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

Part V:  Contemporary Ireland, 1922-present

In 1923 de Valera declared the end of armed resistance to the Free State government, and in 1925 the boundary separating the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland was officially accepted by all governments.  The Irish Civil War ended in division and tragedy.  Collins was killed in an ambush, leaving the leadership of his party, Fine Gael, in the hands of W.T. Cosgrave, who would lead for 10 years.  Cosgrave was a much less charismatic figure than Collins, but he gave a stability to the government. His minister of justice, Kevin O’Higgins, dealt out harsh repression to republicans, leading to his assassination in 1927.  Indeed, in many ways the Free State government was more harsh than the British government had been:  the Free State executed 77 republicans between 1922-1923, whereas the British executed 40 between 1916 and 1921.  The social divide was also enormous:  the legacy of violence would remain in the Irish communities virtually to the present day.


Michael Collins                                               Eamon de Valera

De Valera agreed to take the Oath of Allegiance and enter the Dail as an opposition party, Fianna Fail, in 1927.  Remarkably, in the 1932 election, de Valera’s party had the largest return, and formed a coalition government.  Fianna Fail would remain in power until 1948, and the figure of de Valera dominates Irish politics and culture during this time.  One of his great achievements was the writing and ratification of the new constitution in1937.  This document removed nearly all references to “the crown,” referred to the whole of Ireland as “Eire” including the 6 northern counties; and accorded special status to the Catholic church.

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