seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Establishment of the Irish Free State

free-state-executive-councilThe Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann), an independent state established under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921, comes into being on December 6, 1922. The treaty ends the three-year Irish War of Independence between the forces of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and British Crown forces.

The Free State is established as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Nations. For one day, it encompasses all thirty-two counties of Ireland. Northern Ireland, which is comprised of the six northernmost counties, exercises its right under the Treaty to opt out of the new state on December 7.

The Free State government consists of the Governor-General, the representative of the king, and the Executive Council, which replaces both the revolutionary Dáil Government and the Provisional Government set up under the Treaty. W. T. Cosgrave, who had led both of these governments since August 1922, becomes the first President of the Executive Council. The legislature consists of Dáil Éireann, the lower house, and Seanad Éireann, also known as the Senate. Members of the Dáil are required to take an Oath of Allegiance, swearing fidelity to the king. The oath is a key issue for opponents of the Treaty, who refuse to take the oath and therefore do not take their seats. Pro-Treaty members, who form Cumann na nGaedheal in 1923, hold an effective majority in the Dáil from 1922 to 1927, and thereafter rule as a minority government until 1932.

In the first months of the Free State, the Irish Civil War is waged between the newly established National Army and the anti-Treaty IRA, who refuse to recognise the state. The Civil War ends in victory for the government forces, with the anti-Treaty forces dumping its arms in May 1923. The anti-Treaty political party, Sinn Féin, refuses to take its seats in the Dáil, leaving the relatively small Labour Party as the only opposition party. In 1926, when Sinn Féin president Éamon de Valera fails to have this policy reversed, he resigns from Sinn Féin and founds Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil enters the Dáil following the 1927 general election, and enters government after the Irish general election of 1932, when it becomes the largest party.

De Valera abolishes the Oath of Allegiance and embarks on an economic war with Britain. In 1937 he drafts a new constitution, which is passed by a referendum in July of that year. The Free State comes to an end with the coming into force of the new constitution on December 29, 1937. Under the new constitution the Irish state is named Ireland.

(Pictured: The Executive Council of the Irish Free State, October 1928)

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Death of Éamon de Valera

eamon-de-valera-deadÉamon de Valera, prominent politician in twentieth-century Ireland, dies at the age of 92 in Linden Convalescent Home, Blackrock, County Dublin on August 29, 1975. His wife, Sinéad de Valera, four years his senior, had died the previous January, on the eve of their 65th wedding anniversary.

De Valera’s political career spans over half a century, from 1917 to 1973. He serves several terms as head of government and head of state. He also leads the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.

De Valera is a leader in the Irish War of Independence and of the anti-Treaty opposition in the ensuing Irish Civil War (1922–1923). After leaving Sinn Féin in 1926 due to its policy of abstentionism, he founds Fianna Fáil, and is head of government from 1932 to 1948, 1951 to 1954, and 1957 to 1959, serving as President of the Executive Council and later Taoiseach. He resigns after being elected President of Ireland. His political creed evolves from militant republicanism to social and cultural conservatism.

Assessments of de Valera’s career are varied. He has often been characterised as a stern, unbending, devious, and divisive Irish politician. Biographer Tim Pat Coogan sees his time in power as being characterised by economic and cultural stagnation, while Diarmaid Ferriter argues that the stereotype of de Valera as an austere, cold and even backward figure is largely manufactured in the 1960s and is misguided.

On September 2, 1975 Éamon de Valera makes his final journey through the streets of Dublin to his final resting place at Glasnevin Cemetery. De Valera’s body is taken from St. Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle, where it has lain in state, to the the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, where a requiem mass is celebrated by his grandson, Father Seán Ó Cuív, and then on to Glasnevin Cemetery.

On a day of national mourning, over 200,000 people pay tribute to the statesman along the three mile funeral route from Dublin city centre to Glasnevin. The Army No. 1 Band plays Wrap the Green Flag Round Me as de Valera is carried into Glasnevin Cemetery.

In attendance at the funeral are family, friends, colleagues, politicians, dignitaries, diplomats, veterans of the 1916 Easter Rising, and citizens who want to pay their respect. The final prayers are recited at the graveside by Father Ó Cuív. The firing party of young cadets from the Curragh fire a final volley in tribute over the grave.