Featured image courtesy of https://www.cesc.ie/
December 6, 2021 marked 100 Years Since Anglo-Irish Treaty Signed
The signing of the treaty ended the War of Independence and set the stage for British withdrawal from most of Ireland with the handover of power to an independent Irish Government. The treaty gave Ireland independence, but as a member of the British Commonwealth, and not as a Republic. Delegates argued that it was the best possible deal under the set of circumstances. Critics, lead by President Eamon de Valera, claimed that the signing was done under duress and so was basically invalid. While the Dail did ratify the treaty eight days later it was only by just a seven-vote margin.
As researchers discovered in the U.K. National Archives in Kew, London, British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, gave the Irish delegates an ultimatum on the night of December 5, 1921, that he was dispatching two letters to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister, James Craig. One of them stated that an agreement was reached between Great Britain and the Irish Republic; while the second letter said that the talks had broken down. If the second of the two was delivered Lloyd George threatened there would be ‘an immediate and terrible war,’ within three days. His meaning by the three days threat that, as revealed in the Kew papers, 85,000 additional British soldiers along with the dreaded Black and Tans that were already in Ireland would start an all out war. This was in addition to martial law for all of the 28 counties with press censorship, a blockade of produce leaving Ireland and military courts like the type that led to the execution of the 15 leaders of the Easter Rising and an imposition of passports between Britain and Ireland.
Now people are wondering if Lloyd George was bluffing with this outburst on the night of December 5th. The officer in charge of British forces in Ireland, General Sir Nevil Macready thought that might be the case however the Irish delegates were not in a position to call his bluff. The outcome was at 2:15 a.m. on December 6th the treaty was signed by the Irish delegation. By a voting process Northern Ireland decided to remain outside the new state. De Valera did not accept the result of the vote and led his supporters out of the Dail in protest. This action began the chain of events that eventually led to the Irish Civil War six months later.