The Birth of the Irish Free State, 1921-1923

By Joseph M. Curran | Go to book overview

Chapter 11

The Way Ahead:
January-February 1922

In late December 1921, Lloyd George appointed a Cabinet Committee to supervise the transfer of power in Southern Ireland. The Provisional Government of Ireland Committee was headed by Churchill, who, as colonial secretary, was in charge of Anglo-Dominion relations. Procedural arrangements for the transfer were worked out following the Dail's approval of the Treaty. 1

On January 12, 1922, Griffith, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Treaty delegation, summoned members of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland to a meeting on January 14. At 11 a.m. on the appointed day, sixty pro-Treaty deputies and the four representatives of Trinity College met at the Mansion House. Within an hour they had unanimously approved the Treaty and elected a Provisional Government. Having completed its assigned task, the assembly adjourned and never met again. Collins was chosen as chairman of the Provisional Government, with Cosgrave, O'Higgins, and Duggan occupying the same ministries they held in the Dail government. Neither Griffith nor Mulcahy joined the Provisional Government, but although they had no official connection with the authority charged with implementing the Treaty, both worked closely with it. 2

On January 16 the new government formally took possession of Dublin Castle. However, Collins wisely chose to set up headquarters in City Hall, which allowed easy access to the Castle but was in no way identified with the old regime.

The Free State leaders faced a host of problems. They had to take over the Executive from the British, maintain public order during the transition period, and draft a constitution. They also had to prepare for an election on the Treaty and coordinate the work of Dail departments with those taken over from the British. O'Higgins later described the Provisional Government as "simply eight young men in the City Hall standing amidst the ruins of one administration, with the foundations of another not yet laid, and with wild men screaming through the keyhole." 3

Collins, O'Higgins, and Duggan went to London late in January to work out the sequence of steps that would bring the Free State officially into existence. It was agreed that the viceroy was to act on the advice of

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