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Irish Free State And The Irish Civil War

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Published: Mon, 15 May 2017

The Irish Civil War lasted from the 28 June 1922 to the 24 May 1923. It was a conflict based between two opposing Irish nationalists. One of which was the Provisional government in which supported the idea of Ireland as a free state, the other side being the Republicans which opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty and wanted Ireland to still be part of the United Kingdom. In the end the war was won by the Free State forces, following under the Provisional government. The results of the civil war left Ireland divided for many decades afterwards and claimed many casualties.

One factor which is believed to have been the biggest impact on the uprising of the Irish civil war is the Anglo-Irish Treaty which established Ireland as a Free State. The idea of the treaty arose after the Irish War of Independence, between Irish separatists and the British government, ended after 2 years in 1921. A truce was declared and a treaty was being negotiated. The idea of independence from the UK was after a massacre occurred in Ireland as retaliation to the fall of the British Secret Service in Ireland. Attacks like this turned the Irish against the English and therefore independence was asked for.

However instead of creating an independent republic, Ireland had to sign an oath which would only give it the opportunity of freedom to be a self-governing authority within the British Empire with the British monarch as head of state. However at the same time, the treaty that was offered to the Irish also gave opportunity to countries in Ireland to give back its control to the UK within the following month after the treaty was agreed upon. In the end the treaty provided a self-directed Irish state, only in 26 of the 32 countries part of Ireland.

Even though, originally, the treaty was greatly appreciated throughout Ireland, it created a split in opinion of government. The countries in the northern region of Ireland didn’t agree to the Partition of Ireland from the UK and so with this the Home Rule and the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 were passed. These gave Ireland two different parliaments, each with its own Prime Minister. One was given for the Unionists and the other for the Nationalists. The citizens of six northern countries under the leader of the unionist group voted as part of a referendum for the creation of a “Northern Ireland” in May 1921. The Northern Ireland was run under a Prime Minister which followed the Unionist belief.

The British always expected that the northern region of Ireland would comply with the party of the treaty which gave power and authority back to the British. However the expectancy grew even more certain when Sir James Craig, the PM of Northern Ireland announced during October 1922 that “we will have to make the choice either to vote out or remain within the Free State” hence showing that he was not with southern Ireland. He later then said that as soon as Northern Ireland is given the opportunity to make a decision it is important that it is made instantly, so to show the world that any decision made came with no hesitation. Eventually, in a written agreement with Britain, Northern Ireland gave back any agreement which they acquired in the treaty and was under the ruling authority of the UK. Afterwards the UK was renamed to ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ to reflect the new ruling. Thus the separation in state due to the treaty was yet the beginning of the civil war between Northern and Southern Ireland.

As a part of the treaty, Ireland was given the right to its own army. At first when the British government was ruling Ireland, the IRA was but a rebellious guerrilla force that was dedicated to the establishment of Irish as a republic. The IRA -Irish Republican Army was the army that fought against the British in the war of independence. However afterwards, the war split the army into two; those that continued their support for the treaty, who then became the first official Irish army, and those that were anti-treaty, those that wanted complete freedom. Due to outrage from some citizens about the fact that the treaty was signed, which to them seemed ‘treacherous’; rebellious protest and conflicts arose. In April 1922, the anti-treaty IRA seized control of the Dublin Four-Courts and other key buildings. Gaining some control over what occurred in Ireland.

However the actions and rulings that the anti-treaty IRA had produced were seen as unacceptable. At times the government tried to mediate with the IRA to make an agreement on some level rather than having unnecessary tension. However after the IRA made no budge, it then led to the government becoming impatient with dealing with the situation as the power was unbalanced. This then led to the command that the now official Irish Army – Pro-treaty IRA was to then bomb the Four-Courts. This succeeding in the sense that it got what the government wanted, which was the IRA out of Dublin. The bombing led to however the aggression and battle of the Irish Civil war. Not only were there disagreements in military, but also voting and opinions of the citizens became a major impact on the government’s actions. In Northern Ireland people were starting to become more and more with the treaty, as evident in votes. Yet another example of how the disagreement of the treaty impacted the occurrence of the Irish Civil war.

Eventually, the disagreements and battle became a topic of religion. The Irish army on numerous counts attacked Northern Ireland when crossing the military border. They mainly attacked Protestants in the area, thinking they were main people who were against the treaty. Eventually the Protestants in Northern Ireland turned towards the Catholics thinking they were the ones to blame, as to why the IRA had started attacking them in Northern Ireland and started to abolish them from their homes and started to take over their land.

As a result the Protestants began to attack the Catholics in the area. This was done so with a great rise in violence and rioting. Even though the violence from the IRA began to decrease with the dawning of the war, the revenge on the Catholics became serious. Because of disagreements about the treaty of Ireland as a free state, and military response and revenge, the Protestants began to then use military attacks on the Catholics killing 257 of them between July 1920 and July 1922. About 11,000 Catholics were forced to leave their jobs in factories due to attacks from Protestant colleagues.

The government of Northern Ireland attempted to restore order by trying to set up a police force which was dedicated to making harmony between the Protestants and the Catholics, however this only yet intensified the violence rather than maintaining any form of order. Eventually the police were given the power to imprison people who they thought to be at fault without the need for a trial, due to the special powers act of 1922 and the offences against the state act of 1924.

The establishment of Ireland as a free state from Britain had a great impact on the cause of the civil war. Due to dispute and unsettled disagreements, anyone that had an opinion on whether or not the situation at hand should be carried out to allow Ireland to become free or to keep it under British rule, voiced it for whatever consequence.

From the beginning of the treaty, there was always a dispute as to whether the independence was one on a national agreement, since from the very start it was believed to be certain that the entire nation wouldn’t agree upon the partition. It led to the separation of Ireland into two states. Two states with different opinions and directions in mind for what would happen with Ireland, and what results should be acquired from agreements with Britain and the UK. This led to radicals and desperate matters where the military and rebellious groups did what they thought was necessary to make sure that even though it would lead to other reasons of argument, it will ensure that everyone had an equal voiced opinion.

Ireland desired to became a “free” state, however even though part of it had its own rule, and others received what they wanted as to be under British rule, the misunderstanding and unfortunate events, such as guerrilla attacks and religious attacks, turned the wish to fulfil the establishment of a free state into a battle which didn’t allow much freedom within the nation. It turned into a battle between government, military forces, and religion. So the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Irish state vs. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was a great impact in influencing the cause of the Irish Civil war.


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