Event to mark handover of Dublin Castle from British authorities

First State commemoration since pandemic began will reflect 100 years of ‘unbroken’ democracy

Kevin O’Higgins, Michael Collins (marked with an ‘x’) and Éamonn Duggan leaving Dublin Castle after the British ‘handover’, on January 16th, 1922. Photograph: Joseph Cashman, NL1 Civil War Prints, NPA CIVP4; courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

Kevin O’Higgins, Michael Collins (marked with an ‘x’) and Éamonn Duggan leaving Dublin Castle after the British ‘handover’, on January 16th, 1922. Photograph: Joseph Cashman, NL1 Civil War Prints, NPA CIVP4; courtesy of the National Library of Ireland


Ceremonies marking the centenary of the handing over of Dublin Castle to the Irish people will be a reflection of 100 years of continuous democracy in the State, the Government has said.

On January 16th, 1922, the British authorities vacated Dublin Castle, which had been the headquarters of British rule in Ireland for 700 years.

Michael Collins, on behalf of the Provisional Government of Ireland, appreciated the significance of the moment.

“The members of Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann [Provisional Government of Ireland] received the surrender of Dublin Castle at 1.45pm today. It is now in the hands the Irish nation.”

The event will be marked on Sunday at Dublin Castle with the first State commemoration since the pandemic started.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and other members of the Government will be in attendance.

Key figures

Attendance will also include representatives of the Dáil and Seanad Éireann, the diplomatic corps, judiciary, local government, Northern Ireland representatives and descendants of key figures of the time.

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Speaking ahead of the forthcoming events, Mr Martin said the handover of Dublin Castle “helped shape our journey towards sovereignty and self-determination”.

The programme of events, which includes a conference and an exhibition, will provide the public with the opportunity, he added, “to acknowledge and reflect on the principles that have buttressed 100 years of parliamentary democracy, and our place in the world as one of the oldest continuous democracies”.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said Ireland was “far from perfect, we have many problems still to solve, but we should not lose sight of the fact that our State has been successful and all that has been achieved in a hundred years of independence. Ireland is one of the world’s oldest uninterrupted democracies, enjoys peace and prosperity and has among the highest living standards in the world.”

Both Mr Martin and the Minister with responsibility for the commemorations, Catherine Martin, will address a two-day conference on Saturday dedicated to the handover, hosted by Trinity College Dublin.

‘Ambitious initiatives’

Ms Martin said the Office of Public Works, the National Archives, TCD and the Royal Irish Academy had “created really ambitious initiatives” to reflect on the handover from one administration to another.

“I have said before that the history of this seminal period belongs to all of us and it’s really important that we approach our remembrance of these events in a holistic way – seeking to understand how each impacted upon the next,” she said.

The chair of the Expert Advisory Group on Centenary Commemorations, Dr Maurice Manning, said few states that were founded after the first World War had such an “unbroken century of sturdy and sustained parliamentary democracy and steady national development and self-realisation. It is truly a key moment in our long history.”

The British ambassador to Ireland, Paul Johnston, will also be in attendance. He launched a book last week on the people who had negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty 100 years ago.

Mr Johnston said he was looking forward to attending the Dublin Castle event.

“It shows the importance of diplomacy. What we are trying to do over the next few weeks and beyond with the EU and Ireland, it is all in the same spirit of trying to achieve a mutual and sustainable relationship and the engagement with Ireland is a crucial part of that,” he said.

Original records describing the handover of Dublin Castle by the British administration to the Provisional Government of Ireland will go on display at the National Archives for the first time in 100 years.

First meeting

Among the records on display are minutes of the first meeting of Rialtas Sealadach na hÉireann in the Mansion House on the morning of January 16th, 1922.

The Royal Irish Academy has produced two publications to mark the events: Ireland 1922 – Independence, partition, civil war, edited by Darragh Gannon and Fearghal McGarry; and The Handover – Dublin Castle and the British withdrawal from Ireland, 1922, by John Gibney and Kate O’Malley.