British Empire
The end of the British empire - Ireland
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Extracts from the Act that made the Irish Free State a Dominion in 1922
(Catalogue ref: HO 45/19974)
  • This source shows part of the Act of Parliament that made Ireland a Dominion with the power to rule itself.
  • From 1919-21 Republicans in Ireland made the country virtually impossible to govern. They set up alternative courts, taxes etc. They also attacked British police and troops.
  • The British poured troops into Ireland, but could not defeat the Irish Republican Army (IRA). By the end of 1919 there were 43,000 British troops in Ireland costing Britain 860,000 per year.
  • Republicans were demanding that all of Ireland should become a republic outside the British empire. Although the British could not defeat the Republicans, the Republicans could not defeat the British either.
  • Late in 1921 both sides called a truce and held talks. The Republicans were forced to accept a compromise. Twenty-six counties of Ireland became the Irish Free State. It ruled itself, but was still associated with the British empire as a Dominion.
  • Six counties of Ulster became Northern Ireland, which was still part of Britain. The British government was not prepared to let the Republicans rule over the Unionist stronghold in Ulster, where Irish Unionists wished to remain part of the United Kingdom.
  • The two sides agreed a treaty in December 1921 and Ireland was partitioned in 1922. In the Free State the Republicans were bitterly divided over the treaty. Some, like Eamon de Valera, refused to swear an oath to the British monarch. A bitter civil war followed which killed far more Irish people than the war against the British. Ireland eventually became a Republic in 1949.
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