To fully understand Northern Ireland’s history it is necessary to go back to the year 1920. Due to continued unrest at the British presence in Ireland, the British government finally decided they had had enough. Lloyd George’ government passed a parliamentary act known as the better Government for Ireland Act.
Lloyd George made it very clear to those who represented the Irish people that he would not compromise on either partition or military concessions. Eamonn de Valera the main representative of the Irish people rejected these terms completely and returned back to the Irish parliament known as the Dail. Both sides did however agree to continue talks.
Eamon de Valera knowing any negotiations would be fruitless did not return to the actual negotiations. He did however send a four-man commission. This commission accepted Lloyd George terms on the grounds that they were the best that they could hope for. This treaty instantly split the Sinn Fein movement and De Valera and his supporters walked out of the Dail protesting strongly against its ratification. This split eventually resulted in a full blown civil war. The violence that followed was as brutal as anything that had gone on in Ireland’s history.
A new treaty was signed on 6 December 1921, and this treaty agreed that Ireland should become a self governing Dominion with in the Empire known as the Irish free State. The constitutional status would be similar to that of Canada. As part of this agreement the British were allowed to keep three naval bases and would be totally responsible for all coastal defences.
It was at this time that Northern Ireland was formed. The six counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Down formed what would be known as Northern Ireland. This new status for Northern Ireland was permissible under the Government of Ireland Act. A boundary commission would decide the exact position of the border between Northern Ireland and the new Irish free State.
Eamon De Valera had voted against the acceptance of this treaty. He resigned as president of the Dail and was replaced by Arthur Griffith. Under the terms of the 1921 treaty Ireland would have Dominion status within the British Empire and would therefore not be an independent nation.
One month after the vote power was handed over along with Dublin Castle to the provisional government in the Irish free State. British troops began to withdraw handing over their barracks and any surplus equipment to the IRA. The IRA were now regarded as the Army of the Irish government.
This first constitution came into effect in 1922 when the name was officially changed to the Irish free State. The general opinion was it was not a perfect situation nor was it a satisfactory resolution to the many hundreds of years of conflict with the British. At that time the Irish people were uncomfortable with the new agreement and were determined not to stand idly by while part of the country remained under British control.
De Valera now went through the process of recruiting his supporters into a new republican political party. In June 1922 he then took on present government in a general election. Unfortunately for him he only managed to win 35 of the available 128 seats. The government having had their position vindicated began to harden its attitude to the Republicans. In only a matter of weeks yet another Civil War broke out stop this war lasted just under a year and left a legacy of division that would remain in the Irish free State for many years.
Northern Ireland went on its own way and formed the first Northern Ireland government.