Southern Ireland

Southern Ireland

Infobox Former Subdivision
conventional_long_name = Southern Ireland
common_name = Ireland
continent = Europe
region = British Isles
country = Ireland
subdivision = Autonomous region
nation = the UK
year_start = 1921
year_end = 1922
date_start = 3 May
date_end = 6 December
event_start = Establishment
event_end = Anglo-Irish Treaty
p1 = United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
flag_p1 = Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
s1 = Irish Free State
flag_s1 = Flag of Ireland.svg


image_map_caption = Southern Ireland
capital = Dublin
common_languages = English, Irish
government_type = Constitutional monarchy
title_leader = Monarch
leader1 = George V
title_deputy = Chairman
deputy1 = Michael Collins
year_deputy1 = First
deputy2 = W. T. Cosgrave
year_deputy2 = Last
currency = Pound sterling
legislature = Parliamentsmallsup|1
house1 = Senate
house2 = House of Commons
footnotes = 1. A Council of Ireland was also envisaged " [w] ith a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland".

Southern Ireland ( _ga. Deisceart Éireann) was the short lived autonomous region (or "constituent country") of the United Kingdom established on 3 May 1921 and dissolved on 6 December 1922. [Statutory Rules & Orders published by authority, 1921 (No. 533); Additional source for 3 May 1921 date: Alvin Jackson, "Home Rule - An Irish History", Oxford University Press, 2004, p198; Southern Ireland (like Northern Ireland) did not become a state (or pejoratively, a "statelet"). Its constitutional roots remained the Act of Union, two complementary Acts, one passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, the other by the Parliament of Ireland.]

Southern Ireland was established under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 together with its sister region, Northern Ireland. It was envisaged that Southern Ireland would have the following institutions: [See: [http://www.bailii.org/nie/legis/num_act/1920/192000067.html#PROVISIONS_AS_TO_COURTS_OF_LAW_AND_JUDGES Government of Ireland Act 1920] ]

* a Parliament of Southern Ireland, consisting of the King, the Senate of Southern Ireland, and the House of Commons of Southern Ireland;
* a Government of Southern Ireland;
* the Supreme Court of Judicature of Southern Ireland;
* the Court of Appeal in Southern Ireland; and
* His Majesty's High Court of Justice in Southern Ireland.

It was also envisaged that Southern Ireland would share the following institutions with Northern Ireland:

* the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland;
* a Council of Ireland; and
* a High Court of Appeal for Ireland.

The Parliament, although legally established, never functioned (for example, it never passed an Act). No Government of Southern Ireland was ever established either. The Council of Ireland was to be established " [w] ith a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland". However, it never came into being. The notable exception to the failure of the institutions of Southern Ireland was its courts, all of which functioned. Nevertheless given that its most important institutions failed, arguably the autonomous region never achieved "de facto" existence.

Home Rule

The Government of Ireland Act, also known as the "Fourth Home Rule Act" was intended to provide a solution to the problem that had bedevilled Irish politics since the 1880s, namely the conflicting demands of Irish unionists and Irish nationalists. Nationalists wanted a form of Home Rule, believing that Ireland was poorly served by the British government in Westminster and its Irish executive in Dublin Castle. Unionists feared that a nationalist government in Dublin would discriminate against Protestants and would impose tariffs that would unduly hit the northeastern counties of Ireland, which were not only predominantly Protestant but also the only industrial area on an island whose economy was largely agricultural. Extremist unionists imported arms from Imperial Germany and established the Ulster Volunteer Force to prevent Home Rule in Ulster. In response to this, nationalists also imported arms and set up the Irish Volunteers. Partition, which was introduced in the Government of Ireland Act, was intended as a temporary solution to the problem, allowing Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland to be separately governed as regions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Ironically, one of those most opposed to this partition settlement was the leader of Irish unionism, Dublin-born Edward Carson, who felt that it was wrong to divide Ireland in two. He felt this would badly affect the position of southern and western unionists.

1921 General election

In reality, however, while Northern Ireland did become a functioning entity, with a parliament and executive that existed until it was prorogued in 1972, Southern Ireland never became a functioning reality. An Irish Republic had been proclaimed by the extra-legal parliament known as Dáil Éireann, formed by Sinn Féin MPs elected from Ireland in the United Kingdom general election in 1918. The first general election to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland in 1921 was used by Sinn Féin to produce a new Dáil, the Second Dáil. Sinn Féin won 124 of the 128 seats, all without a contest. (Four were won by Dublin unionists.) When the new Parliament of Southern Ireland was called into session in June 1921, only the 4 unionist members of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, and a handful of appointed senators, turned up in the Royal College of Science in Dublin, where the meeting was scheduled to take place.

Treaty and Free State

It is sometimes said that the most important function that the institutions of Southern Ireland performed was to approve the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 14 January 1922 for the Irish side in accordance with the Treaty. This however is not strictly true. In accordance with the Treaty, the Irish side approved it at:"“a meeting summoned for the purpose [of approving the Treaty] of the members elected to sit in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland.”" [ [http://www.nationalarchives.ie/topics/anglo_irish/dfaexhib2.html Anglo-Irish Treaty] .] The Treaty did not say that the Treaty was to be approved by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. Rather, it said it was to be approved by the Irish side by the members elected to sit in that body. The difference is subtle but was fully grasped by those who entered the Treaty. Hence, when that “meeting” was convened, it was convened by Arthur Griffith in his capacity as "“Chairman of the Irish Delegation of Plenipotentiaries”" (who had signed the Treaty). Notably it was not convened by Lord Fitzalan, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was the office-holder with the entitlement to convene a meeting of the House of Commons of Southern Ireland.

The Provisional Government of Southern Ireland envisaged under the Treaty was constituted on 14 January 1922 at the above-mentioned "meeting of members of the Parliament elected for constituencies in Southern Ireland". It took up office two days later when Michael Collins became Chairman of the Provisional Government. Collins took charge of Dublin Castle at a ceremony attended by Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent. The new Government was not an institution of Southern Ireland as envisaged under the Government of Ireland Act. Instead, it was a Government established under the Anglo-Irish Treaty and legislation which implemented it.

Like its sister region Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland was never a "state" (or pejoratively, a "statelet"). [In some circles, Southern Ireland might be described as having been a "constituent country" of the United Kingdom. However that term is of recent provenance and was not used by the British Government to describe Southern Ireland (or Northern Ireland) in 1921 or 1922.] Its constitutional roots remained the Acts of Union, two complementary Acts, one passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, the other by the Parliament of Ireland. With the establishment of the Irish Free State on 6 December 1922 under the terms of the Treaty, Southern Ireland ceased to exist.

References


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