Why was Ireland partitioned in 1922?
I am writing this essay to try to summaries a number of reasons why Ireland was partitioned in 1922. Some of the reasons even date back to the 16th century, and some are more recent. I will be exploring the religious and political differences in Ireland in an attempt to explain why it was partitioned.
I will start off by looking at the long term causes. Some of the long term causes that led to Ireland being partitioned in 1922 were:- the Ireland catholic reformation- In the 16th century the Christian church in western Europe split into 2 sections, the protestant faith split away from the Catholic church, Henry VIII created the church of England, but Ireland still remained Catholic, so religious tensions in Ireland started to increase. Also during the rule of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) tensions between Catholics & Protestants grew and grew,Elizabeth also had a problem with Catholic Spain & Phillip II who sent the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth did not trust Catholics in Ireland, and encouraged Protestants to settle in and around Ireland, this was known as the plantation period, mainly all the protestants settled in the north of Ireland in an area called Ulster, this was because in the north there was much better land for farming and growing crops than in the south. And later on, William of Orange came along with his army and won the Londonderry siege, this gave him a chance of getting his army into Ireland, then not so later the 2 sides met at the battle of the Boyne(12.07.1690) which William won and then took drastic measures against the Catholics. Then after William of Orange won the battle of the Boyne, the Penal Laws were introduced against Catholics in 1695, this meant that Catholics could not:- own or buy a property, be educated, work for the government or as a lawyer or become an MP, own a weapon, or vote. All these laws meant that Catholics were reduced to second class citizens.
In this part of the essay I will look at the medium term causes. Some of the medium term causes that led to Ireland being partitioned in 1922 were:- The Potato Famine of Ireland in 1845-51 was a major disaster, in Ireland potatoes were the staple diet of most ordinary people, but then suddenly overnight a disease swept over Ireland which caused the potatoes to start rotting, decaying & crumbling from the inside, so when they were pulled out they were crumbled in little bits this disease was called the blights, most tenant farmers lost about 6 months of food overnight because of the blights, millions of people either starved or emigrated, the Irish were furious because the government from England did too little too late, because the English were not there they did not know how bad the situation really was so they sent no help, this also gave many Irish people the impression that England did not care about Ireland.
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Later on after the potato famine, Catholics were wanting Home Rule, so there were 2 sides set up:- The Nationalists- Irish people wanting home rule(they wanted Ireland to be governed from Dublin and they wanted Ireland to become a separate country from the UK(Nationalists were mainly Catholics) and The Unionists- Irish people that believe Ireland should remain being governed from London and Ireland should remain part of the UK(mainly Protestants).The main aims of the Nationalists were to obtain Home Rule and become a separate country from the UK, their supporters were Parnell, the Fenians, tenant farmers, most middle class Catholics, small number of Protestant landlords, and the roman Catholic Church, The Nationalists were well organised, well funded & very confident.
The main aims of the Unionists were to remain being governed from London and to remain in the UK, their supporters were mainly Protestants and some Catholics, landowners, professionals, and Anglican Protestants, they also had very strong support from the church of Ireland.
Tension started to rise between the Nationalists and the Unionists soon after they were formed.
But soon after this in 1914 Ireland was in a crisis, it was on the verge of going into civil war for a number of reasons:- Home Rule became law in Ireland in1912, the Unionists became outraged so this led to the formation of the Unionist UVF force(Ulster volunteer force) in 1913 they also started gun running, illegally arming themselves with guns, also in retaliation, the Nationalists set up the Irish volunteers force in 1913 which also armed themselves illegally, also Asquith and Redmond find out that the Unionists were bluffing in1912, this was to give Unionists enough time to organise themselves, and Redmond was beginning to revive the Nationalist movement at the time, plus the Unionists had a new leader, Carson was elected leader in 1910 he was very popular in England so this gave Unionists even more support, and finally The Curragh Mutiny 1914 all this meant was that the British government could not be sure to rely on the army to enforce Home Rule.
By July/August Ireland was on the very, very brink of civil war, but then something much more serious and important came up, it was the First World War, both Nationalists and Unionists suspended their disputes and stood behind Asquith and joined the British army to help out in the war. The civil war in Ireland was only avoided by a start of a much bigger war, which only put Ireland’s troubles on hold.
During the start of the First World War, Nationalists wanted to become more Irish, so the government started the Gaelic revival, this involved the revival of the Gaelic language and the revival of the Gaelic football league in Ireland, many Nationalists enjoyed this and many took part, many learnt the Gaelic language and many were big Gaelic football league enthusiasts.
In this part of the essay I will look at the short term causes. Some of the short term causes that led to Ireland being partitioned in 1922 were:- The Easter Rising, this happened on Easter Monday 1916, about 1200 IRB(Irish Republican Brotherhood) figures & James Connolly’s Citizen Army occupied the streets of central Dublin and Padraig Pearse read out a proclamation declaring that the Irish Republic was now established. Padraig Pearse saw the rebellion as a blood sacrifice, he knew the rising was hopeless but he feared that without some action the flame of Nationalism would go out in Ireland. The rising was short lived, just 1 week later the rebels surrendered. The British were outraged by this rebellion, because they were fighting the First World War and they thought the war was a lot more important rather than dealing with the Irish and their problems. Also all the leaders of the Easter Rising were executed by the British government. The only people that were sympathetic toward the rebels were the Irish in America but they thought it was very foolish carrying out the rebellion and the majority of the Irish public were sympathetic towards the rebels, but they too thought that it was foolish of the rebels to carry out the rebellion. Most of the Irish public also supported the rebels.
Shortly after the Easter Rising, Sinn Fein started to gain lots of popularity in 1918 and onwards, Sinn Fein was founded by Arthur Griffith in 1905 as a more radical rival to Redmond’s IPP party, Griffith thought that Irish MPs in Westminster should withdraw and set up their own parliament in Dublin.
As tensions began to grow over the Home Rule crisis, Sinn Fein gained more and more support. Sinn Fein gained it’s popularity by protesting against the British government introducing conscription(compulsory military service) into Ireland, and they won and gained a lot of credit for this, plus later that year in the December elections 1918, Sinn Fein had 73 seats, Unionists had 26 seats, and Redmond’s IPP had 6 seats.
As a result of rise in popularity, Sinn Fein set up their own government of Ireland called Dail Eireann. They set up an administrative system, police and courts, all they did against British institutions and officials were they just ignored them. They also formed the Irish volunteers and the IRB into the IRA(Irish Republican Army). In most of Ireland Dail Eireann was viewed as the official government, apart from in Ulster, where Protestants remained loyal to the British. Here is a famous Sinn Fein and Dail Eireann leader:- Eamon de Valera ,American-born Irish political leader who fought in the 1916 Easter Rebellion and was president of Sinn Fein (1918–1926) before becoming three-time prime minister of the Irish Free State and the first president of the Republic of Ireland (1959–1973).
(born Oct. 14, 1882, New York, N.Y., U.S. — died Aug. 29, 1975, Dublin, Ire.) Irish politician and patriot. Born in the U.S. to a Spanish father and an Irish mother, at age two he was sent to live with his mother's family in Ireland when his father died. In 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers and in 1916 helped lead the rebels in the Easter Rising. He was elected president of Sinn Féin in 1918. Repudiating the treaty that formed the Irish Free State because it provided for the partition of Ireland, he supported the republican resistance in the ensuing civil war. In 1924 he founded Fianna Fáil, which won the 1932 elections. As prime minister (1932 – 48), he took the Irish Free State out of the British Commonwealth and made his country a "sovereign" state, renamed Ireland, or Éire. He proclaimed Ireland neutral in World War II. After twice serving again as prime minister (1951 – 54, 1957 – 59), he became president of Ireland (1959 – 73).
In 1919-1921 the IRA began a guerrilla war(the Anglo-Irish war) against the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). The IRA attacked the RIC to gain arms, weapons, and explosives, and to discourage any form of collaboration with the British, also to destroy the British intelligence network. Local IRA commanders organised their men in flying columns, which carried out hit & run attacks on the British Black & Tans forces that were sent to Ireland. The leader of the IRA during The Anglo-Irish war was Michael Collins.
By this time Lloyd George(the English prime minister at the time) was desperate to sign a treaty with Ireland, so in December 1920, George introduced the Government of Ireland Act, this Act included:- 6 of Ulster’s 9 counties became a self governing Northern Ireland with it’s own parliament in Belfast, also the remaining 26 counties would also become self governing with a parliament in Dublin, and finally Britain would keep control of issues such as the military, naval facilities and so on. This Act did not work, because it was felt that Northern Ireland was too small to work economically, as the state might not be able to feed it self, and might not have enough workers for it’s industries. The government of Ireland Act was put into effect in May 1921, although in the rest of Ireland it was rejected, and Sinn Fein continued the war. By the summer of 1921, Lloyd George was incredibly desperate to end all conflict in Ireland, so he brought out the Anglo-Irish Treaty in July 1921 and it was put into effect in October, this involved:- the 26 counties of Ireland would become the Irish Free State, all British forces were to move out of the 26 counties, the Free State would have it’s own administrative system and army and police & flags and passports, the Republicans must accept partition and existence of Northern Ireland, the Free State would still be part of the British Empire, and politicians of Dail Eire had to swear an oath of allegiance to British Monarch, and finally The Royal Navy could still use certain Irish ports. In June 1922, the people of the Free State thought the treaty was good enough and voted in favour of it. But the hardline Republicans led by Eamon De Valera, were disappointed by the last 4 terms and refused to accept the treaty. Anti-treaty IRA members went even further, and within a short period of time the Free State was involved in a civil war until May 1923. The Boundary Commission reported in 1924, and made virtually no changes to the proposed border between Northern Ireland and the Free State. Ireland was finally divided.
To conclude this essay I will summaries and recap on the 3 most important reasons that I think led Ireland to be partitioned in 1922.
The first reason is The Potato Famine of 1845-51, this is because this started to give most Irish people the impression that England did not care about Ireland, plus this led to the formation of Nationalism v Unionism, and this gave the Nationalists the idea of wanting Home Rule.
The second reason is The Anglo-Irish war (1919-21) because the IRA started a guerrilla war against the RIC forces in Ulster plus the British also helped out the RIC forces, this caused even more tension between the Nationalists against the Unionists and British forces, this practically already partitions Ireland, because after this the Government of Ireland Act is passed and then the Anglo-Irish Treaty makes the partition official.
And the third and final reason is The Anglo-Irish Treaty, because this is basically an adaptation of the Government of Ireland Act, most of the Irish Free State votes for the Treaty and a civil war breaks loose until May1923, then the Boundary Commission reported in 1924, they made virtually no changes to the proposed boarder between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, so then Ireland was divided and officially partitioned.