Ireland's Independence, 1880-1923

By Oonagh Walsh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX

The Civil War, January 1922 to May 1923

In January 1922, it was possible to point to the remarkable achievements of the past few years. Despite enormous odds, a treaty had been negotiated with the British government which re-established an Irish Parliament, saw the creation of an Irish army, and the withdrawal of crown forces from most of the country. However, even the most optimistic of commentators could not escape the signs of disappointment and discontent which emerged immediately after the last session of the Dáil. Although all members had vowed to support their country, interpretations of what that country might be were vastly different. This was immediately clear when on 14 January the Southern Ireland Parliament (in fact, precisely the same as the Dáil, with the addition of the four members for Dublin University, as demanded by the Government of Ireland Act of 1920) met for the first time. It was headed by a new ministry, led by Arthur Griffith as President and including Michael Collins, Richard Mulcahy, George Gavan Duffy, William Cosgrave, Kevin O’Higgins, Ernest Blythe, Eamon Duggan, P.J. Hogan, Joseph McGrath and Michael Hayes. De Valera and the other anti-Treaty members did not attend, and although the Treaty was formally approved, it was clear that a significant minority opposed it. This meeting also established a provisional government, of which Collins was Chairman, and whose members were Cosgrave, O’Higgins, McGrath, Duggan and Hogan (all members of the Dáil Ministry) as well as Eoin MacNeill and Finian Lynch. The overlap was inevitable under the circumstances, and reflected the desire on both Collins’ and Griffith’s part to hold pro- and anti-Treaty forces together as far as possible.

This desire to avoid open conflict was expressed in every aspect of the interim government. Collins in particular was under dreadful

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