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From: Irish Political Review: Editorials
Date: February, 2022
By: Editorial

The Dublin Castle Event

A Centenary event was held in Dublin Castle on 16th January. The event being celebrated was reported by RTE as being the setting up of “the first Irish Government”. The Dail Parties, except for AONTU, participated in the celebration. The President too was present at it, though he must have known very well that the event being celebrated was a fraud. But it seems that he said next to nothing at it.

If it was the case that the first Irish Government was set up at Dublin Castle in midJanuary 1922, how could it be that the current President of the state did not lead the centenary celebration of its birth? His reticence at the event is explicable only on the assumption that he would not say what he knew was not the case, but felt that he had to compromise to some extent with the revisionist fashion that grips the party-political and media Establishment at present.

It is not always the case of dixi et salvati aneman meum. Depending on circumstances, it can be that refusing to speak is what saves the soul!

But another almost silence that was noticeable had a very different quality—the silence of Sinn Fein. The thing that actually happened at Dublin Castle in mid-January 1922 was the setting up of an anti-Sinn Fein Government, on British authority, with the purpose of destroying the Sinn Fein Government and system that had been established three years earlier on the basis of an overwhelming electoral mandate.

The Government set up in January 1922, and which took possession of Dublin Castle in a ceremonial handover, was the Provisional Government of the Parliament of Southern Ireland. It was financed and armed by Britain, which had refused to have any relationship with the elected Dail Government except a destructive one.

There was a token British military withdrawal in January 1922. But, six months later, there was still a British Army in Dublin, and Whitehall gave it orders to begin a reconquest of the country if the Provisional Government which it set up in January—and provided with a mercenary Army—did not make war on the Republican Army which had defended the Dail Government and obliged Britain to negotiate.

Collins did not ask why. It appears that, during the negotiations, he was greatly impressed by Lord Birkenhead. On the night of 5th/6th December 1921, Collins had a private discussion with Lloyd George. He then told the other delegates that he intended signing the deal being offered by Lloyd George, even though he was under instruction from the Dail Government not to sign anything without its approval.

Britain was determined that the IRA should not be the Army of the Irish state. When the Black and Tan terror campaign failed to intimidate the electorate which had empowered Sinn Fein, the British Government decided that it would be expedient to allow a degree of Irish statehood to be established. But it must be statehood under ultimate British authority. And it persuaded a group within the Sinn Fein leadership to set up a system of government under the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, seducing it with lavish promises which it had no intention of keeping ‚and which no Government under the British system of rapidly alternating party-political sovereignty would be able to keep.

One of the delegates, Robert Barton, held out for taking the British offer back to the Dail Government for decision—as per the Irish Cabinet’s instruction. He was told that, if he did not sign at once, the British would launch immediate and terrible war in Ireland and that he would be entirely responsible for it. So he signed.

By their actions on December 5th/6th, Collins and Griffith usurped Government authority and took the game into their own hands. Collins seems to have been confident that he could dominate the consequences in Ireland by means of

Griffith and Collins set up the Provisional Government. And Collins was provided with an Army. Why?

The Dail voted in favour of the ‘Treaty’—but that was not what got Collins his uniformed Army. The ‘Treaty’ was not between the British Government and the Dail Government. The British Government refused to have any dealings with the Dail Government, or to receive the credentials of its delegates when they went to London to negotiate. It treated the delegates as individuals with influence in Ireland which might be used to give effect to the 1920 British Act which the Dail had rejected.

The ‘Treaty’, insofar as it had any resemblance to a Treaty, was an Agreement between the British Government and a Government under British authority which Collins and Griffith undertook to establish.

Griffith and Collins took their followers from the Dail to another place, where they met as the Parliament of Southern Ireland under the Viceroy and were appointed the Provisional Government of that Parliament and were given the Crown Seals of Office and an Army.

They then went back to the Dail, where they sat along with the Anti-Treatyites for the next few months, doing their best to pretend that they had been empowered by the Dail and to forget about the existence of the Parliament of Southern Ireland.

The British Government, of course, saw what they were doing, and knew what their purpose was, and allowed it to continue for a while, but ensured that the pretence would not become the reality.

So Collins got a uniformed Army, and he dressed up, and he never asked what Britain’s purpose was in giving him an Army.

Britain had refused seven years earlier to allow the Volunteers raised for it by Redmond to be organised as a distinct national body with the Imperial Army. Keeping native Ireland unarmed had been one of its major preoccupations since 1690. But now it gives an Army to the legendary gunman who was the Head Centre of the Fenian Conspiracy—and he imagines he can use it for making war on Northern Ireland!

On 28th June 1922 he found out why he had been given an Army. And he was made to understand that, if he did not use it for the purpose for which he had been given it, the British Army (which had left in January!) would do the business itself. *

When Collins joined Griffith on 6th December in usurping the authority of their Government, ignoring its instructions, and making an Agreement with Britain on their own behalf, as if they were freeranging Plenipotentiaries he reckoned he could carry it through in Ireland by means of his connections, his abilities, and his personality.

He did carry it through in the Dail by means of promises of what he would do with the power the British were giving him. But the British Army stopped him when he tried to make good those promises by means of war in the North.

Griffith looked to him, as “the man who won the war”, to make their enterprise successful in the arena of physical force. But it was in that arena that he failed right at the start. He failed to carry the IRA with him. He even failed to carry the IRB with him. And he ended up making war on the IRA with British armaments and British political support.

The launching of the War against the IRA was an act of the Provisional Government. The Dail had nothing to do with it. It was in abeyance, between elections, at the time. An election was held on 16th June 1922. It was not a Free State General Election, though it was held only in the 26 Counties. It took the form of a series of By-Elections in the 26 Counties to the ongoing Second Dail. It was contested by a Treatyite/Anti-Treatyite Coalition whose express purpose was to maintain the existing balance in the Dail and establish a Government in which both Treatyites and Anti-Treatyites would hold Ministries. This arrangement was authorised by a vote of the Dail.

The British Government declared the arrangement undemocratic and a breach of the Treaty. But the Dail was not a party to the Treaty—Britain had made sure of that.

Griffith and Collins were summoned to Whitehall and chastised. Collins’s wings were clipped. But the Dail was not recalled for the purpose of revoking the Election Pact which it had authorised.

After the election of 16th June the Dail did not meet until September. By then the ‘Civil War’ launched by the Provisional Government was going strong, Griffith and Collins were dead, as were Cathal Brugha and Harry Boland, and De Valera was on the run. Dublin was held securely by the Treatyites. It would have been madness for Anti-Treatyites to attend.

But, since the June Election had not been a Free State General Election, and did not elect MPs to the Parliament of Southern Ireland, and the meeting in September was not called by the Viceroy as an assembly of the Parliament of Southern Ireland, and since Northern seats were not vacated in the by-elections in June, and the Northern Deputies therefore still held their Second Dail seats, the Dail that assembled in September did not know what it was. And William Cosgrave and Kevin O’Higginsbusy men with a war to conduct—could not answer simple questions about what meeting it was. They had power in it, and they brushed aside pettifogging questions

about constitution and law. (Isn’t there a classical maxim: In the presence of war the laws are silent?)

This is the state of affairs that the action of Collins and Griffith, as Plenipotentiaries, at half past two on the morning of 6th December 1921, led to in the course of eight months.

They acted together, but they did not have the same end in mind. Griffith’s Sinn Fein had a vision of Ireland becoming a partner with Britain in a Dual Monarchy which guided an Empire and, as a Mother Country, establishing colonies of its own within the Empire. It was a groundless vision. His model was Austria-Hungary, but Britain is not Austria and Ireland is not Hungary!

The idea of the British sharing their monarch with the Irish is absurd. They would not do that even with their colony in Ireland, established after the Williamite conquest—and rightly so.

And the Irish in any case are not a colonising people. In that regard they are a migratory people. They are not themselves a colony, they are only natives; and they are not colonisers. They lack the craze for domination which has characterised English life for many centuries.

They went to England in vast numbers to work for the English and enjoy themselves in their spare time.

The English came to Ireland, in much smaller numbers, to rule it, and to make the Irish either become obedient to English ways or be phased out of existence. And the English maintained a pseudo-independent colonial state in Ireland for a generation at the end of the 18th century—and that mode of government by the Anglo-Irish provoked rebellions all over the country, leading their Mother Country, which had implanted them, to take their State away from them. The abolition of the English colonial State in Ireland in 1800 was the condition that made possible the national political development of the native population in the 19th century.

That national development elected a reconstructed Sinn Fein party—Republican not Monarchist—to establish an independent Government in Irelandwith or without British approval—in accordance with the principle of national self-determination. That principle was the condition on which the USA entered the War on Germany, launched by Britain in 1914, and save it from defeat by Germany in 1918. Britain did not reject the principle while it was dependent on American military force, but refused to implement it after Germany was defeated.

Sinn Fein established independent Government in January 1918, as it was electorally mandated to do. Britain did not recognise it, and, as the master of Europe after the defeat of Germany, it ensured that the Versailles Conference did not recognise it either. The Irish Government of 1919-21 was only “self-recognised”. The Empire, from which it was detaching itself, did not recognise it, therefore it had no lawful existence.

So “self-determination” meant Imperial determination. And that is the view adopted in recent times by academics in Ireland under Oxbridge tutelage. And, by the event in Dublin Castle, that view has now been made the official view of the State.

The main Address at the event was delivered by the leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin—a party which was founded on a rejection of the view which he now espouses.

The founder of Fianna Fail was President of the “self-recognised” Irish Government of 1919-21. He explained that, in the post-War world dominated by Britain, no other state dared to recognise it. But that Irish Government had actual existence and had a right to it.

When Griffith and Collins made an agreement with Britain without consulting their Government, and gained a small majority in the Dail for the establishment of their counter-Government provided for by the ‘Treaty’, De Valera withdrew from the Dail in acknowledgement of the obvious fact of usurpation of authority. But, since the Treatyites did not displace the Dail with the Parliament of Southern Ireland (through which they had been given power by Britain), but continued to meet in the Dail, De Valera returned to the Dail and acted as the Opposition leader in it.

In May 1922 he made the Election Pact with Collins, which the Dail authorised. When Collins, after a visit to London, launched a war on the Anti-Treaty Party as head of the Provisional Governmentunder a British ultimatum—De Valera sided with the resistance. And it was out of the resistance to the Treaty War launched by Collins that the Fianna Fail Party was constructed.

It will be interesting to see how the current leader of Fianna Fail celebrates the centenary of the events which followed from the establishment of an Irish Government by the Viceroy in Dublin Castle in January 1922.