The Birth of the Irish Free State, 1921-1923

By Joseph M. Curran | Go to book overview

Appendix IV

Possible British Sanctions
Against Southern Ireland
in 1922

A subcommittee of the Cabinet's Irish Committee studied economic sanctions from February through June. It is unlikely that Britain would have imposed a general blockade on Southern Ireland in the event of war or severed relations, as the investigation concluded that this would pose too many problems. A limited blockade was a distinct possibility, however. By cutting off imports of vital fuel supplies, the British could put considerable pressure on the Republicans with minimum risk and inconvenience to themselves. Such a blockade would be enforced by occupation of Dublin, Queenstown, and Limerick, which would also deny the bulk of Irish revenues to the enemy. 1

The question of military sanctions was investigated by a subcommittee of the Committee of Imperial Defense. Headed by Churchill and including the chiefs of the armed services, the subcommittee met eight times between April 6 and June 2, holding its most crucial sessions on June 1 and 2 during the crisis over the Constitution. According to the subcommittee's plan, a break with Southern Ireland would probably have caused the British to occupy the waterline of rivers and lakes from County Donegal to County Louth (Letterkenny-Donegal-Bally‐ shannon-Belleek-Clones-Dundalk) to defend Ulster from invasion. At the same time, reinforcements would be sent to the South (as well as the North) to hold Dublin and take control of the customs there and at Queenstown and Limerick. 2

The Provisional Government's surrender on the Constitution removed the danger of hostilities and the need for sanctions. Within a few weeks, the economic and military subcommittees were disbanded.

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