It is the centenary of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 this month.
The Irish Times of November 3, 1922 described what it saw as the triumph of the “Treaty” in the following way:
“It perplexed the sagacity of Queen Elizabeth. It defeated the genius of Cromwell. Pitt failed and nearly every great statesman in English history has applied his mind to it and has not yet succeeded in finding a remedy. . . Why should we lavish treasure on that campaign when there are men in Ireland who have undertaken the task in alliance with us, and who, when they are given time, will successfully carry out that task, and who have behind them the overwhelming body of opinion among the Irish people themselves?”
It is obvious from this that the Irish Times was an ideological garrison that the British occupation had left behind in Ireland after the formal withdrawal of its military forces.
A couple of years later The Irish Times was praising the triumph of the “Treaty” again, after the Turks had signed a new treaty with the British Empire, concluding the Anglo-Turkish war.
The Catholic Bulletin, which had followed the achievements of Mustafa Kemal with interest and enthusiasm, and contrasted them with the failure of those who signed up to the Anglo-Irish “Treaty”, could take no more. It counter-attacked with some home truths that are as relevant today for those who seem to wish to make an oblivion of our history.
The Catholic Bulletin’s spirited and informative response to the Irish Times is transcribed below:
Catholic Bulletin September 1923
FAR AND NEAR
TURKEY AND IRELAND
Writing on the subject of the peace Treaty signed at Lausanne on July 24, the Irish Times in an editorial of July 25, says: “There is some analogy between the birth of the new Turkey and the birth of the Irish Free State. In both cases a treaty has ended—or ought to end—a secular conflict that was a nuisance to the whole world. In both cases the weaker Parties have made surprisingly good bargains with the stronger Powers…” With even this qualified analogy we cannot agree, much to our regret. New Turkey has been born free, enjoying the full use and control of all its limbs and faculties. The Irish Free State, alas! Has been born deficient in faculties, sadly deformed in many features, and short of a limb. The Irish Times would have been nearer to the truth if it had stated that there was some analogy between the conceptions of the movements which resulted in the births of the new Turkey and the Irish Free State. It would also be correct to say that there was some analogy in the environments which excited the forward movements in Turkey and in Ireland. Both countries were confronted with the same external enemy; both countries possessed political parties whose actions were considered inimical to the achievement of liberty and independence. The exponents of Young Ireland and of Young Turkey charged those of Old Ireland and of Old Turkey with treason, corruption and of siding on all occasions with the alien enemy. Furthermore, the political commitments of the moderate parties in both countries led directly and indirectly to the respective Declarations of National Rights made by the new generations of Patriots, and to the establishment of native parliaments based on those Declarations. In Ireland British Home Rule Acts were repudiated, and National Independence declared, by a public proclamation in 1916. This Proclamation of Independence made known:
“… the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be sovereign and indefeasible. . . Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State…’’
The foregoing was confirmed on January 21, 1919, by the elected representatives of the Irish people in Parliament assembled. In January, 1921, in an address to foreign nations, signed by the President of Dáil Eireann, and by all the members of Dáil Eireann present, the following declaration was made:
“The Irish people claim … their right as a nation to determine freely for themselves how they shall be governed… On no other basis is peace possible. . . We shall not surrender our national right—nor will force compel us. Our cause is the common cause of humankind. To that cause we have pledged ourselves and our people to remain faithful unto death.”
The Constitution adopted by Dail Eireann in January, 1919, invested Dáil Eireann with full legislative powers.
Similarly, the policy of the Palace, of the Porte, and of the moderate, compromising, politicians in Turkey led to the establishment of the native parliament at Angora, to the promulgation of the National Pact, to the repudiation in arms of the Treaty of Sevres, concluded with the “moderate” Turkish party and by which Turkey was partitioned and her sovereignty destroyed, and finally to the repudiation and the deposition of the Sultan who had declared, at the instigation of England, that the Turkish patriots were traitors.
The analogy between the causes of Young Ireland and of Young Turkey is illustrated in the National Pact and by the following declaration of Independence made by the Grand National Assembly at Angora in November, 1922:
“In virtue of the Fundamental Law the Sovereign rights of the Turkish people are vested in an inalienable, undivided, and irrevocable manner in the moral person of the Grand National Assembly as the sole and only emanation of the people. The Assembly has decided not to recognise any other body or power not issuing from itself, Therefore it does not recognise, within the frontiers defined in the National Pact, any other form of government. Consequently the Assembly esteems that the form of government existing at Constantinople based upon personal sovereignty has been relegated to the past from March 16, 1920.”
It would be correct to say, also, that there was some analogy between the methods employed by the British Government at the Irish Peace Conference, held in London, and those employed at the Turkish Peace Conference, held at Lausanne. The representatives of the Governments of Dail Eireann, and of the Grand National Assembly, were threatened with the renewal of immediate war, if the Treaties proposed were not acceded to and signed. In the case of Turkey, battleships were actually dispatched in confirmation of Lord Curzon’s threats. With regard to Ireland, the rumour was prevalent during the fatal week, when the Articles of agreement were under discussion, that troop-ships were ready to land in the event of the Dail rejecting the Treaty. Here ends, however, whatever analogy exists. The representatives of the Government of Dail Eireann having signed the Articles of Agreement, under threat of war, the native Irish Parliament accepted, by a small majority, the situation created. On the other hand, the representatives of the Grand National Assembly, at Lausanne, refused to sign the Treaty proposed, notwithstanding a similar threat, while the National Assembly itself subsequently endorsed its delegates’action. Mustapha Kemal Pasha, last March, addressing this Assembly when the draft Treaty proposed was under consideration said: “Turkey was not a land of slaves. The nation had announced its decision. The time of hesitation was passed. . . It is the inherent right of Turkey to enjoy financial, economic, and administrative independence… What would life be without independence? Nothing.”
It is ludicrous to suggest that there is any analogy between “the surprisingly good bargains” obtained by Ireland and Turkey.
We do not think the Irish Times, when suggesting this analogy can have had present to its mind the minimum programme to which the Parliament of Ireland (1919-1921) was committed. This programme was embodied in various declarations and resolutions. One of these forbade the recognition, within Ireland, of any other body or power not emanating from itself. The recognition of the Government of Northern Ireland was a flagrant violation of Dail Eireann’s National Pact, and it is in relation to that Pact only, and not in relation to what the Parliamentary party had achieved or hoped to achieve, that “the surprisingly good bargain” is to he judged. The extraordinary success of the Turkish nation is due to the persistent and rigid adherence of its delegates at the Peace Conference, and of the National Assembly, at home, to the minimum terms of the Angora Pact. Hence we have the condition in the Treaty, signed on July 24th, “Providing for the withdrawal of the Allied military, naval, and air forces from Constantinople and the Straits within six weeks from the ratification of the treaty of peace.” If the Irish Times had said that there was an analogy between the Treaty of Sevres (1920) and the Anglo-Irish Articles of Agreement (1921) there would be some case for argument. By the Treaty of Sevres the “moderate” Turkish party acquiesced in a permanent occupation of the Straits; it renounced all claim to Eastern Thrace; it handed over large tracts of Asia Minor to Greek rule; it agreed to pay reparations and it agreed to continue the special regime for foreigners known as the Capitulations. The Irish Treaty acquiesces in the occupation of Irish harbours by British warships; in affording Aviation facilities for the British Air Forces; in the Partition of Ireland; in the over-lordship of the King of England; in the payment of part of England’s war expenses for the suppression of a commercial rival; in the occupation by British troops of the area under the control of the Northern Government; and, finally, in the renunciation of Ireland’s right to Independence as a sovereign nation by accepting its merge in the British Empire. Under the Lausanne Treaty, Asia Minor remains integrally Turkish. Instead of paying reparations Turkey receives a strip of territory (the smaller Karagatch enclave) in lieu of reparations from Greece, while Eastern Thrace is recognised as Turkey’s domain.
The events following the signing of the Treaties demonstrate the absence of the faintest analogy between the birth of the New Turkey and the birth of the Irish Free State. On the day the Lausanne Treaty was signed, Constantinople had a public holiday. A salute of 101 guns was fired, while the town was beflagged and processions headed by bands perambulated the streets. At night there were illuminations and torchlight processions. At Lausanne joy-bells announced the tidings of peace.
Since the birth of the Irish Free State Ireland has been in a state of mourning. The “successful bargain” which she made, and the degree of peace which she reached, with England, has been demonstrated in the incessant tolling of dead-bells, in the disfigured streets of the capital beflagged with ruins, in the processions of mourners following their executed dead, and in the filling of the jails with men and women unprecedented in numbers since Cromwell’s peace,
What an analogy!