To what extent was the Anglo-Irish Treaty responsible for the
Irish Civil War?
The Irish Civil War occurred following the signing of a treaty between Sinn Fein and the
British government. The Anglo-Irish Agreement brought the Irish War of Independence
to an end and establihsed the Irish Free State.. The civil war caused a split in the
nationalist movement between those who supported the Treaty with Britain and those
who were opposed. It created deep divisions that lasted in Irish society for decades. The
two main political parties since the foundation of the state, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are
direct decendants from the pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty sides in the civil war. The civil war
began as a result of divisions over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. However, other factors also
played a role in these divisions. This essay will look at the role the Anglo-Irish Treaty
played in bringing about the civil war and what other differences also caused divisions
during this period.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty was agreed between Sinn Fein representatives and the British
government in December 1921. The signing of the Treaty led to an acrimonious debate in
the Dail before being accepted by a slim majority in January 1922. The divisions in the
Dail spilled over into the wider nationalist movement and into the ranks of the IRA. A
number of issues in the Anglo-Irish Treaty caused disagreements the most prominent
being the Oath of Allegiance to the British crown and the partition of Ireland into North
The Oath of Allegiance was highly objectionable to many republicans and was the most
divisive issue in the Treaty. Those opposed could not understand why they should be
forced to swear allegiance to a British king that they had fought against only weeks
earlier. For those who were seeking an independent republic swearing an oath of
allegiance to a foreign king went against eveything they believed in. The inclusion of the
oath of allegiance was to be a significant contributing factor to the divisions that caused
the civil war.
The second major issue in the Treaty that caused divisions was the partition of the island
into North and South with the north-eastern six counties remaining part of the United
Kingdom. In the eyes of the British government partition had already been established in
the Government of ireland Act 1920 which allowed for the establishemnt of a separate
parliament in Belfast and Dublin. Unionists in the North welcomed this development as
they saw it as protecting the interests of the Unionist majority in the six counties. While
those in Sinn Fein who supported the Treaty saw partition as a temporary measure, those
opposed felt that the Catholic minority in the North were being abandoned and left to
suffer Unionist domination and sectarian attacks.
The nationalist movement included a wide variety of people from many different
backgrounds and many different social classes, all with their own view of what Irish
independence should mean. From the...