In establishing Ireland as an independent state the founding of the Gardaí Síochana was a vital step | Northern Ireland | Politics Of Ireland

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  Following the 1916 rising W.B Yeats wrote that Irish politics and life were “all changed, changed utterly”1 however out of the “terrible beauty” which was “born” an Independent Free Irish State would emerge. In this essay I will examine the extent to which Irish politicians of the 1920’s and 30’s succeeded and failed in achieving that Independent Ireland. In establishing Ireland as an independent state the founding of the Gardaí Síochana was a vital step. The Civic Guard was formed by the Provis
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  Following the 1916 rising W.B Yeats wrote that Irish politics and life were “allchanged, changed utterly” 1 however out of the “terrible beauty” which was “born” anIndependent Free Irish State would emerge. In this essay I will examine the extent towhich Irish politicians of the 1920’s and 30’s succeeded and failed in achieving thatIndependent Ireland.In establishing Ireland as an independent state the founding of the Gardaí Síochanawas a vital step.   The Civic Guard was formed by theProvisional Governmentin February 1922 to take over the responsibility of policing the new Irish Free State. TheGarda Síochana (Temporary Provisions) Act of 1923 provided for the creation of “aforce of police to be called and known as the Garda Síochana” 2. The gardaí werefounded as an unarmed police force very similar to the British police force of thetime. As one of the first institutions created by the Irish state the fact that this new police system was so alike the British police system it was hardly a demonstration of Irish independence argues J.J Lee especially as the Royal Irish Constabulary which itreplaced was “an armed paramilitary force in comparison to the unarmed BritishPolice” 3 . Lee also states that the Civil Service and Banking systems, that wereimplemented by the Cumann na nGaedheal government, instead of being modelled onthe European or American systems of the time was modelled on the British system.This led to a belief among many that the new Ireland was the same as it had beenunder the British apart from the accents of those who were in power and the colour of the flag. However Tom Garvin argues that to have the Civil System completelyredeveloped would have taken huge effort, time and manpower which was somethingthat the new Irish government did not have 4. 1 Yeats, W.B, Collected poems of W.B Yeats, (    Dublin 1995  ) 2 Garda Síochana (Temporary Provisions) Act 1923 3 Lee, J.J,  Ireland 1912-85: Politics and Society ( Cambridge, 1989) 4 Garvin, Tom,  Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland 1858-1928, (    Oxford, 1987) Michael Collins called the Anglo Irish treaty a ”stepping stone to complete  independence” 5 . Tim Pat Coogan argues that this might have been the case hadCollins survived the Civil war. However despite Cumann na nGaedheal’s professeddesire to establish Ireland as an independent state they clung to the limitations of theTreaty. The Boundary commission and the Oath of Allegiance are clear evidence of this. The oath of allegiance was seen by its opponents as an acceptance of commoncitizenship between Britain and Ireland under King George V. Cumann na nGaedheal portrayed the oath as an oath to obey the will of the majority. However the fact that allearly members of the Dail had to swear an oath of allegiance to a foreign king was asign that Cosgrave’s administration were content to recognize the king of England ashead of state. The fact that the oath was never removed under the tenure of theCumann na nGaedheal government is further evidence of how Cumann na nGaedhealreally only gained the independence that had been given in the treaty instead of tryingto use the treaty to achieve complete independence as Collins had envisaged and promised.The greatest failing of the Cumann na Gaedheal government in establishing Ireland asan independent state is without doubt the boundary commission. Collins had arguedthat the boundary commission would give the new Free State large parts of NorthernIreland. He believed that the nationalist areas of northern Ireland such as Derry city,Fermanagh, Tyrone, south Armagh and south Down would become part of the FreeState due to the wishes of its inhabitants and this would leave the rest of NorthernIreland so small that it join the Free state as it could not exist on its own 6. EamondeValera predicted that would not happen and described the boundary commission as 5 Coogan, Tim Pat,  Michael Collins, (    London, 1990)6 Garvin, Tom,  Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland 1858-1928, (    Oxford, 1987) “an instrument used for dismembering the country” 7 . However instead of the Free  state gaining areas of Northern Ireland, Eoin Mac Neill the Irish delegate on thecommission conceded large areas of the Free State to Northern Ireland. In the end thecommission was abandoned in exchange for the cancellation of a debt owed to theBritish government. The boundary commission and the concession of lands highlightsthe lack of independence that the State claimed to have.Cosgraves government were quite successful in other steps towards independence.They greatly improved the Irish economy. The creation of the Electricity SupplyBoard in August 1927 and the founding of the Shannon Hydroelectricity Plant atArdnacrusha in October 1929 were very important in the developing of the statesinfrastructure. The fact that the Free State under Cumann na nGaedheal issued its owncurrency and passports and sent diplomats to other countries suggests that Cosgrave wanted Irelandto be viewed by other countries of the world as an independent Free State.In the years after the 1932 election in which Fianna fail came to power Eamon deValera dismantled the Anglo Irish treaty with such tenacity that it quickly showed thetimidity of Cosgrave to wield to the treaty. The 1931 Statute of Westminster allowedde Valera to dismember the treaty. The focus of Fianna Fail was to extendthe sovereignty and status of Ireland and Lee and O Tuathaigh state that de Valeraidentified “foreign affairs as a critical area of government” 8   . De Valera showed hiscommitment to establishing an independent Irish state by abolishing the senate whowere delaying changes such as the removal of the oath of allegiance. De Valeraamended the Free States constitution of 1922 firstly to allow him to introduce any 7 Longford, Earl of, and Thomas P.O’Neill,  Eamon De Valera, (London, 1970)8 Lee, Joseph and Gearoid Ó Tuathaigh, The Age of De Valera, (Dublin, 1982)  constitutional amendments regardless of if they clashed with the Anglo Irish Treaty  and then amended the constitution to remove article 17 of the constitution which wasthe requirement of members of Dail to take the oath of allegiance. This was a major step towards Irish Independence. De Valera showed his astuteness in exploiting theconstitutional crisis in Britain at the time, which was due to the abdication of KingEdward VIII, by introducing the External Relations Act of 1936 another major steptowards independence. The enactment of Bunreacht na hEireann in 1937 encapsulatedhis “gradualist approach to the Republic” 9. De Valera viewed this constitution asembodying the sovereignty and symbolism of Ireland as a “renewed declaration of national independence” 10. The Cumann na nGaedheal government of 1922-1932 succeeded in achieving acertain amount of Independence however as issues such as the boundary commissionand the oath of allegiance show it only really achieved the independence that wasgiven in the Anglo Irish Treaty rather than gaining full independence. De Valera andhis Fianna Fail party however used the Statute of Westminster to take huge stridestowards full independence and by implementing a new constitution de Valera hadeffectively made Ireland a republic in all but name. 9 Dunphy, Richard, The Making Of Fianna Fail in Power 1923-1948, (Oxford, 1995)10 Dunphy, Richard, The Making Of Fianna Fail in Power 1923-1948, (Oxford, 1995) Bibliography   Lee, J.J,  Ireland 1912-85: Politics and Society ( Cambridge, 1989) Garvin, Tom,  Nationalist Revolutionaries in Ireland 1858-1928, (    Oxford, 1987)Dunphy, Richard, The Making Of Fianna Fail in Power 1923-1948, (Oxford, 1995)Longford, Earl of, and Thomas P.O’Neill,  Eamon De Valera, (London, 1970)Lee, Joseph and Gearoid Ó Tuathaigh, The Age of De Valera, (Dublin, 1982)
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