As the year 1922 came to a close, and the citizens of the newly established Irish Free State set about reviewing the events of the previous twelve months, they must surely have had an overwhelming sense of foreboding and sadness, writes Eamonn Duggan.
Despite a rising hope for a bright future when the Anglo-IrIsh Treaty was ratified by Dáil Eireann back in January, the dark clouds of a civil war gathered within a few short months. By the end of June, the country had been plunged into a conflict which, over the course of about eleven months, inflicted death and suffering on so many families and communities, leaving a legacy which overshadowed Irish society for decades.
The beginning of the year brought hope with the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by Dáil Eireann in January. Though not the result most people would have wanted, they were prepared to give it every chance in the hope it would set the foundation for the country to move forward. While the Treaty did not deliver a thirty-two, county Irish republic, it did – in the words of Michael Collins, – give “the freedom, not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it.”
Unfortunately, a sizeable cohort of Collins’s fellow citizens refused to accept his pragmatism and rejected the agreement with the British out of hand. They saw violence as the only way to achieve the much longed for republic which they fought for in the Easter Rising and the War of Independence and if it meant resorting to fighting their fellow Irishmen to achieve their goal, then they were fully prepared to do so.
Before any fighting began the country was officially handed over by the British during a short ceremony on 16 January. At 1.45 that afternoon the machinery of government and Dublin Castle, the seat of the previous British administration, were formally handed over by the last ever Lord Lieutenant, or Viceroy of Ireland, Lord Fitzalan-Howard to Michael Collins, who was representing the new Provisional Government.
The ceremony marked the end of 700 years of British rule in Ireland and the country’s destiny was placed firmly in the hands of the Irish people. The Treaty allowed for a twelve-month transition period to 6 December, 1922, during which, the British were required to hand the running of the country over to a Provisional Government headed by Arthur Griffith.
At the time of the handover popular support for the Treaty extended across the country, though it was undoubtedly greater in the east than in the south and west. Only one newspaper, The Cork Examiner, declared itself against the Treaty claiming that “The flowing tide in favour of ratification of the Peace Treaty is submerging all opposition in its course.”
On the other hand, The Irish Times affirmed “the whole Nationalist Press and, as we believe, the vast majority of Southern Irishmen have accepted it with joy…Now, Mr de Valera steps between Ireland and her hopes.”
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own