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Portrait of British delegate Winston Churchill by Sir John Lavery - by courtesy of Felix Rosenstiel’s Widow & Son Ltd., London on behalf of the Estate of Sir John Lavery.




21 January

The first session of Dáil Éireann takes place in the Mansion House, Dublin. Members approve a provisional constitution, a declaration of independence, a ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ and the Democratic Programme.


Ambush and killing of two RIC constables at Soloheadbeg, county Tipperary, by a party of Volunteers.




The Dáil is proclaimed an illegal body by the British authorities.


The number of IRA attacks on RIC barracks increases during the summer and autumn of 1919. The Volunteers adopt the title of ‘Irish Republican Army’.






Arrival of the Black and Tan additional police force, supplemented by the Auxiliaries in August, both of which are intended to bolster the RIC.


20 March

Killing of the Lord Mayor of Cork Tomás McCurtain by RIC members.


Guerrilla warfare intensifies between the IRA, the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries during the summer and autumn.


9 August

The British parliament passes the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, replacing coroners’ courts with military courts of enquiry.


25 October

Death of the Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney while on hunger strike in Brixton jail.



Escalation of the conflict.


21 November

‘Bloody Sunday’ – fourteen members of the Crown forces including eleven members of an elite British intelligence unit are shot by Collins’ ‘Squad’. In retaliation, the Auxiliaries kill fourteen civilians during a football match in Croke Park. Later the same day, three republican prisoners are shot while trying to escape. The events of this day epitomise the tit-for-tat nature of the conflict: atrocity and counter-atrocity.


11 December

The burning of Cork city centre by a group of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries in reprisal for an IRA ambush which killed one Auxiliary.


23 December

The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, is passed by the British parliament which provides for two Home Rule parliaments: one in Belfast to govern the six northeastern counties and one in Dublin to govern the remaining 26 counties.






The coordinated efforts of IRA flying columns in the southern and western counties see much of the bitterest fighting taking place in the martial law area (south of a line drawn from Galway to Wexford).


The burning of many landed estate properties by the IRA.


19 May

A general election is held for the Southern parliament in which Sinn Féin wins 124 of the 128 seats but its elected members do not take their seats. When the assembly meets on 28 June, it is attended only by the four unionists who were also returned.


25 May

A considerable military engagement sees the IRA attack the Custom House (the centre of local government).


26 May

The British Cabinet decides that if the Southern parliament is not in operation by 12 July, martial law will be extended to the country; it will not, however, be extended to Northern Ireland.



Unofficial contacts are made between the Irish and British Cabinets and British emissaries dispatched to Ireland with a view to establishing a basis for substantive talks on a solution to the current political and military impasse.


22 June

Opening of the Northern Ireland parliament by King George V.


24 June

British Prime Minister David Lloyd George writes to the President of Dáil Éireann Éamon de Valera inviting him to a conference in London ‘in the company of Sir James Craig, to explore to the utmost the possibility of a settlement’. This is the first in a series of letters exchanged between the two men regarding prospective peace negotiations.


11 July

The truce ending hostilities in the War of Independence/Anglo-Irish War agreed on 9 July comes into force, just one day before the deadline for the imposition of martial law countrywide. The initial breakthrough that led to the truce is credited to George V, Lloyd George and the South African Prime Minister Jan Christian Smuts.


12 July

An Irish delegation comprising President Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith (Minister for Foreign Affairs), Austin Stack (Minister for Home Affairs), Robert Barton (Minister for Economic Affairs), Count Plunkett and Erskine Childers travels to London for preliminary discussions with Lloyd George in advance of fully-fledged and formal negotiations.


14–21 July

A series of four one-to-one meetings between de Valera and Lloyd George takes place which ends inconclusively.


10 August

Rejection by both the Irish Cabinet and Dáil of the British proposals of dominion status with further restrictions on defence, trade, payment of war debt and no ending of partition. De Valera writes to Lloyd George confirming his judgement that the British Government’s proposals are unacceptable while at the same time indicating the nature of the settlement which he would be willing to recommend to the Dáil.



Exchange of letters between de Valera and Lloyd George exploring ways to break the impasse.


26 August

De Valera is elected President of the Republic by the Dáil.


14 September

The Dáil accepts de Valera’s nominations for a team of plenipotentiaries to negotiate a settlement with the British.


The negotiation team nominated is composed of Arthur Griffith (Minister for Foreign Affairs and chairman of the delegation); Michael Collins (Minister for Finance and deputy chairman of the delegation); Robert Barton (Minister for Economic Affairs); George Gavan Duffy and Éamonn Duggan, with Erskine Childers, Fionán Lynch, Diarmuid O’Hegarty and John Chartres providing secretarial assistance.


30 September

De Valera accepts the formal invitation to London from Lloyd George for comprehensive talks with the British ‘with a view to ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations’.


7 October

The Irish delegation is ratified by the Cabinet and supplied with credentials to ‘negotiate and conclude…a Treaty or Treaties of Settlement, Association and Accommodation between Ireland and the community of nations known as the British Commonwealth’.


8 October

The Irish delegation arrives in London (excepting Collins who arrives on 10 October) and takes up residence at 22 Hans Place and 15 Cadogan Gardens in Kensington.


11 October

The opening of formal negotiations between both delegations at 10 Downing Street.


The British delegation is composed of David Lloyd George (Prime Minister); Austen Chamberlain (Lord Privy Seal); Lord Birkenhead (Lord Chancellor); Winston Churchill (Secretary of State for the Colonies); Sir Laming Worthington-Evans (Secretary for War); Sir Hamar Greenwood (Chief Secretary for Ireland) and Sir Gordon Hewart (Attorney General), with Tom Jones and Lionel Curtis providing secretarial assistance.


11–24 October

Seven sessions of the plenary conference take place in Downing Street with all the Irish delegates present at each (on the British side, Austen Chamberlain was absent from the 1st and 2nd sessions on 11 October while Sir Gordon Hewart was absent from the 4th session on 14 October).


The plenary conference appoints three committees, the Committee on Naval and Air Defence, the Committee on Financial Relations and the Committee on the Observance of the Truce, comprising members of both delegations. The committees meet between 12 October–10 November.


24 October

Seventh and final session of the plenary conference takes place between both delegations and the first set of Irish draft proposals is presented.


After this date, negotiations are conducted through sub conferences whose members meet on 24 occasions in various locations until the signing of the Treaty on 6 December.


2 November

Meetings between Collins and Griffith of the Irish delegation and Lord Birkenhead, Lloyd George and Chamberlain of the British delegation regarding Irish recognition of the Crown.


12 November

Meeting between Griffith and Lloyd George on the matter of Ulster. At this meeting, the suggestion of a boundary commission was mooted officially for the first time, whereby the border between Northern and Southern Ireland would be re-drawn on terms favourable to the latter, in return for association with the empire on British terms.


Mid-late November

Further discussions on the drafting of an agreement.


22 November

The Irish delegation’s memorandum is submitted for consideration, repeating the demand for ‘external association’ (de Valera’s alternative formula to dominion status) together with concessions on trade and naval defence.


24 November

The British response to the Irish memorandum rejects any settlement which does not acknowledge some role for the Crown in Ireland.


1–3 December

Counter proposals are presented by the British and brought to Dublin for full consideration by the Cabinet in Dublin on 3 December.


External association is stipulated as the plenipotentiaries’ default position in the negotiations to follow. The oath of allegiance, as worded in the British document, is rejected – even if the consequence is a resumption of war – while it is reiterated that no document can be signed without reference back to the Dáil.


3 December

De Valera visits counties Clare and Galway and makes speeches defining his republican position.


4 December

Discussion by both sides of the written Irish counter proposals.


5 December

A meeting is held between Lloyd George and Collins which discusses the proposed boundary commission in more detail.


6 December

An ultimatum is delivered by Lloyd George to the delegates in which they are faced with the option of either signing the text of the Treaty as it stands or refusing to sign and face the consequence of an immediate resumption of war.


The ‘Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland’ are signed by both delegations at 2.15am.


8 December

De Valera issues a public statement that he cannot recommend acceptance of the Treaty. The Cabinet decides by 4 votes to 3 to recommend the Treaty to the Dáil on 14 December.


14–22 December

Dáil Éireann Treaty debates held (includes both public and private sessions).





3–10 January

Dáil Éireann Treaty debates continue (includes both public sessions and one private session on the morning of 6 January).


7 January

The Treaty is approved by the Dáil by 64 votes to 57.


9 January

De Valera resigns as President of Dáil Éireann but stands for re-election.


10 January

De Valera is defeated in the vote for the Dáil presidency by 60 votes to 58. He and all anti-Treaty deputies walk out and Griffith is elected President of Dáil Éireann. The Dáil is adjourned until 11 February.


14 January

Establishment of the Provisional Government with Collins as Chairman.


February–11 March

Confrontation in Limerick between pro- and anti-Treaty forces. The Mayor of Limerick and prominent leaders from both sides strive to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. Both forces evacuate the city on 11 March.


15 March

Cumann na Poblachta, the anti-Treaty League of the Republic, is formed by de Valera.


16–18 March

De Valera includes in public speeches a warning to the effect that acceptance of the Treaty by the people would interpose an Irish Government and army between the British Government and any body of Irishmen that might subsequently desire to seek complete independence by armed force.


22 March

De Valera denies suggestions that his statements of 16–18 March were an incitement to civil war.


26 March

Members of the IRA opposed to the Treaty hold an army convention in defiance of prohibition by the new Dáil Cabinet.


9 April

The anti-Treaty army convention adopts a new constitution, acknowledging no responsibility to Dáil Éireann or to any political authority and elects an executive including Liam Lynch, Liam Mellows and Rory O’Connor.


14 April

The Four Courts in Dublin is occupied by anti-Treaty forces led by Rory O’Connor.


20 May

A pact is agreed between Collins and de Valera regarding the outcome of the general election to be held in June.


16 June

General election held.


24 June

General election results announced: pro-Treaty Sinn Féin (58 seats); anti-Treaty Sinn Féin (35 seats); Labour (17 seats); Farmers (7 seats); Independents (7 seats) and ex-unionists (4 seats).


27 June

The capture by the Four Courts anti-Treaty garrison of General ‘Ginger’ O’Connell, deputy chief of staff of the national army.


28 June

The ultimatum given to the Four Courts anti-Treaty garrison to surrender is ignored, resulting in the shelling of the building by pro-Treaty forces using artillery borrowed from the British. The opening shots in the Civil War have been fired.