The Treaty of London

Westminster and the Union Jack - ale - cc
Westminster and the Union Jack - ale - cc

The Treaty of London is an Anglo-Irish agreement that was signed on December 6, 1921, and which put an end to the Irish War of Independence. This text once signed gave the authorization to the South of Ireland to officially create the Free State of Ireland. In return, the Free State had to lend allegiance to the British crown, but also to cede Northern Ireland to England. This treaty was both welcomed and violently criticized by Irish nationalists… A look back at the treaty that shaped Ireland as we know it today.

History of the Treaty of London

The War of Independence (1916-1921)

Big Ben in England - Tim Benedict Pou - cc

Big Ben in England – Tim Benedict Pou – cc

After centuries of British occupation, the Irish tried again to rise up against the British in 1916, on the occasion of the Easter Uprising.

In spite of the bitter failure of this revolt, the Irish decide to act through guerrilla actions, led by Michael Collins, an Irish nationalist and fine strategist who wishes to intimidate the British government and thus put an end to its supremacy over Ireland.

After several years of fighting, political tensions and violence, the British government can only conclude that this war of independence is a real financial drain, and that more and more Irish people are tilting towards nationalism.

Tired of this never-ending conflict, David Lloyd George, then British Prime Minister, asked Éamon de Valera, President of the Republic of Ireland, to declare a ceasefire. It was now time to agree on a new basis, and De Valera sent Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith to London to negotiate a treaty, now known as the Treaty of London.

The Terms of the Treaty

The Treaty of London legislated on the following points:

  • The British Government authorises the creation of a Free State of Ireland with Dominion status
  • the British troops on Irish soil undertake to withdraw from Irish territory
  • the Irish Free State is compelled to pledge allegiance to the British crown
  • the Irish Free State had to settle part of the debt of the United Kingdom (the 1st World War had heavily indebted Great Britain)
  • the Irish Free State must leave Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom.

The Consequences

The treaty was signed on December 6, 1921, and was far from unanimous within Dáil Éireann, which was divided into two groups: the pro-treaty and the anti-treaty groups. The disagreement is so violent, that it will quickly lead to an Irish civil war (1922/1924) causing the death of more than 4,000 Irish.

It was not until 1931 that the Statute of Westminster revoked certain points of the Treaty, including the status of dominion of the Irish Free State. From then on, the Republic of Ireland was an independent and self-governing Republic, no longer subject to interference from the United Kingdom.

During the 1930s, most of the points of the Treaty were gradually revoked, with the exception of the partitioning of the island.

Today, the partition of Ireland remains, and continues to be, a source of significant political tension.

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