Independence Day

Published in Issue 4 (July/August 2018), Letters, Volume 26

Sir,—If Ireland is to celebrate an Independence Day, as advocated by Dennis Kennedy (HI 26.3, May/June 2018, Platform), it should be on 14 December, because on that day in 1918 her voters, quietly and peaceably in the polling booths, determined that Ireland should be a sovereign and independent state. The Times, no friend of Ireland, conceded that all sides regarded the general election as a plebiscite, which had not been won by its favourites.

Dennis Kennedy would welcome a lessening of what he deems ‘the obsession with the GPO and 1916’, so he must concede that my suggestion would lessen such an obsession, if it indeed exists. It takes the emphasis away from the green-uniformed heroes and puts it on the ordinary unarmed men and women who in December 1918 endorsed those heroes’ objectives, having had nearly three years to think about them.

Dennis Kennedy suggests that Irish independence should be celebrated on 16 January, because on that day in 1922 the British government ceded Dublin Castle to a group of Irishmen, and green-uniformed Irish soldiers replaced khaki-uniformed British ones. But the British did not cede the Castle to Dáil Éireann, the parliament established by the determination of the Irish nation at the 1918 general election and renewed in 1921. The British passed the Castle to an irregular junta appointed by the so-called ‘Parliament of Southern Ireland’. At its only quorate meeting on 14 January 1922 the ‘parliament’ purported to ratify the Articles of Agreement signed in London, a city where Dáil Éireann and its Irish mandate were not recognised. That assembly was a rump of pro-Treaty members of Dáil Éireann and Unionist MPs from Trinity College. TDs from the Six Counties, such as Armagh, were excluded.

The newsreel of the Castle take-over is impressive, and the Neil Jordan movie even more so, but it should not delude anyone into thinking that sovereign power was being surrendered to the Irish people. On 28 June 1922 the British handed artillery to the Provisional Government to shell their former comrades in the Four Courts. Should that date not compete with 16 January for Independence Day? Or 8 December, because on that day in 1922 the Irish Free State cabinet in its first executive exercise shot four of its former comrades without charge or trial?—Yours etc.,



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