Page images

dent of the Republic but of Dail Eireann. Mr. de Valera submitted that, as President, Mr. Griffith would have to undertake not to use his power for any purpose except the maintenance of the Republic until the other Government was set up. When the motion was about to be put, Mr. de Valera declared that, as a protest against the election as President of the Irish Republic of the chairman of the delegation who was bound by the Treaty conditions to set up a State subversive to the Republic, and who in the meanwhile would of necessity have to take action tending to its destruction, he would have to leave the Chamber while the vote was being taken. The Republicans thereupon left the room in the midst of a passionate scene. When the vote for Mr. Griffith's election was taken it was unanimously carried, and Mr. Griffith proceeded to announce the nominations for his Cabinet already mentioned.

When the Dail reassembled later in the day, Mr. de Valera said he could not congratulate the President on his election, but he promised him a certain measure of assistance and every respect. Mr. Griffith in reply asked for nothing more than freedom from obstruction until they could go to the Irish people and ask them for a decision. Answering various questions, Mr. Griffith said that he had received only one communication from the British Government in connexion with the Treaty, and this was unofficial. The legislation which the British Government would pass to carry into effect the articles of agreement would be a Free State Act. He himself would summon the members of the Southern Parliament, and the Provisional Government would be elected from these members. If it was necessary to use the Lord-Lieutenant as they used liaison ofticers, they would use him. The Dail then adjourned until February 14.

The Irish Free State came officially into existence on January 15 at a meeting of elected members of the Southern Parliament convened by President Griffith. In less than an hour the Treaty was unanimously approved by the members present. A Provisional Government was appointed and the last meeting of members of the Southern Parliament came to an end. The members of the Provisional Government were: Mr. M. Collins, Mr. W. Cosgrave, Mr. E. J. Duggan, Mr. P. Hogan, Mr. F. Lynch, Mr. J. McGrath, Mr. J. McNeill, and Mr. K. O'Higgins. The absence of the name of Mr. Griffith came as a surprise and was the subject of much comment and speculation. The Provisional Government was charged with carrying out the terms of the Treaty and the taking over of the powers of the machinery hitherto held by the British Governinent in Ireland. When this work had been accomplished it was the intention to dissolve Dail Eireann and to decree a General Election for the first Parliament of the Irish Free State. The movers and seconders of the motion approving the Treaty and appointing the Provisional Government, contented themselves with few words, and neither motion was debated. In each case there was neither


amendment nor objection, and the Chairman declared both motions to be carried unanimously.

On January 16 the Irish people were informed by the Provisional Government that Dublin Castle had that day been “surrendered” to them. The members of the Provisional Government went in a body to the Castle, where they were received by Lord FitzAlan, the Lord-Lieutenant. Mr. Michael Collins produced a copy of the Treaty, on which the acceptance of its provisions by himself and his colleagues was endorsed. The existence and authority of the Provisional Government were then formally and officially acknowledged, and they were informed that the British Government would be immediately communicated with in order that the necessary steps might be taken for the transfer to the Provisional Government of the powers of the machinery requisite for the discharge of its duties. The Lord-Lieutenant expressed the earnest hope that under the new regime the ideal of a happy, free, and prosperous Ireland would be attained.

The transfer of Dublin Castle, which for centuries had been the symbol as well as the citadel of British rule in Ireland, was hailed in Dublin with profound satisfaction. It was regarded as the supreme outward and visible sign that British rule was indeed at an end, and that Ireland had at last come into her

On January 19 control of the Irish postal services was formally taken over on behalf of the new Government. On the same day a meeting of Unionists from the South and West of Ireland was held, at which a resolution was unanimously passed to the effect that the meeting, recognising that a Provisional Government had been formed, desired to support their fellow-countrymen in that Government in order that peace might be brought about and the welfare of the country secured.

On January 21 it was announced by Mr. Michael Collins and Sir James Craig, representing respectively the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, that they had come to an agreement on various controversial issues. The first point of the agreement was for the alteration of the Boundary Commission as outlined in the Treaty. The Governments of the Free State and of Northern Ireland were to appoint one representative each to report to Mr. Collins and Sir James Craig, who would mutually agree on behalf of their respective Governments on the future boundaries between the two. The second point in the agreement included an undertaking by Mr. Collins that the Belfast boycott should be discontinued immediately. Sir James Craig undertook to facilitate in every possible way the return of Catholic workmen without tests to the shipyards as soon as a trade revival enabled firms to absorb the present unemployed. In the meantime a system of relief on a large scale was being arranged to carry over the period of distress. Other points in the agreement had reference to a settlement of the railway dispute and to the devising of a scheme more suitable than that provided by the Council of Ireland for dealing with problems affecting all Ireland.

This agreement was acclaimed both in Dublin and Belfast, where it was considered to offer a new and substantial hope of real unity in Ireland. The southern boycott of Belfast was formally lifted on January 24, on which date free trade with Ulster was resumed.

The problem of the boundaries of Northern Ireland was not destined, however, to be settled so easily, and early in February it was announced that a critical position had arisen on the Boundary Commission. Mr. Michael Collins and Sir James Craig found themselves unable to agree, and measures were suggested which would, in effect, have been a declaration of war by the Provisional Government upon North-east Ulster. The scene of the negotiations was then shifted to London, and important conferences took place on February 5 between Mr. Churchill and Mr. Michael Collins and his colleagues.

Outrages continued to occur from time to time during January. On the 11th a man and his wife were shot dead at Belfast. A number of men, believed to be Sinn Feiners, threw a bomb at a tramcar conveying workmen to the shipyards and opened fire upon it with revolvers. On January 12 it was announced from Dublin Castle that the King would grant a general amnesty in respect of all offences committed in Ireland from political motives prior to the operation of the truce on July 11, 1921. There were at the time more than 1,000 prisoners of this class in Irish and English prisens. Preparations were also being made throughout Ireland for the removal of the Crown Forces.

On February 8 a series of extraordinary raids was carried out by Sinn Feiners on the border of the Northern area, and a number of prominent Fermanagh and Tyrone Unionists were kidnapped. The Northern Government at once took measures to prevent further outrages of this character, armoured cars with special police being despatched to the scene of the outrages. All strangers and travellers in the southern portion of the Northern area were subjected to the closest scrutiny. On February 9 four or five special police and some soldiers were captured by the Irish Republican Army in Monaghan. Further incidents continued to be recorded from the frontier of Ulster and Southern Ireland. A party of armed men fired into houses at the village of Clady and attacked a party of special constables, one of whom was shot dead. Continued activity by the Irish Republican Army was reported from County Monaghan. On February 10 an artillery officer attached to the Kildare barracks was shot dead. On the 11th four special constables were shot dead and many wounded by men of the Irish Republican Army at Clones. The Northern Government promptly submitted proposals to the British Government that the danger points on the boundary should be garrisoned by British troops, and the departure of British soldiers from Ireland, which had been in progress, was immediately stopped. On the 12th and 13th shooting broke out again in Belfast and a heavy death roll was reported. Mr. Collins, Chairman of the Free State Provisional Government, expressed the view that a coup d'état was being planned against the new Government. Further outrages continued to take place in Belfast, and after five days the casualty list exceeded 100, including over 30 dead.

The kidnapped Ulstermen were not imprisoned for long, their release being speedily secured by the efforts of Mr. Michael Collins. Mr. Collins and the Northern Government agreed to the appointment of two impartial liaison Commissions to operate on each side of the frontier and exchange information in order to allay mutual suspicion. The Commissions included several British officers and officers from the Irish Forces on each side of the border. The situation on the border was indeed very acute. On the Northern side the concentration of special constabulary had established a chain of armed camps fully equipped for war. Every road crossing the boundary was strongly held; strategic posts were elaborately wired and sandbagged. On February 20, while a party of military were travelling along a road near Dublin, they were attacked by about twenty men, and an officer of the Royal Army Service Corps was shot through the heart and killed instantly, while a Quartermaster-Sergeant was wounded in the head and subsequently died. On February 21 a meeting was held of the Ard Fheis, or convention of the Sinn Fein organisation. The meeting, which was held in Dublin, was a trial of strength over the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and developed first into an endeavour to prevent a definite split in the movement, and later into an attempt, under the plea of preserving unity, to secure a postponement of an election in Ireland until the Constitution of the Free State could be submitted to the people. Eventually the conference decided to adjourn to enable the leaders of the two parties to confer, with a view to bringing before the delegates proposals to maintain unity in a form which might command general agreement. Mr. de Valera asked for an undertaking that during three months there should be no appeal to the people, and that the Republicans should not be debarred from endeavouring to bring about a defeat of the Treaty supporters in the Dail. When the Assembly resumed, appeals for an understanding became insistent, but the attitude of the leaders of the rival groups gave slender hope that a basis of agreement could be formulated. A conference was held between the leaders, however, and at length an undertaking was signed, which the convention unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed. The agreement was to the effect that there should be no General Election in Ireland for three months. When the election was held, the draft constitution of the Irish Free State was to be put before the people as well as the articles of agreement signed in London. During the three months no vote in Dail Eireann was to be regarded as a party vote requiring the resignation of Mr. Griffith and the Cabinet. The decision of the conference caused general surprise and disappointment among the supporters of the Peace Treaty.

The chief interest in English politics at the beginning of February was the report of the Geddes Committee, which was issued on the 10th of the month. The Lord Chancellor delivered an important speech on February 1 dealing with this report and the future of the Coalition. Referring to Ireland, he said that it was premature to sound any note of jubilation, but he believed that the settlement would be a permanent cure for the follies and crimes of centuries. He said that the Geddes report was one of the most remarkable State papers that had ever been presented to any Government. The Government would be guided by the advice of the Committee on every point which did not come into plain collision with national security. He denied that the Coalition Government had the slightest intention of expiring. The Party which constituted the gravest menace to the Coalition was the Labour Party, and he described the part played by the leaders of the Labour Party since the war as one of consistent and abject poltroonery. Lord Grey and Lord Robert Cecil had every advantage from the point of view of forming a Government, except that they had no support in the country. The diplomatic record of Lord Grey was that we went into the war with a diplomacy that never suspected it and with an Army wholly unprepared. The vice of party politics might have plunged us into civil war if the European war had not intervened. Every consideration of political decency and gratitude made it impossible to have a breach with the men who had fought the battles with them in the last four years. He stated his intention to march on with them until a divergence of principle emerged. If there was any justification for the Coalition five years ago, there was the same justification now.

On the following day Mr. Austen Chamberlain spoke at the annual dinner of the Primrose League. Referring to the position of the House of Lords, he said that the Government desired no party triumph but a national settlement. Economic and financial issues demanded the concentrated effort and attention of the nation. New political programmes were out of place. Great advances in social reform could only be undertaken when the purse was full. The task of the Government was to consolidate peace in Europe and restore order and stability at home, concentrating on the elimination of those disputes which had so ruinously aggravated distress. The first necessity was for a reduction of expenditure and the strictest economy in administration and policy.

The first and second sections of the Geddes report were published on February 10. The members of the Committee

« PreviousContinue »