In this essay I will be writing about the causes of the partitioning in Ireland in 1922. There are a variety of causes that led to the partitioning. I am going to be writing about the short, medium and the long-term causes, and explaining in detail why these were important and what each cause led to. There are a number of long-term causes that led to the partitioning of Ireland.
The first being the Reformation; During the 16th century, when Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and replaced the Pope as head of the Church of England so England became a protestant country whilst Ireland remained Catholic and most Irish people saw the Pope in Rome as the head of the ‘true’ church. This was important because conflict then arose between English Monarchs and Irish Leaders through the century. This led to further tension when Elizabeth came to the throne, as she was worried that the Irish leaders might support a Spanish invasion of England.
As a result of her concern she decided to plant Protestants into Ireland. This was called Plantation. Elizabeth I chose Protestants to settle in Ulster, NI (Northern Ireland). Ulster was a very suitable place for the Protestants to settle as it was fertile land and it had good natural resources. The Protestants secured control and took their best land. This meant that the Irish Catholics became very angry and caused uproar, because they were being pushed off their own land and being swamped by Protestants. This was important because it meant that England was being saved from being attacked by Spain.
This also meant that the tension between the two religions grew even more. It led to an easy partition of Ireland because the Protestants had settled in Ulster. A little later, the Battle of the Boyne took place. The two sides were James II, who the Catholics supported, and William of Orange, who had the Protestants on his side! William ended up winning the battle and decided to take drastic measures against the Catholics incase they decide to attack him and his followers. He introduced something called The Penal Laws.
The Penal laws meant that no Catholics were allowed to be educated, have weapons, they got limited amount of land and they weren’t allowed to be MP’s or lawyers. This made the Catholics feel like second-class citizens; they felt as though they were being discriminated against. This led to hatred of one another between the two religions. This links me onto my next point, Direct Rule. Direct Rule meant that Ireland was governed from a Parliament in London. Protestants had the power to make most of the decisions. Catholics were 95% of the population in Northern Ireland, but only had 5% of the land.
If Ireland had a problem, they had no way of communicating with London. This long-term cause of Direct Rule led in turn to a number of the medium-term causes of the portioning of Ireland. The first being when the Irish potato crop was devastated with blight (a disease). Potato blight ruined Tenant Farmers crops, starving many people, as potatoes formed the major part of their diet. The results were catastrophic in virtually all-rural areas of Ireland, especially the west, because of this disaster Tenant Farmers were unable to pay their Land Lords rent for the land they were working on.
Many people, who wanted better lives, decided to emigrate, most of them to the USA. As the British aid was ineffective, due to Direct Rule and a Parliament in London, the emigrants became strong supporters of movements opposing British rule, and started to dislike England even more. This disaster led to Nationalists demanding Home Rule. Home Rule was when Nationalists demanded a parliament in Dublin instead of London, so they could react to disasters like the potato famine quicker. This split the Nationalists and Unionists.
Unionists wanted to stay as a union with England, and carry on being ruled from London. Nationalists wanted a Home Rule in Dublin. This led to even more tension then there already was between the two religions. As the Nationalists were so determined to achieve Home Rule, Redmond, the leader of the group, formed a Nationalists modern political party that started to successfully win seats regularly in Parliament. As we know already, Unionists opposed Home Rule so they decided to elect Carson as the Unionist leader in 1910, because of this the Unionists landed a huge shipment of arms at Larne.
The gun running took place in public with the knowledge of the police and authorities. The unionists demonstrated against the home rule in Ulster and decided to use force, although Redmond thought they would back down. Between 1913-1914 there was a formation of two opposing private armies. The UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force), they were a paramilitary group formed to oppose home rule, and the IV (Irish Volunteers); they were a nationalist paramilitary group created to protect themselves from the UVF. This led to the 1912-1914 crisis.
This almost led to a Civil War but was stopped by World War One. From 1890-1916 the Irish started to become more interested in their culture, history and language. This leads to The Gaelic Revival. As part of the Gaelic Revival, the Gaelic League published English and Irish world old and new. It also ran classes in the Irish Language. The Gaelic Athletic Association re-established traditional Irish sports such as Gaelic football and hurling. These were not political organizations, but they were often the place where more extreme Nationalists met and recruited new members.
As it was felt that the British were trying to wipe out all traces of Irish culture, it was important for the Irish to retain it. This led to religious tensions between the Catholics and Protestants. At the same time, working class movements were growing in both England and Ireland. James Connolly, who was one of the most important socialists’ leaders, believed that Ireland should become an independent state so that it could become a fair independent socialist society. The socialist movement was strongly linked to nationalism.
England were starting to get worried that Ireland were coming together and trying to break free from the Union, and they didn’t want this to happen. This led to bitter, vicious dock strike on Dublin in 1913. The importance of this strike led James Connolly to create the Irish Citizen Army to defend the strikers and protesters in the regular street battles with the police. Also in the 1840’s the IRA (Irish Republican Brotherhood) was set up. They had two branches; one being in Ireland and the other being in the United States, they were referred to as the Fenians.
They believed that the only way to be able to get independence was by armed forces. The IRB belonged to Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein were a more radical rival to John Redmond’s moderate nationalist party, the IPP (Irish Political Party). There were many short-term causes that led to the partition of Ireland. Firstly, carrying on from the previous reason, the IRB and IRC decided to take action and came to the decision to occupy armed men around different parts of Central Dublin on Easter Monday, 1916, this was called the Easter Rising and lasted for six days.
At the start they decided to read out a statement declaring that the Irish Republic was now established. After they read this out they started random shootings at people who were Unionists to show their power among Ireland, it was an open rebellion. James Connolly’s Citizen Army and the IRB occupied buildings and Railway Stations in Dublin. They then declared themselves a republic. The British army were deployed to keep the peace stretching their resources because the First World War was currently happening. James Connolly was executed, leading to outrage amongst the Irish People.
This led to support of Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein’s importance grew due to this with sympathy from the Irish people, who thought they had organized the rebellion. Sinn Fein was a republican political party, it was a major party of Irish republicanism and its political ideology was left wing. Sinn Fein was a consequence of the Easter Rising, and has since become more popular, as people felt sympathetic to the Nationalists who were executed, because of Sinn Fein’s popularity they started to win many seats in parliament. Sinn Fein decided to set up their own Government called Dail Eireann, which was unofficial.
They wanted Independence, and wouldn’t stop until they got what they wanted. Sinn Fein formed an unofficial government and the IRA (Irish Republican Army). They were ignoring the British Rule. The unofficial government was important because it triggered off a lot of anger between the two countries. A couple of years later a Guerilla war broke out between the IRA and the RIC, because of this, the Black and Tans and the British Intelligence were forced to deal with the situation; they soon became the targets, as well as the RIC. This was called the Anglo-Irish War.
Lloyd George, the English Priminister, was facing many problems including the peace settlement following the First World War. In Ireland it was difficult to win a guerilla war and the additional troops were ineffective. Lloyd George’s solution to this was to compromise and to partition Ireland into two because he couldn’t get the Unionists to agree to a settlement with Sinn Fein. Ireland would be split into the Republic of Ireland, of which would contain six counties in the Ulster area, Londonderry, Down, Antrim, Tyrone, Fermanagh, and Armagh.
This is where the Unionists would live and still be part of the United Kingdom. Then there was the Irish Freestate, where the Nationalists would be able to live with their own government and police force, completely separated from the UK. But the problem was this didn’t work. It was rejected by Sinn Fein and the guerilla war carried on. Lloyd George’s compromise was called the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Lloyd George could not taken it anymore, as many things were going wrong including economic problems in England and being criticized by the USA.
He was forced to call a truce in 1922. He decided enough was enough and declared that Ireland was going be partitioned and British troops were ordered to leave Ireland completely. The partitioned happened in 1922, the Irish Freestate became independent like the Nationalists wanted and the Republic of Ireland was declared where 65% of Unionists, they had to swear their allegiance to the monarch. To conclude, there were many causes towards the final partition of Ireland in 1922.
The long-term causes included reformation, plantation, penal laws and direct rule. The medium-term causes included potato famine, home rule, 1912-14 crises and the Gaelic revival. And finally the short-term causes included the Easter rising, Rise of Sinn Fein, Anglo-Irish War and the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In my opinion, The Easter rising was the most important cause of the partitioning of Ireland. This is because it seemed to be the one that triggered all of the hatred between England and Ireland, the IRA and the IRC, and the Nationalists and the Unionists.
I think it showed the English what they were up against and especially when Sinn Fein started to get the sympathy vote and started to gain seats in parliament. Also the fact that the British executed the leaders did not help them further along the line particularly when Sinn Fein decided to ignore their rules and start up their own unofficial parliament. All in all I feel that it was a good decision to partition Ireland. Even though it didn’t solve all of the problems, it certainly did solve a lot of them and it created peace amongst the majority of the population.