The Birth of the Irish Free State, 1921-1923

By Joseph M. Curran | Go to book overview

Chapter 15

The Coming of
Civil War

While the London negotiations proceeded, the election campaign ran its course. On May 29 the viceroy dissolved the Parliament of Southern Ireland and summoned a Provisional Parliament. Republicans called this assembly the Third Dail while Free Staters referred to it as the Parliament to which the Provisional Government would be responsible.

From the moment the Collins-de Valera pact was signed, the press urged independent interests to contest the election. Little encouragement was necessary, and by June 3 forty-four non-panel candidates were nominated. 1 The anti-Treaty party was understandably upset, since all these candidates were pro-Treaty. On June 5 de Valera and Collins again appealed for support of the pact. 2

Tom Johnson replied by asserting that Labor should be directly represented in the new Dail; a freely elected assembly could protect the people's rights better than a single political party. Predictably, Labor's platform was oriented to social and economic issues, such as land settlement, housing, and unemployment. It pledged that the party's representatives would work to prevent strife between the two wings of Sinn Fein and achieve national unity through an all-Ireland labor movement. Although Labor was not officially committed to the Treaty, its leaders' pro-Treaty stance was well known. 3

Although the Republicans were unhappy with Labor's attitude, they used only verbal arguments to change it. They were well aware of Sinn Fein's debt to Labor and had no desire to alienate a party that contained a large number of Republican sympathizers. However, less tolerance was shown to other non-panel candidates. Darrell Figgis had his impressive red beard cut off by political foes, both for encouraging opposition to the panel and for running as an Independent. This indignity upset the former Sinn Feiner much more than verbal abuse, but it probably gained him popular sympathy and helped him win election. Some opponents of Sinn Fein fared worse. When appeals to patriotism did not persuade them to withdraw, threats and sometimes physical intimidation were used. Several candidates of the conservative Farmers' Party were threatened or attacked by armed men, and one was reported to have been shot and seriously wounded. Some Farmer nominees withdrew, and in other constituencies the party decided not to contest the election. 4

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