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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 6, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

    Fateful Day: The Treaty 90 Years On

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Check this out. It is a photograph of the signatories’ page of the Anglo-Irish Treaty which was agreed this day, 90 years ago, on December 6th, 1921. You will find it on the National Archives of Ireland website.

    I notice that Arthur Griffith signs his name in Irish and English and the Irish version, Art O Gríobhtha, is in the Gaelic script. However, Michael Collins signs only the Irish version of his name, Mícheál O Coileain, but uses the standard English-language script. I note he has a “síneadh fada” on the ‘i’ and ‘a’ of Mícheál (the current Fianna Fail leader only has an accent on the ‘a’) but none on the a of O Coileain; the unaccented O and the C are linked and there also appears to be an apostrophe between them. Interesting for political connoisseurs of political and linguistic minutiae.

    The Treaty of course led to a bitter and bloody civil war where the casualties and the breaches of human rights were actually worse than most of what happened between the Old IRA and the British forces.

    The saddest story of all was the execution of Rory O’Connor by a Government which included Kevin O’Higgins, who had chosen O’Connor to be best man at his wedding only a year or so previously. Tragedy piled on tragedy: O’Higgins was later shot dead himself.

    The standard view now is that the signing of the Treaty was the right thing to do. With the benefit of hindsight, one finds it hard to quarrel with that view. British/English forces were leaving most of the island’s territory and, as Dev himself ironically proved, the means were there to obtain further degrees of independence later. In a strange way, Dav validated the Treaty he had opposed.

    However, there were a lot of intelligent and sincere people who could not live with the compromise. They should not be dismissed out of hand as fools and extremists. There were arguments on both sides and everyone – apart from a few  fanatics  - wanted the best for Ireland.

    To watch an excellent documentary on TG4 click here. I am not sure how long the link will be in place.

    • arebrab says:

      The British at the time knew EXACTLY what they were doing. How “soft” you revisionists have become. That rag of a treaty was designed to divide the country and ensure civil war would follow, where brother would fight against brother and friend against friend………For what? So that the British Empire would, for its own aggrandisement, eventually extend dominion over six of the most beautiful counties on this island. I am sick to the eye teeth of revisionism and our history. Those who signed the treaty should never have signed it. The time was ripe for calling England’s bluff and had they united against the pompous forces across the water at that time, and had Irish men and women together stood their ground they would soon have been standing on ground that covered thirty-two counties…….and so would we. It’s all history now but clearly the country is still psychically divided…….almost right down the middle I’d say (FF/FG), but because FG is “in power” at the moment we’re going to be saturated with this beatification of Michael Collins malarkey……….Gawd help us. Dev was exactly right. The terms of that treaty were completely unacceptable.

    • jaygee says:

      In Memoriam this day, Liam Mellowes, Rory O’Connor, Dick Barrett, Joe Mc Kelvey

    • Desmond FitzGerald says:

      Those who opposed the treaty had a choice as they had spent the last number of years demanded democracy yet when confronted with a different outcome to what they wanted, and which was supported by the majority of the population through a fair and free democratic vote, what did they do? Did they accept the decision of the people and engage in democratic politics and debate to further their aims, no they unleashed a civil war – the consequences of which are not not finished.

      Every one who has ever voted for Fianna Fáil ‘the republican party’ is complicit in that civil war and its consequences, even decades later.

      Is it too late to dig up Dev and hang him upside down outside Leinster House?

    • CHRIS KEANE says:

      I’m sure the terms of the Treaty was certainly not the ideal terms, that the Irish delegation would have wished for. They all wished for a Republic, but were practical enough, to realise that it was not possible at this time. De Valera and others had ample opportunity right up to the signing of the Treaty, to be part of the Negotiations, but refused. I believe he had hoped that Negotiations would break down and he would have the glory of making a final settlement. It is clear from the cabinet meeting minutes and his subsequent Document 2 proposal, that this would fallen short of a Republic and still included an Oath to the British King. His intention also, could have been to keep the diehards, like Brugha and Stack onside, but this was a very dangerous strategy, which could have left the Irish people with no measure of freedom.
      The team did essentially what it was instructed to and brought back the best deal they could achieve. Just because they signed the Treaty, didn’t mean that it was fully accepted by the Irish side. It still had to be democratically ratified.
      Firstly the cabinet accepted it by four votes to three, the Dail then accepted it,(although narrowly) and then the Irish people overwhelmingly accepted it. For me, I am thankful that the Irish team had the nerve to sign, they allowed the Irish people to decide not De Valera and others. Dev’s alternative Document 2 plan and external association was too far ahead of its time, and simply not acceptable to the British, whose Empire, although weakened at this stage, was still too powerful not to allow its closest colony to become a fully fledged Republic. Collins, no more than anyone was fully aware of our military capabilities, and thank God he was practical enough to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of Irish men, women and children.
      If the Boundary commission terms had been correctly pushed through by the Free State government, parts of Ulster would have elected to join the Free State, as the rest of Ulster would not have been a viable economic entity. This is what Collins and Griffith had wished for, a peaceful route to unity, rather than the jackboot actions of militant republicanism that we have seen in recent times.

    • dkk says:

      Incredible how armchair “republicans” continue to ignore the fact that there was a huge unionist population, predominantly located in the north of the island, who would have ferociously resisted any attempt to push them into an independent Irish state outside of the UK. A 32 county republic was not just a matter of signing another document or beating the British army militarily.

    • barbera says:

      @ 5 — dkk And how did that “huge unionist population” get there……….PLANTATION……that’s how. I reckon that is the only way we’ll get a united Ireland now, if we “plant” Irish people from the 26 counties into the 6 counties so that a majority will be achieved that will vote for a united Ireland (this was a solution proffered by one of my sons when he was about eleven years old.!) I have no doubt that what could then become a Unionist minority would be much better treated than the atrocious way the Catholic minority had been treated since partition…..and how we in the South stood by indifferently. Anyway, we are where we are and there’s no point in re-opening old wounds but somebody has to keep in check this revisionist propaganda that is permeating the media from certain quarters in Academia today.

    • Sarah says:

      The biggest mistake is believing that the divide in the north is basically Catholic/Protestant.
      There are Protestant Republicans and Catholic Unionists too.

    • Poli-tricks says:

      @ 6

      Yeah it sounds like an idea an 11 year old would come up with alright………….

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