Imagine this crowd had debated the 1921 treaty.

One of the more striking factors about the Irish Civil war is that it happened at all. When one thinks about the fact that a group of men (and some women), many quite young (Collins was 32), who had served as comrades in arms, broke up over matters of principle like the border and the recognition of the oath of allegiance. This wasn’t about power or who would get what ministerial car. Men actually resigned their seats in parliament over the question of a republic versus dominion status.

Here’s my question: is it in any way conceivable that the current occupants of Dail Eireann would ever do anything like that? That points of principle would cause them to renounce their seats, so that their personal and political integrity could be maintained? I can see the debate:

“This treaty is a disgrace. I’m calling on the minister to hold a full scale review of it!”

“No, it’s passed by the house. Do your worst!”

“This is the worst treaty ever negotiated with the British ever, and when we get in, we will deliver a United Ireland and Full Employment and  Free Butter and Jam for the Over Forties!”

“So you’re resigning from the house, then?”

“Eh, steady on now. Did I mention I wanted a root-and-branch review of the treaty?”

“I’ll give you a new handball court in your parish.”

“This is a fine treaty, and I commend it to the Irish people with the spirit of my father and grandfather, whom you all knew well.”


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