The 26-County Irish Free State

A state beholding to its former masters

After the British withdrew their military forces from the twenty-six southern counties of Ireland in 1922, their anointed Irish overseers carried on as if they had never left.

Although the British drafted Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 secured a partial British military withdrawal it also copper-fastened the partition of Ireland. The signing of that treaty caused a split in the Republican movement pitting those who accepted the treaty against those who opposed. The ensuing Civil War was fought, for all intent and purposes, to preserve the treaty and its attendant British legacy. The success of the pro-treaty forces was due mainly to the recruitment of demobilized World War I Irish soldiers who served in the British army, armament left to them by the departing British forces as well as aircraft, machine guns, armored cars, small arms and ammunition shipped from England.

In order to preserve the infamous treaty and reassure the British  that their legacy was in good hands pro-treaty forces proceeded to summarily execute (81) of their former comrades who continued to fight to preserve the 32-county Irish Republic declared by the first Dail Eireann in 1919. 

The British legacy was preserved within the structures of the newly formed 26 county Irish Free State. 

Very little changed in the ensuing years. The leaders of the 26-county Irish Free State adopted the British legal, judicial and political systems. Laws enacted by the British to deal with republicans who continued to struggle for a 32-county Irish Republic were emulated by the Irish Free state. They even borrowed Albert Pierpont, the English hangman, to carry out twenty-four executions from 1924 to 1944. Amongst those executed were six Irish republican prisoners. Prison guards shot a seventh republican.

Since the inception of the Irish Free State in 1922, successive governments, irrespective of party affiliation, have shown little or no initiative or vision in dealing with economic, environmental, social or cultural issues that besets the state. The Irish language, so important to the national identity and self-worth continues to struggle for survival. After the Soviets were forced to leave the Baltic Republics in 1991, the governments who took over made it a national priority to revive their native languages that the Soviets tried so hard to destroy. Not so in Ireland. Considering that very few Irish politicians speak Irish itís no surprise that it has been largely ignored. There is more of an effort here in the U.S. to keep the Irish language alive than there is in Ireland.

No Free State government has ever engaged or approached the British to discuss Irish reunification. To the contrary, any action they have taken was to support the continued British occupation of the six Irish northeastern counties. Such was the case with the British authored Sunningdale, Hillsborough and Good Friday agreements. Two of these agreements failed and the third Ďthe Good Friday Agreementí is on life support. Not once in the ninety odds years since partition has any Irish government approached the Irish Diaspora in the United States for help in bringing pressure to bear on the U.S. government to support Irish reunification.  

The Celtic Tiger, the pseudonym for economic development that started in the seventies was, and continues to be, fueled by multinational corporations. Infrastructure and the environment, two areas of undisputed government responsibility are woefully lacking; ranking last amongst European states including those in Eastern European. Without pressure from the European Union its doubtful if waste treatment, pollution control or clean water regulations would have been introduced or acted upon in Ireland. The implementation of these regulations is delayed whenever possible and are, when threatened with the withholding of funds, carried out reluctantly and half-heartedly.   

So as not to leave the wrong impression regarding the Celtic tiger, itís safe to say that the Free State government had very little to do with its emergence nor will it have with its sustainability or longevity. The Celtic tiger was the creation of multinational corporations who took advantage of free lodgings, tax incentives, low wages and a plentiful and eager workforce. This situation may be already changing as anyone who has visited Ireland in recent times can testify to the rapidly escalating costs of goods and services. This situation is fueled by greed and corruption that will, if unchecked, kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. As we all know, multinationals are entities devoid of allegiance to people or countries and are always on the lookout for cheaper labor markets to exploit.   

The plight of Irelandís youth changed little under home rule. Hundred of thousands of its youth were forced to emigrate just as their forebears had done over the centuries to escape the English tyrant who occupied their land.  Notwithstanding, the so-called miracle wrought by the Celtic Tiger, thousands of Irelandís youth still leave Ireland in search of a better life elsewhere. Many of the unfortunate amongst those exiles languish unforgotten and destitute in doorways in London, Melbourne, Boston and elsewhere throughout the world.  For good measure the 26-county government will not even allow Ireland's exiles to vote in elections in their homeland. Their vote might upset the gravy train.

The Irish who leave Ireland are replaced by migrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere who work for a pittance to fuel the Celtic tiger. No government official in Ireland cares a hoot about the plight of the exiled Irish or their exploited migrant replacements. The governing elite in Ireland are coy, callous and arrogant and could care less about anything other than the good life. They do not seem to be bothered by trivialities such as crime, poverty, decent medical services and above all Irish reunification.  On the other hand when offered a brown envelope and they become eager beavers.  

For those of us who study Irish history find it offensive that most accounts are biased towards the revisionist English version. It seems that the Free State politicians and academicians are content to let the British, their agents or sympathizers record Irish history. Considering that the Irish people engaged England is an epic freedom struggle for the past millennium an Irish version of that struggle should be a national imperative   It certainly would be so in most other countries.

Itís difficult to find an account that does not condemn leaders who participated as misguided, troublemakers, or terrorists in todayís parlance. Yet, when the Free State ruling elite senses a groundswell of popular nostalgia for the heroes of Irelandís past they will not hesitate to pull out all the stops to capitalize on that sentiment as was evident this past Easter when they put on a military display to honor the patriots of the 1916 Easter Rising. The parade also served to show the Provos i.e., the most recent batch of British enforcers laying claim to the republican mantle, who is in charge.

Other than Republican Sinn Fein none of the other political parties have any legitimate claim to the 1916 legacy. The mainline political parties who have accepted the partition of Ireland and the continued British presence in the occupied counties as a fait acompli cannot lay any credible claim to that legacy.  The Provos, who supports Britainís claim to the occupied counties are hardly in and position to claim the 1916 legacy or the republican mantle. To the contrary, they are the logical inheritors of the British legacy.  Any political party who begs the British to let them participate in administering British rule in any part of Ireland is not republican by any stretch of the imagination.   

The Irish Republic envisioned in the 1916 Proclamation bears no resemblance to the two Irish statelets of today. The Proclamation of 1916 was the soul of the Irish nation that was to be, not what emerged from the traitorous capitulation of Irelands rightful struggle for freedom and independence. No past, present of future British authored agreement will replace the 1916 Proclamation as the mantra for a 32-county sovereign Irish Republic no matter how much todayís or tomorrows self-serving opportunists try to dilute or disparage its relevance.  

Pearse, Connolly and others executed leaders of 1916 died for a 32-county Irish Republic Ė nothing less.  That is the essence of the 1916 legacy. True republicans understand that and have not wavered, nor will they, in their allegiance and commitment to defend the  the 32-county Irish Republic declared by the first Dail Eireann in 1919. 

Contributor - TomŠs ” Coisdealba

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