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One hundred years since the Irish Free State was established

Authored by Sean Waite
Published on 18th December, 2022 2 min read

One hundred years since the Irish Free State was established

An IRA prisoner under escort by National Army troops during the Civil War.

In December 1922, one hundred years ago, the Irish Free State was established as a dominion of the British Empire, formally ending the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921).

The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 dictated that twenty-six out of thirty-two counties in Ireland would form the “‘Irish Free State”’ dominion, and the six remaining counties in Northern Ireland could then choose whether to opt in or out of the new state. Association with the British Empire, and the oath of allegiance that Irish politicians would have to swear to the King of England, were two of the most controversial aspects of the treaty.

Although the treaty marked an end to the violence between Irish nationalists and the British Crown, a new political paradigm was taking hold, between those who accepted the treaty and those who would not down weapons until Ireland was completely free from British colonial rule.

This resulted in the Irish Civil War (1922-1923), which tragically saw many former comrades-in-arms fight each other over the political settlement of the Free State. Proponents of the Free State eventually won the war with the help of British weaponry, but at the cost of the deep embitterment of Irish society.

The 1931 Statute of Westminster passed by the British Parliament would have significant implications for the functioning of the Free State. This bill enabled dominion states of the British Empire to enact new, and change existing, legislation. This gave the Irish Free State freedom de jure.

The Free State came to an end when Éamon de Valera oversaw the process of drafting a new constitution, which was ratified via public referendum in July 1937. Although groups like Sinn Féin have argued the Free State legitimised British control over Northern Ireland, others have argued Michael Collins was prophetic in stating that the transitional Free State offered the Irish “the freedom to achieve freedom”.


Authored by Sean Waite

Sean Waite

Sean Waite is a Political Science graduate of Birmingham and Aarhus University.


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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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