Why I didn’t celebrate treaty that divided our country

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Political representatives and other dignitaries took part in an official state ceremony at Dublin Castle to mark the centenary of the start of the withdrawal of British forces from the 26 Counties, 100 years ago this week. Aontú leader Peader Tóibín on why he didn’t take part.

 

As leader of Aontú I was invited by the Government to attend the Commemoration of the Implementation of the Treaty at Dublin Castle on Sunday.

I declined the invitation for the following reasons;

The Anglo Irish Treaty was signed under the British threat of “terrible and immediate war”. In many ways a gun was held to the head of this country to ensure the Treaty was signed.

The terms of the Treaty were reneged upon almost immediately with the Border Commission being completely gutted.

But most importantly the Anglo-Irish Treaty led directly to the partition of Ireland which is by far the most damaging catastrophe to happen to Ireland since the Great Hunger.

On Friday night on the Late Late Show Mícheál Martin talked about the wonderful celebrations that will be held to commemorate 100 years since taking back Dublin Castle and the country.

He didn’t mention, mention the sorrow or regret that the 6 counties were not part of this. He didn’t mention that the Treaty helped created an Orange State that institutionalised discrimination against Catholics and Irish Nationalists in the north for decades.

The Fianna Fáil leader didn’t mention that the Treaty led to discrimination against Irish people in the north in terms of housing, employment and civil rights.

Or that the Treaty left in charge in the north an administration that murdered Nationalists, Civil Rights marchers and political activists.

Or that the Treaty saw the establishment of a military and policing class that colluded with Loyalist and Unionist paramilitaries in these murders.

Or that political, cultural and sporting expression of Irish people in the north was continuously censored and suppressed.

The Treaty led directly to the Civil War which was bloodier than the War of Independence. The Civil War was a heartbreaking disaster that broke families and led to the deaths of thousands. It quenched the potential of so many good people on both sides who could well have steered this country to a better future.

While the bitterness of the Treaty has thankfully and rightly receded, it will always be a matter of serious contention. For sure there were no easy solutions to the crisis that existed in Ireland in 1921. But is noteworthy that even the objective of Michael Collin’s of “Freedom to achieve Freedom” was soon dropped by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, who were increasingly happy to stand idly by.

The commemoration of the Anglo Irish Treaty should not lead to a rewriting of history. The Anglo Irish Treaty was a disaster for hundreds of thousands of Irish people who still live with its consequences today. As the day is marked, lets not erase the catastrophe that resulted for Northern Nationalist.

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