|Ireland is the successor-state to the Dominion called the Irish Free State. That Dominion came into being when all of the island of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 6 December 1922. However, the following day the Parliament of Northern Ireland exercised its right under the Anglo-Irish Treaty to opt back into the United Kingdom. This action, known as the Partition of Ireland, followed four attempts to introduce devolved autonomous government over the whole island of Ireland (in 1886, 1893, 1914 and 1920). The Irish Free State was abolished when Ireland was formally established on 29 December 1937, the day its constitution came into force.
Irish independence in 1922 was preceded by the Easter Rising of 1916, when Irish volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army took over sites in Dublin and Galway under terms expressed in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The seven signatories of this proclamation, Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett, Eamonn Ceannt and James Connolly, were executed, along with nine others, and thousands were interned precipitating the Irish War of Independence.
From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922, Ireland had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine from 1845 to 1849 the island’s population of over 8 million fell by 30 percent. One million Irish died of starvation and another 1.5 million emigrated, which set the pattern of emigration for the century to come and would result in a constant decline up to the 1960s. From 1874, but particularly from 1880 under Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Parliamentary Party moved to prominence through widespread agrarian agitation that won improved tenant land reforms and with its attempts to win two Home Rule Bills, which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy within the United Kingdom. These nevertheless led to the “grass-roots” control of national affairs under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 previously in the hands of landlord dominated grand juries.
Home Rule statute
Home Rule seemed certain in 1911 when the House of Lords lost their veto, and John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act 1914. The Unionist movement, however, had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing that they would face discrimination and lose economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics were to achieve real political power. Though Irish unionism existed throughout the whole of Ireland, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century unionism was particularly strong in parts of Ulster, where industrialization was more common in contrast to the more agrarian rest of the island. (Any tariff barriers would, it was feared, most heavily hit that region.) In addition, the Protestant population was more strongly located in Ulster, with unionist majorities existing in about four counties.
Under the leadership of the Dublin-born Sir Edward Carson of the Irish Unionist Party and the northerner Sir James Craig of the Ulster Unionist Party unionists became strongly militant in order to oppose the Coercion of Ulster. In 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, with agreement of the Irish Party leadership, amended a clause into the bill providing for home rule for 26 of the 32 counties, with an as of yet undecided new set of measures to be introduced for the area to be temporarily excluded. Though it received the Royal Assent and was placed on the statute books, the Third Home Rule Act 1914’s implementation was suspended until after the Great War. (The war at that stage was expected to be ended by 1915, not the four years it did ultimately last.) For the prior reasons of ensuring the implementation of the Act at the end of the war, Redmond and his Irish National Volunteers supported the Allied cause, and 175,000 joined Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish), 16th (Irish) and 36th (Ulster) divisions of the New British Army.
In January 1919, after the December 1918 general election, 73 of Ireland’s 106 MPs elected were Sinn Féin members who refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead, they set up an Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann. This Dáil in January 1919 issued a Declaration of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The Declaration was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part of the United Kingdom. The new Irish Republic was recognized internationally only by the Russian Republic. The Republic’s Aireacht (ministry) sent a delegation under Ceann Comhairle Seán T. O’Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, but it was not admitted.
After the bitterly fought War of Independence, representatives of the British government and the Irish treaty delegates, led by Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Michael Collins negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London from 11 October – 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Place in Knightsbridge and it was here in private discussions that the decision was taken at 11.15am on 5 December to recommend the Treaty to Dáil Éireann. Under the Treaty the British agreed to the establishment of an independent Irish State whereby the Irish Free State (in the Irish language Saorstát Éireann) with dominion status was created. Dáil Éireann narrowly ratified the treaty.History of Ireland
The Treaty was not entirely satisfactory to either side. It gave more concessions to the Irish than the British had intended to give but did not go far enough to satisfy republican aspirations. The new Irish Free State was in theory to cover the entire island, subject to the proviso that six counties in the north-east, termed “Northern Ireland” (which had been created as one of the two separate Home Rule regions under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) could opt out and choose to remain part of the United Kingdom, which they duly did. The remaining twenty-six counties (originally “Southern Ireland” under the Act) became the Irish Free State, a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned (from 1927 with the title King of Ireland). It had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the “Executive Council” and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.
The Irish Civil War was the direct consequence of the creation of the Irish Free State. Anti-Treaty forces, led by Éamon de Valera, objected to the fact that acceptance of the Treaty abolished the Irish Republic of 1919 to which they had sworn loyalty, arguing in the face of public support for the settlement that the “people have no right to do wrong”. They objected most to the fact that the state would remain part of the British Commonwealth and that Teachtaí Dála would have to swear an oath of fidelity to King George V and his successors. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Michael Collins, argued that the Treaty gave “not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it”.
At the start of the war, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split into two opposing camps: a pro-treaty IRA and an anti-treaty IRA. The pro-Treaty IRA became part of the new Irish Army. However, through the lack of an effective command structure in the anti-Treaty IRA, and their defensive tactics throughout the war, Collins and his pro-treaty forces were able to build up an army with many tens of thousands of WWI veterans from the 1922 disbanded Irish regiments of the British Army, capable of overwhelming the anti-Treatyists. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns and ammunition boosted pro-treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. The lack of public support for the anti-treaty forces (often called the Irregulars) and the determination of the government to overcome the Irregulars contributed significantly to their defeat.
The Free State Army suffered 800 fatalities and perhaps as many as 4,000 people were killed altogether.[unreliable source?] The destruction caused by the war caused considerable economic damage to the Free State in the earliest days of its existence, and Northern Ireland’s Unionists became hardened in distancing themselves from the Free State
On 29 December 1937, a new constitution, the Constitution of Ireland, came into force. It replaced the Irish Free State by a new state called simply “Ireland”. Though this state’s constitutional structures provided for a President of Ireland instead of a king, it was not technically a republic; the principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of symbolically representing Ireland internationally remained vested, in statute law, in the King as an organ of the Irish government. The Irish government had also taken steps to formally abolish the Office of Governor-General some months before the new Constitution came into force.
Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency.
On 18 April 1949, the Republic of Ireland Act came into force. Under that Act, Ireland declared that it was a republic and delegated the functions previously exercised by the King acting on the behalf of the Irish government to the President of Ireland instead.
The Irish state had remained a member of the then-British Commonwealth after independence until the declaration of a republic on 18 April 1949. Under the Commonwealth rules at the time, a declaration of a republic automatically terminated membership of the Commonwealth. Ireland therefore immediately ceased to be a member and did not subsequently reapply for membership when the Commonwealth later changed its rules to allow republics to join the Commonwealth.
Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the European Community (now the European Union) in 1973. Irish governments have sought the peaceful reunification of Ireland and have usually cooperated with the British government in the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles”. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, the Belfast Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, Ireland dropped its territorial claim to Northern Ireland. The peace settlement is currently being implemented.