Issue 1 - 2023 front

10 January 2002 Edition

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Remembering the Past

Treaty debate


The whole of Ireland was in tumult following the signing of the Treaty in December 1921. There was intense debate and huge divisions throughout the country, including within the revolutionary government, Dáil Éireann and among the general public.

Following a bitter debate on 14 December over the terms of reference of the republican delegation who signed the Treaty, the Dáil went into private session of which no record exists.

On 19 December, three days after the British House of Commons approved the Treaty, the Dáil public session resumed. The Treaty debate lasted nine days and focused mainly on the oath of allegiance to the English king and and on Document Number 2 (an alternative to the Treaty, drafted by de Valera).

The question of partition was largely ignored. The new state of 'Northern Ireland' was already in existance and it was believed by many nationalists and republicans and TDs on both sides of the debate, that the proposed Boundary Commission would allocate large swathes of the Six County area to the new Free State, making the northern state politically and economically unviable.

The Dáil adjourned for a Christmas break on December 22 without a vote. The lull gave time for the business class, the media and the Catholic hierarchy to apply pressure for the acceptance of the Treaty and many TDs who had initially opposed it returned, prepared to vote for it.

The Dáil resiumed on 3 January 1922 and debate centered on Document Number 2. Like the Treaty it also seemed to accept partition, with the boundary clause, andproposed an "exeternal association" compromise tie to the British empire.

Around 122 TDs spoke in the nine-day Treaty debate. All six women deputies opposed and spoke against acceptance of the Treaty. Pro-Treaty deputies concentrated on the argument that war was the alternative to the Treaty.

At around 8.40pm on the ninth day of debate, a vote was taken and the Treaty was narrowly approved by 64 votes to 57. Two days later de Valera resigned as Presidsent of the Dáil and and left with his supporters

The acceptance of the Treaty led to a major split in republican ranks and deep divisions among the people of Ireland. The decision was to have lasting repercussions for the country and laid the foundations for politics within the two new states on the island for generations.

The Treaty was approved by the Dáil on 7 January 1922, 80 years ago this week.

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