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Both Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins made crucial mistakes from 1921-23.

Both Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins made crucial mistakes from 1921-23.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Nicola O'Shea. Originally submitted for Bacherlor of Arts , with lecturer Professor Diarmaid Ferriter in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Nicola O'Shea. Originally submitted for Bacherlor of Arts , with lecturer Professor Diarmaid Ferriter in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
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06/16/2014

 
 1
Both Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins made crucial mistakes from 1921-23.
 Abstract
The years 1921-23 were a particularly difficult, decisive and divisive period in the history of Irishpolitics. The two most factional events in this time would undoubtedly be the signing of the
Treaty (‘Articles of an Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland’) and the Irish
Civil War. Two key men associated with these events would be Eamon de Valera and MichaelCollins, however both these men made crucial mistakes during this difficult period. Arguably,the most crucial mistake made by any leader during this difficult time in Irish politics, was the
abstention of De Valera, ‘President’ of the Republic, from the Treaty
 
negotiations. This led to
some uncertainty among the delegates, that they were mere ‘scapegoats’. Others believed De
Valera already perceived that a republic was unattainable. It is also interesting to contrast this
abstention with De Valera’s similar absence during the War of Independence. De Valera’s
choice to send Collins is also arguably a crucial mistake as it was evident that Michael Collins didnot want to attend the negotiations. Out of the delegates that went to the negotiations, hewent the most reluctantly. Thirdly, another arguable mistake made by De Valera was his publicrejection and outright refusal of the Treaty. It is generally accepted that the majority of thepopulation accepted this Treaty as it put an end to hostilities. The question then must be asked
why De Valera as ‘President’ of the Republic, and ‘President’ of that popu
lation, decided to goagainst this.
Michael Collins’ crucial mistake surrounding the Treaty negotiations was arguably
his acceptance of the invitation. However, his refusal to attend the negotiations likely would
have ended his political career. Collins’ reluctance reflects his awareness of Lloyd George’s
tactics and his acknowledgement that no Treaty he could bring back would be unanimouslyaccepted by the Dáil. Another crucial mistake on the shoulders of Collins could be the lack of control of the Provisional Government forces and subsequently the ease of counterattacks
towards the ‘Irregulars’, during the Civil War. As leader of the Provisional Government forces
during the Civil War, his control of Free State law and order left much to be desired by WinstonChurchill. Perhaps overall De Val
era’s mistakes have been highlighted in a negative light andovershadowing Collins’ mistakes because he was essentially the ‘President’ of the republic. It
 
 2
was his actions and decisions that were to ultimately decide the fate of the country.
Both Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins made crucial mistakes from 1921-23.
The years 1921-23 were a particularly difficult, decisive and divisive period in the history of Irishpolitics. The most divisive events witnessed in this time would undoubtedly be the signing of the Treaty (
Articles of an Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland
) and theIrish Civil War. Two key men associated with these events would be Eamon de Valera andMichael Collins, however both these men made crucial mistakes during this difficult period. DeValera, as
President
of the Republic, abstained from the Treaty negotiations. He also sentMichael Collins, a delegate who was very reluctant to fill his place and he publicly rejected theTreaty following its signing. Michael Collins also made crucial mistakes in this period. Heaccepted the invitation to attend the Treaty negotiations, knowing he could not bring back arepublic and therefore would bring about conflict within the Dáil. As leader of the ProvisionalGovernment forces during the Civil War, his control of Free State law and order left much to bedesired by Winston Churchill.De Valera, as
President
of the Irish Republic shocked and confused the Dáil cabinet, the nationand the British, in his decision to abstain from the negotiation talks. It led to the delegatessuspicions that they were mere
scapegoats
. The more hostile view of De Valera
s absencefrom the Treaty negotiations was that he knew a republic was unattainable and therefore hedid not want to be the man associated with such a Treaty.
1
This is put into perspective withLeon Ó Broin
s point that
the British had made it clear they would not concede a republic inany shape or form
. Others would argue the reason he was absent from the negotiations wasthat he wanted to remain in Ireland as a supportive force, so that whatever agreement wasreached he could make the Irish stand behind it.
2
He was to be
a symbol of the Republic.
 
3
Calton Younger argued that his reasons for staying behind
‘were perfectly logical…but the
1
 
Léon Ó Broin,
Michael Collins
(Dublin 1980), p.87
 
2
 
Ó Broin,
Michael Collins
, p.87
 
3
 
Younger, Calton.
 A state of disunion
(London 1972), p.256
 
 
 3
bigger task surely was in London
.
4
Younger also compares de Valera
s presence in America,rather than Ireland during the War of Independence and his presence in Dublin, rather thanLondon during the Treaty negotiations, that
in each case he accepted for himself the lesser
 role. In the case of the Treaty negotiations he arguably gave the greater role to Michael Collinsand the other delegates.De Valera
s choice to send Collins is also arguably a crucial mistake as it was evident thatMichael Collins did not want to attend the negotiations. Out of the delegates that went toBritain, he went the most reluctantly. Collins relationship with de Valera can be described as acommander and a soldier. Collins accepted his commander
s order, even if he did notnecessarily agree with it. A conversation is alleged to have taken place between Collins and deValera, witnessed by cabinet members.
5
Collins stated
You are my Chief, and if you tell me togo, I
ll go. But I know, and you know, that I can
t bring back the republic
. It is alleged that deValera then put forward his idea of 
External Association
. If we take this conversation at facevalue then we know that Collins knew before he even left that a Republic could not be achievedand he told his
Chief 
so. De Valera accepting Collins realism that a republic would not beachieved put forward his policy of 
External Association
, a compromise. This would lead us toquestion if de Valera was angered at a Treaty minus a Republic and plus an oath of allegiancebeing agreed to, or if it was in fact that the Treaty was not constructed around
‘ExternalAssociation‘.
 
6
Similarly T.Ryle Dwyer argued that
in return for a guarantee of Irish unity theplenipotentiaries offered to agree to External Association
’.
 Thirdly, another arguable mistake made by de Valera was his refusal to accept the Treaty or atleast his public rejection of it. It was unjust of de Valera to at least publicly reject the Treatywhen he himself had not gone and understood it was the most they could have achieved. It also
showed his lack of faith in Collin’s defence of the Treaty that it could be used as a ‘steppingstone’ to achieve gre
ater freedom. De Valera did not agree with the Treaty due to the oath of 
4
 
Younger,
 A state of disunion
, p.256
 
5
 
Ó Broin,
Michael Collins
, p.87
 

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