In 1921, Eamon DeValera
suggested that Michael Collins travel to America to take advantage of a new
President coming into office. He believed that Collins could rouse Americans
to support the idea of Ireland joining the League of Nations if the U.S.
itself would join. DeValera thought that membership in the League would
provide financial, political, and military advantages to Ireland and would
make Ireland and America closer than ever. He attempted to cajole Collins
into going by inflating his ego. It did not work as he had planned.
"Despite all the protestations and flattery, Collins felt that
DeValera was just trying to get him out of the way. He was indeed more
moderate than was generally realised, but it was unlikely that anyone
had ever before accused him of being overly modest (as DeValera did in
trying to win him over on the idea of going to America). 'That long
whore won't get rid of me as easy as that,' Collins remarked bitterly"
(T. Ryle Dwyer).
British Prime Minister David Lloyd George knew the importance of solving
the Irish problems as soon as possible. DeValera and Lloyd George had
engaged in a series of informal talks and a truce to the fighting was called
on July 11, 1921. DeValera, Arthur Griffith, and a small group of delegates
went to London a month later to commence with additional negotiations.
DeValera was not pleased with what had been said in those meetings and
applied pressure to Collins to go as a delegate in his place. DeValera
realized that the British were not prepared to offer the Irish total
The British side proposed partioning the country into two parts: a
section in the north to be governed by Protestants and in the south, the
Irish Free State governed predominately by Nationalists. To a man whose
future was wrapped in political ambition, bringing home such an agreement
could mean career suicide. DeValera started cajoling Collins again, this
time to be part of Treaty negotiations. There are a number of possible
reasons in addition to the obvious one why DeValera thought Collins could
make negotiations work. For starters, Collins had an amazing talent for
making things happen. Tom Barry again recalls another time when Collins left
"At first I thought it was odd that all those men should have had
interviews with an officer who nominally held the rank of D/I (Director
of Intelligence) about matters which were no concern of [the]
Intelligence Department. That was before I realised that Michael Collins
was virtually Commander-in-Chief in fact, if not in name, of the Army of
the Irish Republic. Before meeting Collins, I had often heard officers
from the Southern Units remark that the only way to get G.H.Q. (General
Headquarters) to do things was to 'See Mick' about it. There was a
unanimous feeling amongst the Field Officers that 'Mick' would back them
to the hilt and that of all the people in Dublin he was the practical
Second, Collins was not a country bumpkin. His knowledge of politics went
beyond what most people realized.
"Collins' statesmanlike qualities were later to be shown by his
shrewd analysis of the Treaty and his assessment of what could be gained
under it. History has proved Collins correct and his detractors wrong"
Moreover, it is important to remember that Collins had been a successful
businessman and financier. Kathleen Clarke, Tom Clarke's widow, had been so
impressed with the young Collins that she labeled him as possessing a
"forceful personality," "wonderful magnetism," and great "organizing
ability" (Terry Golway). It has also been suggested that DeValera thought
Collins could accomplish more because of his reputation for mayhem. In any
case, Collins had his own ideas. Michael knew that going to negotiate with
the British would bring an element he had struggled to avoid at all costs:
he would lose his anonymity.
"Negotiation only began several months after a truce was called. By
that time, Collins' secret, underground, guerrilla army, the I.R.A. of
its day, was a secret no more. In Collins' own words, once a ceasefire
was declared, the I.R.A. men were: 'Like rabbits coming out of their
holes.' Their main weapon, secrecy, was gone" (T. P. Coogan).
Collins�s close friend and colleague in the pursuit of independence,
Emmet Dalton, and many other members of the IRA, were upset at the prospect
of Michael leaving to negotiate anything with the British. The British had
been in the dark for so long regarding what Collins even looked like that
the possibility of Michael revealing himself in London seemed incredibly
perilous. However reluctantly, Michael agreed to go and thus to follow the
chain of command.
Collins was off to England with his picture snapped and
posted on the front of newspapers, an experience he was not adjusted to
enjoying. The Treaty negotiations started on October 11, 1921. The
delegations were as follows:
"With them (Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins) went Robert Barton,
the Minister for Economic Affairs and a former British officer bristling
with all the Republican zeal of the convert; Eamon Duggan, a legal
expert and a member of the Truce Committee; and George Gavan Duffy, the
D�il envoy in Rome. Erskine Childers acted as secretary to the
delegation. For the (British) government there were the Prime Minister,
Lord Birkenhead, Austen Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Sir Laming
Worthington Evans (Secretary for War), and Sir Hamar Greenwood (Chief
Secretary for Ireland)" (Ronan Fanning, "Michael Collins: An Overview"
Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State).
Several of the British negotiators did not even want to shake hands with
Collins so they went immediately to the bargaining table. A number of
meetings and conferences took place over a two-month period. Collins fully
understood shortly after the negotiations started that he had been set up.
Tom Paulin, critic, playwright and poet, discussed Collins's frustration
during his interview on The South Bank Show :
"He did not have DeValera's slippery political cunning―Lloyd George
famously said negotiating with Eamon DeValera was like trying to pick up
mercury with a fork. He did not have that. He walked into a trap and in
the negotiations he realized that and he used to say to his fellow
delegates when the British weren't around, you know, 'That long whore
has got me.' And he walked into a trap, he knew when he'd signed the
Treaty as he said in the famous letter, he'd signed his death warrant."
Though Collins was initially regarded as a vile thug by some members of
the British negotiating team, Lord Birkenhead actually warmed to him.
Birkenhead was a prized legal mind of his time and, according to Ulick
O'Connor, "was one of the great jurists in history." He was stunned that
Collins could have allied his skill for mayhem with an astute knowledge of
political affairs. The two became friends and Birkenhead reflected to
Churchill in a letter how impressed he was with Collins.
After the tedious
Treaty discussions, Lloyd George and his British team offered Ireland Free
State status coupled with an oath of allegiance. Collins knew this was not
what he was sent for, but on December 5, an ultimatum was issued. Lloyd
George gave the Irish side until 10 p.m. that night to accept or reject the
terms. Failure to do this would result in "an immediate and terrible war."
Anglo-Irish Treaty, the
first ever treaty between England and Ireland, was signed by both sides
around 2 a.m. on December 6, 1921. Collins was both disappointed and
exhausted. Later he was to challenge the notion that he signed the Treaty
"I did not sign the Treaty under duress, except in the sense that the
position as between Ireland and England, historically, and because of
superior forces on the part of England, has always been one of duress.
The element of duress was present when we agreed to the Truce,
because our simple right would have been to beat the English out of
Ireland. There was an element of duress in going to London to
negotiate. But there was not, and could not have been, any personal
duress. The threat of 'immediate and terrible war' did not matter
overmuch to me. The position appeared to be then exactly as it appears
now. The British would not, I think, have declared terrible and
immediate war upon us."
Although Collins firmly denied that he signed the Treaty to avoid the
threats hurled by Lloyd George, there are still questions to consider
regarding his decision to go in the first place and his subsequent actions
once he arrived in London:
"But sharp differences exist concerning the quality of his political
judgement, above all during the Treaty negotiations and the post-Treaty
period. Should he have gone to London at all, or like Cathal Brugha and
Austin Stack, refused the poisoned chalice�or at least refused unless De
Valera supped from it as well? Was he first out-maneuvered by De
Valera in Dublin, and then by Lloyd George in London? Was he a
novice in the hands of these allegedly more astute operators? Was he
right to sign the Treaty? Did he subsequently, as Chairman of the
Provisional Government, �try to do too much� to avoid the Civil War, in
contrast to De Valera�s �too little,� in the lapidary formation of
Desmond Williams?" (J.J. Lee, "The Challenge of a Collins Biography"
Michael Collins and the Making of the Irish State).
Generally, however, the words that surround Collins' role in the Treaty
negotiations are those contained in his self-fulfilling prophesy: "Think,
what have I got for Ireland? Something she has wanted these past 700 years.
Will anyone be satisfied at the bargain? Will anyone? I tell you this, I
have signed my death warrant."
Anglo-Irish Treaty Articles of Agreement as Signed on December 6, 1921
(1) Ireland shall have the same constitutional status in the Community of
Nations known as the British Empire as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth
of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and the Union of South Africa, with a
Parliament having powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government
of Ireland and an Executive responsible to that Parliament, and shall be styled
and known as the Irish Free State.
(2) Subject to the provisions hereinafter
set out the position of the Irish Free State in relation to the Imperial
Parliament and Government and otherwise shall be that of the Dominion of Canada,
and the law practice and constitutional usage governing the relationship of the
Crown or the representative of the Crown and of the Imperial Parliament to the
Dominion of Canada shall govern their relationship to the Irish Free State.
(3) The representative of the Crown in Ireland shall be appointed in like manner
as the Governor-General of. Canada and in accordance with the practice observed
in the making of such appointments.
(4) The oath to be taken by Members of
the Parliament of the Irish Free State shall be in the following form:
...�.. do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the
Irish Free State as by law established and that I will be faithful to H. M. King
George V, his heirs and successors by law, in virtue of the common citizenship
of Ireland with Great Britain and her adherence to and membership of the group
of nations forming the British Commonwealth of Nations.
(5) The Irish Free
State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United
Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions
as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having
regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or
counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement
by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the
(6) Until an arrangement has been made between the British
and Irish Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertakes her own coastal
defence, the defence by sea of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by
His Majesty's Imperial Forces. But this shall not prevent the construction or
maintenance by the Government of the Irish Free State of such vessels as are
necessary for the protection of the Revenue or the Fisheries.
The foregoing provisions of this Article shall be reviewed at a Conference
of Representatives of the British and Irish Governments to be held at the
expiration of five years from the date hereof with a view to a share in her own
(7) The Government of the Irish Free State shall afford to
His Majesty's Imperial Forces:
(a) In time of peace such harbour and other
facilities as are indicated in the Annex hereto, or such other facilities as may
from time to time be agreed between the British Government and the Government of
the Irish Free State; and
(b) In time of war or of strained relations with a
Foreign Power such harbour and other facilities as the British Government may
require for the purposes of such defence as aforesaid.
(8) With a view to
securing the observance of the principle of international limitation of
armaments, if the Government of the Irish Free State establishes and maintains a
military defence force, the establishments thereof shall not exceed in size such
proportion of the military establishments maintained in Great Britain as that
which the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain.
The ports of Great Britain and the Irish Free State shall be freely open to the
ships of the other country on payment of the customary port and other dues.
(10) The Government of the Irish Free State agrees to pay fair compensation on
terms not less favourable than those accorded by the Act of 1920 to judges,
officials, members of Police Forces and other Public Servants who are discharged
by it or who retire in consequence of the change of Government effected in
Provided that this agreement shall not apply to members of the Auxiliary
Police Force or to persons recruited in Great Britain for the Royal Irish
Constabulary during the two years next preceding the date hereof. The British
Government will assume responsibility for such compensation or pensions as may
be payable to any of these excepted persons.
(11) Until the expiration of one
month from the passing of the Act of Parliament for the ratification of this
instrument, the powers of the Parliament and the Government of the Irish Free
State shall not be exercisable as respects Northern Ireland and the provisions
of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, shall so far as they relate to Northern
Ireland remain of full force and effect, and no election shall be held for the
return of members to serve in the Parliament of the Irish Free State for
constituencies in Northern Ireland, unless a resolution is passed by both Houses
of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in favour of the holding of such election
before the end of the said month.
(12) If before the expiration of the said
month, an address is presented to His Majesty by both Houses of the Parliament
of Northern Ireland to that effect, the powers of the Parliament and Government
of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland, and the
provisions of the Government of Ireland Act., 1920 (including those relating to
the Council of Ireland) shall, so far as they relate to Northern Ireland
continue to be of full force and effect, and this instrument shall have effect
subject to the necessary modifications.
Provided that if such an address is
so presented a Commission consisting of three Persons, one to be appointed by
the Government of the Irish Free State, one to be appointed by the Government of
Northern Ireland and one who shall be Chairman to be appointed by the British
Government shall determine in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, so
far as may be compatible with economic and geographic conditions, the boundaries
between Northern Ireland and the rest of Ireland, and for the purposes of the
Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and of this instrument, the boundary of
Northern Ireland shall be such as may be determined by such Commission.
For the purpose of the last foregoing article, the powers of the Parliament of
Southern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, to elect members of
the Council of Ireland shall after the Parliament of the Irish Free State is
constituted be exercised by that Parliament.
(14) After the expiration of the
said month, if no such address as is mentioned in Article 12 hereof is
Presented, the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland shall continue to
exercise as respects Northern Ireland the powers conferred on them by the
Government of Ireland Act, 1920, but the Parliament and Government of the Irish
Free State shall in Northern Ireland have in relation to matters in respect of
which the Parliament of Northern Ireland has not power to make laws under that
Act (including matters which under the said Act are within the jurisdiction of
the Council of Ireland) the same powers as in the rest of Ireland, subject to
such other provisions as may he agreed in manner hereinafter appearing.
At any time after the date hereof the Government of Northern Ireland and the
provisional Government of Southern Ireland hereinafter constituted may meet for
the purpose of discussing the provisions subject to which the last foregoing
article is to operate in the event of no such address as is therein mentioned
being presented and those provisions may include:
(a) Safeguards with regard
to patronage in Northern Ireland:
(b) Safeguards with regard to the
collection of revenue in Northern Ireland:
(c) Safeguards with regard to import and export duties affecting the
trade or industry of Northern Ireland:
(d) Safeguards for minorities in
(c) The settlement of the financial relations between
Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State:
(f) The establishment and powers
of a local militia in Northern Ireland and the relation of the Defence Forces of
the Irish Free State and of Northern Ireland respectively:
and if at any such
meeting provisions are agreed to, the same shall have effect as if they were
included amongst the provisions subject to which the Powers of the Parliament
and Government of the Irish Free State are to be exercisable in Northern Ireland
under Article 14 hereof.
(16) Neither the Parliament of the Irish Free State
nor the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make any law so as either directly
or indirectly to endow any religion or. prohibit or restrict the free exercise
thereof or give any preference or impose any disability on account of religious
belief or religious status or affect prejudicially the right of any child to
attend a school receiving public money without attending religious instruction
at the school or make any discrimination as respects state aid between schools
under the management of different religious denominations or divert from any
religious denomination. or any educational institution any of its property
except for public utility purposes and on payment of compensation.
way of provisional arrangement for the administration of Southern Ireland during
the interval which must elapse between the date hereof and the constitution of a
Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State in accordance therewith, steps
shall be taken forthwith for summoning a meeting of members of Parliament
elected for constituencies in Southern Ireland since the passing of the
Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and for constituting a provisional Government,
and the British Government shall take the steps necessary to transfer to such
provisional Government the powers and machinery requisite for the discharge of
its duties, provided that every member of such provisional Government shall have
signified in writing his or her acceptance of this instrument. But this
arrangement shall not continue in force beyond the expiration of twelve months
from the date hereof.
(18) This instrument shall be submitted forthwith by is
Majesty's Government for the approval of Parliament and by the Irish signatories
to a meeting summoned for the purpose of the members elected to sit in the House
of Commons of Southern Ireland, and if approved shall be ratified by the
On behalf of the British delegation: On behalf of the
D. Lloyd George Art � Gr�obtha (Arthur Griffith)
Austen Chamberlain Michael � Coil�ain (Michael Collins)
Birkenhead Riob�rd Bart�n (Robert Barton)
Winston S. Churchill Eudhmonn S. � D�g�in (Eamon Duggan)
L. Worthington Evans Se�rsa Ghabh�in U� Dhubhthaigh (George Gavan Duffy)
December 6, 1921
(1) The following are the specific facilities required:
Port at Berehaven
(a) Admiralty property and rights to be retained as at the
rate hereof. Harbour defences to remain in charge of British care and
(b) Harbour defences to remain in charge of
British care and maintenance parties. Certain mooring buoys to be retained for
use of His Majesty's ships.
(c) Harbour defences to remain in
charge of British care and maintenance parties.
defences to remain in charge of British care and maintenance parties.
(e) Facilities in the neighbourhood of the above Ports for coastal
defence by air.
Oil Fuel Storage
(f) Haulbowline, Rathmullen - To be
offered for sale to commercial companies under guarantee that purchasers shall
maintain a certain minimum stock for Admiralty purposes.
(2) A Convention
shall be made between the British Government and the Government of the Irish
Free State to give effect to the following conditions:
(a) That submarine
cables shall not be landed or wireless stations for communications with places
outside Ireland be established, except by agreement with the British Government;
that the existing cable landing rights and wireless concessions shall not be
withdrawn except by agreement with the British Government; and that the British
Government shall be entitled to land additional submarine cables or establish
additional wireless stations for communication with places outside Ireland.
(b) That lighthouses, buoys, beacons, and any navigational marks or navigational
aids shall he maintained by the Government of the Irish Free State as at the
date hereof and shall not be removed or added to except by agreement with the
(c) That war signal stations shall be closed down and
left in charge of care and maintenance parties, the Government of the Irish Free
State being offered the option of taking them over and working them for
commercial purposes subject to Admiralty inspection, and guaranteeing the upkeep
of existing telegraphic communication therewith.
(3) A Convention shall be
made between the same Governments for the regulation of Civil Communication by
D. Ll. G. A. G.
A. C. M. O. C.
B. R. B.
W. S. C. S. G. B.
E. S. O. D.