Thesis Statement: This paper discusses the Irish Republican Army’s ideology, active participants, strategies, and tactics used from 1916-1922 that resulted not in Irish independence from England but in an unsettled division of the country into North and South, Protestant and Catholic. It discusses the role of Michael Collins and his compatriots who developed modern guerilla warfare tactics subsequently used throughout the world against superior occupying military forces.
It also looks at the impact of Britain’s decline as a world power through loss of armies in World War I and its mal-treatment of citizens in Ireland, resulting in Britain’s subsequent dependence on the United States and other nations for approval, soldiers, and monetary support during World War I. The paper introduces the reader to the developing political influence of Winston Churchill. HISTORY OF THE TROUBLES England ruled Ireland from 1170 on, except for a brief period of near Home Rule between 1782 and 1800.
The “Act of Union” reunited Britain and Ireland into one kingdom. All Irish leaders in the 19th Century wanted to break this union with Britain and establish Home Government. At the turn of the century, journalist Arthur Griffith and a friend, William Rooney, founded a newspaper called the United Irishman, to encourage the break with England. Griffith’s political philosophy was passive resistance and separatism. Contributors to his newspaper included such notable writers as W. B.
Yeats, Lady Gregory, James Stephens, Padraic Colum, George Bermingham, George Moore, Seamus O’Sullivan, Katherine Tynan, and Oliver Gogarty. Arthur Griffith was a first class journalist. His own writings gave the newspaper a quality and a style similar to Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Twenty years later, Arthur Griffith would sit at the negotiating table with Winston Churchill and Lloyd George, representing the Irish nation. Of him James Joyce said, “Griffith is the first person in Ireland, as far as my knowledge of Irish affairs goes, to revive the separatist deal on modern lines.
” The Sinn Fein party first met in the city of Dublin in December 1905, with Griffith and a County Meath Squire, John Sweetman, speaking, followed by a Trinity student, Oliver Gogarty. They drafted a Constitution with fifteen articles, providing for protection of Irish industries, control of financial matters, non-consumption of articles on which duty was paid to the British treasury, withdrawal of support to the British Armed Forces in Ireland, the creation of a Mercantile Marine and Consular Service, and non-recognition of the British Parliament.
Griffith’s argument was that the Renunciation act of 1782, which admitted the right of an Irish Parliament to be bound only by laws enacted by the King and Parliament, had never been repealed. Griffith urged the Irish members of Parliament to stay away from Westminster and set up their own assembly in Ireland, with its own civil service, judiciary, and local government administration. When the Sinn Fein party won an overwhelming majority in the 1918 general election, Griffith’s policy of abstention took place.
Parliament met in Dublin, courts were established, and a local government administration was created that existed side-by-side with the British one. When Dublin Castle, the seat of British authority, suppressed the passive resistance movement in 1919, Griffith’s abstentionist administration supported Sinn Fein’s use of physical force to defend the Irish Parliament. Griffith’s policy envisioned a dual monarchy with a King of Great Britain and a King of Ireland, but Griffith was a separatist, believing Ireland and Britain should not be united.
For the separatist movement to succeed, other Irishmen who thought along a Union model had to be involved. Because Griffith devised a policy to bring all Irishmen together under a common ideal, he is considered one of the great Irish leaders of the post-Union period. Countess Constance Markievitz and Maud Gonne, leader of the “Daughters of Ireland”, an early suffragette group, also supported Griffith’s movement. Roger Casement, a British Consul who made world news with his publication of a report exposing atrocities in the Belgian Congo, also joined the movement.
Casement, of Protestant Unionist background with bubbling Irish temperament and overwhelming charm, could mesmerize people with sparking conversation. Because Casement knew imperialism from the inside, he recognized the strength of the system and saw in Griffith’s proposals a program that could free Ireland from British mis-government. Although popular support for Sinn Fein fell in 1910, the Home Rule issue came to life through the necessities of British politics. Griffith insisted England would never grant Ireland self-government through the efforts of the Irish party at Westminster participating in the House of Commons.
Prime Minister Asquith needed social laws passed between 1908 and 1910 requiring appropriations by the House of Commons. Asquith needed Irish votes to pass these measures. The Irish Party, under the leadership of John Redmond, began bargaining for Home Rule. When Asquith introduced his Home Rule Bill in April 1912, it appeared that nothing could stop it from becoming law. A huge wave of enthusiasm swept Ireland. It looked as if the policies of Sinn Fein and the political force movement were finished.