The Treaty of Surrender was signed in London on midnight of the 6-7 December, 1921, the signatures of the Irish Delegation being given to it in violation of orders received from and undertakings given to the Government of the Republic at home, particularly with regard to the sovereignty of the Republic, to partition and allegiance to the British Crown.
For five years previous to that time the nation was united on three fundamental principles – the existence of the Republic, the sanctity of our National Independence and Ireland’s territorial integrity.
The Treaty violated all three by proposing to destroy the Republic, establishing an Irish Colony and partitioning Ireland. It was impossible for Republicans to sanction this violation because:-
- The Irish people has never recognised British rule as lawful
- They had for five years fought a bitter war to maintain the Republic.
- They had taken lives in its defence.
- They had sworn to defend the Republic against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
- The Treaty had been signed behind the backs of the Cabinet of Dáil Éireann and of the Army, and in violation of the signatories’ oaths, credentials of terms of reference.
- The Treaty was signed under a threat of war – an unworthy surrender for a proud and honourable nation.
Dáil Éireann approved the Treaty by 64 votes to 57, but only three members accepted it on its merits, the other 61 declaring they took it as the only alternative to war, or as a “stepping stone to the Republic.”
Arthur Griffith when elected President said that Dáil Éireann would remain the sovereign authority of the Irish Republic until disestablished by a vote of the people. Richard Mulcahy, the new Minister for Defence, publicly promised that the Army would be preserved as the Army of the Republic.
On January 14th, 1922, Mr. Griffith called a meeting of the members of Parliament for “Southern Ireland” – a term recognised only by a foreign, and, therefore, spurious authority – and thereat he set up a “Provisional Government” which immediately proceeded to order the Irish people to do and not do certain things.
Under these circumstances, both sides agreed to the calling of an Army Convention to ensure that Mr. Mulcahy’s undertaking would be carried out. The Dáil agreed, and Mr. Mulcahy called the Convention for the 20th March. Mr. Griffith proclaimed the Army Convention on March 17th.
It is to be remembered that the Army was an unpaid volunteer force which was in existence before the Dáil, and which, as a condition to coming under its jurisdiction, had insisted on all the members of the Dáil taking the oath of allegiance to the Republic. Only one member – Éamon de Valera – refused to take the oath.
The Army Convention was held and an Executive elected. Only the desire to avoid civil war prevent the Army Executive from attacking the Provisional Government.
Mr. Griffith proceeded to arrange for an election. The Republicans contended it would destroy national unity, as the register was out of date, and the threat of war would prevent a free vote.
On February 22nd, the Ard Fhéis of Sinn Féin met and in order to stave off defeat at the hands of the National Political organisation, the pro-Treaty Party agreed to a three months’ postponement, and undertook to produce the Free State Constitution in the meantime. This was important, as Michael Collins had secured support in the Army by stating privately he was drafting a Republican Constitution.
In the March Session of Dáil Éireann, Mr. Collins stated that as the Chairman of the Provisional Government he was not responsible to the Dáil. This was an open breach of the undertaking that the Dáil was the sovereign authority of the Republic.
The fact the Free State was secretly obtaining arms from England compelled the Army Executive to occupy the Four Courts and other buildings, as a precautionary measure. The legality of this occupation was never questioned by the Dáil. No request was ever made by the Provisional Government or the Free State Chiefs that the Four Courts be evacuated.
The country was on the verge of civil war when on May 20th an agreement was reached between Messrs. de Valera and Collins for an agreed election and a Coalition Government. The Dáil unanimously ratified this. The Ard Fhéis passed it unanimously, and Mr. Collins said the pact was more important than the Treaty.
Yet, on the 14th of June, on his return from London he broke the pact in Cork by declaring he was not hampered by being on a platform where there were Coalitionists, and he made a “straight appeal” to the people to vote for the candidate they thought best of.
The Constitution was published on the morning of the election, too late for the voters to consider it before voting. It showed a complete surrender to the English interpretation of the Treaty, and shamelessly bartered the sovereign independence of Ireland.
At the elections there were returned 4 Trinity College members, 7 Labour, 7 Farmers, 6 Independents, and 94 Panel members, 58 being pro-Treaty and 36 Republicans.
The Panel members numbered 73% of the total. The mandate from the country, therefore, was clearly for a Coalition Government. There was no mandate whatsoever for war, as the remaining members (with the exception of the 4 from Trinity College) had all asked the people to vote for Peace.
Of the whole House, the Collins-Griffith party were in a minority of 58 to 70.
On Junes 26th – four days before the day fixed for the meeting of the Third Dáil – Mr. Churchill in the English House of Commons demanded an attack on the Four Courts, and Mr. Lloyd George said that while not using the language of menace, he had warned the Provisional Government that the occupation of the Four Courts should be brought to an end.
Forty-eight hours later – two days before the Third Dáil was to meet – the Provisional Government attacked the Four Courts.
It is to be kept in mind that all the members of this Provisional Government belonged to a party which was a minority of the New Parliament – and that this minority was elected to form a Coalition Government so as to avoid a civil war.
The situation developed, was, therefore, the result of the action of a body calling itself a Provisional Government – really a military Junta set up and armed by England – waging a war of aggression against the forces of the Irish Republic.
The usurpers gave further proof themselves of their responsibility for the war of 1922-23.
So far as Republicans were concerned that armed conflict ended on 30th April, 1923, when a cease fire order was issued publicly and loyally obeyed.
Three days later the usurpers officially murdered three soldiers of the Republic in Ennis Jail. They continued to raid houses by day and by night, to hold up and search citizens, and during the two months following the issue of the cease fire order, they arrested 400 Republican men and women.
They who talked about “the will of the people” carried out an election in 1923 on a defective register, kept 10,000 Republican election workers in jail while it was being held, tore down Republican election literature, raided Republican election officers, broke up scores of public meetings, surrounded the polling booths with armed soldiers and armored cars and intimidated the electors in every way possible.
And in spite of all that “fair play” 44 Republican Deputies were returned at the Elections, with a total of 286,161 votes.
That was a fairly eloquent testimony as to whose will had been carried out when over 200 splendid young men were brutally murdered and whose shoulders should bear the responsibly for a year and more of war.