The Context and Development of Irish Literature:
History, Poetry, Landscape

Chapter Four:  From Home Rule to Civil War:  Ireland in the Early 20th Century, page 7

The result was a new Home Rule bill that granted free existence to "Southern Ireland," while establishing "Northern Ireland" as an independent state of its own; both states would still be part of the British Empire [see map].  The Ulster Unionists, while displeased with any home rule measure, saw that this was the best they would ever get, and agreed to the bill. (Thus was created the present situation in Ireland, with Northern Ireland part of the British Empire, but containing an oppressed Catholic minority that would fight a guerrilla campaign for decades to gain its liberty.) In the south, the Catholics were again split among themselves: a majority of the Irish leaders, led by Collins and Arthur Griffith (a long-time prominent member of Sinn Fein who did not take part in the Easter Rising because of his commitment to non-violence), agreed to the bill; a minority, led by de Valera, opposed the bill. The treaty was signed on December 6, 1921. A month later, de Valera resigned the presidency to Griffith and began to form his own group of followers. Soon Civil War had begun between the "pro-treaty" and "anti-treaty" sections, whose followers soon became known as "National" or "Free State" troops and "Irregulars."  

This war was bloody, brutal, and fierce, and went on for all of 1922 and into 1923. The populace and countryside was demoralized and wanted only peace, and soon the Catholic clergy threw their considerable weight behind a peace initiative. De Valera’s cause was hopeless, and in April of 1923 he declared a cease-fire, and agreed that the Free State forces had won the day. But during the fighting Griffith had died, and Collins was tragically killed in an ambush. The Irish government then proceeded to lead the country out of civil war without its most effective leaders, who had been martyred not by the foreigners but by their own countrymen--the continuation of the tragic legacy of Irish history.


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