Loyd George Threatens The Irish Treaty Delegation
The Irish Republic was established on January 21st 1919 and was brutally suppressed by the British who in December 1920 decided to partition Ireland against the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people.
On July 11th 1921 a truce was called between the Irish Republic and the British Government, just three days after the truce the president of Dáil Eireann Éamon de Valera meets the British Prime Minister Lyod George in London.
This was the first of four meetings between the pair in July. It was clear at these meetings that the British would not agree to a 32 county Irish Republic, they only agreed that an Irish delegation would go to London to discuss terms in the autumn.
On July 20th 1921 Llyod George sent de Valera his proposals which included the offer of dominion status for twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties.
By August 1921 de Valera was elevated to the position of President of the Irish Republic. Declaring himself now the Irish equivalent of King George V, he argued that as Irish head of state, in the absence of the British head of state from the negotiations, he too should not attend the peace conference called the Treaty Negotiations (October–December 1921).
The nominees to represent the Irish Republic were Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Robert Barton, Eamonn Duggan, and George Gavan Duffy. As plenipotentiaries (that is, negotiators with the legal authority to sign a treaty without reference back to the cabinet), but were given secret cabinet instructions by de Valera that required them to return to Dublin before signing the Treaty.
On September 14th 1921 all the Dáil speakers unanimously commented that the plenipotentiaries were being sent to represent the sovereign Irish Republic, and accepted de Valera's nominations without dissent, although some argued that de Valera himself should attend the conference.
On September 29th 1921 Lloyd George reiterated to de Valera that recognition of the Irish Republic was "a recognition which no British Government can accord", and he repeated his invitation for talks on "ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations", to start in London on October 11th, which was tacitly accepted by the Irish side.
This was followed by weeks of delay until October, when the Irish delegates set up headquarters in 22 Hans Place, Knightsbridge in London.
The first two weeks of the negotiations were spent in formal sessions. Upon the request of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, the two delegations began informal negotiations, in which only two members of each negotiating team were allowed to attend. On the Irish side, these members were always Collins and Griffith, while on the British side, Austen Chamberlain always attended, though the second British negotiator would vary from day to day.
In late November, the Irish delegation returned to Dublin to consult the cabinet according to their instructions, and again on December 3rd. Many points still had to be resolved, mainly surrounding the form of an oath to the monarch, but it was clear to all the politicians involved by this stage that a 32-county Irish Republic was not on offer.
They returned to London to hammer out the final details of the treaty, on December 5th 1921 Lloyd George said there would be a"terrible and immediate war" if the treaty was not signed at once. There was also a promise of a boundary commission which the British said would lead to most if not all of the six counties eventually becoming part of the Free state, this of course never happened.
The treaty was signed at 2:20am on December 6th 1921, but was it signed under duress?
There is no doubt Éamon de Valera knew a 32 county Irish Republic was not achievable through these negotiations so why did he send a delegation in the first place?
The treaty was in direct violation of the Irish Republic proclaimed in Easter 1916, voted on by the Irish people in December 1918 and established by the First Dáil in January 1919 so the Irish delegates should not have signed it despite the skullduggery by Dev.