by Shamim de Brún
The Anglo-Irish Treaty is 100 years old today. The Treaty was the culmination of months of negotiations seeking formal recognition of an Irish republic independent of the British empire.
The Dublin delegation was spearheaded by Arthur Griffith, founder of Sinn Féin, and Michael Collins. The British team was led by prime minister David Lloyd George and colonial secretary Winston Churchill.
The Irish delegates signed the Treaty after being warned by Lloyd-George that refusal to do so would mean that the War of Independence would resume within days. The delegates themselves were unanimous about signing, even if each had reservations.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty gave Ireland independence but as a member of the British Commonwealth. Much like Canada. In practice, this meant that the reigning monarch of Britain was the head of our state. Famously the agreement included an oath of allegiance to this head of state. The signing broke a promise not to accept an “oath of allegiance”.
The agreement of 1921 created the Irish Provisional Government, which began to function as an independent state. It formally ended the War of Independence, set the stage for British withdrawal from most of Ireland, and was a core reason for the Irish Civil War.
Collins agreed to the treaty, but De Valera rejected it and resigned as president. The I.R.A. split, with those in favour of an independent republic siding with Eamon De Valera and those in favour of the treaty forming a National Army. During the summer of 1922. These sides descended into civil war and became the base for Fianna Fail and Fianna Gael.
This week has shown how British colonial influence continues to shift after the world’s newest republic in Barbados was declared because they removed the Queen of England as their head of state.
De Valera founded Fianna Fail and eventually did submit to the controversial oath before taking control of Dáil Eireann. In 1937 he introduced a controversial new constitution, which established the sovereign state of Ireland and relegated women to homemakers.
An Post today launched new stamps to celebrate this centenary. In commemoration, Colin Murphy’s play The Treaty toured this week. ANU Productions will stage the Treaty Debates in full from December 22.
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