Ireland’s Wars: The Treaty Debates From A Military Perspective

The road to the Irish Civil War pivots around a period of roughly three-and-a-half weeks from mid December to early January 1921, when the Anglo-Irish Treaty was debated in the Dail, and a final decision arrived at on it from that body. It is no exaggeration to say that it was likely the most important debate in the history of that chamber, as TD’s decided whether to accept the Treaty, the Free State and Dominion status, or reject it and go with whatever came next: the best result being new negotiations, or perhaps more likely a resumption of the military conflict. The Treaty debates became the first real open sign of how fractured the nationalist movement was, covering a wide variety of topics: in this post I will try and focus primarily on military ones, in what I hope will be a succinct summary of the interactions of that period.

From a very general perspective, the Treaty debates revolved around a handful of issues. There was a persistent and unresolved argument over whether a qualified compromise peace was preferable to a resumption of the war, one sometimes defined as a divide between realists and idealists, or perhaps, if phrased in more of a conciliatory way, as pragmatism against principle. In order of apparent attention and importance after this, I would rank them as follows: the proposed Oath of Allegiance; the proposed Treaty ports; the opinions of dead republicans, and whether they should be a factor; the opportunities provided by the withdrawal of the British military from most of Ireland; the possibilities of establishing a regular army; and then, and only then, the partition of the country.

The actual text of the debates themselves are often a very difficult read, full of extremely lengthy speeches that are repetitive in nature, and often side-tracked by procedural issues that make them slightly less dramatic than what many might think of them. There is less of Michael Collins and Cathal Brugha thundering at each other, and more of backbench TD’s arguing the finer points of the merits and demerits of private sessions, with words that reflect an almost comical over-politeness at times. Really only in certain moments, especially in the last few days, did things get very emotionally charged, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. It must be remembered that some of the TD’s were appearing in that role, in the open, for the first time, and the lengthy nature of the debate lends to a perception of listlessness in its direction.

The debate began on the 14th of December with a lengthy, and rather tedious to read, debate on whether discussions should be held in public or on private. There was significant division on this point: men like Sean McEntee were among those who said that a public session would endanger any future war effort, as TD’s would be openly talking about Ireland’s military strength as part of the debate. Initial meetings of the Dail for debating the Treaty would be private, but would become public a few days later.

There followed the first discussion on whether the delegation had the power to “conclude” a treaty: Eamon de Valera – who had resisted calls for the signatories to be arrested upon their return to Dublin – thought they didn’t, while Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, in the knowledge that the Dail still had to ratify the document, disagreed. Later, de Valera got into it a bit more, and suggested that Lloyd George’s statement of “terrible war” should have been called as a bluff: “…let them go to war if they dared”. Griffith later insisted he did not sign the Treaty because he felt he was under direct duress, but because he felt he had no time to refer the document to the Dail without signing it first.

The first significant contribution to the debate really came from Mary MacSwiney, and it was not the last. In a lengthy speech she derided what she dubbed “the spirit of compromise” and insisted that delegates, though not acting dishonourably, had chosen the weaker course in accepting Lloyd George’s bluff, when the stronger one would have been to call it. She went on to describe the citizenry of Ireland as being of “a slave mind”, easily led around, and that it was necessary for the Dail to reject the Treaty as the people could not be trusted to do so: not the last anti-democratic statement said during the debates.

The question was asked as to the state of the armed forces, with elements of the IRA already coming out strongly against the Treaty. Cathal Brugha demurred on answering specific questions, but insisted that “we are in a much better position to fight now than when the Truce started”: a questionable opinion at best. His statement led to a discussion on the position of the army in relation to the Treaty, with one TD, Frank Fahy, already claiming that he had been threatened with a bullet if he voted in favour of the Treaty. The HQ of the 1st Southern Division specifically is noted as having sent messages to TD’s accusing them of treason in the event of ratification. As you would expect, there were accusations of politicisation of the military and ill-discipline in its ranks; anti-Treaty voices would claim the threats were over-stated and that the IRA was entitled to express an opinion. Brugha would insist that army discipline was being maintained. The day’s discussion closed with another exchange on the likelihood of war, with Collins insisting that the British could not be talked into any more concessions: it was the Treaty or nothing, and war.

The next day’s debate started with a bang, as Collins announced that his office had been raided during the night, and pointedly asked if any present in the chamber were responsible. Both de Valera and Brugha denied the charge, and things proceeded. The issue of conflicting minutes from the last days of the conference was brought up, especially in regards Robert Barton’s account: this was considered important in regards Lloyd George’s threat of war, and whether his exact words were directed at specific members of the delegation, or the delegation as a whole.

Things moved on rapidly enough to discussion on “Document No. 2”, the name given to de Valera’s alternative to the Treaty. This is “external association” in draft treaty form, and de Valera gave a lengthy explanation of its differences to the Treaty, with a particular focus on how his document has a time limit for British control of ports, in exchange for which he was ready to make a formal declaration that Ireland would never attempt to build a submarine fleet. It must be remembered that, at the time, submarines retained something of a mystical aura, a weapon that some thought could choke Britain in any future war if used properly, despite the fact that Imperial Germany’s fleet had been unable to do so during the First World War. De Valera was pitching “Document No 2” as a viable alternative to the Treaty, but, as would be said on multiple occasions during the debates, the discussion was on ratification or rejection of the Treaty, not whether one of two documents would be ratified: Eoin O’Neill, the speaker, left his chair to give a lengthy riposte on that very topic.

Sean Milroy, rose later. He warned those present not to lightly assume British threats of war are a bluff, and claimed that if that war is re-started, more of the anti-Treaty TD’s would have to do the fighting and the dying, as they would have split the country. He insisted that the Treaty was an honourable document, and that they should accept being part of the British Empire openly, and not try and go into it “sideways” with de Valera’s external association.

Erskine Childers has the next major contribution in a lengthy speech where he extolled the virtues of external association, and criticised the Treaty on many points, especially for its lack of true sovereignty for Ireland. His noted particularly the issue of the Treaty ports, which marked Ireland’s status out significantly from Canada. Griffith disliked Childers’s speech, dubbing it “dishonest” which provoked what we might call the first significant spat of the debates.

It was for Kevin O’Higgins to answer more completely and he did so with a bitter denunciation, describing Childers’ words as “a castle in the air”. He pointed out the hypocrisy of de Valera claiming his Document No. 2 contained only small differences from the Treaty so the British were bound to go along with it, and Childers claiming that Document No. 2 was substantially different (in a positive manner). He also insisted that was no better man than Collins existed to determine if a threat of war should be taken at face value. He went on to criticise de Valera directly for causing a split and then to criticise any attempt to invoke the names of dead patriots like the 1916 leaders in the cause of the anti-Treaty side, noting that numerous Irish leaders in the past had compromised in the pursuit of their aims.

On the 16th, Brugha spoke early about the apparent threats made to TD’s, dismissing them as rumours he could do nothing about without firm evidence against specific individuals: it was hardly a comforting response. He did promise to take action in relation to a specific notice from the 1st Southern Division. There followed a fairly lengthy discussion on the minutia of the Oath of Allegiance, punctuated by barbed exchanges between Brugha and Griffith. The debate spilled over into whether it was about a “vindication” of the delegation, until such a discussion was essentially shut down by O’Neill.

After a break Sean McEntee spoke. After a general criticism of the Treaty he launched into a recitation of his service during 1916, to the derision of some. McEntee’s point was to explain how deep-rooted his opposition was to anything that would go against “the Republic” but also to criticise those speaking against “reminiscences” of dead heroes. He also was one of the first to make a major point about partition, claiming that allowing it to happen would make the North a “bastion of Orangism” that would hold Ireland “as Gibraltar holds the Mediterranean”. It was not an unfair comment, and spoke to the reality that a northern state with dug-in unionist domination was not as nonviable as some thought. Others spoke for and against the Treaty on various terms: to get a feeling for how high temperatures were running, a compliment to the delegation in getting vital concessions was answered “Damn your concessions, we want our country”.

Alexander McCabe noted the importance of Ireland having its own regular army as part of the Treaty terms, one of the first contributions on that topic. Edmund Duggan brought up several killings of Crown Forces personnel in recent weeks, warning that reprisals would inevitably follow if the situation was not brought under control: it was one of the few times that truce breaking was a topic of conversation during the debate. De Valera gave a lengthy final speech for the day, outlining why he could not vote for a Treaty that attempted to disestablish the Republic, and re-iterating his belief that the threat of war was empty from the British: he continued to state his belief that they could be talked down to further concessions.

On the 17th, Frank Fahy rose to ask directly about the state of the army in terms of its ability to wage war “in intensified form”: Brugha repeated his earlier assertion that the IRA was in a stronger position than ever. Fahy went further, and asked of the IRA would abide by the decision of the Dail on the Treaty; Brugha said he would guarantee disciple as Minster of Defence, but then added, rather ominously “if this Treaty is ratified I am no longer Minister of Defence and am not responsible for the army.” Constance Markievicz implied that Ireland was already experiencing the most intense kind of warfare, with others disagreeing.

After another round of de Valera insisting that the Dail could not ratify a treaty that disestablished the Republic, Sean MacEoin spoke. He was to be one of the loudest pro-Treaty voices of the debate. Here, he railed against Brugha’s description of the state of the army, claiming he could only arm one in every five of the men under his own command. He warned against any member of the chamber lightly going back into conflict, and implied that he fully believed a more intensified effort could indeed be fought by the British. Sean Etchingham replied, stating his disappointment that a man of MacEoin’s reputation would give a speech that amounted to “a song of surrender” before going on to imply that he at least would be happy to take up arms again. In a lengthy speech he invoked the dead of 1916 and his own history of imprisonment as part of his denunciation of the Treaty.

Piaras Beaslai was next. He also disagreed with Brugha on the military situation, and criticised any discussion on whether “internal” or “external” association with Britain was worth fighting and dying for. He was one of the few who invoked the opinions of “the people” as something worth serious consideration: he believed that the majority would not support a resumption of the war, and that the Treaty could not thus be lightly cast aside.

After more talk on the Oath, Seamus Robinson spoke. When it came to the idea of “intensified warfare”, he made the suggestion that a renewed focus on an IRA campaign within Britain would be worth pursuing in response: “England depends upon her factories and shipyards and we could work more destruction in England than she could on us.” His words, which included an insistence that Tipperary’s populace would support a resumption of the war, appeared to have been largely ignored by the assembly.

Eoin O’Duffy was one of the last speakers of the day to mention military matters. He recommended the Treaty owing to the potential creation of a regular Irish army and the withdrawal of British forces. He offered his own assessment of Irish military strength and gave, perhaps, a rosier picture than MacEoin, but questioned whether certain regions of the country would be capable of maintaining an increased war effort, especially the north. It is notable that every member of GHQ who was also a TD voted in favour of the Treaty, though in private conversation O’Duffy was happy to act as if the Treaty was a gigantic ploy on the part of Collins and others, and that no one would ever have to take any oath (Collins too, was saying similar things, but on a more long term context, telling Sean Hales “we’ll break this Treaty when it suits us”).

After this the debate continued, though with less recourse to military matters: the most notable interaction wad probably a vicious verbal back-and-forth between MacSwiney and O’Duffy, after the former implied the latter’s support for the Treaty constituted a betrayal of the Republic. There were more speakers on the Treaty more generally, but even then, barely four days into the discussion, it was becoming apparent that both sides were dug-in to their positions, and there was little in the way of reconciliation possible. Talk of avoiding a split seemed mostly to be empty statements long after the fact.

The debate resumed two days later on the 19th, in public session, with the official opposing motions on the Treaty. Griffith formally proposed that the Dail ratify the Treaty. He claimed it was a honourable agreement where Ireland, in confederation with Britain, had control of its own destiny for the first time since the Battle of Kinsale. It was in this speech that Griffith famously referred to Collins as “the man who won the war”, and his motion was seconded by MacEoin, who brought the rhetoric that the Treaty granted freedom to achieve freedom. De Valera made the countering motion in a lengthy speech, wherein he said that any Free State government or Army would be the government and army of the British King, and thus not have the freedom that pro-Treaty proponents claimed. Austin Stack was the seconder here, and he gave a fairly open threat of civil war, stating that he would continue to fight for the cause even if the Treaty was accepted.

Later, Collins himself was able to give his first substantial offering to the debate. He noted his belief that they had not “beaten the enemy out of Ireland by sheer force of arms” as some thought, and that the history of Britain in Ireland was far from the non-stop struggle some claimed it was. Instead it was one of constant economic encroachment backed up by military force, and that it was only this military force that made the former possible: Collins supports the Treaty as it removes that military force, and allows Ireland a greater control of its economic destiny. He also bluntly stated that Ireland holding the Treaty ports would not stop any future British invasion, but membership of the Commonwealth might. In line with a longer defence of the Treaty and criticism of its opponents, Collins struck a largely practical tone, rejecting talk of American influence or the opinions of the dead.

Childers rose to respond. In his speech he came back to the Ports, and Ireland’s coastal defence, as issues where Ireland’s sovereignty was fatally undermined. Foreign attack could only come over the sea, and being barred from defence in that avenue meant that an Irish Free State was a neutered being. The possibility of, in time of war, a British military force returning to Ireland also, in Childers eyes, made the agreement unacceptable. There followed a number of other exchanges, which included anti-Treaty TD’s criticising MacEoin for his support of the document, and inferring they would not be on the same side in a resumption of hostilities. The day ended with anti-Treaty TD’s criticising press reporting of the debate, which they deemed one-sided, something that was to be a recurring complaint.

Passionate speeches were also being slung back and forth early the following day, with MacEoin again coming in for criticism: it appears to have been a particular sore point that a man with such an impressive military record in the war was happy to endorse the Treaty. Resulting exchanges often focused on the perceived importance of having a regular recognised armed force, and on the Treaty ports as a positive or negative. One pro-Treaty TD, Patrick Hogan, attempted to dismiss the ports as a meaningless concession, being as they would be “under the guns” of an Irish Army, which was perhaps over-stating the point a bit.

The Dail broke for a time to hold a private session wherein Brugha answered questions on the state of the IRA. When it returned to public session, Sean Milroy stood. In his speech he made several pointed criticisms of Brugha, claiming the Minister of Defence was comfortable only with war and “if the Delegation had brought back a Sovereign Independent Republic, he would have dreamed then of sending an expeditionary force to conquer the Isle of Man.” He went on to criticise de Valera’s maneuvering over Document No. 2, and claimed that letting go of a chance to have the British Army evacuated from Ireland, just so they would then have to fight a war for the same objective, was the act of a lunatic. His frequently interrupted words, that obviously perturbed many, also touched on the North, where he criticised de Valera for discounting the possibility of using “coercion” to insure Irish unity, and then acting appalled when the Treaty essentially maintained partition.

The significant speeches of the day concluded with Patrick MacCartan. He spoke in despairing terms by what he saw as a split in the cabinet, Dail and Army, which he felt would have a ruinous impact on any resumption of the war. He theatrically declared that the Republic was “dead”, and that it would require at least five years of fighting for the IRA to claw the movement back to the point they had held only a few months previously. He seemed to both approve and disapprove of the Treaty in the same speech, and closed on the depressing statement that “I see nothing for us then. I see no glimmer of hope. “

From here the debate really became more and more of a case where the same points and counter-points began to be repeated ad nauseum. On the 21st one of these points was the withdrawal of the British military from Ireland, made occasionally while people continued to argue about the conduct of the delegation in London. An interesting point made by Edmund Duggan was that whatever the new Irish Army would be, the government of the Free State could make up whatever oath it wanted for it, and thus it did not have to reference the crown.

W.T. Cosgrave’s contribution to the debate came on this day, one of the last of the cabinet ministers to speak. Broadly in favour of the Treaty, he engaged in a discourse with Childers and de Valera on a few points, and in terms of the military articles made the statement that while the Treaty ports had no time-limit set on their occupation, neither was it stated that they would be held in perpetuity. This was not an especially strong argument really, but is notable as one of the few times that a pro-Treaty TD attempted to imply that the Treaty Ports arrangement was not permanent: one wonders what the British would have thought.

Most of the rest of the session was taken up by MacSwiney, delivering the longest speech of the entire debate, coming in at nearly three hours. It was a general denunciation of the Treaty, including criticism of the delegates for accepting Lloyd George’s threat of war, a blunt statement that MacSwiney would fully accept war over the Treaty and a bald threat that even if the Treaty was passed, it would result in a split and half of the Dail becoming rebels to the government. It was certainly a speech that could be described as thunderous, and essentially can be taken as a manifesto of the anti-Treaty side; the day’s discussions ended after it was finished, with the chamber perhaps too exhausted to continue.

On the 22nd Professor Michael Hayes rejected accusations that the Treaty could lead to Ireland being induced to join British wars in future, as terms of the Treaty of Versailles disallowed this. Sean T. O’Kelly was next, and his was another lengthy offering with much the same in terms of Treaty criticisms: calling doubt on the actions of the London delegation, criticising the Treaty ports arrangement and dubbing the entire affair an agreement “of surrender, subjection, servitude, slavery”.

Padraic O’Maille was next, and made an interesting historical allusion, claiming the Treaty was the only way of saving an Irish nation that had been destroyed at the Battle of Kinsale. He called on TD’s to “be on the side of those who are acting as Hugh O’Neill acted at Kinsale, and not on the side of those who took Hugh O’Donnell’s side”: presumably meaning that the Treaty was, in his eyes, the pragmatic long-term option of success, placed against the short-sighted gamble that was rejection.

Richard Mulchay was a later speaker, and raised the topic of the recent World War: he used it as an example of how neighbouring countries could wreck their own prospects as well as the others when it came to a war between the two, as a reason why peace now with Britain was something to be striven for. He was scathing in his appraisal of just how much the IRA was capable of – “…we have not been able to drive the enemy from anything but from a fairly good-sized police barracks” – and poured scorn on those who contended the point on Ireland’s coastal defences, reasoning that the Republic had never done anything about it. Sean Moylan responded, saying that British forces leaving the Free State were merely moving to the North, and so not removed.

The debate went back and forth again for a while before an agreement was reached that more time was needed, with over 50 requests to speak still to be met. With Christmas coming, it was decided that the Dail would resume twelve days later. This is often perceived as a crucial delay, as TD’s returned to their constituencies and had time to canvass public opinion on the Treaty to a greater extent than at any point up to then. Public opinion, as well as most of the press and the Church, was for the Treaty, and these 12 days may have pushed things to a tipping point in that direction: never underestimate the influence of a peaceful Christmas. Of course many TD’s were already dead set on either their pro or anti-Treaty opinions, so it may not have had as big an impact as we might think, but with the majority tight enough in the Dail, it was a factor. Collins, in proposing the break over the objections of people like MacSwiney, almost certainly saw the use of such time.

When the Dail returned on the 3rd January, it had become more clear which way the vote was going to go, and the debate became comparatively bitter as a result. That day opened with Art O’Connor and Collins exchanging terse words, and continued with both sides at variance over the full potential of an Irish Free State. The role of “Southern Unionists” in the new State was a recurring talking point, with some anti-Treaty voices fearful of their over-representation.

Markievicz’ speech that day was probably the most notable. It was a fiery affair, one where she called upon the people of Ireland to “Stand by me and fight to the death”, invoking similar sentiments spoken by James Connolly on the eve of the Easter Rising in terms of her own dearly held opposition to the Treaty. Interestingly, she was one of the few who framed the document as an attack on the working class, a Treaty that sought to maintain a status quo when Ireland was close to breaking it. She explicitly called for a continuation of armed struggle. Things proceeded in a frequently bad-tempered way, from disputes over whether the Dail had the authority to ratify the Treaty, to accusations that de Valera’s Document No 2 was being held out as an alternative when it it too did not deliver a Republic.

Words exchanged on the 4th January were similarly tinged with menace. Alexander McCabe took aim at MacSwiney, claiming that her calls for continued struggle amounted to “a criminal incitement to national suicide”, a sentiment that MacSwiney herself did not appreciate; McCabe himself stated a support for the Treaty on pragmatic grounds. Numerous other major figures made contributions that day, some of them for the second time; O’Duffy claimed that whatever happened, a national Irish Army would maintain discipline. John O’Mahony brought up the IRB as an entity to be acknowledged for its history and opinions, something that drew criticism. There were tense exchanges, and plenty of interruptions, with numerous anti-Treaty speakers inferring the continuation of armed struggle regardless of how the vote went.

January 5th’s debate was one of the shortest of the period, and mostly revolved around an argument over press coverage of the debate, specifically an article in the Freeman’s Journal was was critical of de Valera, and the length of time it was taking to come to a decision. Anti-Treaty voices wanted representatives from that paper removed from the chamber, pro-Treaty voices naturally disagreed , and nothing happened. De Valera complained about Griffith sharing Document No 2 with the press, but Griffith was icy in his own reply on the matter, insisting that as anti-Treaty TD’s were acting as if Document No 2 was a viable alternative to the Treaty, then it should be made a matter if public record.

The final point of the day was on a last-ditch effort to try and foster some kind of reconciliation between the two sides of the argument. O’Duffy outlined the make-up of an informal committee, consisting of four pro-Treaty TD’s and five anti-Treaty, which he claimed had been able to reach agreement on a number of issues, but not every issue. It was agreed that this committee would meet again that evening.

January 6th’s debate began with an announcement that the private committee had failed to reach agreement, with one dissenting anti-Treaty voice in the form of Liam Mellows. There followed an argument over whether what the committee had been able to agree on should be made public, but this was not carried. This last ditch attempt to prevent a split, with a final vote on the Treaty imminent, was meant to allow the Treaty to be passed without opposition – anti-Treaty voices to abstain, rather than oppose – and for the Dail to continue with de Valera as President and the new provisional government to be answerable to the Dail, and the army to the provisional government. It was O’Duffy’s later opinion that the plan was nixed on de Valera’s objection, but it is unlikely that the hard-liners in the Dail would ever have agreed to abstain anyway.

The debate proceeded with arguments on Document No. 2 and the Dail’s legitimacy when it came to ratifying the Treaty. Harry Boland, recently returned from the United States, was a significant presence that day, with some criticising the suddenness of his arrival. Seamus Robinson gave an extraordinary speech where he claimed to carry a message from the various divisions of the Army, demanding a veto on the ratification of the Treaty. Even de Valera criticised this, but Robinson continued, laying in a stinging criticism of Collins’ wartime record, and then going as far as to openly declare he and Griffith as traitors. Numerous other TD’s stated the same case, pro or anti, and the debate went into its final hours.

January 7th marked the end of the debate. Much of that day was given over to final speakers, pro and anti, stating their cases, and there was little in terms of new arguments. As things got closer to a conclusion, the tone in the chamber turned decidedly nasty: Cathal Brugha rounded on Collins, taking up some of Robinson’s points the previous day and turning the debate, for a short time, into one on Collins himself. He also went after Griffith, claiming that it was only his support for a Republic in 1917 that had kept him in Irish political life. There was sarcastic rejoinders and constant interruptions, and eventually the moment passed.

The debate was closed by Griffith, who gave a lengthy speech in defence of the Treaty and his actions in London. It was a passionate affair by his standards, a speech where he spent as much time hitting back at the criticism of de Valera and Brugha as he did defending the Treaty. His argument was a simple summation: that the British would never recognise a Republic; that the vast majority of the Irish people supported the Treaty; and that the Treaty provided for an Irish nation, free, as Griffith saw it.

The vote was next: 64 were in favour, 57 opposed: by any parliamentary metric a tight margin, but a clear margin nonetheless. De Valera spoke first in the aftermath and re-iterated the constancy of the Republic. Collins spoke then, and called for unity and a commitment to public safety, attempting to forestall a split that was already manifest. MacSwiney was given the chance to speak after, and gave a final bitter denunciation of the Treaty and its supporters as a betrayal of the Irish nation. The final words were for the leaders of the anti-Treaty side: de Valera was recorded as breaking down as he began another speech on the record of the Dail thus far, before Brugha added, somewhat ominously, that he would see to it that discipline was maintained in the army.

The British also had to ratify the Treaty of course, but this happened with comparatively little fuss on the 16th December, with 401 MP’s voting in favour and 58, mostly Unionists and some Conservatives, voting against. The same day the House of Lords voted in favour with 166 votes to 47. Lloyd George had his victory.

If asked to give an analysis of the debates, I will limit myself to saying that, in my eyes, the pro-Treaty side did a better job of presenting their argument. The focus on a practical compromise that had long-term benefits to Ireland – self-government, the withdrawal of Crown Forces and perhaps most importantly in terms of public opinion, peace – was placed against a somewhat divided anti-Treaty opinion, between constitutionalists rowing in behind de Valera external association – that differed so little from the Treaty in most respects it is reasonable to question why a war should have been re-started over it – and the hardline republicans who simply would never have accepted anything other that a total republic. They were offering an unclear outcome, and a resumption of the bloodshed, neither of which can be said to be attractive to the undecided’s when the debate started. This is not to say that there position was wrong: but the final result of the debates shows that the position was not sufficiently popular to defeat the Treaty.

The debates are a hard thing to look back on for many reasons. All of the seeds of the Civil War are there, in the inability of either side to come to terms with the other, the militant language and the reality that opponents of the Treaty were never going to accept the majority decision of the Dail when it came to ratification. Griffith, Collins and others, who were now to be the leading lights of the provisional government, may still have hoped to avoid an out-right conflict with the anti-Treaty side of the larger movement, but such hopes were to be dashed. In the next entry, we will examine how the split engendered by the Treaty began to become more concretely manifest in the days and weeks after the Treaty debates.

To read the rest of the entries in this series, click here to go to the index.

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8 Responses to Ireland’s Wars: The Treaty Debates From A Military Perspective

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