Families of Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiators come together to mark centenary

Only two signed copies of document setting up Irish State exist, but neither is the same as the other

The British copy of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which is in the UK national archives in Kew, went on public display for the first time at an event in the Irish Embassy in London to mark the centenary of the Treaty. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

There are only two signed copies of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and neither is the same as the other. Therein hangs a tale about the chaos surrounding the fateful signing of the document that set up the Irish State at 2.15am on December 6th, 1921.

Just three of the Irish delegates made it to Downing Street: Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and Robert Barton. The other two – Eamonn Duggan and Charles Gavan Duffy – were still back at 22 Hans Place, the Irish delegation’s headquarters, in Knightsbridge, mulling their options.

The three signatories arrived back to Hans Place in the early hours with the partially signed document, to which Duggan and Gavan Duffy added their names. Duggan departed on the early morning train to Holyhead with the signed copy.

By the time the British realised they needed a copy for their records, Duggan was gone so his signature was cut and pasted from a menu card. The rough outline is still apparent 100 years on.

The British copy of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which is in the UK national archives in Kew, went on public display for the first time at an event at the Irish Embassy in London to mark the centenary of the Treaty. It is in a room along with Sir John Lavery’s paintings of the signatories.

It was the first, and perhaps the last, time that the families from the British and Irish sides of the Treaty negotiations came together in one place. Prior to the gathering they visited an exhibition on the Treaty at the British Academy, which will be transported to Dublin for the centenary in December.

Differing memories

The Treaty is remembered differently in each country. For Britain it was the end of a long difficulty, or so they thought. For the Irish it led to the Civil War and division that lasted generations.

Dr Ronan Fawsitt, a grandson of Diarmaid Fawsitt, who served as an economic adviser to Barton, was one of the instigators of the reunion. Dr Fawsitt, a GP in Kilkenny, said the generation involved in the Treaty negotiations were traumatised by the fact it led to civil war.

“We know that transferred down the generations through epigenetics, so it is really interesting that we have had 100 years of silence about the effect of trauma on the delegates,” he said. “Today, by the descendents coming together and talking about it, it is quite liberating. The solution to trauma is to make connections.”

There are only three children of those directly involved in the negotiations who are still alive. Dr Diarmaid Lynch (91) also has the double distinction that both his parents were involved in the Irish delegation. His father, Fionan, and mother, Bridget, did much of the logistical planning for the 70 strong Irish delegation.

“We tried to get our father to talk about it and he said there was enough written about it already,” he said. “When it came to the Treaty he was a pragmatist, and the idealists were going against it. My view is that idealists failed to see that a republic wasn’t possible and the pragmatic answer was the right one.”

Hesitant

Among the British relatives there was Charles Hamar Delevingne, the grandson of the last chief secretary to Ireland, Sir Hamar Greenwood.

“He’s associated with the activities of the Black and Tans, so I am a bit hesitant. I keep quiet about it in Ireland,” said Mr Delevingne, whose mother, Angela Greenwood, was Sir Hamar’s eldest daughter.

“My mother would describe her father as immensely kind. I gather he was pretty unpopular in Ireland because of his connection with the Black and Tans, which nobody can be proud of, but he was put in a difficult situation.”

Mr Delevingne is the father of the actor and model Cara Delevingne. “I remember I used to go backwards and forwards to Dublin a lot, and the name of the Aer Lingus magazine was Cara. I loved the name.

“I’m here to celebrate 100 years of Anglo-Irish friendship. Long may it continue.”

The British-Argentinian poet and writer Miguel Cullen is a great-grandson of FE Smith, also known as Lord Birkenhead, who was one of the foremost negotiators on the British side.

Drinking

Birkenhead, then the lord chancellor, was renowned for his brilliant intellect but also for his prodigious drinking. He died prematurely aged 58 from cirrhosis of the liver.

Mr Cullen said the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations was a “Brexit-like deal” and there was huge pressure on both sides. Lord Birkenhead was a well-known unionist who had to placate the die-hards in the Conservative party who did not want a settlement with Ireland.

“He drove a hard bargain. For me he was making nations. He was changing things on a macro level. As a poet and a journalist based in London, I can’t imagine what that would be like.”