecil.81

The reprisals of the Black and Tans shocked British public opinion.  The English people would not support a policy of complete repression of the Irish.82  By 1921, the British politicians felt that they must either crush the resistance in Ireland completely or acquiesce to a peaceful settlement.  Many heated debates took place over which course of action should be taken.  When the second course was decided upon, debate proceeded as to how much of a settlement should the Irish Nationalists be given.83   Churchill was opposed to any dealings with the “rebels” at all.84   Balfour was a strong unionist and maintained that England had given and not taken away all the political institutions that Ireland had.85  Bonar Law stated that, “Ireland is two nations and two religions”.86  Lloyd George as a Liberal was much in favor of granting Home Rule to Ireland.  He was a federalist and did not wantUlster forced into a union to her dislike.87

In June 1921, a truce was called and negotiations were begun over Home Rule.  A deadlock was reached because the representatives of DeValera demanded a republic while those of Englandwanted Irelandto remain within the Empire.88   Lloyd George offered dominion status to Ireland in August.  Ireland was to have control over taxation, finance and home military and police protection while England reserved the right to control the seas surrounding Ireland, voluntary recruiting of Irish for the military and the size of Ireland’s territorial forces, air defense and communications.89   This limited dominion status was flatly turned down by DeValera and the Dail.

Various meetings were held between the Irish and Lloyd George to come to a compromise.  The Irish people were tired of the fighting, but only after the Irish representatives in London knew that the only choice other than acceptance of the treaty without Ulster was a renewal of war did they acquiesce on this point.90

Irish Free State

An agreement was reached in an all night meeting between the Sinn Fein representatives and Lloyd George.  The main conflict in accepting the revised treaty seemed to be the oath of allegiance to the crown.  The extreme length of the meetings showed how anxious the English were to uphold their agreement with Ulster.91   The 1921 treaty provided for dominion status for Ireland as a member of the British Empire.  The Irish Free State was established, a Lieutenant Governor was appointed to represent the king,  England kept the right to use certain Irish ports as naval bases and an oath of allegiance to the crown was included.92  Lloyd George , Winston Churchill and Austen Chamberlain were among the British to sign the treaty.  The text of the Irish agreement was praised by theLondon newspapers, and Lloyd George was said to have made one of his most important contributions.  The king sent a telegram to the prime minister giving his congratulations.93

It has been estimated that between 75 percent and 90 percent of the Irish population were in favor of accepting the treathy.94   The Dail Eireann voted 64 to 57 to accept the Irish Free State treaty.   DeValera stated it was his duty to resign bur left unclear when he intended to do so.  The London press expressed relief at the acceptance of the treaty, but also stated DeValera and his followers could cause much trouble.95   DeValera resigned as president of the Irish Republic and was defeated in a bid for re-election.96  DeValera and his party walked out of the Dail, and Arthur Griffith was unanimously elected president by the remaining 64 members.97

A sizeable influence on the problems inIndiawas foreseen as a result of the Irish settlement.  The agreement inIrelandwas expected to seriously halt the plans of Indian extremists who had counted on a resumption of hostilities inIrelandto aid their cause.  The settlement was met with a general apathy by the people inDublinand with mixed emotions from those inUlster.  One Ulsterite viewed the treaty as a great humiliation for England.98

The Irish treaty agreement was ratified by large majorities in both Houses of Parliament inLondon.  The vote was 401 to 58 in Commons and 166to 47 in Lords.  The Irish settlement was not agreeable to a large number of the members of Parliament, but it seemed to them to be the best agreement that could be obtained.

Lord Sumner, in the debates over ratification of the treaty, stated that the agreement was made to relieved the cabinet ministers of the difficult methods of dealing with Ireland.99  Winston Churchill made the statement in reference to the voting, “that most of the majority were miserable, and all the minority were furious”.100

It has been said if Bonar Law had opposed the negotiations and ratification, there would have been no treaty.101   Law came out in favor of the agreement thus destroying the hopes of the die-hards to get Law as a leader of the opposition.  The coalition government of Lloyd George was said to have signed its’ own death warrant by recognizing and approving the Irish Free State although the date of death was not yet known.102  The Friends of Irish Freedom in the United States pledged almost three million dollars for the support of complete independence for Ireland and denounced the agreement with England.103

Shortly after DeValera withdrew from the Dail, a small shooting war around the Ulsterborder resulted in the outbreak of civil war within the Free Stateitself.  The Republicans operating from the Four Courts in Dublinwere terrorizing the city and countryside.  Finally the decision was made to attach the Republicans, and after fierce fighting, they surrendered on June 28, 1922.104  The war continued throughout Ireland.  In July 1923, DeValera declared a crease fire and the hostilities were needed after much destruction and loss of life.105  The Irish have been called one of the few peoples who are more than willing to die for their country but are not willing to live for it.

On August 12, 1922, Arthur Griffith died from the strain of the civil war.  On the 22nd of the same month, the commander-in-chief of the regular army was killed by the Republicans.106  William T. Cosgrove took over as leader of the Dail.  He was called “an example of the aesthetic influences of Catholicism”.  Griffith became President of the Executive Council of the Dail on September 12, 1922.107   On September 10, 1923, theIrish Free State was admitted to the League of Nations.108

In March 1926, DeValera split the Republicans by forming his own party called the Fianna Fail.109  DeValera entered the Dail in 1927 believing it was easier to accomplish his goals from within.  The title of king was changed in 1931 to pleaseIreland in the Statute of Westminster which improved the position of the dominions.  DeVelara was elected President of the Executive Council in 1932.  His party gained 72 seats while Cosgrave gained only 56.  DeValera took office on March 9, 1932.110

The Fianna Fail party had taken the oath of allegiance to the king, and in the General Election of1927 had doubled their membership to 44 in the Dail.  In the election of 1930, DeValera’s party increased to 55 seats, but Cosgrove’s party increased to 64 seats at the expense of the smaller parties.111

Although the Cosgrove government had done wonders in establishing a stable country, it had made many enemies.  The enforcement of many laws were disliked by the people.  The government set up a civil service devoid of political patronage.  With the entering of Fianna Fail into the Dail, many Irish now voted for DeValera’s party who had formerly voted for Labour or the Farmer party.

DeValera’s first public speech after becoming the head of the Irish Free State government stated again that his government would live up to its promise to abolish the oath of allegiance to the crown.112  A great uproar resulted in the Irish Parliament during the debates over the abolishment of the oath.  The Labour party switched its support to DeVelera thus assuring passage of the bill.  The opposition claimed passage of the bill would destroy all hope of reunitingUlster with theFree State.  Labour at first feared abolishing the oath would cause many English firms to pull out of Ireland.113

DeVelera supported the British in the Ethiopian crisis and recognizedEthiopiawas the final test of theLeague of Nationspower.  The Cosgrave and DeValera governments both gave consistent support for a strong League policy.  This might have been due to an attempt to offset the weak Commonwealth arrangement with the Free State.114

After DeValera’s government refused to pay any further land annuities toEngland, the British had to pay the holders of the land stock out of the treasure.  To recoup this loss a bill was passed thru the London Parliament allowing for a 100 percent increase in customs duties for Irish exports toEngland.  DeValera responded with high tariffs on English goods.  This started a tariff was that lasted until 1938.  The economic warfare was felt more byIrelandthanEnglandas ninety percent of the Irish exports went toEngland.

The Executive Authority Bill passed y the Irish Parliament removed the English king and the Governor-General from the Irish Constitution taking away all the British sovereign’s privileges in the internal affairs of Ireland.  The second bill recognized the accession of George VI in the system of  external association.  One member of the Dail said, “One bill took the king out the Constitution and the other put him back.” 115  The abdication of Edward VIII and the accession of George VI gave DeValera and his Fianna Fail party the break they had needed.  A new constitution was proposed which would replace the former one of 1922.116

On December 29, 1937, the Irish Free State gave way to Eire or Irelandas a new constitution went into effect.  DeValera resigned as president of the old state and assumed his new duties as prime minister.117   Under the new constitution, DeValera was able to fulfill his promise that he made in 1932 when he became President of the Council.  The oath to the British crown was gone along with the Governor General.

Irelandwas still somewhat subject toEnglandin external affairs.  The news of the new Irish Constitution was met with general apathy inEngland.  Most English were unaware of the happenings inIreland.  The biggest regret the English had was that at such a crucial time, theBritish Commonwealthwas shown not to be united.118

In the General Election of July 1937, the people of Irelanddemonstrated their preference for the new constitution.  The Irish flag was established, Gaelic along with English was the official language and the internal affairs of Irelandremained about the same.  A new Senate was established composed of 60 members, 11 were appointed by the prime minister or Taiosiach (leader), and 3 each came from the graduates of theNationalUniversity andTrinityCollege.  The other 43 were popularly elected.119

Ireland in World War II

European problems begin to arise as Adolph Hitler of Germanyviewed the touchy Irish question as a good stumbling block for keeping Englandfrom resisting his objectives.  As the Kaiser had before World War I, Hitler also felt that Englandwould become bogged down in Ireland.120  AT the closest point, only fourteen miles separateIreland fromEngland.  Because of this close proximity, many English feared the possibility of a hostile country taking advantage ofIreland’s excellent natural harbors and inlets as well as ideal sites for air bases. Ireland’s policy in relation to World War II was to remain neutral and have a strong military force which would provide an incentive to keep Hitler out of the country.  The trade with England controlled the economic life of Ireland, and DeValera did not want this trade upset.

AfterEnglanddeclared war onGermany, the Irish Parliament declared a state of emergency and granted the executive emergency power to protect the public safety.  In May 1940, a coalition of a national defense council was formed with members of the Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.  The Irish feared a German invasion throughout the summer of 1940 forIrelandwas the best and closest source of supply for England.121

King George VI was placed in a paradoxical position when Englanddeclared war in 1939.  Eire refused to join Englandand declared her neutrality.  Thus George VI as king of Englandwas at war with Germany, but as King of Ireland was neutral.122    The loss of various treaty ports in Ireland greatly curtailed the radius of maneuvering of the British destroyers on their missions against the German u-boats.123

The February 1948 General Election resulted in DeValera’s Fianna Fail winning 68 seats out of the enlarged membership of 147 seats in the 13th Dail.  He refused to form a coalition with the various other parties and as a result, John A. Costello was elected prime minister.  Costello was from the Fine Gael party which had won only 31 seats.124  He was elected by a six party coalition.  Costello aroused by DeValera’s actions advocating complete independence proposed the Republic of Ireland bill on November 17, 1948.  This bill became law on December 21st, and the name of the country was changed to the Republic of Ireland.

The British announced that from January 1949 there would be three types of citizens in Britain;  British, commonwealth and Irish.125  Clement Atlee, the British prime minister declaredBritain would continue to maintain close relations withIreland regardless ofIreland’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, and the possible repeal of the External Relations Act.  Trade preferences and mutual benefits of citizenship were to be maintained.  Winston Churchill strongly criticized the Labour government’s policy stating theBritish Empire was “crumbling away due to the Labour government’s inaction.”  Churchill conducted many debates on the effect Ireland’s action would have on South Africa.

The president of Irelandis a figurehead while the political power resides with the prime minister. Irelanddid not become what most of its great leaders desired.130   The unrest in Ulster continues into the 21st century.


1 “Ireland” Encyclopedia Britannica, 1962, p. 770.


2 Edmund Curtis.  A History ofIreland.New York, 1961.


3 L. Paul Debouis. ContemporaryIreland. Dublin, 1911. pp.17-20.


4  Ibid. p. 19.


5 Ibid., p. 22./


6 Ibid., pp. 60-70.


7 Ibid. p. 50.


8 “Ireland.”  Encyclopedia Britannica. 1962 p. 771.


9 Payul-Dubois, p. 15.


10 “Ireland” Encyclopedia Britannica.  11th ed., p. 776.


11 Paul-Dubois, p. 21.


12 Ibid.  pp. 27-32.


13 Ibid.  p.33.


14 Ibid. p. 38.


15 Ibid. p. 47.


16 “Ireland.” Encyclopedia Brittanioca. 1962, p. 771.


17 Paul-Dubois, p. 79.


18 Ibid., p. 84.


19 TomIreland.IrelandPast & Present.New York, 194r2, p. 289.


20 Ibid., p. 290.


21 Ibid., p.294.


22 Ibid., pp. 300-302.


23 “Ireland.” Encyclopedia Brittanica.  11th ed. P.786.


24 E. A. Benian.  TheCambridgeHistory of theBritish Empire.London, 1959. p.343.


25 Elie Halevy. The Rule of Democracy (1905-1914).New York, 1961. pp.59-61.


26 Ibid., p.540.


27Ireland. P.310.


28 Halevy, pp. 542-545.


29Ireland, p. 310.


30 Curtis, p.393.


31 Ibid., p.404.


32 R.C.K. Ensor.  TheOxfordHistory ofEngland.England, 1870-1946, p. 450.


33 Ibid., p.455.


34Ireland, p.315.


35 Curtis, p.128.


36 Halevy, p. 553.


37 Ibid., pp.559-561


38Ireland, pp.310-311.


39 Ibid, p.317.


40 Curtis, p. 405.


41Ireland, p.320.


42 George W. Russell.  The Irish Home Rule Convention.New York, 1917, p. 32.


43Ireland, p. 3.


44 Ibid., pp. 318-321.


45 Ibid., pp. 325-326.


46 Ibid., p.343.


47 Benian, p. 663.


48Ireland, p. 298.


49 Ibid., p.299.


50 Halevy, pp.60-62.


51 Ibid., p. 538


52 Ibid., p. 539


53 Russell, p. 19


54LawrenceM. Larson.  A History ofEngland& the British Commonwealth,New York, 1932, p. 834.


55 New York Times, April 26, 1916, p. 1


56  New York Times, April 27, 1916, pp. 1 & 4.


57Ireland, pp. 328-334


58 New York Times, April 29, 1916, pp. 1-3.


59 Curtis, p. 406.


60 Russell, p.28.


61 Ibid., p.32.


62 Curtis, p. 407.


63 Ibid., p. 408.


64Ireland, p.341.


65 Ibid., p.346


66 Ibid., p. 347.


67 Ibid., pp.348-349.


68 C. E. Carrington.  The British Overseas. Cambridge, 1950, p. 882.


69 Benian, p. 14.


70 Paul Knaplund.  TheBritish Empire1815-1939. NewYork, 1947, p. 591.


71 Curtis, p. 408.


72 Frank Owen.  Tempestuous Journey.New York, 1955, p. 563.


73Ireland, pp.380-382.


74 Curtis, p.408


75 Larson, p.884.


76 Russell, pp.105-107.


77 Ibid., p. 102.


78 Larson, p. 845.


79 Curtis, p. 409.


80 J.R.H. Weaver, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-30.London, 1937, p. 38.


81  Owen, p. 572.


82 J.R.H. Weaver, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1941-50,London, “Lord Salisbury” p. 525.


83 E.C. Blanche. Arthur James Balfour.New York, 1937, pp. 249-254.


84 Owen, p.573.


85 Blanche, p. 249


86 Thomas Jones, Lloyd George. Cambridge,MA, 1951, p. 192


87 Ibid., p. 186,


88 Curtis, p. 410.


89Ireland, pp. 394-395.


90 Larson, p. 845.


91 New York Times, December 6, 1921, pp.1-2.


92Ireland, pp. 402-403.


93 New York Times, December 7, 1921, p. 1.


94 York Times, January 2, 1922, p. 1


95 York Times, January 8, 1922, p. 1


96 York Times, Januaryu 10, 1922, p. 1


97 York Times, January 11, 1922, p. 1


98 York Times, December 8, 1921, pp. 1-3.


99 York Times, December 17, 1921, p. 1


100 Blanche, p.248.


101 J.R.H. Weaver, ed. Dictionary of National Biography, 1922-30.,London, 1937, “Bonar Law”, p. 486.


102 E.T. Raymond, Mr. Lloyd George. New York, 1922, p. 133.


103 New York Times, December 12, 1921, p.1


104Ireland, pp.420-425.


105 Larson, pp.845-846.


106Ireland, pp.429-431.


107 Ibid., p.461.


108 Ibid., p. 461.


109 Ibid., p. 495.


110 Ibid., pp.575-589.


111 Ibid., pp.511-554.


112 New York Times, April 11, 1932, p. 1.


113 New York Times, April 18, 1932, p.1


114 Gwendolen M. Carter.  TheBritish Commonwealthand International Security. Toronto, 1947, p.141.


115Ireland, pp. 769-778.


116 New York Times, May 13, 1937, pp.1 and 8.


117 New York Times, December 29, 1937,. p.2.


118 New York Times, December 29, 1937, p.1.


119Ireland, pp. 769-778.


120 Ibid., p.3.


121 Ibid., pp.890-953.


122 Knaplund, p.605.


123 Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm,New York, 1961, p. 381.


124 New York Times, February 19, 1948, p. 1.


125 “Ireland”, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1962,  pp.627-628.


126 New York Times, November 26, 1948. p 1.


127 “Ireland.” Britannica Book of the Year, 1963, p. 479.


128  Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 1963, Midwestern Ed.,  p. 3.


129 ManchesterGuardian Weekly, March 21, 1962, p. 6.


130  Conor Cruise O’Brien.  The Shaping of ModernIreland,Toronto, 1960, p. 27.