Dail Eireann 1918 – 1922

~ Dail Eireann 1918-1922 ~

1918 General Election (1st Dail Eireann)

Voting in the 1918 general election occurred on 14 December (in most constituencies) Sinn Féin won 73 out of the 105 Irish seats in the Westminster parliament, Michael Collins was elected unopposed as MP for South Cork. Following a plan of abstention from the Westminster parliament, 70 of the elected candidates formed Dáil Éireann.

Elected unopposed

o Arthur Griffith (SF) Cavan East (also won Tyrone North East in a contest)

o Eamon de Valera (SF) Clare East

o Terence McSwiney (SF) Cork County Mid

o Michael Collins (SF) Cork County South

o Seán Hayes (SF) Cork County West

o Liam Mellows (SF) Galway East (also won Meath North in a contest)

o Pierce Beaslai (SF) Kerry East

o Austin Stack (SF) Kerry West

o W.T. Cosgrave (SF) Kilkenny North

o Patrick MacCartan (SF) King’s County[4]

o Count Plunkett (SF) Roscommon North


Elected in contests

o Hugh O’Neill (Unionist) Antrim Mid

o Rt Hon. Sir Edward Carson (U) Belfast Duncairn

o Joseph Devlin (IPP) Belfast Falls

o Samuel McGuffin (Labour Unionist) Belfast Shankhill

o Sir James Craig (U) Down Mid

o Jeriamiah MacVeagh (IPP) Down South

o Sean T. O’Kelly (SF) Dublin City College Green

o John J. O’Kelly (SF) Louth

o Desmond FitzGerald (SF) Dublin County Pembroke

o Sir Maurice Dockrell (U) Dublin County Rathmines

o Joseph McGrath (SF) Dublin City St. James’s

o Countess Markievicz (SF) Dublin City St. Patrick’s

o Sir Robert Woods (U) University of Dublin

o Padraic Ó Maille (SF) Galway Connemara

o Frank Fahy (SF) Galway South

o Domhnall Ua Buachalla (SF) Kildare North

o Professor Eoin MacNeill (SF) Londonderry city (also elected for the National University of Ireland)

o Hugh Anderson (IPP) Londonderry county North

o Denis Stanislaus Henry (IPP) Londonderry county South

o Ernest Blythe (SF) Monaghan North

o Seán MacEntee (SF) Monaghan South

o Kevin O’Higgins (SF) Queen’s County[5]

o Harry Boland (SF) Roscommon South

o Captain Willie Redmond (IPP) Waterford city

o Cathal Brugha (SF) Waterford county

o Laurence Ginnell (SF) Westmeath

o Dr. James Ryan (SF) Wexford South

o Robert Childers Barton (SF) Wicklow West


o John Dillon, MP, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party.


Southern Ireland General Election 1921 (2nd. Dail).

# of
% of
Sinn Féin
Éamon de Valera
124 (unopposed)
Independent Unionist
4 (unopposed)

No actual polling took place in Southern Ireland as all 128 candidates were returned unopposed. Of these, 124 were won by Sinn Féin and four by independent Unionists representing the University of Dublin (Trinity College).

Only Sinn Féin candidates recognised the Dáil and five of these had been elected in two constituencies (Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Sean Milroy and Eoin MacNeill) one in each part of Ireland. The total number of members who assembled in the Second Dáil was 125: 119 elected solely in Southern Ireland, 1 solely in Northern Ireland (John O’Mahony), and 5 in both.

Second Dáil Éireann

Third Ministry of Dáil Éireann (28st Aug – 9th Jan 1922)

Minster – Portfolio

Éamon de Valera – President of the Republic

Michael Collins – Secretary of State For Finance

Austin Stack – Secretary of State for Home Affairs

Arthur Griffith – Secretary of State for Foreign Affair

Cathal Brugha – Secretary of State For Defence

William T. Cosgrave – Secretary of State for local Government

Robert Barton – Secretary of State for Economic Affairs

Non-cabinet Ministers

Kevin O’Higgins – Assistant Secetary for Local Government

John Joseph O’Kelly – Secretary for Education

Ernest Blythe – Secretary for Trade and Commerce

Art O’Connor – Secretary for Agriculture

James J. Walsh – Postmaster-General

Seán Etchingham – Secretary for Fisheries

Countess Constance Markievicz – Secretary for Labour

Desmond FitzGerald – Secretary for Publicity

Count George Noble Plunkett – Secretary for Fine Arts

The Fourth Ministry came to office on the 10th Jan – 9th Sept 1922 – post-Treaty.

It consisted of the:

o Fourth Ministry of Dáil Éireann – 10th Jan – 9th Sept 1922 – post-Treaty.

o First Provisional Government of Southern Ireland – 16 Jan.-30 Aug 1922.

Fourth Ministry of Dáil Éireann

10th Jan – 9th Sept 1922 – post-Treaty

Minster & Portfolio

Arthur Griffith

President of Dáil Éireann – died on 12th Aug 1922 – Foreign Affairs from 26th July 1922 to 12th Aug 1922

Michael Collins – Minister For Finance – Killed in action 22nd Aug 1922

Edmond Duggan – Minister for Home Affairs

George Gavan Duffy – Minister for Foreign Affairs

10th Jan 1922 to 25 July 1922 – Resigned

Richard Mulcahy – Minister for Defence

William T. Cosgrave – Minister for local Government

Kevin O’Higgins – Minister for Economic Affairs


Non-cabinet Ministers

Michael Hayes – Minister for Education

Ernest Blythe – Minister for Trade

Patrick Hogan – Minister for Agriculture

Desmond FitzGerald – Minister for Publicity

Joseph McGrath – Minister for Labour

Michael Staines – Director of Belfast Boycott – from 11th Jan 1922 to end Feb 1922

Assistant Ministers

Lorcan Robbins – Assistant Minister for Local Government

Appointment never ratified by Dáil.

George Nicholls – Assistant Minister for Home Affairs – from 17th Jan 1922 to 9th Sept 1922. Appointment never ratified by Dáil.

Frank Fahy – Assistant Minister for Education – from ? to 3rd Feb 1922

Appointment never ratified by Dáil.

First Provisional Government – 16th Jan 1922 to 30th Aug 1922

The First Provisional Government – 16th Jan 1922 to 30th Aug 1922 was set up during the Second Dáil Éireann. After the approval of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by Dáil Éireann, Michael Collins established the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland. This existed concurrently with the Ministry of the Irish Republic.

Government of Dail Éireann

First Provisional Government – 16th Jan 1922 to 30th Aug 1922

Minster – Portfolio

Michael Collins – Chairman of the Provisional Government & Minister for Finance

Eamonn Duggan – Minister for Home Affairs

Arthur Griffith – Minister for Foreign Affairs

Richard Mulcahy – Minister for Defence

Kevin O’Higgins – Minister for Economic Affairs

William T. Cosgrave – Minister for Local Government

Fionán Lynch – Minister for Education

Patrick Hogan – Minister for Agriculture

Joseph McGrath – Minister for Labour

James J. Walsh – Postmaster General

General Election (3rd Dail) – June 16, 1922

As in the Irish elections, 1921 in the south, Sinn Féin stood one candidate for every seat, except those for the University of Dublin and one other; the treaty had divided the party between 65 pro-treaty candidates, 57 anti-treaty and 1 nominally on both sides. Unlike the elections a year earlier, other parties stood in most constituencies forcing single transferable vote elections, with Sinn Féin losing 30 seats.

To avoid a deeper split Éamon de Valera and Michael Collins worked out a “pact” on 20 May 1922. It was agreed that the pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions would fight the general election jointly and form a coalition government afterwards. This pact prevented voters giving their opinions on the treaty itself, especially in uncontested seats. However, the draft constitution of the Irish Free State was then published on 15 June, and so the anti-treaty Sinn Féin group’s 36 seats out of 128 seemed to many to be a democratic endorsement of the pro-treaty Sinn Féin’s arrangements. Others argued that insufficient time was available to understand the draft constitution, but the main arguments had been made public in the Treaty Debates which had ended in January 1922.

Despite the Pact, the election started the effective division of Sinn Féin into separate parties.

After the election on 16 June, the elected anti-treaty members boycotted the assembly and both parts of Sinn Féin launched the Irish civil war leading to the killing of Collins in an anti-treaty ambush. The boycott gave an effective majority to the pro-treaty members of Sinn Féin, and so enabled W. T. Cosgrave to establish the Second Irish Provisional Government and later the First Executive Council of the Irish Free State.

In the June 1922 General election, 71.9% of the people voted in support of Pro-Treaty candidates.

General Election (3rd Dail) – June 16, 1922

# of
% of
Sinn Féin
Michael Collins
(17 unopposed)


Sinn Féin
Éamon de Valera
(16 unopposed)
Labour Party
Thomas Johnson
Farmers’ Party
Denis Gorey
(4 unopposed)
+0 100.0


The Anglo-Irish Treaty, officially called the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was a treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom and representatives of the de facto Irish Republic that concluded the Irish War of Independence. It established an Irish dominion, known as the Irish Free State, within the British Empire and provided Northern Ireland, which had been created by the 1920 Government of Ireland Act, an option to opt out of the Irish Free State, which it duly exercised.

The treaty was signed in London by representatives of the British government and envoys plenipotentiary of the Irish Republic (i.e., negotiators empowered to sign a treaty without reference back to their superiors) on December 6, 1921. Threefold ratification of the treaty by Dáil Éireann, the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and the British Parliament was required. The Irish side was split on the Treaty, and it was only narrowly ratified in the Dáil. Though the treaty was duly enacted, the split led to the Irish Civil War, which was ultimately won by the pro-treaty side.

The Irish Free State created by the Treaty came into force on 6 December 1922 by royal proclamation after its constitution had been enacted by the Third Dáil and the British parliament.

In Britain the House of Commons approved the Treaty on 14 December 1921 by a vote of 401 to 58.

The Dáil debates lasted much longer and exposed the diversity of opinion in Dublin. Opening the debate on 14 December, President De Valera stated his view on procedure: it would be ridiculous to think that we could send five men to complete a treaty without the right of ratification by this assembly. That is the only thing that matters. Therefore it is agreed that this Treaty is simply an agreement and that it is not binding until the Dáil ratifies it. That is what we are concerned with. However when the Treaty was ratified on 7 January, he refused to accept it.

Private sessions were held on 15, 16 and 17 December, and a.m. on 6 January, to keep the discord out of the press and the public arena.

The public sessions lasted 9 days from 19 December to 7 January. On 19 December Arthur Griffith moved: That Dáil Eireann approves of the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, signed in London on December 6th, 1921.

By 6 January, the day before the vote, De Valera acknowledged the deep division within his cabinet: When these Articles of Agreement were signed the body in which the executive authority of this assembly, and of the State, is vested became as completely split as it was possible for it to become. Irrevocably, not on personalities or anything of that kind or matter, but on absolute fundamentals.

The Second Dáil formally ratified the Treaty on 7 January 1922 by a vote of 64 to 57. De Valera resigned as President on 9 January and was replaced by Arthur Griffith, on a vote of 60 to 58. Griffith as President of the Dáil worked with Michael Collins who chaired the new Provisional Government of Ireland, theoretically answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland, as the Treaty laid down. In December 1922 a new Irish constitution was enacted by the Third Dáil, sitting as a Constituent Assembly.

The House of Commons of Southern Ireland, which was made up largely of the same membership as the Dáil, but which was in British constitutional theory the parliament legally empowered to ratify the Treaty, did so unanimously on 14 January 1922.

Opponents of the Treaty mounted a military campaign of opposition which produced the Irish Civil War (1922-23). In 1922 its two main Irish signatories, President Griffith and Michael Collins, both died. Griffith died partially from exhaustion; Collins, at the signing of the Treaty, had said that in signing it, he may have signed his “actual death warrant”, and he was correct: he was assassinated by anti-Treaty republicans in Béal na mBláth in August 1922, barely a week after Griffith’s death. Both men were replaced in their posts by W. T. Cosgrave.

The Treaty’s provisions relating to the monarch, the governor-general, and the treaty’s own superiority in law were all deleted from the Constitution of the Irish Free State in 1932, following the enactment of the Statute of Westminster by the British Parliament. The Statute removed the ability of the British Parliament to legislate on behalf of the dominions without their consent. Thus, the Government of the Irish Free State was free to change any laws previously passed by the British Parliament on their behalf.

Nearly 10 years earlier, Michael Collins had argued that the Treaty would give “the freedom to achieve freedom”. De Valera himself acknowledged the accuracy of this claim both in his actions in the 1930s but also in words he used to describe his opponents and their securing of independence during the 1920s. “They were magnificent”, he told his son in 1932, just after he had entered government and read the files left by Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedhael Executive Council.

Constitutional evolution

Michael Collins described the Treaty as ‘the freedom to achieve freedom’. In practice, the Treaty offered most of the symbols, powers and functions of independence, including a functioning parliamentary democracy, executive, judiciary, a written constitution which could be changed by the Free State, etc. However, in theory, a number of limits existed:

o The British king remained king in Ireland;

o The British Government had a continued role in Irish governance. Officially the representative of the King, the Governor-General also received instructions from the British Government on his use of the Royal Assent, namely a Bill passed by the Dáil and Seanad could be Granted Assent (signed into law), Withheld (not signed, pending later approval) or Denied (i.e., vetoed). Letters patent to the first Governor-General Tim Healy had named Bills that if passed were to be blocked, namely an attempt to abolish the Oath, etc. In reality no such Bills were ever introduced, so the issue never arose.

o The Irish Free State, like all Dominions, had an inferior status to the United Kingdom, which meant, in theory, it could not have its own citizenship (merely a shared Commonwealth citizenship), could not have direct access to the monarch except through a British minister, and had to use the British state’s Great Seal of the Realm on all of its state documents, again symbolising its inferior status to the United Kingdom within the Commonwealth.

All this changed in the 1920s. A reform of the King’s title, under a Commonwealth Conference decision and given effect by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927, changed the King’s role in each dominion. No more was he King in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Instead he became King of Ireland, Australia, etc. So from that change, embodied in the Royal Titles Act, the British king had no role whatsoever in each dominion. His only role was as each dominion’s own king, advised in each dominion’s affairs by the dominion, not by the United Kingdom. Furthermore, the British government lost any role in either the selection of a governor-general or in advising him. In this manner, the United Kingdom lost the ability to influence internal dominion legislation.

The Free State went further. It ‘accepted’ credentials from international ambassadors to Ireland, something no other dominion up to then had done. It registered the treaty with the League of Nations as an international document, over the objections of the United Kingdom, which saw it as a mere internal document between a dominion and the UK. Most dramatically of all, the Statute of Westminster, again embodying a decision of a Commonwealth Conference, enabled each dominion to enact any legislation to change any legislation, without any role for the British parliament that may have enacted the original legislation in the past.

Ireland symbolically marked these changes in two mould-breaking moves:

o It sought, and got the King’s acceptance, to have an Irish minister, with the complete exclusion of British ministers, formally advising the king as King of Ireland in the exercise of his Irish powers and functions. Two examples of this are the signing of a treaty between the Irish Free State and the Portuguese Republic in 1931, and the separate (from the UK) act recognising the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936.

o The unprecedented abandonment of the use of the British Great Seal of the Realm and its replacement by the Great Seal of the Irish Free State, which the King awarded to his Irish Kingdom as King of Ireland, again in 1931. (The Irish Seal consisted of a picture of ‘King George V of Ireland’ enthroned on one side, with the Irish state harp and the words Saorstát Éireann (Irish for Irish Free State) on the reverse. It is now on display in the Irish National Museum, Collins Barracks in Dublin.)

When Eamon de Valera became President of the Executive Council (prime minister) in 1932 he described Cosgrave’s ministers’ achievements simply. Having read the files, he told his son, Vivion, “they were magnificent, son”. All that remained was British control of a number of ports in the Irish Free State, called the Treaty Ports. However that was an issue not of constitutional law but technical requirements in the Treaty which could be and were renegotiated in 1938 to Ireland’s satisfaction.

That freedom allowed de Valera, on becoming President of the Executive Council (February 1932), to go even further. With no British restrictions on his policies, he abolished the Oath of Allegiance (which Cosgrave intended to do had he won the 1932 general election), the Senate, university representation in the Dáil, appeals to the Privy Council. His one major error occurred in 1936 when he attempted to use the abdication of King Edward VIII to abolish the crown and governor-general in the Free State with the “Constitution (Amendment No. 27 Act)”. He was told by senior law officers and others that, as the crown and governor-generalship existed separately from the constitution in a vast number of acts, charters, orders-in-council, and letters patent, they both still existed. He had to rush through a second bill, the “Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937” to repeal all the elements he had forgotten. He retrospectively dated the second act’s effect back to December 1936.

Aftermath of the Irish Free State

In 1937, Eamon de Valera replaced the 1922 constitution of Michael Collins with his own, renamed the Irish Free State to Éire, and created a new ‘president of Ireland’ in place of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State. His constitution, reflecting the 1930s preoccupation with faith and fatherland, claimed jurisdiction over all of Ireland while recognising the reality of the British presence in the northeast (see Articles 2 and 3). It recognised the “special position” of the Roman Catholic Church, while also recognising the existence and rights of other faiths, specifically the minority Anglican Church of Ireland and the Jewish Congregation in Ireland. Although in retrospect this provision appears sectarian, in 1937 it was viewed by leaders of non-Catholic religions as heading off a state religion and it was condemned by conservative Catholic groups as “liberal”. This article was repealed in 1973.

Articles 2 and 3 were reworded in 1998 to remove jurisdictional claim over the entire island and to recognise that “a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.”

It was left to the initiative of de Valera’s successors in government to achieve the country’s formal transformation into a republic. A small but significant minority of Irish people, usually attached to parties like Sinn Féin and the smaller Republican Sinn Féin, denied the right of the twenty-six county state to use the name Republic and continued to refer to the state as the Free State. With Sinn Féin’s entry in the Republic’s Dáil and the Northern Ireland Executive at the close of the 20th century, the number of those who refuse to accept the legitimacy, which was already very small, declined further.

Most people in Ireland today, including members of de Valera’s own party, Fianna Fáil, agree that it was a mistake to oppose the Treaty and that it was the best deal possible in the circumstances. Although the British government of the day had, since 1914, desired home rule for the whole of Ireland, the British Parliament believed that it could not possibly grant complete independence to all of Ireland in 1921 without provoking a massacre of Ulster Catholics at the hands of their heavily-armed Protestant Unionist neighbours. At the time, although there were Unionists throughout the country, they were concentrated in the northeast and their parliament first sat on 7 June 1921. An uprising by them against home rule would have been an insurrection against the “mother county” as well as a civil war in Ireland. Dominion status for 26 counties, with partition for the six counties that the Unionists felt they could comfortably control, seemed the best compromise possible at the time.

In fact, what Ireland received in dominion status, on par with that enjoyed by Canada, New Zealand and Australia, was far more than the Home Rule Act 1914 (negotiated and won, albeit through democratic parliamentary procedure by the Irish Parliamentary Party leaders John Redmond and John Dillon), and certainly a considerable advance on the Home Rule once offered to Charles Stewart Parnell in the nineteenth century. Even De Valera’s proposals made in secret during the Treaty Debates differed very little in essential matters from the accepted text, and were far short of the autonomous 32-county republic that he publicly claimed to pursue.

Further, though it was not generally realised at the time, the Irish Republican Army was in trouble. It had little ammunition or weaponry left. When Collins first heard that the British had called a Truce in mid-1921, following King George V’s appeal for reconciliation at the opening of the Parliament of Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, he commented: “We thought they were mad”. The British, though they may never have realised it, were weeks, perhaps even days, away from inflicting severe losses on an exhausted IRA; though, even if they had, it is unlikely that some form of autonomy in excess of home rule would not have been achieved, given the extent to which the Irish population had turned its back on continuing British rule. It is also doubtful that British public opinion would have tolerated the larger and more frequent atrocities this would have entailed.

De Valera was once asked in a private conversation what had been his biggest mistake. His answer was blunt: “Not accepting the Treaty”. Current Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern has conceded that the date that marks the real achievement of independence is 1922, when the Irish Free State created by the Anglo-Irish Treaty came into being, as this brought about British and international recognition of Irish independence.

The Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) (1922-1937) was the state comprising the twenty-six of Ireland’s thirty-two counties that were separated from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed by British and Irish Republic representatives in London on December 6, 1921. The Irish Free State came into being on December 6, 1922, replacing two nominally co-existing but parallel states: the de jure Southern Ireland, which had been created by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and which from January 1922 had been governed by a Provisional Government under Michael Collins; and the de facto Irish Republic under the President of Dáil Éireann, Arthur Griffith, which had been created by Dáil Éireann in 1919. (In August 1922, both states in effect merged with the deaths of their leaders; both posts came to be held simultaneously by W.T. Cosgrave.)