From Truce to Treaty: the pan-nationalist front divides

by Philip Ferguson; this is thesis chapter ten


In this chapter we pick up the national struggle at the point it was left in chapter six, where a mass nationalist movement had fought the British government to a standstill.  In chapters seven and eight, we looked at labour and women’s struggles respectively during the same years; here we look at the position taken on the Treaty by the main body of the labour movement and by Cumann na mBan and the women TDs.  We also look at how social forces not represented in the struggle of 1916-21, in particular sections of the Irish bourgeoisie, made their impact on the Treaty debate.  British policy during the Truce and negotiations is also reviewed.  The positions and vested interests of all these groups are analysed in the context of being seen as contributing to the overall balance of class/social forces which led to the Treaty and its acceptance by a small majority of Dail Eireann.


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The British government’s proposal of a Truce and negotiations over Ireland’s future was a result of both domestic and international factors.  The British had been unable to defeat the Irish struggle for independence and there was a danger that the longer it continued the more radicalised it was becoming.[1]  In March 1921 Southern Unionist leader Lord Midleton also pointed to the strengthening of the independence movement, telling Lloyd George and Hamar Greenwood that the resistance was now three times stronger than in July 1920.[2]  The following month Greenwood himself was talking of pacification taking years rather than months.[3]  British government policy in Ireland was also creating problems for it both internationally (especially in the United States)[4] and in Britain itself.[5]  At the same time Britain was facing growing independence struggles in Egypt and India.[6]  It also faced an increasingly difficult financial situation.  British foreign trade suffered a substantial collapse in 1921: in twelve months its exports fell by 48 percent, its imports dropped by 44 percent and unemployment rapidly increased.  The Economist described 1921 as one of the worst years of depression since the industrial revolution began.[7]

Yet, as Jones’ diary shows, even then there was a substantial debate in the British Cabinet about whether or not to proceed along these lines.  An example of this is the May 12, 1921 Cabinet meeting.  Greenwood appears to have revised his view about how long pacification would take; he was opposed to the Truce proposal at this stage, feeling that the republicans were being worn down.  Health Minister Christopher Addison disagreed and favoured a truce.  Churchill, who had been in favour of the substantial escalation of coercion, now supported a truce partly because things were getting “very unpleasant as regards the interests of this country all over the world; we are getting an odious reputation; poisoning our relations with the United States. . .”  Herbert Fisher, who was an historian and head of the Board of Education as well as a politician, also worried, “the present situation is degrading to the moral life of the whole country; a truce would mean a clear moral and political gain” and that if the IRA accepted the truce it would be hard for them to start up again, it would also “create a big rift in SF ranks, the moderate SF would have to come out into the open.”  This meeting rejected the idea of a truce.[8] In June, however, a memorandum from Macready stated that beating the republicans would require coercion being carried out to the maximum and if this was done the cabinet would have to stand by 100 executions a week.[9] As Middlemas notes, “such a policy was a political impossibility.”[10]

In this situation, Lloyd George proposed an Anglo-Irish conference and negotiations.  Yet these were to take place within a framework of “ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British empire may be reconciled with Irish national aspirations.”[11]  In other words, discussion of whether there should be any such association at all was not to be on the agenda, a point I shall return to later in this chapter.

The Truce enabled the republicans to emerge form the underground.  Dail Eireann began functioning openly as did republican courts.[12]  At the same time, political divisions within the republican movement, which largely had been kept below the surface during the previous several years of intense struggle for national independence, began emerging more clearly.  During the August sessions of the Dail, for instance, while Sean Etchingham could talk about his efforts to set up fishing co-ops, Art O’Connor could relate how he had halted the “mad onrush of revolution”.[13]  The divisions amongst republicans were of great interest to the British since previously, as Middlemas notes, “The extent of ignorance about Sinn Fein and its leaders, and the degree to which the Cabinet worked on hearsay and guess-work is surprising.”[14]

Identifying “moderates”, in other words people with whom they could do business, was the most important aspect of the British government’s interest in the divisions in the republican movement.  General Smuts,[15] acting as an “unofficial” intermediary for the British government, met de Valera, Griffith, Eamon Duggan and Robert Barton in Dublin on July 5, 1921.[16]  The next day he spoke to a British Cabinet conference on Ireland, describing these Irish leaders as “all small men, rather like sporadic leaders thrown up in a labour strike.”[17]  Moreover, he reported, Barton and Duggan “remained silent and seemed friendly to me.”[18]  Lloyd George seemed to have some personal knowledge of another key Irish leader Eoin MacNeill, summing him up at the same meeting as “a hopeless dodderer who always talked about the philosophy of Aristotle.”[19]  On July 14 de Valera and Lloyd George met at Downing Street and, over the next week,  de Valera, Griffith, Barton, Austin Stack and Erskine Childers met Lloyd George and other British leaders.  Although Jones’ diary left no account of these meetings, it is clear that de Valera was viewed as a moderate and that Griffith was being seen as content with a Dominion Home Rule status for Ireland.[20]  In summing up the emerging positions among Irish leaders at this time, Middlemas notes, “(T)he division between Stack, Brugha and Barton, defending the full claim for a Republic and wholly opposed to partition, and Collins and Griffith, became more distinct.  De Valera, however, seemed to be moving towards a mid-way position, a scheme of external association which combined the virtues of Dominion status without the stigma of allegiance to the Crown and the oath of loyalty.”[21]

The July-October period, then, was one of back-and-forth diplomacy, in which the British and Irish leaders put proposals and counter-proposals. And, while the major republican leaders involved in dealings with the British appear to have got no measure at all of the British government, the British government appear to have got the measure of the republican leaders.  As well as identifying “moderates”, they wanted to ensure the “extremists” could be brought along or at least contained.  For instance, Jones reports that, at the July 21 meeting between de Valera and Lloyd George, de Valera was “not unfavourable to the proposals in substance, but must try and bring his left wing along with him.”[22]  These proposals, Britain’s opening gambit, involved a Dominion Home Rule status accompanied by partition, British control of the sea, recruiting and air base facilities, that Ireland should take on some of the British national debt and war pensions, and should guarantee not to impose tariffs against Britain.[23]  They were used to test out the Irish leaders.[24]


The signing of the Treaty

In October formal negotiations over a treaty of settlement between the republicans and the British government opened.  Collins and Griffith led the Irish team, whose other members were Eamon Duggan, Robert Barton and George Gavan Duffy, with Erskine Childers acting as secretary only; Lloyd George and Chamberlain led the British.  Usually in the situation of a stalemated war, negotiations between two opposing governments could be expected to take place in a third country on neutral ground or, at least, in both the countries involved.  But, as in the case of the partition elections in June,[25] the republicans had allowed the British to call the shots, and the negotiations were not only held in London but at 10 Downing Street itself.  The British secured a further advantage when the negotiating meetings were adjourned after two weeks; the rest of the meetings took place between the four leaders.

While the negotiations proceeded, the British went ahead with their partitionist plans, for instance establishing separate judiciaries for northern and southern Ireland; on the other side, Liam Mellows and other IRA leaders prepared for a renewal of conflict and Markievicz told the Cumann na mBan convention, “This as we all realise is a time for action not talk, but we must think of the future.  Don’t think it is going to be peace.  Go out and work as if the war was going to break out next week. . . . Our strength lies in the fact that we are ready to fight.  What has been won has been won by the fighting men and women of Ireland and no one else.”[26]

On October 25, de Valera wrote to the plenipotentiaries following a Cabinet discussion in Dublin, “We are all here at one that there can be no question of our asking the Irish people to enter an arrangement which would make them subjects of the Crown, or demand from them allegiance to the British king.  If war is the alternative, we can only face it, and I think the sooner the other side is made realise that the better.”[27]  Moreover, the powers and brief of the plenipotentiaries were clear to them; they had full powers to negotiate but were not to sign anything without first referring it to Dublin.  Point number three of the list of five instructions which laid down their responsibilities and powers stated, “the complete text of the draft treaty about to be signed will be similarly submitted to Dublin, and reply awaited.”[28]

On Saturday, December 3 they referred proposed articles of agreement to Dublin; these were rejected and the delegates told to continue negotiations for a better Treaty.  Yet on Tuesday, December 6 the articles were signed without any reference to Dublin; not even a telephone call was made. The first to sign the Articles of Agreement, which were basically the same as the partitionist Home Rule agreed to by the old IPP, was Griffith.  He was followed by Collins and, shortly afterwards, the others.[29]  As Kee notes, “That as negotiators they were completely outclassed is undeniable.”[30]  In the Irish capital, the Agreement was announced in the morning papers of December 6.  A number of republican leaders, including Mellows, Brugha and Rory O’Connor, were meeting when Labour leader Tom Johnson arrived with the Scottish Marxist leader Willie Gallacher.  Gallacher told them that the plenipotentiaries were giving in and that they should be intercepted and arrested immediately upon their return.  Mellows and O’Connor were open to this idea, but Brugha, the most senior, opposed it.  When Gallacher warned, “If you don’t arrest them, it will not be long before they’re arresting you”, Brugha dismissed this, claiming, “Irishmen won’t arrest Irishmen.”  Gallacher also suggested that the republicans must also take the offensive around a clear social programme or their cause was lost – he even helpfully produced a copy of one for them.   Brugha, who respected the support given to the Irish struggle by Gallacher’s movement in Britain, replied, “Gallacher, you’re always welcome in Ireland, but we don’t want any of your communism.”[31]  (In the event, the Scottish Marxist proved to have a better understanding of the dynamics at work than the left-wing nationalists.  Brugha died in a hail of Free State gunfire in July 1922 and Mellows and O’Connor were executed without trial in Mountjoy Prison on December 8, almost exactly a year after their meeting with Gallacher.)

When the Cabinet met, de Valera suggested the signatories be sacked from cabinet membership and the Agreement be repudiated, but Cosgrove successfully suggested no action be taken and that the five be allowed to put their case.  In Greaves’ view, the initiative was lost, never to be regained.[32]  Concurring with him, I would add that from this point the republican anti-Treaty elements did nothing at all but retreat and give way even though they outnumbered the pro-Treaty forces.[33]

The arguments put in defence of the signing and not referring back to Dublin were basically three.  That the Treaty was all that could have been achieved and this would have been the case whether it had been referred back to Dublin or not; that they had been threatened with immediate and terrible war by Lloyd George; and that Lloyd George told them he had promised to give Ulster Unionist leader Sir James Craig an answer by Tuesday.  That the fate of the nation had been decided on this basis, and without referral to Dublin, is indeed incredible.  An observer might note that the threat of war, the contents of the articles, the meeting with Craig – not to mention the delegates’ own brief – should have been enough to make them at least phone Dublin.  Given the instructions which had been provided them, de Valera thought when he was informed of the signing, “We have won!”; it was only the next day when he, the leader of the Irish government, read in the newspapers the contents of what had been signed that he realised what the delegates had done.[34]

The most important aspects of the Treaty were that a form of Home Rule was provided for twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties which would become the Irish Free State; members of its parliament would take an oath of allegiance firstly to the Free State’s constitution and secondly to the Crown in virtue of common citizenship and of Irish membership of the British Commonwealth; if the six north-eastern counties rejected inclusion in the Free State, a boundary commission would be set up with a representative from both the northern and southern states and a chair appointed by the British government.  This commission would determine the border of the two states “in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions. . .”[35]

The point that the plenipotentiaries clearly exceeded their authority was made repeatedly in the Dail debates on the Treaty. In response to the claim by the plenipotentiaries that they had had to sign on Tuesday morning because of Lloyd George’s promise to Craig, for instance, Mary McSwiney declared, “we waited 750 years, and Sir James Craig could not wait for forty-eight hours.  Of all the idiotic excuses given for a deliberate betrayal of their instructions, I never heard anything so idiotic in my life.”[36]  She further noted that the plenipotentiaries had told the Irish Cabinet in Dublin on Saturday the contents of the articles and the Cabinet had told them to go back and break: “They did not break.  They took it on themselves to sign.”[37]

Griffith was assailed by Cathal Brugha during the Dail debates for the separate meetings he and Collins conducted with Lloyd George and Chamberlain.  Brugha pointed to Griffith’s role in 1916 and 1917 – he had not supported the Rising and had held out for some time against Sinn Fein being reconstituted as a mass, republican party – and said the British had divided up the negotiating team and chosen Griffith and Collins.[38]  In other words, the British had realised Griffith and Collins were their men for doing business.  Griffith in reply said simply that “there are certain things that are best discussed by two or three men than by eighteen men”,[39] a true enough statement of general diplomacy but one which totally avoided the fact that in this case two men had taken it upon themselves to sign a Treaty about the future of their country without even submitting it to their own government.


The social forces and groups in favour of the Treaty

But Griffith and Collins also had on their side more significant factors than arguments over the conduct of diplomacy.  The Irish papers, representing the interests of the capitalist class,[40] were keen to see the struggle brought to an end and were supportive of the British proposals.  The British knew this would be he case, Irish Assistant Under-Secretary Cope having written to Jones at Whitehall on August 15, “I buzzed around last night with the result that the Freeman and Independent, the two papers which, with the Irish Times, are the important papers in this country, did quite well this morning.  (The Irish Times is always all right and needs no tonic.)”[41]

While the Treaty was debated within the Dail in December and January, the old establishment and the emergent nationalist bourgeoisie dominated the public debate.  Newspapers again played an important role, with what even the British Tory Morning Post labelled a “finely orchestrated” paean of thanksgiving appearing in the non-Unionist press throughout Ireland.[42]  Dunphy notes the treaty was “supported by the economically dominant groups”[43]; Mitchell that it was clear “from the tone of the daily press and from the floods of pro-Treaty resolutions pouring in from Chambers of Commerce, farmer organisations and public bodies that the weight of the big farmers, shopkeepers and business interests in general was being thrown on the side of ratification”[44]; Greaves that “The Chambers of Commerce passed their resolutions.  Country merchants, cattle dealers, manufacturers great and small, took up from their natural superiors, agrarian and financial, the cry for order and for the peace which alone could assure it.”[45]  The Treaty also received legitimation from the spiritual powers, the Irish Independent claiming that all 15 Catholic bishops supported it.[46]

Lastly, but by no means least, the IRB backed the Treaty, its Supreme Council voting 11 to 4 in favour.[47]  According to Treaty opponent, Sean T. O’Kelly, “(I)t was the Brotherhood which was responsible for the Dail’s final decision.  The majority would have gone against the Treaty only for the Brotherhood’s vote in the Dail.”[48]  On December 12, the Supreme Council issued a statement announcing it “has decided that the present peace treaty between Ireland and Great Britain should be ratified”, while allowing “freedom of action in the matter” to IRBers who were public representatives.[49]  The left-wing leadership of the IRB had been destroyed in 1916 and other radical members, including Brugha and Mellows, pulled out after the Rising because they felt there was now an open revolutionary movement emerging (through the reorganisation of the Volunteers and Sinn Fein) and the IRB was no longer needed.  The leadership of the IRB was dominated by Collins and he seems to have been the key factor in gaining its support for the Treaty.  At the same time, for a group which had been a small and isolated minority for sixty years (while pretending its Supreme Council was the legitimate government of Ireland), the Treaty must have appeared a significant step forward.  That they accepted it not as full freedom, but as providing a substantial stepping stone to freedom, as Collins would put it in the Dail debates, is evidenced in the declaration of the paper they financed at the beginning of 1922, The Separatist, that “We stand for the complete separation of Ireland from England”[50] and in the later “mutiny” by Collins supporters in the Free State Army as the Free State, having used the Collinsites to defeat the anti-Treaty forces in the civil war, rapidly abandoned any further nationalist aspirations.[51]



Labour and the Treaty

If the organisations and mouth-pieces of the bourgeoisie, the landowners, Catholic and southern Protestant hierarchies and the IRB were in favour of the Treaty, the other side of the class divide was most noticeable by its almost complete silence.  Although as Mitchell notes, “Partition injured the Labour Party more than it did any other party or institution”[52] – indeed, we might remember that Connolly urged that organised labour should resist partition with armed force if necessary – “the leaders of the labour movement sought to watch the treaty fight from the safety of a defensive trade union foxhold. . .”[53]  In early January 1922, just before the vote on the Treaty was taken, the ILPTUC Executive declared happily in a public statement, “(T)he overwhelming majority of the Labour organization refrained from taking part (in arguments over the treaty – P.F.). . . of upwards of 1,000 branches and councils of unions not more than six were foolish enough and lacking enough in class consciousness to indulge in resolution passing.  These six, representing less than 5000 workers, declared for the Treaty.”[54]  It was left to a small section of militant labour forces to oppose the Treaty  and the main body of labour leaders.  From the United States Larkin broke through the passivity of organised labour in Ireland.  The January 7 issue of the Irish Labour paper Voice of Labour carried his view, in relation to those who signed the Treaty, “(T)he fate of Judas is the only fate they merit” and that they should be hung “in the kingdom of their adoption – on London bridge, within the sight of the spot whereupon they tried to sell the people of Ireland.” An editorial note, however, distanced the paper from Larkin’s charges of treachery and cowardice against the signatories and then went on to make clear that it had always opposed “the political and social opinions” of “most of the ratificationists.”[55]  Larkin’s opposition to the Treaty was matched by the small Irish Citizen Army and the Communist Party which had been established under Roddy Connolly’s leadership when his faction expelled the O’Brien/O’Shannon faction from the Socialist Party in September 1921.[56]  Connolly’s group attacked the Treaty as a “shameful betrayal” which would result in “neither freedom nor peace.  Instead Civil War and social hell will be loosed if it is accepted.”[57]

At the end of this chapter I will look at the reasons why labour (and the two opposing sections of republicans) took the positions they did, but first it is necessary to move on to the debate in the Dail itself.


Arguments of Treaty supporters

Charles Townshend has claimed that in the 1918-21 Anglo-Irish war, the IRA’s achievement was “to find that by matching its operations to its means, it could ensure its survival for long enough to achieve psychological victory out of military stalemate.”[58]  Foster, never one to give credit to the republicans, notes, “in the end, public and political opinion broke the government’s nerve while the IRA were still in the field.  This was their victory.”[59]

Yet, in the Dail debates over the Treaty, those supporting the agreement constantly argued that the struggle with Britain had not, and could not, be won in the sense used by Townshend and Foster decades later.  The supporters of the Treaty constantly stressed several main themes:

1. That the IRA and the people generally were incapable of carrying on the struggle and that the practical and realistic thing to do was therefore make peace on the terms contained in the December 1921 Articles of Agreement signed by the Dail’s delegates and the British government in London.

According to Michael Collins, the negotiators “were not in the position of conquerors dictating terms of peace to a vanquished foe.  We had not beaten the enemy out of our country by force of arms.”[60] Collins argued, “(R)ejection of the Treaty is a declaration of war until you have beaten the British Empire, apart from any alternative document.  Rejection of the Treaty means your national policy is war.”[61]  For Piaras Beaslai, a prominent Treaty supporter and subsequently member of the Free State government, “There is no conceivable alternative to the acceptance of the Treaty but division, faction and chaos.”[62]  For Griffith the problems of unemployment and struggling farmers made for social conditions in which it was impossible to carry on the fight of 1918-21.[63]  Liam Cosgrave, shortly to be Prime Minister, argued that “the economic situation is not such in this country at this moment that would justify us in taking the risk of precipitating war”, drew attention to “20,000 families living in single-room tenement dwellings” in Dublin and asked “are these the people you are going to ask to fight for you?  It is not fair, I submit.”[64]

2. That the Treaty was as much as could be achieved for the present.

Kevin O’Higgins, another leading Treaty advocate and later Free State government minister, argued that the establishment of the Free State was as much as could be achieved by this generation; if it was not enough, “posterity will take its own measures of alleviation and will do so in circumstances infinitely more favourable than those which prevailed when this generation grappled with the task….”  As for now, “If we were to tell the man in the street that we proposed to sacrifice him in order to hand on a tradition to posterity he would probably complain that he was being forced to carry an undue burden because he had the misfortune to be alive today instead of tomorrow, and ask plaintively what had posterity ever done for him.”  The rest of Ireland’s freedom “may be won by agreement and by peaceful evolution.”[65]

3. That the Treaty opened up immense possibilities for the development of the freedom, industry, education and general well-being of the country (or the two-thirds of it which would form the new state).  It is worth quoting some of the leading speakers at some length on this aspect as I will later be looking at what the Treaty supporters actually did when they took power in the Free State and how their actions in power measured up to the statements of intent and possibility they made in pushing for the acceptance of the Treaty.

Michael Collins declared that his “justification for having signed it, and recommending it to the nation” was “the immense powers and liberties it secures.”[66]  Yet at the same time he argued that it gave Ireland “not the ultimate freedom that all nations desire and develop to, but the freedom to achieve it.”[67]  For Cosgrave, “To my mind, when I first saw this instrument, it appeared that there were potentialities in it undreamt of in this country up to this time.”[68]  Griffith was similarly enthusiastic about the society which would flow from the Treaty.  He saw the agreement as “admitt(ing) the equality of Ireland.  It is a Treaty of equality, and because of that I am standing by it. . .  We have brought back to Ireland equality with England. . .”[69]  The Treaty made it possible for Ireland to “reach, if we desire it, any further status” whereas if it was rejected, Ireland would be thrown back to the dismal state of where it was “twenty or thirty years ago. . .”[70]  Challenging the anti-Treaty arguments of upholding principles, revering previous fighters for Irish freedom and looking to full liberation in the future, he asked, “Is there to be no living Irish nation?  Is the Irish nation to be the dead past or the prophetic future?”[71]

Piaras Beaslai, later a member of government through the 1920s, flourished a positive utopia before the Dail:

We can have a development under state protection of that system of co-operative agricultural development that has already done so much good.  We can have our fisheries organised on a national basis so that the poor fishermen of Ireland, in most cases the chief representatives of our historic Gaelic Ireland, will be able to compete on fair terms with the wealthy, state-aided foreigner.  We can have our marshes and wastelands turned into plantations and our hillsides covered with trees.  We can have our national sports and pastimes developed under the aegis of the state.   We can have industries built up, not on the sweating system, but in accordance with our Democratic Programme of the 21st January, 1919, on lines which will assure the worker of a fair share of the fruits of his labour. . .  All this we can do.[72]


4. The Treatyites constantly stressed that the authority of the Dail derived from the people and that the people were for the Treaty.

Griffith summed up this sentiment in his closing speech declaring, “The people of Ireland sent us here – we have no right and no authority except what we derive from the people of Ireland – we are here because the people of Ireland elected us, and our only right is to seek what they want. . .  You are trying to reject this Treaty without allowing the Irish people to say whether they want it or not – the people whose lives and fortunes are involved.”[73]  This was a curious argument for any serious political person to make, especially a Sinn Feiner, since the whole raison d’etre of the movement had been to change the outlook of the Irish people.  In 1914, when a majority of Irish people were swept by war hysteria and large numbers willingly volunteered for the British Army, Griffith had after all not sat back, declaring he would abide by the popular will; he had helped set up a campaign to oppose Irish participation in the war.  In 1916, republicans had not accepted the existing consciousness of the majority of Irish people, but had sought to change it through an insurrection – and it was this insurrection which provided the stimulus, and was the object of worship, for the reformed Sinn Fein of 1917.

5. That partition would be merely temporary and was not an issue of significance.

According to Collins, “The Treaty has made an effort to deal with it, and has made an effort in my opinion to deal with it on lines that will lead rapidly to goodwill, and the entry of the North-East under the Irish Parliament.”[74]  Cosgrave argued that the Southern Unionists no longer existed as they had been won over and the Treaty “gives us the opportunity of capturing the Northern Unionists.” [75]   The Treaty was seen by him as the best way of assuaging their fears and would lead to “a united country in a way that was never done before.  They are great citizens of this nation even though they differ from us, and it must be said whatever the Delegation has done no one here has suggested any better method of dealing with them than that laid down here.”[76]

Arguments of opponents of the Treaty

The anti-Treatyites tended to argue on five grounds, the first four being closely related and bound up as much with republican notions of honour and integrity as with politics.  These five grounds were that the Treaty was a betrayal of the Republic which had been declared in 1916 and established by the setting up of Dail Eireann in 1919; that it was a betrayal of the TDs’ oaths of allegiance to that Republic; that it was a betrayal of the dead generations who had fought for Irish freedom from Britain; that no Irish republican could take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown; and that partition was unacceptable.

John O’Mahony, who represented an Ulster electorate (Fermanagh),  emphasised, for instance, the importance of the oath TDs had taken to the Republic and declared, “We may find ourselves in a minority as Pearse and his comrades were in a minority in Easter Week; but like them we will have the satisfaction of feeling that we saved the soul and body of the nation from those who would wittingly or unwittingly kill it, for the purpose of bringing ease and comfort to the material body.”[77]

For Mary McSwiney, the Treaty was “an act of dishonour to our nation”;[78] to Ada English “a complete surrender of our claims. . . giving up the independence of our country. . .”  Kathleen Clarke saw it as “a surrender of all our national ideals.”[79]  In her view it was also “the biggest Home Rule Bill we have ever been offered, and it gives us a novelty in the way of a new kind of official representing His Majesty King George V, name yet to be decided.  If England is powerful enough to impose on us Home Rule, Dominion or any other kind, let her do so, but in God’s name do not accept or approve it – no more than you would any other Coercion Act.”  Criticising “big, strong, military men” who had said they would vote for it, she declared, “there is not power enough to force me, nor eloquence enough to influence me, in the whole British Empire into taking that Oath, though I am only a frail scrap of humanity.  I took an Oath to the Irish Republic, solemnly, reverently, meaning every word.  I shall never go back from that.”[80]

In contrast to Griffith and others who talked of the possibilities of establishing a new state, while suggesting that the Republic did not really exist, anti-Treaty speakers emphasised that the Republic was already established as a fact.  In this case, the Treaty represented, in Mellows’ view for instance, “not a step towards the Irish Republic but a step away from it.”[81]  In the view of Ada English the Treaty was “a truncated form of Dominion Home Rule for three quarters of the country.  If Dominion Home Rule were the thing we were fighting for and are satisfied to get – as those in favour of the Treaty seem to think – why, in God’s name, did they not tell us that two years ago and not send out all the fellows to fight and lose their lives for a thing they did not want?  On what authority did they send out, if the republic did not exist and was not in being, any poor fellows to shoot and kill any man of any nation?  If it was not for the Government of the Republic and the army why did they go out?”[82] In contrast to the claims of Treaty supporters that the Irish people had not endorsed the Republic specifically, Mellows pointed out that the people’s will had been expressed in the elections of 1918 and at every election since.[83]

The ceding up to Britain of the authority of the already established independent Irish Republic to which all TDs had taken oaths of allegiance was seen as particularly odious, “the one unforgivable crime that has ever been committed by the representatives of the people of Ireland” as Mary McSwiney put it.[84]  The reason this met with such opprobrium from a number of anti-Treaty speakers was that in the past British rule had been imposed without the consent of the Irish people or any institution truly representative of them.  Indeed, as McSwiney noted, there had never been a parliament in Ireland representative of the Irish people;  Grattan’s parliament, for instance, “wasn’t the Parliament of the people. . . It did not faithfully represent even twenty percent of the Irish people.”[85]  In contrast, as Mellows noted, “This is the first assembly in the history of Ireland, since the British occupation, which is representative of the people of Ireland.  It is here because the people of Ireland wished it to be here.”  But  “If this Treaty goes through we are going to have authority in Ireland derived from a British Act of Parliament, derived from the British Government under the authority of the British King.”[86] Because the Republic had already been established, this was the first time that Ireland was willingly going to give up its right to freedom.[87]  Ada English pointed out that over seven centuries “the grounds of this fight always were that we denied the right of England’s king to this country.  And we denied we were British subjects.”  But under the Treaty, “We are now asked not only to acknowledge the King of England’s claim to be King of Ireland, but we are asked to swear allegiance and fidelity in virtue of that claim. . .”[88]  The Treaty was “national suicide”, according to Cathal Brugha precisely because they were “doing for the first time a thing that no generation ever thought of doing before – wilfully, voluntarily admitting ourselves to be British subjects, and taking the oath of allegiance voluntarily to the English king.”[89]

The argument that the series of betrayals reflected in the Treaty would lead to the national independence movement being divided with one section operating to defend the interests of the foreign power, a situation which today we would call neo-colonialism, was an issue for a number of the anti-Treaty speakers.  Kathleen Clarke argued, “it is not the kind of freedom I have looked forward to, and, if this Treaty is ratified, the result will be a divided people; the same old division will go on; those who will enter the British Empire and those who will not, and so England’s old game of divide and conquer goes on.  God, the tragedy of it.”[90]  Mellows also pointed to how the British had succeeded in dividing the republican movement, arguing “Lloyd George may well today laugh up his sleeve.  What must his thoughts have been, what must his idea have been, when he presented this document for signature?  ‘If they divide on this, we can let them fight it out, and we will be able to hold the country; if they accept, our interests are so well safeguarded that we can still afford to let them have it.’”[91]

In Mellows’ view, which turned out to be prescient of the rest of the century, “The Government of the Free State will, with those who support it now liking it or not, eventually occupy the same relationship towards the people of Ireland as Dublin Castle does today, because it will be the barrier government between the British and the Irish people.  And the Irish people before they can struggle on will have to do something to remove that Free State Government.”[92]  Ada English asked, “(A)re we to understand that the Free State will hold the country for England instead of the British Garrison?”[93]  Mary McSwiney warned Griffith that, if passed, the Treaty would guarantee “a split in the country with half, or nearly half, of the country rebels to his Government”,[94] while English pointed out that, given the surrender to Britain embodied in the Treaty, a split was unavoidable since “we who stand for the complete freedom – for the separatist idea – for the complete freedom and independence of Ireland cannot sit down with our hands across.  We will work and fight for it, and so there is bound to be a split.”[95]

The Treaty was also seen as leading to further betrayals of Ireland’s claims.  Once the Republic was abandoned, “you place yourselves in a position to pave the way for concession after concession, for compromise after compromise. . .   God knows where you will end, no matter how you try to pull up later on,” argued Mellows.[96]  For Mary McSwiney, Ireland would be on “a backward march for a long time.”[97]  (These views, as I will show in the next chapter, were proven true in cases such as the boundary commission/border.)

Some anti-Treaty TDs also saw it as a betrayal of other people fighting for their freedom since it left Britain free to devote its resources to putting down struggles for independence in India and Egypt. “We are going into the British Empire now to participate in the Empire’s shame even though we do not actually commit the act, to participate in the shame and the crucifixion of India and the degradation of Egypt.  Is that what the Irish people fought for freedom for?” asked Mellows.[98]  In contrast he held up the image of Ireland in the world over the past several years which had been “as a headlight, as a beacon beginning to shine for all time to guide all those who were struggling.”[99]  Markievicz related, “I saw a picture the other day of India, Ireland and Egypt fighting England, and Ireland crawling out with her hands up.  Do you like that?  I don’t?”  She argued that in pledging allegiance to the British Empire, Ireland under the Treaty would be helping the power “that is treading down the people of Egypt and India” and that “England wants peace in Ireland to bring her troops over to India and Egypt.”[100]  Limerick TD Kate O’Callaghan described the Treaty as “a crime, for it leaves England’s hands free to deal with places like Egypt and India, and in the name, I suppose, of our common citizenship.”[101]  In other words, British actions would be carried out now not only in the name of the British people but of the Irish as well.  Patrick MacCartan argued, “We were an inspiration to the patriots of India and the patriots of Egypt.  Today we give heart to the compromisers in India and Egypt as well as the compromisers in Ireland.”[102]


Markievicz and the class aspect of the Treaty

Markievicz alone addressed the class aspect of the Treaty, arguing that it was an arrangement aimed at establishing capitalist stability and halting the forward march of the working class in Britain and Ireland.[103]  “I rise today to oppose with all the force of my will, with all the force of my whole existence,” she said, “this so-called Treaty – this Home Rule Bill covered over with the sugar of a Treaty.”  She did so as a republican “pledged to the teeth for freedom for Ireland” and secondly on the basis of the actual contents of the Treaty.  While she pointed to some of the aspects of the Treaty which most contravened Irish independence – the oath of allegiance, partition and continued political subordination to Britain – she also took up a class analysis of the issues.  The special place which was being given to the Southern Unionists in the Seanad was vigorously denounced:

(W)hat do the Southern Unionists stand for?. . .  First and foremost as the people who, in Southern Ireland, have been the English garrison against Ireland and the rights of Ireland.  But in Ireland they stand for something bigger still and worse, something more malignant: for that class of capitalists who have been more crushing, cruel and grinding on the people of the nation than any class of capitalists of whom I ever read in any other country, while the people were dying on the roadsides.  They are the people who have combined against the workers of Ireland, who have used the English soldiers, the English police, and every institution in the country to ruin the farmer, and more especially the small farmer, and to send the people of Ireland to drift in the emigrant ships and to die of horrible disease or sink to the bottom of the Atlantic.

This group was to be given “privileges that they have earned by their cruelty to the people of Ireland and to the working classes of Ireland. . .”  As a republican she objected to any measures “whereby a privileged number of classes established here by British rule are to be given a say – to this small minority of traitors and oppressors – in the form of an Upper Chamber. . .”

The Treaty, in her view, involved a “deliberate attempt to set up a privileged class in this, what they call a Free State, that is not free” and appealed to TDs who represented workers to oppose the granting of “privilege to a class which every thinking man and woman in Ireland despises.”  In her speech she defined her own standpoint as being in favour of “James Connolly’s ideal of a Workers’ Republic” and, later when talking of the Republic in more general terms, of “a state run by the Irish people for the people.”  Such a state would “look after the rights of the people before the rights of property.”  In the case of the Free State, however, “the capitalists’ interests are to be at the head of it.”  She claimed that “the Workers’ Republic for which Connolly died. . . is one of the things England wishes to prevent.  She would sooner give us Home Rule than a democratic Republic.  It is the capitalists’ interests in England and Ireland that are pushing this Treaty to block the march of the working people in England and Ireland.”


The women TDs

Although Cumann na mBan and other women had played an important part in the independence struggle, during the Dail debates little mention was made of the direct effects of the Treaty and the new state to be established by it on women.  The six women TDs who spoke did not put forward any arguments which are recognisably feminist.  They concentrated on the issue of national betrayal and, in Markievicz’s case, class aspects of the Treaty.  What was strongly emphasised however was women’s opposition to the Treaty.  Taking up comments made by Treaty supporter Sean Milroy about the suffering of women during the war for independence, Mary McSwiney replied, “I would ask him, if it were a democratic proposition, to let the women of Ireland judge this, and I have no doubt what the issue would be.”[104]  Later in her speech she returned to this theme, declaring “I know the women of Ireland, and I know what they will say to the men that want to surrender, and therefore I beg of you to take the decision to throw out that Treaty.”[105]

Ada English also criticised as “unworthy” the claim that the women TDs were opposed to the Treaty out of the bitterness of having had men in their families killed by the British forces.  She had “no dead men to throw in my teeth as a reason for holding the opinions I hold.”[106]  Aine O’Callaghan angrily rejected this claim too.  She noted, “When it was found that the women Deputies of An Dail were not open to canvass, the matter was dismissed with the remark: ‘Oh, naturally, these women are very bitter.’ Well, now, I protest against that.  No woman in this Dail is going to give her vote merely because she is warped by a deep personal loss.  The women of Ireland so far have not appeared much on the political stage.  That does not mean that they have no deep convictions about Ireland’s status and freedom. . .  The women of An Dail are women of character, and they will vote for principle, not for expediency.”[107]  As someone who, since girlhood, had been a separatist nothing could convert her “to Dominion status within the British Empire.”[108]  (While the stand taken by the women TDs clearly angered the pro-Treaty forces, it was a source of inspiration to some of the male anti-Treaty TDs.  One, John O’Mahoney, declared, “We have the young men of the army with us, we have the womanhood of the nation with us, and with these two elements on its side the ultimate triumph of the Republic is assured. . .”[109])

The aspect of principle, mentioned by O’Callaghan, was stressed in all the women TDs’ speeches. Markievicz, for instance, argued that Ireland had “gained more in those few years of fighting than we gained by parliamentary agitation since the days of O’Connell” (ie 80 years).[110]  For her, “(W)hile Ireland is not free I remain a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, because I am pledged to the one thing – a free and independent Republic.”[111]  In contrast to those who spoke of the need to accept the Treaty in order to prevent the renewal of war, she said, “I am of quite a pacific mind.  I don’t like to kill.  I don’t like death, but I am not afraid to die and, not being afraid to die myself, I don’t see why I should say that I should take it for granted that the Irish people were not as ready to die now in this year 1922, any more than they were afraid in the past.”[112]  For her the Treaty also meant “introducing petty tricky ways into this Republican movement” and “going back to this tricky Parliamentarianism”.[113]

Margaret Pearse based her opposition to the Treaty on three key points.  Firstly, was her view that her sons – Padraic and Willie, who had been executed in 1916 – would have opposed it.  Secondly,  that she would be committing perjury through breaking her oath to Dail Eireann if she supported it.  And, thirdly, that partition was unacceptable.  On the latter point she noted that “Padraig Pearse would not have accepted a Treaty like this with only two-thirds of his country in it” and quoted a speech of his made to Irish Volunteers in Wexford in 1915 in which he said, “We, the Volunteers, are formed here not for half of Ireland, not to give the British Garrison control of part of Ireland.  No!  we are here for the whole of Ireland.”[114]

Ada English argued that while peace was desirable it could only be based on a just settlement without justice, peace was not worth having.  She argued that during “the days of the famine the people were also told that they should be peaceful and submissive and quiet, and accept what the English chose to give them – the rotten potatoes – and let the corn and food be exported out of the country.  There were people then, Republicans and Revolutionists, who encouraged the people to fight for the country in spite of the men with the streak, and free themselves and keep the food in the country.  But some of the influences that are working against the country today were working against the country then and advised peace.  They got peace – and death and famine.” It was possible to lose more “by an ignoble peace than by fighting for just rights.”[115]

Kathleen Clarke and Mary McSwiney’s speeches, parts of which have been quoted above, also strongly emphasised principle. The Dail also heard the view of another woman, who was not a TD. Muriel McSwiney, the widow of Terence McSwiney and an early recruit to the Connollys’ Communist Party of Ireland, wrote from Weisbaden on December 9 in opposition to the Treaty.  In her letter, which was read during the Dail debates by anti-Treaty deputy Professor Stockley, she stated, “I have no hesitation in saying that from the purely practical point of view it would be the greatest possible political mistake we have ever made (greater even than 1783) if we agreed to the present terms; it would probably also be the greatest triumph that the enemy has ever had” and declared, “I am absolutely certain that Terry would have said what I am saying, and would have refused.”  She expressed confidence that the Dail would reject the Treaty.[116]

Here we might also consider that in her autobiography Kathleen Clarke reports that it had been suggested that one of the plenipotentiaries should be a woman; Griffith and de Valera had promised to consider this, and nothing more was heard of it.  During the Treaty debates when Markievicz was making a point that, because of her background, she knew the English better than the people who were sent, a deputy interjected “Why didn’t you go over?” to which she shot back, “Why didn’t you send me?”  As the senior republican woman, she would have been the most likely of the women to have been sent.  Just as the placing of the post of Labour Minister outside the cabinet had effectively demoted Markievicz, labour and women, they were also excluded from the Treaty negotiations.  Given the attitudes of the women TDs, it might be suggested that had one of them been part of the delegation the Treaty would not have been signed at that time.[117]

Lastly, we might note the altered complexion of the Irish Cabinet, following the removal of its one female member.  Markievicz, although retaining the post of Minister of Labour, had been removed from the Cabinet at the end of August 1921.  Coogan has noted that  this manoeuvre “would subsequently boomerang on him in a dramatic fashion that must have seemed inconceivable to him at the time.”[118]  The altered Cabinet produced, a few short months later, a fine line of division over the Treaty: Collins, Griffith, Cosgrave and Barton in favour; de Valera, Stack and Brugha against.



In her speech against the Treaty, Ada English noted “Ulster is still part of Ireland and I have not heard a promise that the British troops are to evacuate Ulster.  They are still there.”[119]  According to Maureen Wall, “It is astonishing to find so little attention paid to the Ulster question in the printed reports of the debates. . .” and that Griffith made no reference to the issue and de Valera’s Document no. 2 proposed no alteration to the Treaty’s exclusion of these counties.[120]  This could be seen as particularly surprising since the period of the Truce and Treaty negotiations and acceptance saw the outbreak of a fresh anti-Catholic pogrom in the north.  The pogrom began on August 22 and continued for six months.[121]

Griffith’s avoidance of the partition issue is perhaps not so astonishing, however.  The partition arrangement involved in the Treaty was essentially the same as that envisaged under the Home Rule proposals for the exclusion of Ulster (or two-thirds of Ulster, the six counties).  Griffith had denounced such exclusion seven years earlier, saying any Irish leader who accepted “any measure which alienated for a day – for an hour – for one moment of time – a square inch of the soil of Ireland would act the part of the traitor and would deserve a traitor’s fate.”[122]  His paper had declared also that “to even discuss the exclusion of Ulster or any portion of Ulster from a Home Rule measure is itself traitorous.”[123]  The Treaty, which Griffith so fulsomely supported, was clearly a betrayal of his own position of 1913-14. As Patrick MacCartan commented during the Treaty debates, “You have sold the North in making this Treaty.”[124]  He also pointed out that de Valera’s alternative was really no alternative, saying “As one who stands uncompromisingly for an Irish republic, I am not for Document No. 2.”[125]  (His support for the Republic turned out to be less than “uncompromising”; eighteen days later, when the vote on the Treaty was taken, he voted for it.)

Griffith did, however, make a passing reference to Northern Unionists.  In replying to a question by Markievicz about a meeting he had had with Southern Unionists and the offer of a privileged representation for them in the Senate, he responded, “If we are to start as an Irish nation we want to start. . .  obliterating all that kept us apart before. . .  the person who thinks you can make an Irish nation, and make it successfully function, with eight hundred thousand of our countrymen in the North up against us, and four hundred thousand of our countrymen here in the South opposed to us, is living in a Fool’s Paradise.  You want every Irishman in this nation; you want all of them, and the way we are going to get them is to ensure them that they are going to have absolute justice and absolute fair play in the Irish nation.”[126]  This again was disingenuous.  Accepting the exclusion of six counties, containing not just Unionists but also half a million nationalists, was hardly commensurate with wanting and getting “every Irishman in this nation”.  And offering privileged legislative representation to Southern Unionists, who already constituted an economic elite of landlords and capitalists, was hardly a way to obliterate differences and guarantee fair play.

De Valera’s reluctance to deal with partition is also not astonishing.  Treaty supporter Sean Milroy argued, in relation to an Ulster TD who was planing to attack the Treaty over exclusion, “(H)is thunderbolt should have been reserved for the head of the President, because President de Valera stated that we would not coerce Ulster.  He committed us to the task of finding some way out and making some arrangement without sending the troops of the Irish Republic to overawe the people in the six counties.”  Milroy also asked whether TDs expected that the plenipotentiaries “would be able to bring back an arrangement that was at variance with the declaration of President de Valera that we were not going to coerce Ulster?”[127]  De Valera himself had to admit that his document contained “an explicit recognition of the right on the part of Irishmen to secede from Ireland.”[128]  Milroy, moreover, went on to reject the idea that the Treaty involved partition, stating “The fact is that the provisions of the Treaty are not Partition provisions, but they ensure eventual unity in Ireland.  But, as a matter of fact, whether there were Partition provisions or not, the economic position and the effects on the six counties’ area is this, that sooner or later isolation from the rest of Ireland would have so much weight on the economic state of these six counties as to compel them to renew their association with the rest of Ireland.  That trend of economic fact will be stimulated by the provisions of this Treaty, and the man who asserts that Partition is perpetuated in that Treaty is a man who has not read or understands what are the provisions in the Treaty.”[129]

Milroy was not alone in this view.  A number of other TDs thought the boundary commission would make a Northern Ireland statelet untenable, a view in which Lloyd George had encouraged the Irish signatories.  As Lee notes, “De Valera, like Griffith and Collins, assumed that the Boundary Commission would so emasculate Northern Ireland that the rump would be forced into a united Ireland for economic self-preservation.”[130]

Maureen Wall has accurately described the result of acceptance of the Treaty:  “(T)he representatives of Dail Eireann reluctantly agreed to accept dominion status instead of the republic they had fought for, while the Unionists in Northern Ireland were left entirely free to vote themselves out of the new dominion and perpetuate the partition already effected by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920.”[131]

Why then was the Treaty and the abandonment of the Republic accepted by so many republicans?  Firstly, let us look at the advantages of the Treaty supporters within the Dail and secondly at the nature of the independence movement as a whole.


Advantages of Treaty supporters

The main arguments of the Treaty supporters involved, as has been shown, the forsaking of the Irish Republic which had been established[132] and to which they had pledged themselves.  Their arguments were, as anti-Treaty speakers pointed out, the opposite of what all TDs had stood for, and been elected for, in the period from 1917-1921.  But if the Treaty supporters were abandoning the main elements and principles of the republicanism they had professed, and their main arguments were simply rationalisations of this, they did have several key advantages.

The first was that the Treaty was what we might call a done deed.  As MacCartan put it, “We are presented with a fait accompli and asked to endorse it.”[133]  We can see the effectiveness of it being a done deed as, later, when rationalising his decision to vote for it despite his earlier declaration that it was a betrayal, he stated “The Treaty was signed, it was a fait accompli, and we must try to make the best of it.”[134]

Secondly, De Valera accepted the framework of association mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, as did the Irish cabinet, although the anti-Treaty TDs later attempted to escape its ramifications.  MacCartan was making therefore a fair point in saying that once the Cabinet agreed to send representatives to negotiate this association, the Republic was immediately “betrayed here in Dublin”.[135]  He argued, moreover, “(W)hen we sent delegates to see how Ireland could be associated with the British Empire we did it with our eyes open.  See how we can assist in oppressing the people of Egypt and the people of India, and other weak peoples oppressed at the present day by the British Empire.”[136]  The Republic was betrayed, he also maintained in reference to de Valera, when people said they were not doctrinaire republicans, partition was agreed to when the Irish cabinet said it would give Ulster the same, or even more, powers than Britain was giving her under the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and the military bases which the Treaty allowed Britain to hold in Ireland were given away when it was declared that Ireland would accept a Monroe Doctrine for the British Isles.[137]

Against the Treaty, de Valera continued to put forward a framework of “external association”:  his alternative to the Treaty, “Document No. 2”, curiously described by Lee as “constitutionally brilliant”,[138] was based upon this idea.  Ireland would have sovereignty in internal affairs but would “associate” with the Commonwealth in external affairs and guarantee to Britain that it would remain neutral in an event of war.  The Irish and British would have reciprocal citizenship, as opposed to the common citizenship of the Treaty; instead of an oath of allegiance to the British monarch by all TDs, there would be a recognition of the British monarch as the head of the Commonwealth of which Ireland would be a member.  The Document did not propose any alteration of the exclusion of the six counties.  De Valera won support for it from fellow anti-Treaty Cabinet members Austin Stack and Cathal Brugha but not from IRA leaders such as Mellows and O’Connor.  According to Lee, the “blood lust” of the “primitive political intelligences” of “metaphysical republicanism” epitomised by people such as O’Connor could not be slaked by the fine line of distinction between the Treaty and Document 2.[139]  Yet Kathleen Clarke, an eminently practical and unbloodthirsty woman as her autobiography reveals, has commented that she told de Valera, in relation to his Document No. 2 and the Treaty, “There is scarcely the toss of a sixpence between them.”[140]  Griffith was also able to seize upon de Valera’s acceptance of association, sarcastically noting the anti-Treatyite TDs “are prepared to go half in the Empire and half out” by recognising the British king as the head of the Commonwealth.[141]

Given this lack of fundamental difference between the Treaty and de Valera’s document, Beaslai could point out that the opponents of the Treaty were making “much talk of what are called principles, but are really political formulas.”[142]  He noted, “We have had elaborate expositions of the marvellous value of words and phrases and formulas, constituting the difference between internal and external association.  In all this flood of dialectics I have not been able to find what I anxiously looked for – one hint of a suggestion of an alternative policy, one sign of constructive statesmanship.”[143]  Another leading Treaty supporter, Cosgrave, could point out that while people might not have voted in 1918, 1920 and 1921 for the relationship between Britain and Ireland embodied in the Treaty, nor had they voted for the relationship in de Valera’s document.

Thirdly, the opponents of the Treaty had little to say about the alternative kind of society which rejection of the Treaty might make possible.  Griffith and other Treaty supporters were quick to seize on this.  Arguing “You have got to give the Irish people something substantial if you reject this Treaty”, he lampooned the anti-Treaty forces as saying “‘Let this present generation immolate itself and, please God, the next generation will get something.’”[144]  John O’Mahoney, mentioned above, was far from the only republican to attack the Treatyites for wanting to take care of the “material body” and declaring themselves to be more concerned with the nation’s soul.  Even a left-wing republican of a practical bent such as Mellows could declare, “We would rather have this country poor and indigent, we would rather have the people of Ireland eking out a poor existence on the soil; as long as they possessed their souls, their minds, and their honour.”[145]  Such a perspective was not likely to inspire and draw to the anti-Treaty side the poor urban working class and the agricultural labourers and small farmers already “eking out a poor existence on the soil” under British rule.

Fourthly, the population had been hard hit by the British repression.  People were tired of the exactions of the struggle and, as a number of anti-Treaty speakers themselves noted, people wanted peace.  As Ada English put it, “We are told that the country is for this Treaty. . . The country is not for this Treaty, the country is out for peace.  The country wants peace and desires peace.  So do we.  We all want peace, but we want a peace which will be a real peace and a lasting peace. . . a peace we can keep, a peace we can put our names to and stand by.”[146]  Yet this “peace with honour”, as she put it, required further struggle whereas the Treaty supporters could offer an immediate peace, the withdrawal of the British forces from most of the country and an end to the terror of the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries.  Again, the idea of renewed struggle with Britain, as opposed to immediate peace, could only hope to have any appeal if it was connected to the prospect of real, material improvements for the mass of the people who would bear the brunt of renewed war.

The final advantage of the Treaty supporters was that, because they shared so much of the Treatyites’ political framework and lacked a serious alternative politics, the anti-Treaty leaders were not prepared to take any pre-emptive action.  They allowed the plenipotentiaries to disobey express instructions on the Treaty.  Instead of immediately declaring the Treaty null and void, due to the duress of immediate and terrible war under which it was signed and because the signatories had no authority to sign, and at least sacking people such as Griffith and Collins from the cabinet (if not arresting them, as Gallacher suggested), de Valera and his side allowed the Treaty to be voted on in the Dail.  By this time it had become, as MacCartan noted, a fait accompli.  Moreover, every conservative element in the twenty-six counties – the capitalist press, the chambers of commerce and other business groups, and the Catholic hierarchy – were advocating support for it.  Members of the Dail who might have voted against it, especially if the opponents had have had a policy, ended up in the position of Patrick MacCartan who declared on December 20, “I as a Republican will not endorse it, but I will not vote for chaos.  Then I will not vote against it”[147] and on January 9, two days after he voted for it, “I am one of those who did not vote for the Treaty, but against chaos.”[148]

Moreover, in accepting the vote in the Dail, the republican “revolutionaries” were showing that they shared with the Treatyites the most narrowly bourgeois-parliamentary notions of democracy.  A small majority in favour of the Treaty in the Dail was allowed to outweigh the fact that a majority of the members of the IRA, Sinn Fein, Cumann na mBan, and Fianna Eireann – the people who had actually fought the struggle – opposed the Treaty.  Given that the Dail majority was a mere seven, it was four people who decided the fate of the nation (ie if four TDs had have voted against instead of for, the anti-Treatyites would have had the majority in the Dail).  Additionally, who the TDs actually were was largely a matter of chance; they were there because they had been selected to stand as Sinn Fein TDs in their areas and, given the popularity of the party in the 1918, 1920 and 1921 elections, literally anybody could have been elected as long as they were standing on the republican ticket.  Given that many of the most dedicated people were in jail or on the run when candidates were being selected, there were many people who had done far more for the struggle and precisely because they were doing these other things they could not be nominated as candidates.  IRA leaders such as Rory O’Connor and Peadar O’Donnell would be just two examples of such people.  In effect, those thousands who had actually fought the struggle, whether through the republican political and military organisations or through the labour movement and its strikes against British rule, were disenfranchised in the Treaty debate.


The republican split

To understand the republican division over the Treaty it is necessary to look at the interests which the republican movement incorporated in its ranks and was representative of in the broader social sense.  As Roddy Connolly noted in his report to the Second Congress of the Third International in 1920, Sinn Fein had no big landowners and capitalists since this class was economically dependent on British capitalism and therefore tended to be attached to the Tories and the Liberals; it was essentially a petty-bourgeois party.[149] In contrast he saw the IRA as having a more proletarian and peasant social composition, although its officers were generally drawn from the younger members of the middle class and farmers’ sons.  Although most of the IRA were inclined to the view that social problems could not be dealt with seriously until after independence, the growth of the ITGWU, especially in country areas, had, in his view, brought a spark of class consciousness into sections of the IRA.

Although both workers and the national bourgeoisie had grievances against Britain, as Greaves notes, neither gave a lead to the national struggle.  In periods of intense conflict, the petty bourgeoisie moves forward only when the two key classes – the workers and capitalists – have retreated from the stage. The bourgeois nationalist IPP was discredited by its support for the British war effort and the suspension of Home Rule upon which it had staked its future; Labour had failed to pick up the leadership position after the Rising.  In this situation, where neither the capitalists nor the workers were providing a way forward for society, the petty-bourgeoisie stepped into the breach.  In Ireland, the petty bourgeoisie of small-scale manufacturers, traders and farmers, publicans, middle and lower-layer clergy, teachers and would-be upwardly mobile civil servants, was also a sizeable section of the population.[150]  It was linked to both the capitalists and workers, but appeared to stand outside class.  This enabled it to appear to speak for everyone, for the nation; it was its great strength, but also its great weakness.

While the petty bourgeoisie dominated Sinn Fein and thus the party did not adopt a socio-economic programme representing the class interests of either the capitalists or the workers, class conflict was, as we have seen, far from absent from society as a whole since during the 1918-21 period.  As Dunphy notes, “small farmers, landless labourers, and other less well-off strata were not content to postpone indefinitely their demands for social reform and land redistribution.”[151]  As a mass movement around the question of independence – a pan-nationalist front of different classes – Sinn Fein could not escape the impact of class conflict however much it attempted to avoid adopting formal positions on socio-economic issues.  In Rumpf and Hepburn’s view, for instance, a class split in Sinn Fein was possible as early as the first months of 1918 because “while Sinn Fein support was often socially radical, the social programme, national leadership and (in  many areas) local leadership was very moderate.”[152]

Two of the characteristics of the petty-bourgeoisie as a section of society are the desires for social order and upward mobility.  They chaff at being held down by those above (capitalists and big landowners); but fear those below (workers and the rural poor).  The 1921 settlement offered sections of the petty-bourgeoisie at the helm of the independence movement the prospect for social order to be restored and for social mobility within a new (neo-colonial) state.  During the Treaty debate this view was put clearly by pro-Treaty TD and county Sligo schoolmaster Alexander McCabe, who argued that “a prolonged state of war. . . put passions of every kind in the saddle.”  In such a situation, “the striker will abandon the peaceful method of picketing for the bomb and the torch.  The landless workers will have recourse to more deadly weapons than hazel sticks in attacking the ranches. . .” as well as by MacCartan’s vote against “chaos”.

The fact that Sinn Fein as a predominantly petty-bourgeois party (albeit one which most workers voted for) could not adopt a clear socio-economic programme explains why class-based arguments played so little part in the Treaty debates.  Only Markievicz had any record in militant labour activity and any coherent class outlook.  This, more than the fact that she represented a depressed working class constituency, explains her opposition to the Treaty.[153]  It is her background in pre-1916 revolutionary working class activity which also differentiated her from people such as Labour member Richard Corish (who was elected as a Sinn Fein TD) and Patrick McGrath (who had a record of sympathy to the labour cause before 1916), both of whom voted for the Treaty.

The domination of the independence front by individuals drawn from the petty-bourgeoisie and holding petty-bourgeois views[154] had another crucial effect on the course of the 1918-21 struggle and its outcome.  Lacking a working class-based perspective, they relied not on the power of the workers to bring the country to a halt and, in conjunction with armed struggle, make British rule impossible, but on a primarily military focus.  The IRA increasingly became the key force, with the population at large being seen mainly as voting fodder which would provide support through electing Sinn Fein TDs.  Other republican organisations such as Cumann na mBan, and even largely Sinn Fein itself, were to provide material back-up for the military struggle, republicans in prison and dependants’ families and publicity about British repression and the case for independence.  The working class might occasionally be called upon as a stage army to take part in a general strike for a day or two, or to prevent the British moving arms and soldiers around the country, but nothing more.  Similarly, women as women, the landless as landless, small farmers as small farmers, had no role in the pan-nationalist framework which dominated the republican movement.

Given the ratio of size, power and resources between the British state and the independence movement, there was no way that the latter could win a decisive victory through military means alone.  The IRA, backed up by the other republican organisations, broad public support and occasional actions of the labour movement, fought the British state to a stalemate.  Beyond that it could not go.  Only the conscious mobilisation of the people through mass marches, civil disobedience, general strikes, occupations and the arming of the people – in other words, the classic methods of revolutionary struggle – could create the kind of mass movement which could have rendered British rule impotent.  When the military struggle reached a stalemate, the republicans had nothing more to throw into the ring.  In this situation, the deal offered by the British – the biggest “Home Rule Bill” Ireland had ever been offered, as opponent Kathleen Clarke put it, seemed a substantial prize.


Labour’s default: “neutral” on the side of the Treaty

While the Treaty may have been a substantial prize for the bourgeoisie and sections of the middle class this was not, as has been noted, true for the working class and the labour movement.  Given that organised labour had so much to lose by the Treaty, and partition in particular, why did the labour leaders not only acquiesce in it, but essentially side with the Treaty faction?

The position of the ILPTUC leadership is not so strange as it might first appear.  Like the leadership of the pan-nationalist front, Johnson, O’Brien and their colleagues were not revolutionaries but essentially moderate men.  Although in a period of intensified class conflict in Ireland and with the Russian Revolution exerting a powerful influence on Irish workers, the official leaders of the labour movement adopted a certain amount of radical rhetoric, they were never prepared to take the lead of the struggle for national independence or to turn it into an assault on capitalist property relations.  Roddy Connolly correctly noted in his report to the Third International that the labour leaders’ paper, Voice of Labour, used revolutionary rhetoric to mask a non-revolutionary strategy.[155]  In relation to the factory seizures and declarations of soviets, Patrick Lynch has noted that the ILPTUC “looked upon these experiments with a lack of enthusiasm.   It adopted generalised resolutions about labour’s role; and resolutions do not make a social revolution.”[156]  Additionally, as we have seen in chapter seven, the ILPTUC leaders persistently undermined militant activity by workers such as during the munitions and the motor vehicle permits strikes.  Johnson and O’Brien had even held discussions with members of the British administration during the war for independence in which they let the British know that they were prepared to settle for Dominion Home Rule.[157]  Their moderation was also evident in the document “The Country in Danger”, issued in early 1921.[158]  In short, the war for independence and the militant working class activity that took place during it were seen as disturbances to the gradual task of building up a powerful institutionalised labour movement which would act as a negotiating body between labour and capital.  The sooner revolution could be removed from the agenda the better.

While partition would cut off the prospect of Labour becoming a mass working class party and taking governmental power as Labour parties elsewhere could – much of the working class now being on the opposite side of the border – playing second fiddle was scarcely a  new departure for these leaders.  After all, they had trailed the republicans during the post-1916 period; now they would trail one section of them into the new neo-colonial state.

The Treaty, then, met the approval of the bourgeoisie and landowners in the south, along with sections of the petty-bourgeoisie and the leadership of the labour movement.  For some of them it may not have been ideal, as on the question of partition, but it was certainly preferable to continuation of a struggle which was seen by these layers as increasingly challenging the socio-economic, as well as political, system in Ireland.  In contrast, the largest anti-Treaty sections, being themselves petty-bourgeois, opposed the agreement on the grounds of oaths, honour and “principle” since it betrayed the Republic to which all republicans had pledged allegiance.  But this was an inadequate basis for defeating it, either within the Dail or, more importantly, in the country at large.  Sharing so much of the outlook and strategy of their former comrades who now supported the Treaty, the anti-Treaty republicans were marked by prevarication and the lack of an alternative perspective.  Their lack of a social programme and their continual hesitancy about taking the initiative was to have disastrous results for them in the struggle which followed the acceptance of the Treaty, as we shall see in the next chapter.  Only the ICA, the Connolly CPI group and a few individual republicans such as Markievicz opposed the Treaty from a clear class point of view, but these forces were small and, instead of uniting, they remained divided organisationally and even more impotent, a situation which persisted as the political conflicts led to armed conflict in 1922.


[1]  For example, see chapter 7 for an account of the growth of labour unrest.  British policy was also driving otherwise moderate people into radical activity.  The British government saw a “moderate” and “extremist” wing in Irish republicanism and the more far-sighted policy-makers were keen not to drive more people into the “extremist” camp.  Top Whitehall official Thomas Jones, whose diaries provide a fascinating account of Cabinet and other top-level meetings, even told Bonar Law that he himself thought “the ghastly things that were being done were enough to drive one to join the Republican Army.” (Thomas Jones, Whitehall Diary: Vol lll, Ireland 1918-25, edited by Keith Middlemas, London, Oxford University Press, 1971, p49.)  Bonar Law replied that coercion was the only policy; in the past it had ensured quiet for ten years, such cycles being due to the Irish being “an inferior race”. (Ibid, pp49-50.)

[2] See Lord Midleton’s comments to the March 8 meeting between himself, Lloyd George and Greenwood, with Thomas Jones acting as secretary, in ibid, pp53-4.

[3] Greenwood’s view cited from letter from Jones to Bonar Law, April 24, 1921, in ibid, p55.

[4] In January 1921, for example, Lloyd George told Bonar Law and Thomas Jones, “Auckland Geddes gives a most gloomy account of the situation in America and in the interests of peace with America I think we ought to see De Valera and try to get a settlement.”  (Thomas Jones, directly quoting Lloyd George, ibid, p49.)  Geddes was the British ambassador to the USA.  We might also note here the changing relationship between Britain and the USA following World War 1.  The United States was replacing Britain as the dominant power and, under US pressure at the International naval Conference in Washington in 1921, Britain agreed to limit the construction of fighting ships, relinquish its maritime supremacy and accept naval parity with the US.  With British global power becoming dependent on US goodwill and alliance, Britain could not afford the sort of public opprobrium in the United States that might result from increased coercion in Ireland.

[5] For instance, as a result of a meeting at Downing Street on July 23, 1920 of members of the British Cabinet and key administrators in Ireland, Thomas Jones had drafted a summary for Lloyd George.  Jones noted that without an interval in which conciliatory proposals – Dominion Home Rule – were offered to the republicans, attempts by the British government to step up coercion in Ireland “would lead to violent opposition at home when the stranglehold was at its strongest” and that the “Churchill policy (of increased repression – PF) right away would be disastrous because of its repercussion at home.” (Ibid, p32.)  On July 26, 1920 the British Cabinet also discussed the effect on railway workers in Britain if railway workers in Ireland were dismissed for refusing to transport British troops and munitions (Ibid).  Industrial and political unrest in Britain was posing an important challenge to the British government.  In October 1920 this had reached a highpoint with the strike by the Triple Alliance of miners, railway workers and transport workers and subsequent passage of an Emergency Powers Act.  As is clear from Jones’ diary the British Cabinet, their administrators in Ireland and their “experts” on Ireland, spent much of 1920 and early 1921 discussing the prospects of increased repression in Ireland; the inhibiting factors were always seen to be public opposition in Britain and internationally and that even intensified repression would not work.  General Macready, who was presumably in a very good position to know, consistently put forward the view that coercion, no matter how intensified, would not bring nationalist Ireland to heel.  Macready told the July 23 meeting, for instance, that “No amount of coercion could settle the Irish question.” (Ibid, p25).

[6] In April 1919, General Dyer ordered British troops to open fire on an unarmed assembly at Amritsar in India, killing 379 people and providing renewed impetus to the movement for independence, for example.  As well as India and Egypt, Britain was worried about threats in the Far East and began in 1920 constructing a large naval base at Singapore.

[7] Irish Republican Prisoners of War, Questions of History,  p88.

[8] Jones, Whitehall Diary, pp63-70, records the participants’ views.  The vote against a truce was 9-5.  Middlemas notes “the curious line-up of Coalition Ministers, with the Liberals (and liberals) on one side, the Conservatives and the Prime Minister on the other.” (Ibid, p70)

[9] Ibid, p77.

[10] Ibid.  Among those not prepared to countenance such a policy was King George V.

[11] Lloyd George cited from Lee, Ireland , p47, emphasis added.  Speaking during the Treaty debates, de Valera also stated, “(A)s the House perfectly well knows, the delegates went over to London for the purpose of trying to get reconciliation between Irish national aspirations and the Association known as the Community of Nations, known as the Commonwealth of Nations of the British Empire; and the fact that this Treaty does not reconcile them is the reason it is opposed. . .” Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p75.

[12] There was division among the British over the open functioning of the courts.  Since the formula used in opening sessions was, “I now declare this Court open in the name of the Irish Republic” and they were being openly reported in the newspapers, Lloyd George expressed the view to an October 13 preliminary meeting of the British representatives to the formal talks that, “I shall have to tell them (ie the Sinn Fein representatives – P.F.) that we shall have to scatter these courts.”  (Jones, Whitehall Diary, p123).

[13] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p253, fn 3.

[14] Jones, Whitehall Diary, p71.

[15] Smuts was a former Boer leader and later British Field Marshal and a member of the Imperial War Cabinet, during World War 1.  He was Prime Minister of South Africa 1919-24 and advised the British government on Irish policy on a number of occasions.  He appears a model whom the British wished to reproduce in Ireland.

[16] Duggan had been involved in the Easter Rising and the reorganisation of the republicans in 1917, became a TD and, after Collins, served as IRA Director of Intelligence.  He had been imprisoned before the Truce.  Barton served with the British during World War 1, but became a republican after the Easter Rising, was elected a TD and made Director of Agriculture for the Dail in 1919, was, like Duggan, imprisoned, 1920-21, and subsequently became Secretary for Economic Affairs.

[17] Smuts cited from Jones, Whitehall Diary, p82.

[18] Ibid, p83.  It’s unclear whether he meant that to him they seemed friendly to Britain or they simply seemed friendly to him personally.  Barton and Duggan, interestingly, signed the Treaty five months later and voted for it in the Dail.  Barton, however, subsequently refused to co-operate with the government established by the Treaty.

[19] Ibid, p84.

[20] See for example Jones’ letter to Bonar Law on July 22.  This letter also contains Lloyd George’s evaluation of de Valera as, in Jones’ summary of his words, “a sincere man, a white man, and ‘an agreeable personality’.”  The letter appears ibid, pp90-1.

[21] Ibid, p90.  Stack was the Dail’s Minister of Home Affairs, Brugha was Minister of Defence.  De Valera’s ideas of external association reappeared in “Document No. 2”, his alternative to the Treaty.

[22] Ibid, p91.

[23] Summarised from Middlemas’ commentary, Ibid, p90.

[24] In October 1920, when a Downing Street conference discussed offering proposals to the republicans, Lloyd George had stated that no great concessions should be made in the first round because it would leave nothing with which to negotiate if the republicans adopted a conciliatory attitude. (Ibid, p39).  This was also the case with the Government of Ireland Act; Fisher, for instance, had been keen to keep in unofficial contact with Sinn Fein “moderates” and let them know that that piece of legislation “was not the last word and that the door was not closed.” (Ibid, p30).

[25] See this thesis, chapter seven.

[26] Presidential Report to the Cumann na mBan Convention, October 21, 1921.  The reports from the convention are in the folder of pamphlets P2188 in the National Library of Ireland.

[27] The letter was also read out on January 6, 1922 during the Treaty debates.  See Dail Eireann,Treaty Debates, p272.

[28] Ibid, p8.

[29] Erskine Childers served as the delegation secretary and was the only one who totally opposed the negotiators signing the Treaty.

[30] Kee, Green Flag, p724.

[31] This meeting is dealt with in Greaves, Liam Mellows, p268-9.

[32] Ibid, p269.

[33] See next chapter for information on the size of the two factions.

[34] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p273.  This may well have been disingenuous.  It now seems unlikely that de Valera expected anything better than what was negotiated, but did not personally want to take responsibility for such a deal.  See, for instance, Coogan, De Valera: long fellow, long shadow, London, Hutchinson, 1993, chaps 8-15.

[35] From Article 12 of the Treaty, cited from Lee, Ireland, p51.

[36] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p124.  She also argued that Lloyd George’s threat of war was a bluff and they had been fooled into believing it without even bothering to check with Dublin.

[37] Ibid, p124.

[38] Ibid, p333.  In Brugha’s view Collins and Griffith, in terms of their “ideals of freedom”, were “the two weakest men we had on the team” of negotiators.  “Lloyd George and his friends pretty soon discovered that; and that is how they came to select them out of the five; and they allowed the British Government to divide them up and select their own men. . .” (Ibid)

[39] Ibid, p335.

[40] The Freemans Journal was the unofficial organ of the old IPP, for four decades the chief party of the national bourgeoisie; the Irish Independent was owned by leading Dublin capitalist and leader of the Dublin Employers, William Martin Murphy; the Irish Times was the chief organ of the old southern Unionist elite.

[41] Jones, Whitehall Diary, p99.

[42] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p269.

[43] Richard Dunphy, The Making of Fianna Fail Power in Ireland 1923-1948, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p33.

[44] Mitchell, Labour In. . ., p149.

[45] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p270.

[46] Ibid, p269.

[47] O Broin, Revolutionary Underground, p196.

[48] Sean T. O Ceallaigh, Sean T Vol 2, ed Proinsias O Conluain and Padraig O Fiannachta, Dublin, 1972, pp176-7.  Cited from O Broin, Revolutionary Underground, p199.  De Valera’s response to the IRB leadership’s position was “Curse secret societies!” (Sean Cronin, McGarrity Papers, Tralee, 1972.  Cited from O Broin, p108.)

[49] Nowlan, “Dail Eireann and The Army”, p77.

[50] The Separatist, February 18, 1922.  Cited from O Broin, Revolutionary Underground, p204.

[51] See chapter twelve.

[52] Mitchell, Labour In. . ., p145.

[53] Ibid.  Presumably he means “foxhole”.

[54] The ILPTUC statement appeared in the Labour paper, Voice of Labour, January 7, 1922.  Cited from ibid, p146.

[55] Larkin statement in Voice of Labour and editorial statement cited from Fox, Citizen Army, p212 and p213.

[56] See this thesis, chapter eight.

[57] Workers Republic, December 17, 1921.

[58] Townshend, Political Violence, pp66-7.

[59] Foster, Modern Ireland, p502.

[60] Dail Eireann,Treaty Debates, p32.

[61] Ibid, p34.

[62] Ibid, p180.

[63] Ibid, pp342-3.  He criticised anti-Treaty speakers for talking “as if there were no economic questions; as if there were not tens of thousands of unemployed; as if there were not tens of thousands of struggling farmers and of labouring people through the country; as if we could go on indefinitely making this kind of fight against England.”

[64] Ibid, p107.

[65] Ibid, p47.

[66] Ibid, p32.

[67] Ibid.

[68] Ibid, p107.

[69] Ibid, p21.

[70] Ibid, p337.

[71] Ibid, p338.

[72] Ibid, p179.

[73] Ibid, p340.  In the intervening part of the quote he claimed that people had not voted for the Republic in 1918 and 1921, but had voted in the first election to get rid of the IPP and in the second to defy the Black and Tans.  Given that in both these elections Sinn Fein, and Griffith as a party candidate, stood clearly for the Republic, this was a disingenuous claim, to say the least.

[74] Ibid, p35.

[75] Ibid, p106.

[76] Ibid, p107.  The Delegation refers to the Irish delegates who signed the Treaty.  At the time, Northern Unionists were driving Catholics (and Protestant radicals) out of their homes and jobs by the thousands.  See chapter twelve.

[77] Ibid, p245.

[78] Ibid, p126.

[79] Clarke, Revolutionary Woman, p191 and Dail Eireann,Treaty Debates, p141.

[80] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p141.

[81] Ibid, p233.

[82] Ibid, p249.

[83] Ibid, p228; “every election since” refers to the local body elections and the 1921 general elections.

[84] Ibid, p127

[85] Ibid, pp108-9.  Grattan’s Parliament, established in 1782, had a franchise restricted to a small section of male property holders.  Women, the lower orders and the vast majority of Catholics were excluded from the franchise.  In 1801 that parliament passed the Act of Union, by which Ireland became directly incorporated into Britain including at the level of parliamentary representation.  See chapter three for Markievicz’s view of Grattan’s Parliament.

[86] Ibid, p230.

[87] Mellows in ibid, pp229-30.

[88] Ibid, p247.

[89] Ibid, p333

[90] Ibid, p141.

[91] Ibid, pp229-30.

[92] Ibid, p232.

[93] Ibid, p249.

[94] Ibid, p123.

[95] Ibid, p249.  The “work and fight for it” refers to the freedom of Ireland, not the split; the split would come because she and others would continue to fight for freedom.

[96] Ibid, p233.

[97] Ibid, p125.

[98] Ibid, p231.

[99] Ibid, p233.

[100] Ibid, p183.

[101] Ibid, p60.

[102] Ibid, p81.

[103] Markievicz’s speech appears ibid, pp180-186.

[104] Ibid, p118.

[105] Ibid, p126.  Markievicz also took up the theme of women’s opposition to the Treaty, and the reaction of male Treaty supporters, in her speech on women’s suffrage in the Dail on March 2, 1922.  See this thesis, chapter 12.

[106] Ibid, p250.

[107] Ibid, p59.

[108] Ibid.

[109] Ibid, p245.

[110] Ibid, p186.

[111] Ibid, p184.

[112] Ibid, p185.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid, pp221-3.  In this thesis I generally spell Pearse’s name as Padraic; in other texts it is sometimes Padraic and sometimes Padraig.

[115] Ibid, p249.

[116] Her letter appears ibid, pp90-91.

[117] I am not arguing here that one woman’s presence would have changed history, simply that the Treaty might not have been signed at that particular time.  While such an event may well have therefore altered what happened subsequently in the Dail, the Treaty represented far more powerful social forces than any one individual.  The arrangement codified in the Treaty was one which suited the interests of the Irish capitalist class and they had every interest in signing it as soon as possible.

[118] Coogan, De Valera, p246.  Coogan notes that the manoeuvre, while being “an accurate foretaste of de Valera’s subsequent policy regarding women’s place in public life”, was not directed principally at Markievicz but was part of a reshuffle through which he aimed at “tightening his grip on the inner circle.”  It appeared to give de Valera virtually complete control, as Collins was the only Cabinet figure who might possibly challenge him on anything. (Ibid)

[119] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p248.

[120] Maureen Wall, “Partition: The Ulster Question (1916-1926)” in Williams (ed), p87.

[121] Greaves, Liam Mellows, p255.

[122] Sinn Fein, February 21, 1914.

[123] Cited from Henry, Evolution of. . ., p148.

[124] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, Ibid, p74.

[125] Ibid, p75.

[126] Ibid, pp338-9.

[127] Ibid, p73.

[128] Dail Eireann private sessions, cited from Coogan, De Valera, p290.  Chapters 13 and 14 of Coogan provide an authoritative account of the deviousness of the key players on the British and Irish side, especially de Valera.

[129] Dail Eireann, Treaty Debates, p73.  After 75 years of partition we might note that perhaps it was Milroy who did not understand the Treaty’s partition provisions.

[130] Lee, Ireland,  p53.

[131] Wall, “Partition. . .”, p85.

[132] The functioning of the Republic is dealt with in detail in Mitchell, Revolutionary Government, op cit.

[133] Dail Eireann,Treaty Debates, p81.

[134] Ibid, p375.

[135] Ibid, p80.

[136] Ibid.

[137] In the United States in early 1920, de Valera had begun to talk about offering Britain a guarantee that an independent Ireland would never act against Britain’s influence.  De Valera used the Cuba-US relationship as the example, overlooking “the reality of the political slum that was Cuba and the country’s position of vassalage to America.” (Coogan, De Valera, p160)  He also gave an interview with the Westminster Gazette, which was reprinted in the New York Globe, saying that Ireland would accept a Monroe Doctrine-type arrangement with Britain and again raising the Cuban parallel.  MacCartan, who was the official representative of the Irish Republic in the US and also editor of the US-based Irish Press at the time was shocked, as were a number of leading republicans back in Ireland.  Markievicz, Count Plunkett and Brugha were markedly hostile at a cabinet meeting held to hear de Valera’s explanation but Collins and Griffith shut down the discussion. (Ibid, p160-165)  Kathleen Clarke, who had been living with Tom Clarke in the US, at the time of the Cuba-US treaty and had been opposed to the US virtual takeover of Cuba, noted of de Valera’s position, “it was the first sign of weakness the British had seen since the Rising, and they seized upon it; here was a man ready for compromise.”  Her criticism was met stonily when she raised it with a group of Dail clerks. (See Clarke, Revolutionary Woman, pp187-8)

[138] Lee, Ireland, p48.

[139] Ibid, p51.  He does also claim that “metaphysical republicanism. . . was matched only by the metaphysical monarchism of the British.”  Although throwing in a term such as “metaphysical” may sound impressive, it hardly adds any explanatory detail; moreover, there was nothing metaphysical about the existence of the British monarchy or the Irish republic.  Both were real, material institutions and their existence as powers within Ireland was mutually exclusive.

[140] Clarke, Revolutionary Woman, p190.

[141] Dail Eireann,Treaty Debates, p21.

[142] Ibid, p176.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid, p342.

[145] Ibid, p231.

[146] Ibid, p248.

[147] Ibid, p81.

[148] Ibid, p375.

[149] Thomas Darragh (Roddy Connolly), “Revolutionary Ireland and Communism”, read by him to the Fifth session of the Congress on July 28, 1920.  First published in Communist International No 12; reprinted in Minutes of the Proceedings of the Second Congress of the Third International Vol 1, London, New Park, 1977, pp 317-323.  The IPP, for instance, generally backed the Liberals, while the Unionists were attached to the Tories.

[150] Dunphy (Fianna Fail, p31) notes that Ireland at this time was “a society numerically dominated by small manufacturers, farmers, traders, agricultural labourers , and domestic servants. . .”  to make a similar point.  Clearly, however, domestic servants and agricultural labourers are workers rather than petty-bourgeois, although a section of agricultural labourers may well have had petty-bourgeois ambitions to become small farmers.

[151] Ibid.  At the same time Dunphy, unfortunately and persistently, leaves out the working class.  His hostility to republicanism seems to militate against recognising the way in which the working class struggled around the national question through holding two general strikes, plus the May Day stoppage of 1919, organising the Limerick Soviet, the munitions and motor permits strike and other activities, as well as pursuing their immediate economic interests in battles over wages and conditions.

[152] Rumpf and Hepburn, Nationalism and Socialism in Twentieth Century Ireland, Liverpool, 1977, p21.

[153] It is, of course, quite possible that the nature of her constituency made her even more determined in her opposition.  But that it was not likely to be the main factor can be seen from the fact that the other TDs who represented depressed working class areas never raised any working class perspective.

[154] The fact that these leaders maintained a petty-bourgeois outlook is more important than their class origin; revolutionary leaders, including leaders of working class revolutions, are most typically drawn from the petty bourgeoisie, and sometimes even the big bourgeoisie, but in this case these are people who have broken away from that class and gone over to the working class.  We might note here, the comment made by the Tipperary Star in its sympathetic obituary to Markievicz after her death in July 1927, that she “cut herself away from her class”.  The Irish Times, shortly after the Easter Rising, noted this about her as well, although for them such behaviour was to be criticised rather than commended.

[155] Minutes of the Proceedings. . ., p325.

[156] Patrick Lynch, “The social revolution that never was”, in Williams (ed), p49.

[157] These are referred to in Jones, Whitehall Diary, see p58.

[158] See chapter eight.

Posted on September 4, 2011, in Constance Markievicz, Historiography and historical texts, Republicanism post-1900, Thesis chapters, War for Independence period. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on From Truce to Treaty: the pan-nationalist front divides.

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