Ireland is still divided

Partition of Ireland: The Price of Freedom

After centuries of foreign rule, the Irish finally fought for a largely independent state in 1921. But to do this, they have to make enormous concessions to the British occupiers. The dispute over the agreement with London also divides the nation - and escalates into a bloody civil war

The Irish are used to fighting. Over the centuries they have risen again and again against the British. But this time, in 1922, it is different, worse - because this time the Irish fight against the Irish, neighbors against neighbors, fathers against sons. And that although both groups basically have the same goal: the sovereignty of their home country.

After the failed Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish freedom fighters embarked on a new path: They want to achieve the independence of their country with a close link between armed resistance and political campaigns. Without asking London, they found their own parliament in January 1919. And set up the IRA, the Irish Republican Army. Its leader will be 29-year-old Michael Collins, a board member of the leading party, Sinn Féin.

Dressed in civilian clothes, IRA fighters carry out attacks and assassinations on British soldiers and police officers; More than 600 security guards were killed by 1921. The assassins enjoy great support among the Irish and are hard to believe.

Unable to control the situation, London finally invited representatives of the Irish Parliament to peace negotiations - and even accepted that Michael Collins was sitting at the table. After complicated, months-long discussions, both sides agree on a contract on December 6, 1921. It grants Ireland its own government and a real legislative parliament as well as its own army and independent foreign policy.

Conversely, the agreement guarantees the British the right to use three naval bases in Ireland, states that the final control over an Irish constitution lies with Great Britain and that the English king remains the head of state. Above all, however, it seals the division of the island: the Protestant north is separated from the south and remains in the United Kingdom. Ireland's freedom comes at a high price.

When Collins signed the contract, he allegedly told a British negotiator that he might just have "signed his death warrant". And indeed: the independence fighters fall apart. Some, with Collins at the helm, see the treaty as the first step towards complete freedom of a united Ireland. The others castigate the result as too weak, especially condemn the Irish division. Finally, after heated debates in the Irish Parliament, the Treaty will be voted on. The MPs only narrowly accept it, with 64 votes to 57.

Shortly after this decision, the conflict escalated and civil war broke out. Men who fought side by side against the British are now killing each other, sometimes families are torn apart. Michael Collins becomes the hate figure of the contract opponents. On August 22, 1922, his motorcade was ambushed. Instead of fleeing, he and his companions defend ourselves with rifles against the attackers for 30 minutes. Finally, a bullet hits him fatally.

But his side prevails: after eleven months of civil war and a good 2,000 deaths, the supporters of the treaty finally prevailed in April 1923 - also because the British government sent them weapons. Around 12,000 contract opponents end up in prison. Ireland is now largely independent, but divided into north and south.

The new Irish Constitution, which was passed in 1937, does nothing to change this, nor does the Republic of Ireland Act, with which Ireland leaves the British Commonwealth in 1949 and becomes completely independent. The island remains politically divided. It continues to this day.

Video: Ireland at a crossroads

Almost 100 years ago, among other things, the attacks by the newly founded Irish Republican Army (IRA) led to London granting independence to the Irish. The price for freedom, however, was the division of the island, as some counties remained in the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland.

Today, Brexit raises the question of how things will go on with the island: Will a hard border between the south (EU) and the north (non-EU) possibly lead to a flare-up of the IRA terror? Or will Brexit turn out to be a blessing for Ireland?

The video provides an assessment by Robert McClenaghan, a former IRA activist who was imprisoned for 12 years for bomb attacks and who is now involved with the Sinn Féin party.

More about Ireland at GEO.de

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