Dec 062015
 

ifs3

On this date in 1922 the Irish Free State was established as a dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations under the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed by British and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand. As expected, Northern Ireland 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 the Irish Free State. W. T. Cosgrave, the first President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, had led both of these governments since August 1922. The Free State came to an end in 1937, when the citizens voted by plebiscite to adopt a new constitution. Under the new constitution the Irish state was named Ireland.

The Easter Rising of 1916, and particularly the execution of fifteen people by firing squad, the imprisonment or internment of hundreds more, and the imposition of martial law caused a profound shift in public opinion towards the republican cause in Ireland. Meanwhile, opposition at home increased to Ireland’s participation in World War I in Europe and the Middle East. This came about when the Irish Parliamentary Party supported the Allied cause in World War I in response to the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill in 1914. Many people had begun to doubt whether the Bill, passed by Westminster in September 1914 but suspended for the duration of the war, would ever come into effect.

ifs7

Due to the war situation deteriorating badly on the Western Front in April 1918, which coincided with the publication of the final report and recommendations of the Irish Convention, the British Cabinet drafted a doomed “dual policy” of introducing Home Rule linked to compulsory military service for Ireland which it eventually had to drop. Sinn Féin, the Irish Party and all other Nationalist elements joined forces in opposition to the idea during the Conscription Crisis of 1918. Irish republicans felt further emboldened by successful anti-monarchical revolutions in the Russian Empire (1917), the German Empire (1918), and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1918). In the December 1918 General Election, Sinn Féin won a large majority of the Irish seats in the Westminster parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland: 73 of the 105 constituencies returned Sinn Féin members (25 uncontested). The Sinn Féin party, founded by Arthur Griffith in 1905, had previously espoused non-violent separatism. Under Éamon de Valera’s leadership from 1917, it campaigned aggressively and militantly for an Irish republic.

ifs5

On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs (who became known as Teachta Dála, TDs), refusing to sit at Westminster, assembled in Dublin and formed a single-chamber Irish parliament called Dá