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Session 6

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1. "The War of Independence was necessary in order to prove to the British Government and people that the majority of Irish people wanted an independent Ireland. It was a return to the principles of the Fenians and the fulfillment of the dreams of the I.R.B." Discuss.

Consider these facts: (i) The British Empire was at its height during the War of Independence and opposed the struggle for Irish freedom so vehemently precisely because Ireland was the first country to try to break free of the empire.

(ii) When the struggle was ended the cost to Britain's international reputation, because of the tactics that she pursued, was great. When India started to campaign for independence she copied Ireland's example in many ways, as did many other parts of the Empire. No wonder that one British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, said 'We don't want another Ireland in India.'



2. "The non-attendance of de Valera (then President of Sinn Féin) at the crucial negotiations in London prior to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty proved a major divisive factor in Irish political life for many years afterwards and may be considered one of the causes of the Civil War." Discuss.
De Valera had already negotiated with Lloyd George in London earlier in 1921 and knew full well that what he was demanding - a 32 county Irish Republic - was never going to be conceded by the British government. In sending Collins and Griffith to London he knew that they would not return with a republic. When they did return to Dublin they were greeted with venomous condemnation in Dáil Éireann for having 'sold out the Republic.' What they did get, a 26-county Free State with ties to the British Commonwealth and Crown, did not please the hardliners. But Collins saw it 'not as the freedom to which nations aspire, but the freedom to achieve freedom.' Basically, it boiled down to a power struggle between de Valera and Collins. In the immediate term Collins lost, but in the long term his reputation has grown enormously, while de Valera's has declined.

3. "De Valera was quite justified, under the terms of the Statute of Westminster, to abolish the Oath of Allegiance and the office of Governor-General." Discuss.

Remember, we had waged a Civil War (1922-23) over these two issues (and also over the creation in 1920 of Northern Ireland). Removing them encountered no resistance from the British Government. Why do you think not? What do you think was de Valera's ultimate purpose in abolishing these two planks of the Anglo-Treaty of 1921? (De Valera NEVER did anything without a reason: he was far too shrewd for that.)


 Copyright ©2008 Aidan Breen, Ph.D.