"History is past politics, and politics present history." John Robert Seeley

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see." Winston Churchill

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle


Pursuit of Sovereignty & Impact of Partition, 1912 – 1949

The three case studies for this module are:

Anglo-Irish Treaty Negotiations 1921

Eucharistic Congress 1932

Belfast during World War II


Pursuit of Sovereignty Chronology 1912 – 1922

Pursuit of Sovereignty Chronology 1923-1932

Pursuit of Sovereignty Chronology 1932 – 1949

Negotiations 1921

Eucharistic COngress 1932

Belfast WWII








Part I: 1912 – 1922

Growth of Extremism & Path to Partition

1911 – 1912:

1911 Parliament Act,

3rd Home Rule Bill

& Ulster Solemn League & Covenant

The Parliament Act (1911) finally removed the ‘veto’ held by the House of Lords in Westminster – the upper house which had stymied the previous two Home Rule Bills of 1886 & 1893. With this veto reduced to a ‘delay’ of 271 days, the 3rd Home Rule Bill (1912) finally passed through both Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Unionist reaction to its successful passage was predictably negative, with the drafting of the Ulster Solemn League & Covenant (1912) being signed by over 200,000 Unionists. Led by Edward Carson, this widespread opposition to Home Rule would lead to the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in 1913.

1912 – 1914:

Unionist & Nationalist Militancy

Nationalist reaction to Unionist opposition to Home Rule was summed up in Eoin MacNeill‘s ‘The North Began’ in which he advocated the formation of a similar Nationalist Volunteer Force, this one in contrast to the UVF, to show Nationalist willingness to defend Home Rule. The Irish Volunteer Force was initially a broad Nationalist organisation, with the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond, as its figurehead leader.

With the outbreak of World War One, the British ‘shelved’ Home Rule and even threatened to introduce conscription. Anger amongst Nationalists was widespread, though Redmond’s call for willing Irishmen to join Britain’s cause in WWI was responded to by many. A small section of the Volunteers, numbering about 13,000 split from the majority to form the Irish Volunteers. The majority of Volunteers, who supported Redmond’s call to join Britain’s war effort, were known as the National Volunteers.

1914 – 1916:

Volunteer Split & Easter Rising

With IRB involvement in the Irish Volunteers, the other Irish Volunteer leaders such as O’Neill, Clarke, Connolly & Diarmada began planning for a rebellion in Ireland. Though a large-scale, countrywide effort was envisaged and planned for, countermanding orders on the eve of the rebellion led to a limited, Dublin-based ‘Rising’. This Rising was a combined effort of the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army & IRB members in both organisations – summed up in its intentions by the ‘Proclamation of the Irish Republic’, read by Padraig Pearse outside the GPO. After a week of bombardment and isolating moves by British security forces, the leaders offered an unconditional surrender from their positions in the GPO, Boland’s Mills and other strategic points in Dublin city. The summary executions of the leaders of the Rising proved to be a huge blunder by the British government, as sympathy for the rebels grew and many heretofore ‘Nationalists’ became ‘Republicans’.

Combined with the heavy-handed response of the British, the singular accusation against Sinn Féin proved to be a monumental mistake for British rule in Ireland. With the release of other rebels in 1917 & 1918, among them Eamon deValera, Sinn Féin now came to represent the aspirations of a martyred leadership. The Proclamation of the Republic became the popular document of reference, and anything short of the Republic declared in this document now seemed ‘too little, too late’. Eamon deValera stood for election in East Clare in 1917 as a Sinn Féin candidate.

1917 – 1919:

‘Triumph of Failure’,

Sinn Féin Victory

& 1st Dáil Eireann

The General Election of 1918 saw Sinn Féin win an unprecedented 73 seats out of 105. Shortly after this   in 1918, the 1st Dáil Eireann was set up in the Mansion House in Dublin. With DeValera’s re-arrest, he did not become leader of Dáil Eireann until 1919. In January of 1919, Dáil Eireann issued a Declaration of Independence to the free nations of the world. This was in clear contrast to   continuing British rule in Ireland, and so the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921) began. Leaders and active members of Sinn Féin, the IRA and supporters were arrested, detained and often held without charge as the British struggled to respond to the now nationwide support for the establishment of a Republic. Sinn Féin Courts were set up to replace the now-otracised British legal system in many parts of Ireland and were viewed almost universally as positive evidence of Dáil Eireann’s credentials & integrity as a national governement.

1919 – 1921:

War of Independence,

Dáil Eireann

& Sinn Féin Courts

The War of Independence was fought in a very different way to the Easter Rising of 1916, with independent IRA commanders throughout Ireland fighting a mobile, guerilla-style campaign against British forces. This strategy was most effective in Munster: parts of West Cork, Limerick, Clare & Tipperary became almost ‘off-limits’ to either the RIC or British Army. The ‘Munster Republic’ represented the failure of the British forces’ to contain IRA ambush campaigns as well as the groundswell of support for the new Dáil Eireann & Sinn Féin Courts throughout Ireland.

In response to this, the British used excessively-brutal force creating the now infamous ‘Black & Tan’ brigades which waged war on the IRA as well as terror on the civilian population. The Burning Of Cork City and the Bloody Sunday reprisals in Croke Park in 1920 demonstrated just how bloody a campaign the war had become and how desperate the British Forces were to quell this continuous challenge to their authority. IRA assassinations of British intelligence officers – the ‘Cairo Gang’ – early in the morning of Bloody Sunday was the precursor to the indiscriminate killing of fourteen people in Croke Park on that day.

With the situation in most of Ireland deteriorating from a Unionist point of view from 1919 onwards, prominent Unionists in Northern Ireland moved to protect their position within the United Kingdom. The Government of Ireland Act (1920) created the Northern Ireland State, thereby reassuring at least Northern Unionists of their place within the UK.

With British rule in Ireland severely undermined, coupled with growing support for the IRA and Dáil Eireann, the British realised by early 1921 that using terror on the civilian population was counter-productive.  In light of growing international pressure, the British sued for peace by offering negotiations to the Sinn Féin leaders. The truce came into effect on 11th of July 1921.


Pursuit of Sovereignty & Impact of Partition 1922 – 1932

Pursuit of Sovereignty & Impact of Partition 1932 – 1949

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