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What happened next…

On returning home to Dublin in time for the Cabinet meeting called in the Mansion House for Thursday 8 December, Arthur Griffith (Minister for Foreign Affairs and chairman of the delegation), Michael Collins (Minister for Finance and deputy chairman of the delegation) and Robert Barton argued forcefully for acceptance of the Treaty in the face of opposition from President Éamon de Valera, Cathal Brugha (Minister for Defence) and Austin Stack (Minister for Home Affairs). By a majority of one vote (four votes to three with Minister for Local Government WT Cosgrave having the casting vote), the Cabinet accepted the Treaty and recommended it to the Dáil on 14 December.

 

From 14–22 December 1921 and 3–10 January 1922, the Dáil Éireann Treaty debates (including both public and private sessions) were held amidst scenes of bitter and personal recrimination and on 7 January, the Dáil accepted the Anglo-Irish by a narrow majority of seven (64 votes to 57). On 16 June in a general election which was de facto a referendum on the issue, the electorate resoundingly endorsed acceptance of the Treaty.

 

For a country which had lived through or under the threat of conflict since 1912 when Ulster made ready for war and MacNeill’s Volunteers responded in kind, followed by the First World War and then by the War of Independence, the Treaty represented a variety of things. To the ardent diehard republicans, it symbolised defeat and a betrayal of the aspirations of 1916, while to the followers of Collins’ oft-quoted stepping stone tradition, it heralded a return to normality and the opening move in a series of constitutional increments which would arrive one day at the independent and republican Ireland Sinn Fein had set out to achieve. For the majority who went to the polls in June 1922, the Treaty promised an end to violence, assassination and tit-for-tat atrocities that had been the hallmark of the War of Independence. The country was keen for a new beginning and for the majority of the electorate, the Treaty, for all its defects, represented just that start.