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After Sinn Fein's victory in the Parliamentary elections of Southern Ireland, negotiations began with the British on Irish independence. An agreement was reached that provided for an independent Ireland having the status of Dominion within the British Empire. The agreement went into effect on anuary 15, 1922
The struggles between the British and the Irish Republican Army had continued throughout 1920 and 1921. The IRA was committed to a fully independent Ireland. Elections were held throughout Ireland in May of 1921. In the predominately Catholic South supporters of the IRA- their political wing, the Sein Fein won the overwhelming majority of the votes. In the predominately Protestant north supporters of a continued union, the Unionists won the clear majority of the votes. It became clear that if there were going to be a solution to Ireland's problems, it would have been a different solution for Northern Ireland and the rest of the land.
The Brtish looked to find a solution, and at the opening of the Belfast Parliament (Northern Ireland), King George V appealed to Irishman to "pause, to stretch out the hand in forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and forget, and to join in bringing for the land which they love a new era of peace, contentment, and goodwill."
The British government called for a ceasefire, which the IRA accepted. The truce went into effect on July 11, 1921. Negotiations then began between the British government and Sein Fien. The British's opening offer to grant southern Ireland dominion status, with Great Britain controlling defense, was rejected by the Irish. They demanded full independence, something that Britain was not willing to agree on. The negotiations broke off for a time, and for a while, it looked like the IRA would return to violence. On December 6, Great Britain and Sein Fien signed the Irish Treaty. Ireland became independent, but Great Britain remained responsible for the defense of both England and Ireland and the seas around. Southern Ireland would remain under the aegis of the British Crown, similar to New Zealand and Canada.
Partition of Ireland
The partition of Ireland (Irish: críochdheighilt na hÉireann) was the process by which the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland divided Ireland into two self-governing polities: Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. It was enacted on 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920. The Act intended for both territories to remain within the United Kingdom and contained provisions for their eventual reunification. The smaller Northern Ireland was duly created with a devolved government and remained part of the UK. The larger Southern Ireland was not recognised by most of its citizens, who instead recognised the self-declared Irish Republic. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the territory of Southern Ireland left the UK and became the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland.
The territory that became Northern Ireland, within the Irish province of Ulster, had a Protestant and Unionist majority who wanted to maintain ties to Britain. This was largely due to 17th century British colonisation. The rest of Ireland had a Catholic and Irish nationalist majority who wanted self-governance or independence. The Irish Home Rule movement compelled the British government to introduce bills that would give Ireland a devolved government within the UK (home rule). This led to the Home Rule Crisis (1912–14), when Ulster unionists/loyalists founded a paramilitary movement, the Ulster Volunteers, to prevent Ulster being ruled by an Irish government. The British government proposed to exclude all or part of Ulster, but the crisis was interrupted by the First World War (1914–18). Support for Irish independence grew during the war.
Irish republican party Sinn Féin won the vast majority of Irish seats in the 1918 election. They formed a separate Irish parliament and declared an independent Irish Republic covering the whole island. This led to the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), a guerrilla conflict between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and British forces. In 1920 the British government introduced another bill to create two devolved governments: one for six northern counties (Northern Ireland) and one for the rest of the island (Southern Ireland). This was passed as the Government of Ireland Act,  and came into force as a fait accompli on 3 May 1921.  Following the 1921 elections, Ulster unionists formed a Northern Ireland government. A Southern government was not formed, as republicans recognised the Irish Republic instead. During 1920–22, in what became Northern Ireland, partition was accompanied by violence "in defence or opposition to the new settlement". The capital Belfast saw "savage and unprecedented" communal violence, mainly between Protestant and Catholic civilians.  More than 500 were killed  and more than 10,000 became refugees, most of them from the Catholic minority. 
The War of Independence resulted in a truce in July 1921 and led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty that December. Under the Treaty, the territory of Southern Ireland would leave the UK and become the Irish Free State. Northern Ireland's parliament could vote it in or out of the Free State, and a commission could then redraw or confirm the provisional border. In early 1922 the IRA launched a failed offensive into border areas of Northern Ireland. The Northern government chose to remain in the UK.  The Boundary Commission proposed small changes to the border in 1925, but this was not implemented.
Since partition, Irish nationalists/republicans continue to seek a united independent Ireland, while Ulster unionists/loyalists want Northern Ireland to remain in the UK. The Unionist governments of Northern Ireland were accused of discrimination against the Irish nationalist and Catholic minority. A campaign to end discrimination was opposed by loyalists who said it was a republican front.  This sparked the Troubles (c.1969–98), a thirty-year conflict in which more than 3,500 people were killed. Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the Irish and British governments and the main parties agreed that the status of Northern Ireland will not change without the consent of a majority of its population. 
(The previous summary is very brief, the following will add some useful facts in an easy to read and assimilate manner. Facts on other countries are included when they are relevant.)
c. 3000 BC
That is about 5000 years ago. The Newgrange burial mound was constructed showing the importance of death rituals to the early Irish. Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian Pyramids are much the same age. Newgrange is in perfect condition and is only about 40 miles north of Dublin close to the river Boyne.
The Golden Age of Greece, Socrates and Plato etc. Studied by Augustine of Hippo and probably by St Patrick when he was being schooled in Nice, France.
Celts invaded Rome for the last time
Celts from northern Spain invaded and settled in Ireland eliminating the existing inhabitants.
70 BC- 14 AD
The golden age of Rome. Cicero and Virgil etc. Romans invaded Britain for copper, tin and wool but not Ireland, Scotland or Wales. BC 63 The then powerful Jews in Jerusalem who have signed a non aggression pact with the Romans asked the Romans to come into Jerusalem with a small army to sort out a minor domestic problem. As we all now know the Romans stayed and eventually ousted the Jews who did not return to their promised land for some 2000 years. Note the similarities to the Irish situation when they invited in the English Normans to sort out their domestic affairs some 1000 years later. BC 6 Jesus, the founder of Christianity lived in the most eastern part of the Roman Empire, modern day Israel/Palestine.
The Romans invaded Britain for the third time and this time remained, ruled and educated. Note: Britain at this time was already unified under one Celtic ruler, Cassievellaunus of the Catuvellauni tribe. Whereas Ireland, Scotland and Wales were still ruled by local tribal warlords and in the case of Ireland there were more than 150 of them.
Christianity brought to England (Britain) by early Roman converts
Cormac lived as Ireland's first great leader and first Ard-Ri or High King, centred in Tara Hill in Meath.
Roman Emperor Constantine make Christianity the official Religion of the Roman Empire. Jews had their Roman citizenship removed and were persecuted for the next 1500 years. (and the Irish think they were hard done-by.) Constantine made Constantinople his HQ and the majority of Christian theology is now debated and written down as sacrosanct in Ecumenical councils in that region. (Nicea as in Nicene Creed 325 AD was close by Constantinople now called Istanbul.)
Patrickus in AD 401 was kidnapped by an Irish slave raiding party in England when he was 16 years old. The river Rhine in Germany froze over in AD 406 and the barbaric German tribes commenced their flood southwards to eventually raze the Roman Empire. In the same year the Romans left Britain. AD 410 City of Rome razed. AD 430 Patrick returned to Ireland as a bishop and commenced preaching his version of Christianity. AD 461 St Patrick dies. AD 467 The end of the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantium Roman Empire headquartered in Constantinople (Turkey) remained untouched and retained its hosting of the main Christian ecumenical meetings. (3 in Nicea)
AD 557 Columcille of the "St Patrick Movement" in Ireland, set up the first Christian monastery in Iona Scotland. (Mid west coast of modern day Scotland) AD 590 Similarly Columbanus left Ireland and set up monasteries in Gaul (now France) The Irish Christians were now active in teaching reading and writing across much of Europe. Indeed are more active in reviving civilisation following the collapse of the Roman Empire than the Popes of Rome. Note however: cAD 590 Clovis the King of the Franks with headquarters in Paris became a Christian. In AD 597 the Pope did send out an emisrary to England, another Augustine, who baptized the King in Kent.
AD 782 English theologian and monk, Alcuin from the monastery of York, became religious and educational advisor to Charlemagne. Alcuin was obviously influenced by the St Patrick movement but also taught the more fundamental theology of Augustine of Hippo. AD 800 Charlemagne made Holy Roman Emperor by Pope. Once again the Christian Church had a military power base. Remember it was Charlemagne and his Frankish army which had stopped the Islamic movement from establishing itself in France (from Spain), not the Pope. The Vikings who first landed in Dublin, Ireland in AD 793 and settled in York England, looking for new farm land, were prevented from travelling due south, the easy route, because of the power of Charlemagne. (They also traded with Constantinople where they provided the imperial guard.) And eventually landed in Normandy France and were fully established there by 911.
1000 YEARS AGO.
AD 1014 The Irish finally kick the Vikings out of Ireland at the Battle of Clontarf. AD 1066 The Norman-Viking, Duke William conquered the King of England, Harold and brought with him his favourite Norman henchmen, his Barons, and rewarded them with large tracts of English land. AD 1170 Diarmuid MacMurrough the disposed King of Leinster, (he had annoyed his royal neighbough because he stole his wife,) took the fateful step of visiting Henry 2nd to ask his assistance back in Leinster.
Henry was too busy to go himself but saw Ireland as ripe for plucking with no strong leader, no modern weapons, and continuous domestic squabbles. Baron Richard de Clare (Strongbow) was sent instead. AD 1171 Henry went to Ireland himself and received the submission of most of the Irish Kings. Henry now ruled 75% of Ireland, England and all of western France from Calais to Bordeaux. Henry's favourite Barons were rewarded with much prime Irish land. Thus had begun the long and troublesome involvement of the English in Ireland.
750 YEARS AGO.
English Kings took little interest in their Irish territories and the descendents of the Barons ran their own little fiefdoms dropped their mother tongue, interbred with the local lasses and adopted Gaelic customs. They would be called the "Old English". The native Irish learnt English military tactics, bought in mercenaries from Scotland and harried the English landowners, winning back much of their old territories. The FitzGeralds of Kildare headed up the old English and the O?Donnells and the O?Neills in the north west of Ireland were the leaders of the Gaelic Irish.
500 YEARS AGO
From c.350 AD the FitzGeralds of Kildare became enormously rich, and because they were old English stock were recognised by the English Kings as governor generals or "Great Earls" ruling on behalf of the English Royal family. Indeed they could have been called the King of Ireland so little notice was given to them by the English Kings. This cosy situation was turned upside down in the reign of Henry 8th when he left the Roman Catholic Church and England moved towards Protestantism. The Scots went the whole way adopting Calvinism to be called Presbyterianism. Perhaps, unfortunately for Ireland, the Earl of Kildare remained a staunch Catholic, was summoned to London and clapped in the Tower. His son Lord Offaly (better known as Silken Thomas) commenced an uprising which was quickly crushed by an English Army.
In 1537 Thomas was executed and the power of the old Norman Barons, the FitzGeralds disappeared for ever. Henry 8th then continued the work he had started in England to remove the fabulously wealthy monasteries and made himself head of the Irish (Catholic) church. Unlike his Norman predecessors he did not colonise Ireland by giving land to his favourite henchmen. This was left to his daughter Elizabeth 1st. Henry did however claim all of Ireland's land as the King's, as he did in England. Local land owners became the King's tenants. c 1556 Elizabeth gave land to English Protestant settlers in East Ulster and later further south in Munster. One of these was Sir Walter Raleigh who started a potato farm. (there were no takers for potatoes in England for another 200 years). This was the commencement of religious land wars which have continued to this day as Gaelic Irish were steadily pushed west by increasing numbers of Protestants from both England and Scotland. Each time the Catholic Gaelic Irish rose in rebellion, the more powerful Protestant English ruthlessly quelled the uprising steadily taking more land and taking away the rights of property, education and governorship from the Catholics.
400 YEARS AGO
1601 The effective end of Gaelic Ireland following a "nine years war" between the English forces under Lord Mountjoy and the old O'Neill Gaelic Irish family whose powerbase was Ulster the most Gaelic part of Ireland. The Irish again sought the assistance of the Catholic Spanish who sent a small army which was decisively defeated at the battle of Kinsale. (In Co Cork in the south of Ireland.)
Note for comparison The Spanish Inquisition. 1478-1670 The ethnic and religious cleansing perpetrated by the English in Ireland was barbaric in anybody's vocabulary. It is interesting to note however that the Spanish Inquisition was taking place at exactly the same time. Here the conflict was again religious but in Spain the barbarism was dealt out by the Catholic king and queen, Ferdinand and Isabella, against anybody who wasn?t a Catholic. The victims in Spain were Jews and Muslims who had been happily living alongside each other. As in Ireland the victims fled the country. The message for those who stayed was convert to Catholicism or be murdered. The Spanish Inquisition makes ethnic cleansing in Ireland look like a tea party. The Spanish ethnic cleansing was 100% effective and Spain had no more internal religious wars. The Protestant English were not so brutal and (hence?) religious conflicts have remained until this day. (Click here for more details in the Inquisition programme of the Roman Catholic Church)
1603 With the Gaelic powerbase now in tatters, Hugh O?Neill surrendered to the English and along with the O'Donnells of Donegal fled to France. These families were never seen in Ireland again. (Called the flight of the Earls) The Plantation of Ulster. The seed is now sown for the modern "troubles". There now being no large Irish land owners in Ulster the Protestant English and Presbyterian Scots moved in, and with the blessing of the Queen, took over most of the most fertile land, cleared woodlands and brought in modern agriculture. A radical modernising force was suddenly thrust into an ancient world. The new Protestant colonialists looked down on the local "backward" Irish Catholics and treated them with the same contempt as if they were the "Indians" in both their other colonies in India and North America. Queen Elizabeth 1st of England died in this year.
1641 Catholic uprising and massacre of Ulster Protestants and Presbyterians. During the appalling reign of England's Charles 1st there was no clear leadership in Ireland and the Catholics took the opportunity to rebel and try and get some of their Ulster land back. 1641 saw Catholics burn Protestant churches dig up graves and hurl the rotting corpses about like rag dolls. Relief came from the Scottish Presbyterian, General George Munro who brought a tough rescue party from Scotland.
1642-46 English Civil war. Oliver Cromwell's "Model Army" removed the ineffective King Charles 1st. Cromwell ruled England, not as a King but with a ruthless fundamentalist Christian Puritan doctrine.(like Calvinism or Presbyterianism)
1649 Cromwell held the Irish Catholics responsible for the massacres of 1641 and he took revenge at Drogheda (30 miles north of Dublin) and Wexford. Cromwell justified his cruelty to the English Parliament as they "would tend to prevent the effusion of blood in the future"
1688 England's "Glorious Revolution". William of Orange, the Protestant ruler of Holland and husband of Mary, daughter of England's James 2nd was invited to oust Catholic King James 2nd. James put up no fight and fled to France.
1690 Battle of the Boyne. The powerful French King, Louis 14th backed a request from James to liberate Ireland from the English Protestants. James with a huge French force landed in Ireland and routed the standing Protestant forces there. English King William of Orange immediately responded and won the decisive "Battle of the Boyne" against the most powerful Catholic force of combined French and Irish liberation fighters ever seen in Ireland. All top Irish nobility fled, mainly to France. (Known as the Flight of the Wild Geese). This land mark victory is celebrated in Protestant Ulster to this day. Back in mainland Britain, William's task was not over, he needed to quell a rebellion in Scotland to ensure all Highland chiefs swore allegiance to him. In the "Battle of Glencoe" he massacred the whole of the MacDonald clan "as an example".
1692 All Irish Catholics banned from office. (William of Orange) The Irish could not own land, be a lawyer, pray in church or join the army. Never rigidly enforced. 1695 All Irish Catholics deprived of Civil Rights.(William of Orange)
250 YEARS AGO
The Georgian period in England saw the power of the royal family diluted in favour of parliament and the first elected Prime Minister (Walpole) was created by King George 1st as he could not speak a word of English The Georgians ran Ireland from Dublin via the "Ascendancy" which was made up of wealthy protestant land owners. (No Catholics of course). England was becoming richer and richer through their empire which was expanding rapidly in North America and the Indian Sub-Continent. Ireland was calm but was not benefiting, as it was being exploited like the rest of England's colonies. Modern day Dublin started taking shape with proud Georgian buildings. Catholic Irish ownership of land was now down to below 10% and was the poorest coastal areas from Sligo southwards. A diet of potatoes was steadily becoming the main and in some cases the sole source of food for the increasing large west coast Catholic families. The Ascendancy subscribed to the Anglican Church but retained much of Oliver Cromwell's Puritan views. Any Old English remained staunchly Catholic and the Ulster plantation settlers from Scotland remained fundamentalist Calvinists (Presbyterian) called Dissenters. Neither group liked each other to the extent that the Anglican Ascendancy passed a series of penal laws against both Catholics and Presbyterians. The effect on the Catholics was to make them even further depressed and any differences between old Gaelic Catholics and old English Catholics disappeared. Strangely the effect on the Ulster Dissenters was more marked, as being deprived from holding office, many upped sticks and emigrated to North America.
1740 Severe famine in Ireland. 300,000 die of starvation
1745 Catholic or Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland under Bonne Prince Charlie supported by French King Louis 14th defeated by English Army near Inverness, (Battle of Culloden 1746) Scottish Highland Clearances or Highland Ethnic cleansing. For some years after the Jacobite revolution the English did not trust the Scots and the large English landowners "removed" the many Scottish land workers (Crofters), to be replaced by sheep. The majority fled to North America, mainly Canada and Australia. There was no corresponding Irish uprising at this time.
1775-6 American War of Independence. This battle against the English was triggered by excessive taxes being imposed on the colonists to finance an English standing army in America to discourage any potential threat from France who had been removed from America by the British. The American colonialists won with help from the French. Such a massive loss of British territory sent waves of hope both in Ireland and India.
1778 The Catholic Relief Act. Relieved by there being no corresponding rebellion in Ireland after Culloden and the need for more recruits into the British army during and after the American war of Independence and unrest in India, the English chose to remove some of the human rights restrictions for Catholics in Ireland. Catholics could then, join the army, enter the professions and were given equal voting rights to Protestants.
1789 The French Revolution. The French people revolted against the corrupt nobility and Catholic Church. 40,000 corrupt priests and nuns butchered to death. The concept of liberty, democracy and the rights of man, gave Irish Catholics more much needed motivation. The Anglican English ruled through Dublin Castle and were equally despised by Irish Catholics and Ulster fundamental Presbyterians alike. The Presbyterian Orange order was created.
1798 Revolution both by Catholics and Presbyterian Ulstermen against English rule. Catholic revolutionary Theobald Tone raised two French invading forces into Ireland both defeated by the ruling English. The Orange Order unrest in Ulster also ran out of steam as they saw their fellow revolutionaries fail in the south, even with French assistance. 30,000 Irishmen died in this revolution. The English reaction to this unrest was to persuade the Irish Parliament to dissolve itself and under the "Act of Union" of 1800. Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom. The idea of coupling this with Catholic Emancipation which would have given Irish Catholics the right to sit in parliament, was blocked by English Protestant King (German Extraction) George 3rd who felt it was against his coronation oath. A young Irish lawyer in the making, Daniel O?Connell, was watching these events from France.
1829 Catholic emancipation was forced on the English parliament by Daniel O?Connell. The effect was largely neutralised by the English Parliament who took the votes away from the bulk of the poor Catholic Irish by raising the minimum wealth threshold (mainly property) required by an individual to qualify as a voter.
1830-38 The Tithes war. The Tithes were rents on land paid to the Church of Ireland which was of course the Anglican Church of England when all the tenants were Catholic. O?Connell's next main task was to remove it. This war was dirty on both sides. The tenants murdered the rent collectors and the collectors seized cattle and goods from defaulters.
1845 The Potato Famine. One million Catholic Irish died unnecessarily. Three million emigrated. The key Englishman against giving food relief to the West Coast Irish whose diet consisted solely of potatoes was Under Secretary to the British Treasury Sir Charles Trevelyan a man who learned his trade in India where famine was relatively common and deaths due to starvation could be up to 5 million people. A huge rump of Irish immigrants settled in America where because they had no money to buy land, stayed in the towns. Their skill was an ability to survive and argue in the English language which allowed them to make money and get political positions of power. (Mayor Daley of Chicago and President John F. Kennedy were both Irish). These Irish American immigrants hated the English and were soon raising money and arms to get the English occupiers out of Ireland.
1867 The Fenian revolution. The Catholic Irish wanted the English completely removed from their country and the formation of a Republic. O?Connell now dead, had not delivered it. Ireland was still part of the UK with about 55 seats in Parliament which were only valuable when the majority was small and when the Wigs (Liberals) not right wing Tories were in power. Frustrated by lack of action two militants, James Stephens and John O?Mahony formed the Irish Republican Brotherhood nicknamed the Fenians after the Fianna warriors from Celtic Ireland. They had one policy, terrorism which failed purely because the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin refused to back any armed struggle.
1881 The land wars and the land acts. Charles Stewart Parnell, a Protestant Landlord from County Wicklow, in total contrast to the early Fenian, used his cold, logical mind to organise Irish MPs to seek out any legal parliamentary ruse to move towards home rule. He also founded the Irish national land league with Michael Davitt with the object of stopping the cruel habit of removing tenant farmers from their land for temporary non payment of rent following poor harvests. The land wars consisted of such action against landlords as, violence and coercion, cattle maiming and arson. Parnell, used his well organised parliamentary muscle achieved his objectives via three land acts allowing tenant farmers to eventually own the land they were farming using soft government loans. (The land acts 1881, 1885 and 1903)
1912 Home Rule at last? Gladstone, (Liberal British PM) was on very friendly terms with Parnell, and introduced the home rule bill in 1886. Parnell now the uncrowned King of Ireland, might have had the might of the Catholic Church on his side but not the Ulster Presbyterians who also had seats in Parliament. Gladstone lost the next election and the Tories along with the men of Ulster were totally against home rule. But there could still have been time. Unfortunately Parnell had a long term mistress, Kitty O?Shea and Mr O?Shea took this inopportune moment to sue for divorce. O?Connell lost his home support and that of Gladstone overnight. O?Connell died in his mistresses arms at the young age of 45. However all was not lost, Parnell's work was taken up by John Redmond who in 1910 found himself with the balance of power in the British parliament and in spite of the Ulstermen fighting (literally) a rearguard action, the Home bill was passed in September 1914.
AD 1916 The Easter Rising. England was now at war and implementation of home rule was suspended for the duration of the conflict with Germany. Redmond pledged men to help the English but various militant groups were about, including the Fenians and some new boys called Sinn Fein, who sent men to seek arms from the Germans. Well armed the Fenians stormed and took the Dublin Post Office, raised the Irish Tricolour and Patrick Pearse read a public proclamation for the Republic of Ireland. The English took a week to quell this riot helped by sailing a gunboat up the Liffey which shelled and destroyed many buildings. This was immediately followed by hanging the leaders as traitors, an unwise act immediately condemned by the Catholic Church, John Redmond, George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats. The scene was set for another revolution.
1919 The Irish War of Independence. The First World War ended in November 1918 and in the same year the election in the British Isles produced an overwhelming victory for Sinn Fein winning 76 seats to the old Nationalist Party's 6. Sinn Fein refused to sit in the House of Commons in Westminster London but the Assembly of Ireland (Dail Eireann) met in Dublin on 21 Jan 1919. That same day the IRA (then called the Irish Volunteers) commenced the civil war by shooting dead two policemen. The war lasted two and a half years, lead on the Irish side by a brilliant man from Cork, Michael Collins, and on the English side an ill disciplined armed auxiliary police force nicknamed the Black and Tans because of their uniform. With large parts of the country controlled by Sinn Fein and the IRA and with the Black and Tans good for nothing except terror, arson and murder a truce was called to be followed by the Anglo-Irish treaty of December 1921.
Chief negotiators for Ireland were Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith who agreed a dominion status for Ireland (like Canada) with the British Government. This was fine for the Irish people but not De Valera and the IRA which unfortunately resulted in a short Irish civil war when Collins and Griffiths were killed. In the mean time the British Government separated Ireland territorially with Presbyterian Ulster remaining as part of the UK and the south becoming the "Irish Free State". As with the separation of India some 30 years later such an artificial split always traps differing religious groups into smaller parcels of land which causes them to feel threatened. The scene was set for religious sectarian battles in Ulster which have lasted until today and may be insolvable.
1932 The Irish Fianna Fail party under Eamon de Valera. The Irish in the south had now been independent of the English for 10 years and demonstrated this independence by remaining neutral in the 1940-45 Second World War. De Valera wanted to govern for the people and the Church wanted to create an isolated community free from the sins of the rest of Europe. After the war (1950s) the Irish people voted with their feet and emigrated to economically more prosperous English speaking countries. This caused panic and Ireland decided to apply to join the European Community, gaining membership in 1972. The result, looks good so far perhaps even an economic success story.
Sean Thomas O'Kelly 1945–1959
Unlike Hyde, Sean O’Kelly was a longtime politician who was involved in the early years of Sinn Féin, fought against the British in the Easter Rising, and worked in succeeding layers of government, including that of Eámon de Valeria, who would succeed him. O’Kelly was elected for the maximum two terms and then retired.
The emergence of the ‘Two Irelands’, 1912–25
Sir Edward Carson, with James Craig to his left, signs the Solemn League and Covenant in Belfast City Hall, 28 September 1912. While it declared that ‘Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as to the whole of Ireland’, it was clear that serious resistance could take place only in the North. (George Morrison)
No one anticipated the Irish revolution and the upheavals that accompanied it. By the outbreak of the First World War the Land Acts had transferred the ownership of most of the land of Ireland from a largely Protestant aristocracy or gentry to (mainly) Catholic tenant farmers. The Irish social revolution was effectively over before the political and military revolution began. In 1912 the establishment of a home rule government and parliament in Dublin seemed imminent, although it was expected that special arrangements would be made for unionist Ulster. For most Irish nationalists the future seemed both promising and secure.
Yet by 1925 Ireland was partitioned, its two separate areas ruled by mutually hostile governments. Unionists who had campaigned against home rule for Ireland as a whole were now happy to operate home rule within an area of their choice. In the south, republican revolutionaries ruled a Free State that enjoyed effective independence within the empire or commonwealth but remained linked unhappily to the British crown. In both parts of the island large resentful minorities rejected the legitimacy of the political systems under which they lived.
During the intervening years Ireland had experienced confrontation between labour and capital, involvement in a world war, rebellion, political upheaval, guerrilla war, civil war and sectarian conflict.
The Irish revolution and the division of the island form a phase in Irish history that is unusually complex and that, after almost a century, still remains controversial. Partition should not be seen in isolation. The conflict between unionists and nationalists before the First World War made possible other events—such as the Easter Rising and the triumph of the republican Sinn Féin party—which are otherwise hardly conceivable. Partition and revolution were linked closely together.
An accidental revolution?
Following the creation of two paramilitary forces—the Ulster Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers—much of Irish society became militarised young men marched, drilled and prepared for conflict, as did these barefoot Dublin inner-city children. (George Morrison)
The struggle between home rulers and unionists—and between their British supporters, the Liberals and Conservatives—dominated the politics of the United Kingdom before the Great War.
In one respect the Irish revolution could be seen as having been made possible by the House of Lords, which was one of the most anti-Irish elements in British public life. The Lords’ defiance of the Liberal government precipitated a general election that enabled home rulers to hold the balance of power in parliament, and it also brought about the loss of the Lords’ power of veto. This allowed the introduction of a new Home Rule Bill in 1912, which in turn led to the Ulster unionists’ armed defiance.
When the Liberal government offered concessions to the unionists it seemed that their extreme measures had been vindicated. Most Irish nationalists were dismayed by the apparently successful actions of Edward Carson and the Ulster Volunteers, and some of them felt inclined or obliged to copy the Ulster example they formed the rival Irish Volunteers. Following the creation of these two paramilitary forces, much of Irish society became militarised young men marched, drilled and prepared for conflict. A rebellion or even a civil war was widely expected, but the First World War erupted just before the crisis could be resolved. From the British point of view, a grave external threat replaced a grave internal threat. The following year the prime minister, H.H. Asquith, wrote that the outbreak of the war could be seen as the greatest stroke of luck in his lucky career.
A crisis in Ireland was averted in 1914. Nonetheless the formation of a nationalist private army and the importation of guns—both of these developments modelled on the initiative and actions of the Ulster unionists—allowed a radical, republican minority within Irish nationalism to stage an insurrection at Easter 1916. The rebels’ plans were disrupted, but they were fortunate that they could stage even a symbolic rising, a ‘protest in arms’.
Public opinion was changed by the knowledge that the insurgents had fought bravely, by the executions and the widespread arrests that followed their surrender, and by the failure of negotiations aimed at introducing home rule. During 1917 and 1918 a series of elections climaxed in the rout of the long-dominant Home Rule party, which had grown soft through lack of serious opposition. By then a politically radicalised nationalist electorate was prepared to vote for the image and for some of the objectives of the Easter rebels. In particular, they voted for a party that was committed to the achievement of an Irish republic—an aim that could be achieved only by violence. Many people hoped or feared, rightly, that 1916 would be simply ‘round one’.
H.H. Asquith wrote that the outbreak of World War I, by averting the Home Rule crisis, could be seen as the greatest stroke of luck in his lucky career. (George Morrison)
Until recently relatively little attention was paid to Ireland’s involvement in the European war, and for many decades it was written out of the officially approved ‘national memory’ of the Free State and the Republic. Its most direct and immediate impact was the enlistment of large numbers of Irish nationalists and unionists in the British army. There are widely different estimates of the numbers killed, ranging from the official total of 49,000 to a more modest—but still grim—27,000. (By way of contrast, even this lower figure is between seven and eight times greater than the number of those who were killed in all conflicts in Ireland between 1916 and 1923. Far more Irishmen died violently abroad, in France, Gallipoli or elsewhere, than at home in Ireland.)
The Home Rule Bill was enacted in 1914, although it never came into effect, and partly in gratitude for this victory John Redmond threw his weight behind the British war effort. But as the realities of life and death in the trenches became more widely known, and as the numbers of dead and wounded rose inexorably, the patchy enthusiasm for the war drained away. Redmond’s Irish Parliamentary Party was tainted by this shift in public opinion, and by the fact that home rule had still not been implemented. It became steadily less popular.
The war provided radical republicans with the possibility of foreign assistance and it encouraged them to view ‘England’s difficulty as Ireland’s opportunity’ they could stab the British in the back while they were distracted by their conflict with Germany. The Easter Week proclamation referred to support from ‘gallant allies in Europe’.
Another feature of the war was the fear of conscription, which was imposed in Britain in January 1916. Ireland’s exemption seemed anomalous and there were expectations that it would not endure. Finally in early 1918 the government decided to extend military service to Ireland. But the plan met with such widespread opposition—including hostility from all nationalist parties, from the trade union movement and from the Catholic Church—that it had to be abandoned. This victory over the British made a substantial contribution to the triumph of the radical Sinn Féin party over its home rule rival. It was not only the successor to the Easter rebels, it was also the ‘peace party’ that had saved Irishmen from the horrors of war.
Meanwhile, in July 1916 the unionists’ image in Britain was enhanced by the horrendous losses suffered by the Ulster division in the Battle of the Somme.
Events in London during the war had a significant impact on Irish affairs. In 1914 a Liberal government ruled the United Kingdom in 1915 the Conservatives became the minority partners in a coalition in 1916 they became preponderant when the Liberals split and after 1918 they were the dominant party in government. This meant that power had shifted from the allies of Irish nationalists to the allies of Ulster unionists. The first three Home Rule bills—of 1886, 1893 and 1912—had been drafted by Liberals in alliance with Irish nationalists. The fourth—which became the Government of Ireland Act of 1920—was drafted by a Conservative-dominated government in alliance with Ulster unionists.
Some of the speeches made by the Conservative leader Bonar Law—seen in this loyalist postcard blocking Asquith and Home Rule—were almost treasonous in their tone and content. (Linen Hall Library)
Southern and northern unionists had begun to drift apart long before the second decade of the twentieth century. The Solemn League and Covenant of 1912 had declared that ‘Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as to the whole of Ireland’, but it was clear to everyone that serious resistance could take place only in the North.
Ulster unionists and their Conservative allies stirred up opposition to home rule in both Britain and Ireland, and some of the speeches made by the Conservative leader Bonar Law were almost treasonous in their tone and content. Carson and his colleagues planned to seize power in north-east Ulster as soon as home rule became law.
Initially all sides shared the view that Ireland must be treated as an indivisible unit, but as the pre-war crisis dragged on they drifted slowly towards a compromise solution: partition. By summer 1914 each side was anxious to appear reasonable. A consensus was reached that home rule would come into effect only in part of the island and that ‘Ulster’ would be exempt. But there was no agreement on what comprised ‘Ulster’ (the nine-county province, the four Protestant counties, or the six counties which the unionists felt that they could control), and on whether such exclusion would be temporary or permanent. The problem remained unresolved after the outbreak of war in August 1914. Implementation of the Home Rule Act was postponed until peace would be restored and until special amending legislation would be passed for an unspecified ‘Ulster’.
The question resurfaced after the Easter Rising, and in summer 1916 a further attempt was made to reach an agreement. By now the unionists’ position had been strengthened by the inclusion of their Conservative allies in the government, while home rulers had been weakened by the ‘disloyalty’ that had recently been shown by some Irish nationalists. Redmond felt obliged to abandon the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, despite their small nationalist majorities—and despite his earlier passionate defence of their inclusion in the home rule area. He was not willing to concede permanent exclusion, and it was partly on this question that the talks broke down.
After the war Lloyd George’s government set up a committee to report on the Irish question, and its recommendations were dramatic. Ireland would be partitioned, and two home rule parliaments would be established in Dublin and Belfast. There would be no county plebiscites as had been envisaged by the pre-war Asquith government. To help protect minorities, both parliaments would be elected by proportional representation. (Proportional representation was soon abolished in Northern Ireland, where the dominant unionists wanted to maintain a polarised society, but despite the circumstances of its introduction it was retained in the south.)
Initially it was intended that the northern area would include all nine counties of Ulster because this would facilitate reunification at some time in the future, but after a lengthy confrontation the government yielded to the unionists’ demands that they be given only six counties. In such a reduced area their majority would be larger and they imagined that their position would be more secure.
Unionists in the three southern provinces and in the three ‘abandoned’ Ulster counties felt betrayed by the settlements of 1920–1, but most unionists in Northern Ireland felt that they had secured as good a deal as circumstances allowed. They had never sought devolved government, but once it had been imposed they appreciated its advantages. They believed that it protected them not only against nationalists (both north and south) but also against British politicians who might betray them in the future—as had happened in the past.
By 1921 partition was an obvious solution to at least some of Ireland’s problems. But the form that it took was facilitated by the abstention of almost all the Irish nationalist MPs, who had formed their own parliament in Dublin. Most Irish MPs were now unionists, and Ulster nationalists had few defenders in Westminster. (There is little reason to think that unionists would have responded to overtures from Irish nationalists. It is significant, however, that neither home rulers nor Sinn Féiners made any significant overtures.)
Home rule for southern Ireland never came into effect, but elections for a Belfast parliament took place in May 1921. As predicted and intended, the Unionists won a large majority the Unionist leader James Craig took office as prime minister, and over the next few months powers were transferred from London to Belfast.
Only when the interests of Ulster unionists had been satisfied did Lloyd George turn his attention to Irish nationalists, and by then conditions in southern Ireland had been transformed.
War, peace and war, 1919–23
The first session of the Northern Ireland parliament, 7 June 1921, in the council chamber of Belfast City Hall—once partition had been imposed and the unionists had been ‘saved’, Lloyd Georges government chose to negotiate. (George Morrison)
The general election in December 1918 widened the franchise and gave women (over 30) the vote for the first time. It resulted in the annihilation of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which managed to win only six seats as opposed to Sinn Féin’s 73. In January 1919 the newly elected Sinn Féin MPs proclaimed themselves the independent parliament of Ireland, the Dáil. They later formed a government that attempted to run the country and—in so far as was possible—to act as if British rule no longer existed.
Unsurprisingly, the British paid no attention to Irish claims, and the actions of some radical republicans soon ensured a return to war. The Anglo-Irish War (or War of Independence) was not a nationwide uprising. It was the work of a small number of people in certain parts of the country—particularly in Dublin, Cork and Tipperary. But, following the example of the Easter 1916 rebels, they succeeded in polarising the country, and they forced many moderate nationalists to support radical men and radical measures. Both sides resorted to terror, but it was British actions and British forces that provoked a far greater revulsion. The war became increasingly unpopular in Britain and ultimately, after partition had been imposed and the unionists had been ‘saved’, Lloyd George’s government chose to negotiate.
By now Ireland was seen as a millstone and a nuisance, and the British were prepared to concede vastly more than had ever been offered to Irish nationalists in the past. Recognition of a republic was inconceivable because that would represent British defeat and humiliation, but most other Irish demands were granted.
In the treaty negotiations the Irish side was weakened by the fact that the cabinet’s priorities differed from those of most nationalists. National unity and an end to partition were popular objectives, but the Sinn Féin leaders’ principal objective was the achievement of as much sovereignty as possible for the South. ‘Ulster’ was seen as a tactic, as a suitable issue on which to break the negotiations if that should prove to be necessary.
Nonetheless, in the end the Irish delegation led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins signed the treaty, on the grounds that it was the best deal that they were likely to secure in the circumstances of the time. In Collins’s words, it was a stepping-stone towards complete independence. Others, particularly President Eamon de Valera, rejected the treaty because they believed that it abandoned ‘the republic’, reinstated the monarchy and did not grant Ireland genuine independence.
Once more the question of ‘the North’ was postponed, and it was agreed that a boundary commission would decide the border between the two parts of Ireland. It is significant that the treaty split centred on questions of sovereignty and the oath of fidelity (‘allegiance’) to the king rather than on the question of partition. Few Dáil deputies discussed the matter. Either they felt that partition was already an established fact and that nothing could be done, or they assumed that the boundary commission clause would take care of the question. Some people were later embarrassed by this omission and tried to rewrite the record.
The treaty was supported by narrow majorities in the Irish cabinet and the Dáil, and in January 1922 Collins formed a provisional government. De Valera went into opposition, but the strongest opposition to the treaty came not from politicians but from elements in the IRA. Some soldiers were unwilling to accept civilian authority. Despite elections in June 1922, which revealed the popularity of the treaty (78 per cent of the first-preference votes were for candidates who supported it), civil war broke out soon afterwards.
The resulting struggle degenerated into a bloodier and more savage conflict than the recent war against the British, and both sides resorted to atrocities. But there was no swing of opinion against the government as had happened after 1916 and in 1919–21, and ultimately the republicans laid down their arms.
The civil war also ended southern concern with Northern Ireland and it brought to an end Collins’s attempts to destabilise Craig’s government in Belfast.
The civil war was only one factor among several that allowed time to elapse before the boundary commission was established, and not until late 1925 was it ready to complete its report. The chairman (South African jurist Richard Feetham, who was appointed by the British government) had the casting vote, and predictably he took a conservative and narrowly legal view of the changes that might be made to the border. Despite the hopes of the Irish delegation in the treaty negotiations, and despite the fact that one third of the population of Northern Ireland wished to join the Free State, the proposed amendments were minimal. To the shock of nationalists, it was even suggested that the Free State should hand over some of its territory. Ultimately the three governments decided that the border between North and South would remain unchanged.
Ulster unionists, whose opposition to home rule before the war had begun the pattern of militarising Irish life, were able to dominate a home rule Northern Ireland for decades to come.
Michael Laffan is head of the School of History in University College Dublin.
D. Fitzpatrick, The Two Irelands, 1912–1939 (Oxford, 1998).
T. Hennessy, Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition (London, 1998).
A. Jackson, Sir Edward Carson (Dublin, 1993).
M. Laffan, The partition of Ireland, 1911–1925 (Dublin, 1983).
This article is relevant to the ‘partition’ element of topic 3 (‘The pursuit of sovereignty and the impact of partition, 1912–1949’) of the Irish history later modern field of study (1815–1993) of the Southern Leaving Certificate syllabus and to module 6, option 5 (‘The partition of Ireland 1900–1925’) of the Northern history A-level syllabus.
Southern Ireland was the twenty-six county Irish state created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. This Act divided the island of Ireland in two, Northern Ireland (covering approximately fifteen percent of the island, in the northeast) and Southern Ireland (covering the remaining territory to the south and west). Both were given bicameral (two houses) parliaments and separate governments.
The king was represented by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who also acted in Northern Ireland.
Southern Ireland never existed except on paper. It was set up by law, but the first attempted meeting of its Parliament failed because it was short of a quorum (the number of members needed to hold a meeting). The second sitting was only to confirm the decision of Dáil Éireann to confirm the Anglo-Irish Treaty, then dissolved it itself.
So the British government set up Southern Ireland but there was never any government to take power.
After the treaty was confirmed Michael Collins, head of Dáil Éireann's government became Chairman of the Provisional Government
In the 12th century, Anglo-Norman troops, aided by the English king, came to the aid of the Irish King of Leinster, Diarmait MacMurchada, helping to restore him to his throne. After that, the British basically never left. Over the next 800 years, Irish people were divided into two basic groups: those who opposed British intervention, called Nationalists, and those who favored it, called Unionists or Loyalists. These philosophical and political differences remain one of the biggest differences between the two parts of the island even today.
After many years of civil war, in 1921 the southern and northwestern parts of the island became the independent Republic of Ireland. Nine counties in the northern part of the island were allowed to remain part of the British Empire. As of 2014, Northern Ireland, sometimes called Ulster, remains part of Great Britain, though the Belfast Agreement, also called the Good Friday Agreement, of 1998 has allowed Nationalists and Unionists to share power in Northern Ireland.
De Valera’s governments (1932–48) and the quest for sovereignty
De Valera’s primary purpose was to expunge those elements of the treaty he thought restrictive of Irish independence. His obsession with British-Irish relations was reflected in his holding the ministerial portfolio for external affairs simultaneously with the presidency of the Executive Council. He moved first to abolish the oath of allegiance, although the Senate’s opposition delayed the enactment of the necessary legislation until May 1933. His government also degraded the office of Britain’s governor-general in Ireland by systematically humiliating its incumbent, James McNeill exploiting the constitutional doctrine that the British sovereign had to act on ministerial advice, de Valera counseled the dismissal of McNeill (which occurred in November 1932) and forced his replacement by a subservient supporter. He also stopped the transfer to the British treasury of the land annuities, repayments of the loans advanced to Irish tenant farmers to buy their land under the Land Acts of 1891–1909. In July 1932 the British imposed import duties on most Irish exports to the United Kingdom to recoup their losses, and the Irish retaliated in kind. Although the British were financial beneficiaries in the “economic war,” Fianna Fáil was the political beneficiary because it cloaked its protectionist policies in patriotic rhetoric and blamed Britain for the deepening recession it duly won an overall majority in the snap election called by de Valera in January 1933.
In December 1936 de Valera seized on the abdication of Edward VIII to enact two bills: the first deleted all mention of the king and the governor-general from the 1922 constitution the second, the External Relations Act, gave effect to the abdication and recognized the crown only for the purposes of diplomatic representation. De Valera’s new constitution, ratified by referendum, came into effect on December 29, 1937, and made “Ireland”—the new name of the state (“Éire” in Irish, which was now proclaimed the first official language)—an independent republic associated with the British Commonwealth only as matter of external policy. The head of state was henceforth a president elected by popular vote to a seven-year term, and the head of government was henceforth known as the “taoiseach.” De Valera’s achievement was extraordinary: acting unilaterally, he had rewritten the constitutional relationship with Britain in less than six years. But he had to negotiate with British Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain’s government to achieve his remaining objective: the transfer of three naval bases occupied by the British under a defense annex to the treaty. This he achieved with the defense agreement of April 25, 1938, which was coupled with a finance agreement (settling the land annuities dispute) and a trade agreement (softening the tariff war). The defense agreement completed the process of establishing Irish sovereignty and made possible Ireland’s neutrality in a European war, an avowed republican aspiration since the 1921 treaty negotiations.
Everything you need to know about Ireland’s economy
Ireland’s economy is outperforming most other Eurozone countries with almost full employment and rising real wages. So why are Irish consumers among the most pessimistic in Europe?
Although it was among the nations hardest hit by the 2007/8 economic crisis, Ireland’s economy has bounced back. The European Commission forecast in February that the Irish economy would grow by 4.1% this year, the second highest growth rate in Europe.
The EU forecast was slightly down on its previous prediction but unemployment is heading down towards 5% and real wages rose by 3.2% last year while prices increased by only 0.7%.
Income inequality has fallen by 8% in recent years thanks to a big increase in the baseline national minimum wage two years ago. Ireland has also been doing well in promoting gender equality, coming ninth in the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index ahead of France, Denmark, Germany and the UK.
Ireland was ranked 24th out of 137 nations in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index last year. However, the report highlighted the need to improve infrastructure and cut bureaucratic burdens on business. An OECD report last year highlighted the need to boost productivity too.
The OECD was also worried about the level of non-performing loans held by Irish banks and urged the Irish government to reform the process for tackling mortgage default by homeowners. Without reform, Ireland was exposed in the event of a global downturn, it said.
Although Irish life satisfaction scores remain above the OECD average, recent research by the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that Irish consumers are deeply worried. Top of the list of concerns are Brexit and public sector industrial strife, including a strike by nurses at the start of the year.
Austin Hughes, Chief Economist at KBC Bank Ireland, who wrote the report, said a drop of 12.3% in the Consumer Sentiment Index last month was among the sharpest in its 23-year history and the lowest level since November 2014.
Economists agree that the effects of an unmanaged Brexit could be even more severe in Ireland than in the UK and the rest of Europe. Hughes said that although exports to the UK and revenue from UK tourists had both dipped, the worst was yet to come if the UK “crashed out” of the EU without a deal.
Reading the true state of the Irish economy has been tricky in recent years. Ireland’s favourable corporate tax regime has been controversial. Nobel prize winning economist Professor Paul Krugman coined the term “leprechaun economics” to describe the effect on GDP.
In a blog post last year, economist Seamus Coffey, who chairs the state spending watchdog the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, attributed much of the GDP growth spike to 25.1% in 2015 to one multinational corporation moving its intellectual property rights to Ireland from Jersey to comply with tax rules on profit shifting.
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Although the growth rate slowed in subsequent years it was still 7.21% in 2017, falling back slightly to 6.7% last year. The Irish Economic and Social Research Institute again cited “multinational related activity” as a factor in GDP levels last year.
Consumer spending has been growing but analysis by Ireland’s Central Statistical Office suggests that much of this has gone on higher rents and mortgages, rising local property taxes and water charges.
St Patrick’s Day economic bounce?
So does the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint offer hope for more economic activity? With the biggest Irish community outside Ireland, a survey for the US National Retail Federation found that Americans planned to spend $5.9 billion celebrating the big day.
In Ireland the effect is more modest. The organizers of the annual St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin estimated that half a million people joined in the fun this year. The Irish National Tourism Development Authority estimates that the event and other festivals nationwide bring €108 million ($123 million) to the economy each year.
Ireland vs. Northern Ireland
The island of Ireland is divided into two separate jurisdictions: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland, which makes up the southern portion of the country, is independent from the United Kingdom, while Northern Ireland is part of the UK.
Northern Ireland is the older of the two, having been formed in 1921 from the six counties in the northern Province of Ulster which wished to retain its political unity with Great Britain. It is therefore a constituent country within the United Kingdom alongside England, Scotland, and Wales. Whilst the UK capital is London, the regional capital is Belfast. The Head of State is the British Monarch, although executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. There is also a devolved administration headed by the joint office of the First and Deputy First Ministers. There are approximately 2 million people living in Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland was created in 1948 when the Irish Free State (also known as Southern Ireland) became fully independent and severed all political ties with the United Kingdom. The capital city of the Republic of Ireland is Dublin. The Head of State is the President of Ireland, and executive authority is vested in the Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland. There are approximately 4.5 million people living in the Republic.