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The concluding section takes a brief look at the two new states that emerged from the partition settlement. It argues that the traumatic and violent experience of their creation did much to shape their later social, economic and political cultures. The primary focus is on the way both states sought to use their newly acquired power to shore up their own legitimacy through commemoration, education and various state myths about their founding period. Particular focus is given to the often unspoken competition that existed between both states and how partition effectively allowed the two most radical manifestations of Irish unionism and Irish nationalism to shape the states in their own image.
The Boundary Commission of 1924–1925 represents the only statutory attempt to adjust the new Irish border in a more equitable and rational way so as to reflect the wishes of the inhabitants on both sides. This chapter looks at the workings of the commission, some of the fundamental flaws in its terms of reference and the insoluble problems it encountered in trying to create a workable frontier that met the political aspirations of both governments and their respective minority populations. The shambolic failure of the commission is explored and its effects on the political culture of the sizeable northern Catholic minority that remained.
The election of December 1918 signalled an unprecedented shift in Irish political opinion in more populist and radical directions. This chapter looks at the effects of First World War on Ireland, both politically and economically, with particular focus on the Easter Rising, conscription crisis and failed attempts to achieve a workable all-Irish settlement in the Irish Convention convened in 1917. The 1918 election is explored in detail, as is the increasing utopianism and hyperbole of its more radical participants. The implications of the result for Irish unity are also examined, with particular focus given to the assumptions and contradictions that underlay Sinn Féin’s Ulster policy. It ends by looking at the lessons taken from the result and the overriding assumption that Ireland was now home to an innate and insoluble sectarian divide.
This chapter looks at the effects of partition on the two major minority populations that it created in the shape of northern Catholics and southern Protestants. It examines the lack of minority safeguards in the partition legislation and the debates about what could be done to address the fears of those who found themselves on the wrong side of the border. The chapter continues by looking at the differing responses of these two minority groups to the new political landscape, looking at demographic differences, political organisation and future prospects. It concludes with an in-depth exploration of the experience of the Belfast refugees, the attempts to provide them with relief in the spring of 1922 by both sides of the treaty divide and their ultimate fate. Financial settlements between governments regarding displaced persons after the conflict are also explored.
The reality of the partition of Ireland was that it was actualised by violence and the threat or use of force to quell opposition and shore up the new regimes. This chapter explores the ever-present role of violence in defining and driving forward the partition settlement on the ground, often with little regard to the elite high politics in London, Dublin and Belfast. The main focus is on Ulster and, in particular, Belfast, which experienced a higher per capita death rate than anywhere else on the island in the period. The sectarian character of the violence is explored and the various expulsions that took place in the summer of 1920 that started two years of intermittent violence. Propaganda, paramilitarism and auxiliary policing are also analysed.
This chapter sets the stage for partition by examining some longer-term trends within Irish nationalism, Irish unionism and the British rule. The rise and economic power of Belfast in the latter half of the nineteenth century is looked at in detail, as is the role of that city in shaping the later partition settlement. The radical shifts in Irish politics are also explored: the shift away from the previous all-Ireland unionism toward a more particular regional Ulster variety, the Gaelicisation of Irish nationalism in the context of the ‘new nationalism’ of the late nineteenth century and the often well-meaning, but ultimately counterproductive, policies of the British government.
The introduction centres on contrasting two pivotal moments in the story of the partition of Ireland, one at the beginning and one at the end of the partitioning process. The first concerns the final copper-fastening of the border with the settlement of the Boundary Commission issue in 1925, while the second revolves around the announcement of the partition plan by Lloyd George six years earlier. In both cases it is shown that the same fundamental questions were raised and unsatisfactory answers provided. This is followed by an examination of why the subject of partition has so often been underplayed in Irish historical writing on the period, arguing that, while the division of the island is fundamental for understanding the nature of modern Ireland, its deep ambiguities made it a subject that did not fit easily into the statist and ideologically driven histories that emerged in its aftermath.