I remember the celebration in 2016 when Ireland was commemorating the centenary of the Easter Rising. There had already been events months beforehand. On 20 January 2016. Ireland’s first ever commemorative €2 coin went into circulation to mark the centenary year of the Easter Rising.
The Easter Rising , was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week in April 1916. The Rising was launched by Irish republicans against British rule in Ireland with the aim of establishing an independent Irish Republic. Of course this event needed to be remembered, because it was such an important step towards Irish independence.
However, fast forward to today, December 6 2021, and you will find there are hardly any events planned. Even though today marks the centenary of an even more important event in Irish history, the signing of the Anglo-Irish treaty.
The Treaty formally ended the War of Independence, set the stage for British withdrawal from most of Ireland, and the handover of power to an independent Irish government.
It was signed in 10 Downing Street at 2.20 AM on the 6th of December 1921.The treaty created an Irish Free State that was to be afforded the same status as Canada, a self-governing dominion within the British Empire.
It was signed on the Irish side by delegates Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Eamon Duggan, Robert Barton and George Gavan Duffy.
On the British side were Prime Minister David Lloyd-George, Winston Churchill, Austen Chamberlain and FE Smith, Lord Birkenhead.
The Treaty gave Ireland independence, but as a member of the British Commonwealth, and not as a Republic. In 1937 Ireland adopted a new constitution and in 1948 it declared itself a republic.
There would be no all-island unity, as Northern Ireland could decide to – and did – remain outside the new state. An oath of allegiance was to be sworn by TDs. The British Navy would keep access to several seaports. 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 argued that it was the best possible deal under the circumstances, but critics at home, led by President Eamon de Valera, claimed the signing was done under duress and so was invalid.
The Dáil, Irish Parliament, approved the new treaty after nine days of public debate on 7 January 1922, by a vote of 64 to 57, but it was not the assembly specified in the treaty. Therefore its approval of the treaty was not enough to satisfy the requirements of the treaty. The “meeting” required under the terms of the treaty was therefore convened. It formally approved the treaty on 14 January 1922. The “meeting” itself had a somewhat ambiguous status, not being convened or conducted in accordance with the procedures established for the House of Commons, nor being declared a session of Dáil Éireann. Anti-treaty members of the Dáil stayed away, meaning only pro-treaty members and the four elected unionists (who had never sat in Dáil Éireann) attended the meeting. Those assembled overwhelmingly approved the treaty, nominated Michael Collins for appointment as chairman of the provisional government and immediately dispersed with no parliamentary business taking place. This was the nearest that the House of Commons of Southern Ireland ever came to functioning; no other meeting ever took place, but the vote on 14 January, in strict compliance with the treaty wording, allowed the British authorities to maintain that the legal niceties had been observed.
The text of the treaty
- Ireland shall have the same constitutional status in the Community of Nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, with a Parliament having powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Ireland and an Executive responsible to that Parliament, and shall be styled and known as the Irish Free State.
- Subject to the provisions hereinafter set out the position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada, and the law practice and constitutional usage governing the relationship of the Crown or the representative of the Crown and of the Imperial Parliament to the Dominion of Canada shall govern their relationship to the Irish Free State.
- The representative of the Crown in Ireland shall be appointed in like manner as the Governor-General of. Canada and in accordance with the practice observed in the making of such appointments.
- The oath to be taken by Members of the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form:
I …………………. do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H.M. King George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.
- The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.
- Until an arrangement has been made between the British and Irish Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertakes her own coastal defence, the defence by sea of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by His Majesty’s Imperial Forces. But this shall not prevent the construction or maintenance by the Government of the Irish Free State of such vessels as are necessary for the protection of the Revenue or the Fisheries.
The foregoing provisions of this Article shall be reviewed at a Conference of Representatives of the British and Irish Governments to be held at the expiration of five years from the date hereof with a view to a share in her own coastal defence.
- The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to His Majesty’s Imperial Forces:
(a) In time of peace such harbour and other facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State; and
(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
- With a view to securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State establishes and maintains a military defence force, the establishments thereof shall not exceed in size such proportion of the military establishments maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain.
- The ports of Great Britain and the Irish Free State shall be freely open to the ships of the other country on payment of the customary port and other dues.
- The Government of the Irish Free State agrees to pay fair compensation on terms not less favourable than those accorded by the Act of 1920 to judges, officials, members of Police Forces and other Public Servants who are discharged by it or who retire in consequence of the change of Government effected in pursuance hereof.
Provided that this agreement shall not apply to members of the Auxiliary Police Force or to persons recruited in Great Britain for the Royal Irish Constabulary during the two years next preceding the date hereof. The British Government will assume responsibility for such compensation or pensions as may be payable to any of these excepted persons.
- Until the expiration of one month from the passing of the Act of Parliament for the ratification of this instrument, the powers of the Parliament and the Government of the Irish Free State shall not be exercisable as respects Northern Ireland and the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, shall so far as they relate to Northern Ireland remain of full force and effect, and no election shall be held for the return of members to serve in the Parliament of the Irish Free State for constituencies in Northern Ireland, unless a resolution is passed by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in favour of the holding of such election before the end of the said month.
- If before the expiration of the said month, an address is presented to His Majesty by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to that effect, the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland, and the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act., 1920 (including those relating to the Council of Ireland) shall, so far as they relate to Northern Ireland continue to be of full force and effect, and this instrument shall have effect subject to the necessary modifications.
Provided that if such an address is so presented a Commission consisting of three Persons, one to be appointed by the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland and one who shall be Chairman to be appointed by the British Government shall determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, and for the purposes of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and of this instrument, the boundary of Northern Ireland shall be such as may be determined by such Commission.
- For the purpose of the last foregoing article, the powers of the Parliament of Southern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, to elect members of the Council of Ireland shall after the Parliament of the Irish Free State is constituted be exercised by that Parliament.
- After the expiration of the said month, if no such address as is mentioned in Article 12 hereof is Presented, the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland shall continue to exercise as respects Northern Ireland the powers conferred on them by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, but the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall in Northern Ireland have in relation to matters in respect of which the Parliament of Northern Ireland has not power to make laws under that Act (including matters which under the said Act are within the jurisdiction of the Council of Ireland) the same powers as in the rest of Ireland, subject to such other provisions as may he agreed in manner hereinafter appearing.
- At any time after the date hereof the Government of Northern Ireland and the provisional Government of Southern Ireland hereinafter constituted may meet for the purpose of discussing the provisions subject to which the last foregoing article is to operate in the event of no such address as is therein mentioned being presented and those provisions may include:
(a) Safeguards with regard to patronage in Northern Ireland:
(b) Safeguards with regard to the collection of revenue in Northern Ireland:
(c) Safeguards with regard to import and export duties affecting the trade or industry of Northern Ireland:
(d) Safeguards for minorities in Northern Ireland:
(c) The settlement of the financial relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State:
(f) The establishment and powers of a local militia in Northern Ireland and the relation of the Defence Forces of the Irish Free State and of Northern Ireland respectively:
and if at any such meeting provisions are agreed to, the same shall have effect as if they were included amongst the provisions subject to which the Powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State are to be exercisable in Northern Ireland under Article 14 hereof.
- Neither the Parliament of the Irish Free State nor the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make any law so as either directly or indirectly to endow any religion or. prohibit or restrict the free exercise thereof or give any preference or impose any disability on account of religious belief or religious status or affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction at the school or make any discrimination as respects state aid between schools under the management of different religious denominations or divert from any religious denomination. or any educational institution any of its property except for public utility purposes and on payment of compensation.
- By way of provisional arrangement for the administration of Southern Ireland during the interval which must elapse between the date hereof and the constitution of a Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State in accordance therewith, steps shall be taken forthwith for summoning a meeting of members of Parliament elected for constituencies in Southern Ireland since the passing of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and for constituting a provisional Government, and the British Government shall take the steps necessary to transfer to such provisional Government the powers and machinery requisite for the discharge of its duties, provided that every member of such provisional Government shall have signified in writing his or her acceptance of this instrument. But this arrangement shall not continue in force beyond the expiration of twelve months from the date hereof.
- This instrument shall be submitted forthwith by is Majesty’s Government for the approval of Parliament and by the Irish signatories to a meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, and if approved shall be ratified by the necessary legislation.
De Valera did not accept the result, and led opponents out of the Dáil in protest. This began the chain of events that led to the outbreak of the Civil War six months later.
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