‘The first step on a new path’: What The Irish Times thought of the Treaty vote

Dáil Éireann voted in favour of the Anglo Irish Treaty 100 years ago today

On January 7th, 1922, the Dáil voted in favour of the Anglo Irish Treaty, signed the previous month in London, by a margin of 64 votes to 57.

The edition carrying the first reports of the “enthusiastic ratification scenes” appeared the following Monday, on January 9th. The main coverage was published on page five, as it would be nearly 20 years before news stories appeared regularly on the front page of The Irish Times – with the exception of the Weekly edition.

Reports on the Monday following the vote included the views of the world press; details of Arthur Griffith’s speech; Éamon de Valera’s declaration that an opportunity had been “lost definitely”; and the final dramatic scenes in the Dáil as the vote was taken: “few were prepared for the dramatic climax that lay in store”.

The same edition also carried the first editorial comment from The Irish Times following the vote – the piece can be read in full below:

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Irish Times, January 9th, 1922

Dáil Éireann has ratified the Articles of the Agreement between Great Britain and Ireland. Technically, the country's fate has been decided by the narrow majority of seven votes. Actually the decision expresses the will of at least nine-tenths of the Irish people. They made up their minds on the day when the plenipotentiaries brought the Treaty back from London; and their choice has been confirmed rather than shaken by the prolonged discussions in the Dáil. We can respect the sincerity of the advocates of an Irish Republic. We can sympathize with Mr de Valera's honest and, no doubt, unselfish sorrow in defeat; but no man or party of men has any right to sacrifice a Nation's welfare to the pursuit of an ideal.

Whatever may happen in the near future, Ireland has taken the first irrevocable step on a new path. She has put the confusions and calamities of the recent struggle behind her and today she turns her face to the dawn. The Treaty admits her as a full partner to the greatest and most liberal community of Nations that the centuries have known. It makes her mistress of her own fate and invites her to concentrate henceforward on tasks of national progress and development [OF]the rich resources which she has expended hitherto in the service of others. If her progress is impeded, it will be impeded by the folly of her own children; for she has not an external enemy in either hemisphere. Britain has given her such proof of trust and good-will as no Empire has dared to bestow since Rome gave her citizenship to her first and greatest Province. The Dominions welcome their new sister with open arms. The United States of America rejoice in an act which has consolidated the interests of the English-speaking world.

We assume that the parliament of Southern Ireland will be summoned without delay, will ratify the Treaty formally, and will appoint the Provisional Government which will "carry on" until the Irish Free State has been established. Mr Arthur Griffith and Mr Michael Collins have dominated the proceedings in the Dáil. They will be leading members of the Provisional Government, and they have given the country some reason to hope that they will take up their new task with a solemn sense of their responsibilities to all parties and classes in Southern Ireland. We shall not speculate on the developments which must come crowding on the heels of the Dáil's decision.

Much will depend on the attitude of Mr de Valera and his followers. He declared on Saturday evening, and again yesterday, that the Irish Republic would remain in being until the Irish people had disestablished it. If this phrase means merely that Mr de Valera will refuse to recognise the Treaty and will advise his supporters to take no active part in administering it until a general election has confirmed the country’s allegiance to it, we can afford to wait for that certain and early confirmation.

For the present we decline to believe that any dissatisfied Republican will seek to vent his dissatisfaction by inflicting further unrest or misery on his fellow countrymen. Any conflict in Ireland now must be civil conflict between Irishmen and Irishmen. Mr de Valera has fought strenuously for his convictions, and he has been defeated. If he is a true patriot, he will bow to the national decision and, if he cannot help, at least will not hinder the work of the new Administration. The fifty-seven deputies who voted against the Treaty have made their protest. We hope that, having made it, they will be ready now to fulfil the wishes of their constituents.

We speak for the vast majority of Southern loyalists when we say that they are ready to take Mr Arthur Griffith at his word. They face the future with anxious hearts. All their old landmarks have disappeared. They have reached a point where they must break with traditions that were very dear to them. They are forced to adjust their minds to an entirely new set of ideals and ideas. They are invited to launch the ship of their hopes and fortunes upon an uncharted sea. For the moment, at any rate, a wide gap seems to divide them from all the Imperial institutions which they still honour and have helped to build.

To one article of faith, however, they continue to fix an unshaken mind. Ireland is their country and her future must be their future. The talk of a sort of Babylonian exodus, in which some well-meaning Englishmen have indulged, has irritated them. If they must make a new start, they prefer to make it in their own land. We attach little importance to Mr Griffith’s promise that, so far as he can have his way, all minorities will get fair play and full consideration in the Irish State. We believe that Mr Griffith speaks for virtually the whole of Nationalist Ireland, which realises that by this road only can the goal of true unity be reached. The Southern loyalists will do their best to make the new settlement a success. They demand only an equality of opportunity and they ask for no confidence which they are not prepared to earn.