The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to the Present

By James Lydon | Go to book overview

15

Towards a Republic

The terms of the treaty had stipulated that the ‘members of Parliament elected to constituencies in Southern Ireland’ under the 1920 act were to be summoned and were to establish a provisional government. The British government would then ‘take the steps necessary to transfer to such provisional Government the powers and machinery requisite for the discharge of its duties’. On 14 January the elected members of that parliament, without de Valera and his republican followers, established the provisional government under Michael Collins as chairman. Two days later the last of the viceroys, Viscount Fitzalan, formally surrendered powers of government, symbolized by the handing over of Dublin castle which for centuries, since its institution in 1204, had been the centre of English rule - ‘that dread Bastille of Ireland’, as Collins called it.

The administration based in the castle now came under the new government. While 300 officials volunteered to transfer to Belfast, 21,000 civil servants remained, with their files of records, to serve the new state. All military barracks were slowly evacuated and, with arms and ammunition, were handed over to the IRA, still nominally under the leadership of Richard Mulcahy as Chief-of-Staff. Bound by their oath to the Dáil, most units remained loyal to the new government. But others, led by anti-treaty republicans such as Liam Mellows, Rory O’Connor and Ernie O’Malley, posed a dangerous threat to the peace.

A split which had occurred in the IRA following the defeat of the republicans in the Dáil now became institutionalized. On 5 February Cumann na mBan rejected both the treaty and the new provisional government. On 26 March members of the IRA met in convention, despite a ban by Mulcahy, who was now Minister of Defence. There were 233 delegates present, representing over 112,000 members, and on a vote they rejected the new government, took a new oath to the Republic, as distinct from the Dáil, and established an army executive as their new authority. Commonly called ‘irregulars’ by supporters of the treaty, the dissidents soon caused trouble in many areas. Some newspapers which supported the treaty were attacked, even wrecked, and in one case in Clonmel had its press smashed and the type melted down. Barracks were raided to procure arms, government forces were attacked, and by 6 May eight soldiers had already been killed and as many as 49 wounded. Many post offices around the country were attacked and money stolen. In Dublin a raid on the Bank of Ireland yielded £50,000 and some buildings in the city centre were occupied by irregulars. Then on 14 April a unit lead by Rory O’Connor seized the Four Courts in the heart of Dublin and openly challenged the government. The country now seemed to be heading towards civil war.

-356-

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The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to the Present
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - Saints and Scholars 1
  • 2 - The Viking Impact 20
  • 3 - Church Reform and Political Change 37
  • 4 - The Feudal Lordship 62
  • 5 - The Two Nations 84
  • 6 - The Geraldine Supremacy 107
  • 7 - The End of the Old Order 129
  • 8 - A New Ireland 163
  • 9 - A Protestant Kingdom, 1660-91 197
  • 10 - Protestant Nationalism and the Anglican Ascendancy 218
  • 11 - The Emergence of Catholic Ireland 239
  • 12 - Revolution and Emancipation 265
  • 13 - The Genesis of Home Rule 290
  • 14 - The Struggle for Independence 318
  • 15 - Towards a Republic 356
  • Epilogue 390
  • Further Reading 398
  • Index 407
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