Partition and the Establishment of Northern Ireland 1912-22
Civic Lecture to mark the Centenary of Northern Ireland
Partition and the Establishment of Northern Ireland by Dr Eamon Phoenix and illustrated by historic newsreels in conjunction with Ann Donnelly of Northern Ireland Screen
This year marks the formal partition of Ireland and the establishment of Northern Ireland as a self-governing entity within the United Kingdom. The immediate causes of the drawing of a border on the island of Ireland lay in the Home Rule crisis of 1912-14 and the rise of Ulster Protestant resistance to an all-Ireland Parliament, led by Sir Edward Carson, a Dublin Unionist lawyer.
These years saw the rise of the Ulster Volunteers and the Irish Volunteers and failure to find a compromise to the Ulster Question. Civil war was averted by the outbreak of the Great War which formed the essential background to both the 1916 Rising and the Battle of the Somme. The 1918 general election saw the victory of Sinn Fein in Nationalist Ireland the declaration of an Irish Republic by Dáil Éireann while Ulster Unionism consolidated its position in the industrial north-east.
The period 1919-22 saw the outbreak of the War of Independence; the passage at Westminster of the Government of Ireland Act (1920) which partitioned the island; the formation of the Ulster Special Constabulary (1920); the eruption of sectarian violence in Ulster; the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations of 1921 and the Irish Civil War of 1922-23.
This is a critical period in the political history of this island. It saw the efforts of Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins to establish a 32-county Irish Republic and the counter-efforts of Edward Carson and James Craig to exclude Protestant Ulster from an all-Ireland settlement. It also witnessed Sinn Fein’s abstentionism from Westminster and the success of the Ulster Unionists in shaping the emerging Partition Act to create a separate Unionist state in six counties.
The period also saw violence and population movements, North and South, and the emergence of a disputed border which was not finally confirmed until 1925.
This illustrated Lecture will trace the background and development of partition and critically examine the key personalities, Irish and British, the impact of the War of Independence on Ulster, the abandonment of a nine-county unit of six, the lack of minority safeguards in the Partition scheme, the Boundary Commission and the violence both in Belfast and on the new border in the early 1920s.