18 April 1949, Ireland took the step into a new era: ending the “Irish Free State” as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth (the semi-independence compromise which had ended the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921 (aka War of Independence / Tan War). Dublin’s new international status went far to vindicate Michael Collins’ position on the controversial 1921 Treaty.
In 1922, just as Ireland rightly revelled in its astounding military and political victory over British occupation, Eamonn DeValera had led the shattering of Ireland’s fledgling independent legislature. He had called on his faction within the Dail to follow him in leaving the new Dublin establishment en masse.
Their issue? They declared that it was traitrous for Irish nationalists to accept the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, as a stepping stone toward complete self-determination.
That disastrous split earned DeValera the notorious tag “architect of the Civil War”: that horrific debacle which transformed Ireland’s brilliant triumph into tragedy, slaughtering many of the War of Independence’ greatest leaders and activists. It profoundly undermined the young nation’s unity, integrity, and social justice; leaving “Ireland broken for generations.”
Yet 1949 at last saw the formal, complete withdrawal from the British Empire of Irish soil (excepting the six counties of Northern Ireland.) Interestingly enough, no single political party of the time can claim credit. It was Dublin’s very first Inter-Party Government, headed by John A. Costello, which acheived that bold stroke on the pages of history.
This largely proved the validity of Michael Collins’ arguments, that the 1921 Treaty be used as a stepping stone in the on-going struggle for complete national independence.
Meanwhile that firebrand of freedom, Mr DeValera, although having dominated the Dublin establishment for the preceding 16 years (1932-1948,) had not brought Ireland one millimeter closer either to breaking ties with England; nor to ending the partition of Northern Ireland; (another of the key points over which he had incited the Civil War.)
Soon after the 1949 declaration, DeValera discreetly retreated from Irish soil; to embark on a worldwide tour lecturing about partition. (Perhaps not unlike his previous retreat from Ireland for the duration of the War of Independence; also for an extended speaking tour overseas.)
And how is it that in 1922, Mr DeValera had just happened to be at the very same obscure, back-country crossroads, within hours of Michael Collins’ being shot down there?
by S M Sigerson
Paperback or Kindle edition here:
All other e-reader formats:
Or ask at your local book shop