The Anglo-Irish Treaty signed in London – archive, 1921

The Irish Free State

7 December 1921

Parliament is to be summoned for Wednesday next to ratify the terms of the Irish settlement, reached by the British and Sinn Féin delegates, after protracted negotiation, in the early hours of yesterday. The terms of the agreement were officially issued from Downing Street last night. In brief, it provides for –

1) Ireland to have dominion status on the Canadian model, with a governor general
as appointed for Canada, and to be known as the Irish Free State.
2) Its parliament to take a new oath of allegiance to the Irish Free State and to the King in virtue of the common citizenship of Ireland with Great Britain and her membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
3) Ireland accepts her share of debt and pension liabilities.
4) Naval defence to remain an Imperial undertaking, with an option five years hence for Ireland to share her own coastal defence.
5) If an Irish defence force is established it is to be proportionate to the population of Ireland.
6) Ulster to decide within a month of the ratification of this treaty whether she will come within the new state. If she resolves not to do so her status will remain as fixed by the act of last year.
7) If Ulster accepts, she will retain her parliament and government, but in matters in which the Irish Free State has powers not possessed by the Ulster government those powers may, under certain safeguards, be exercised by the Irish Free State in Northern Ireland.
8) If Ulster refuses, a commission is to determine her boundary.
9) Provision is made for safeguards for minorities.
10) In the interim before the setting up of the Irish Free State the members of parliament elected for constituencies in southern Ireland are to be summoned, and a provisional government is to be set up.

Our special correspondent in Belfast says that the northern cabinet is favourably surprised by the agreement. No decision will be made until the cabinet has had time to discuss the details with the British government. Mr Chamberlain, in a speech at Birmingham, appealed to the men of Ulster, and to Sir James Craig personally, to consider, before they made their decision, whether they could not, while safeguarding their interests, still serve the cause of Imperial unity and strength by joining the Irish Free State.

Editorial: settlement at last

7 December 1921

The impossible has happened, and the Irish controversy, the oldest and deepest quarrel disturbing the peace and the politics of this country, is to all intents and purposes settled. It is a splendid achievement, reflecting the utmost credit on the patience and reasonableness of the negotiators, and – let it be frankly admitted – on which only a government representing a coalition of the great parties could have achieved. It would, too, have hardly been possible apart from the resourceful genius, the courage, and the persistence of the prime minister. We are the more free to say so because we have so profoundly differed from his Irish policy right up to the moment of the truce. He placed almost insuperable difficulties in his own path, and he has surmounted them all.

The agreement now concluded proceeds broadly on the lines which the government originally laid down, and which have become familiar through the protracted negotiations as dominion Home Rule. There is to be a Free State of Ireland, which in conception, and perhaps in fact, will include the whole of Ireland, though Ulster is free to stand out. There is no reservation. Ireland is to have the same constitutional status in the community of nations known as the British empire as the other great dominions, and she is to be styled and known as the Irish Free State.

Her position in relation to the British parliament is, it is expressly provided, to be the same as that of the dominion of Canada, which perhaps presents on the whole the most advanced conception of dominion status, and in any case supplies a definite and unmistakable standard. The representative of the Crown in Ireland is to be appointed in like manner as the governor general of Canada, so that if it should happen that Canada claimed to nominate her own governor general, presumably Ireland could do the same. The position of the Crown in Ireland is further secured and defined by the terms of the oath to be taken individually by the members of the Irish parliament. The oath has been a crucial point in the whole controversy. In the form now agreed it pledges those taking it to “true faith and allegiance to the Irish Free State as by law established, to be faithful to HM 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.” That, from the British point of view, appears to contain all that is needed.
This is an edited extract. Read the editorial in full.

End of British rule in Ireland: evacuation after seven unhappy centuries

By Politicus
7 December 1921

The settlement that was reached last night, or rather this morning, is a great act of emancipation; it marks the end of British rule in Ireland. It is an evacuation after seven unhappy centuries. We can understand that some Irishmen would have preferred a more dramatic climax, would have wished that on the day when England slipped out of Ireland, Ireland could have slipped out of the Commonwealth of British peoples and have broken every link with the British name.

But that purpose could not have been achieved without sacrificing first of all the hope of Irish unity, and, secondly, the hope of reconstruction within the next ten years. The minority in the North would have remained in perpetual isolation, and the energies of Ireland, which will now be devoted to her urgent problems, would have been absorbed in a national conflict, with terrible consequences. The Irishmen who would choose those evils rather than make Ireland her own mistress on terms that give her complete independence today, with the certain hope of unity tomorrow, would be throwing away all that Ireland has gained by her heroic courage.
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Ireland as the pivot of a league of nations

By Michael Collins
7 December 1921

For centuries England strove to reduce Ireland to the position of an English province. Irish civilisation was to be blotted out, the Gael was to go, Irish lands were to be given to aliens, Irish industries were to be destroyed, Irish development was to be prevented. Ireland was to be utilised according to the colonial policy to feed and enrich England.

Ireland has never been a British colony. She has been a separate nation kept subject by a more powerful neighbour for that neighbour’s own advantage, but she has never ceased to fight for her freedom, and now, after centuries of political struggle and armed conflict, she has won independence. The British people hardly realise the change which has come and the nature of the new era which is dawning, not only for the two islands, but for the whole world. All former phases of the Anglo-Irish struggle – the independence of Grattan’s parliament, extorted under pressure of the Irish Volunteers during England’s period of danger from Europe and America, the Act of Union revoking England’s plighted promises, Home Rule Bills representing merely the exigencies of British party politics, – all these are now seen to have been but incidents in the English claim to dominate Ireland and to control Irish destinies in England’s interests. England has now in substance renounced that claim, and the business of the Irish Conference is to shape the form of the partnership or alliance in which two peoples of equal nationhood may be associated for the benefit of both.
This is an edited extract. Read the article in full.


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