Revolutionary Ireland, 1912-25

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The Irish Revolution 1912-25: An Illustrated History

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These types of eBook libraries typically offer you a substantial savings, and are usually offered inside a number of formats to match your brand of eBook reader. Some of the footnotes and suggested Further Reading following each chapter point to research that is somewhat outdated.

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William Murphy has developed this argument in important ways, in Political Imprisonment and the Irish, —21 Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, , but is not cited here. Similarly Chapter 8, on the Civil War, while relevant and engaging especially in its discussion of the legacy of the conflict, directs readers for further information to a military history, by Carlton Younger, first published in , and not, for example, to Gemma Clark, Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Such examples are perhaps unfair: probably these recent publications were not yet available during the writing of Revolutionary Ireland.

And Lynch elsewhere in the book engages with important work on violence and republicanism, by Peter Hart, Fearghal McGarry, Charles Townshend, and others, as well as highlighting some online repositories for primary material on these topics, including the invaluable Bureau of Military History Witness Statements. There would be no county plebiscites as had been envisaged by the pre-war Asquith government.

Table of Contents

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.

In such a reduced area their majority would be larger and they imagined that their position would be more secure.

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.

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Irish revolutionary period

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. There is little reason to think that unionists would have responded to overtures from Irish nationalists. Home rule for southern Ireland never came into effect, but elections for a Belfast parliament took place in May 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. The general election in December widened the franchise and gave women over 30 the vote for the first time. 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. 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 rebels, they succeeded in polarising the country, and they forced many moderate nationalists to support radical men and radical measures.

Limerick Soviet - April 1919 - The Irish War of Independence

Both sides resorted to terror, but it was British actions and British forces that provoked a far greater revulsion. 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.


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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. 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. De Valera went into opposition, but the strongest opposition to the treaty came not from politicians but from elements in the IRA.

Personal Histories

Some soldiers were unwilling to accept civilian authority. Despite elections in June , 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 and in —21, and ultimately the republicans laid down their arms. The civil war was only one factor among several that allowed time to elapse before the boundary commission was established, and not until late was it ready to complete its report.

Revolutionary Ireland, : Robert Lynch :

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.


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