Today marks 100 years since British handed over power to new Provisional Irish Government

Today marks 100 years since British handed over power to new Provisional Irish Government

TODAY marks 100 years since the British formally handed over power to the new Provision Government of Ireland.

A ceremony was held this afternoon at Dublin Castle with President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to mark the historic event on January 16, 1922.

Former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny, as well as former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, were also in attendance.

The Taoiseach said reaching the centenary was a sign of how successful Irish independence had been.

"As we honour the achievements of the revolutionary generation, we do so with pride that the State they helped to create is entering its second century of independent, democratic government," said Martin.

Meanwhile, at Áras an Uachtaráin this morning, the President met with descendants of the delegation that represented Dáil Éireann at the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in London in 1921.

Formal handover

On January 16, 1922, eight members of the Provisional Government, led by Michael Collins, arrived in Dublin Castle for the formal handover of power and of the castle itself.

After Collins handed Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan-Howard a copy of the Anglo-Irish Treaty signed in London a month earlier, the Viceroy congratulated Collins and informed his delegation that they were now installed as the Provisional Government.

The Irish Free State, governed by the First Executive Council, was established later that year in the midst of the Irish Civil War between pro- and anti-treaty forces.

'Monumental moment'

Ahead of this afternoon's ceremony, President Higgins met with descendants of the Irish delegation that travelled to London in 1921 to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

While the negotiators themselves comprised Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, Robert Barton, Eamonn Duggan and George Gavan Duffy, the entire delegation numbered around 70.

Many of their descendants were at Áras an Uachtaráin, where President Higgins praised the contribution of everyone in the delegation.

"While these figures are well-known names, many of those in the wider delegation, including five women appointed by the Dáil, have been all but forgotten in the period's historiography," said President Higgins.

He added: "What a monumental moment in our nation's history the Treaty negotiations constitute.

"There can be little doubt that those who represented Dáil Éireann at the negotiations all had the most honourable intentions, were concerned to interpret what could not be anticipated in terms of a definitive mandate, and did their very best in an extremely challenging context."

'Spectre of what might have been'

The President also acknowledged that the Treaty was signed amid looming fears that not doing so would lead to a renewed war with Britain.

Irish negotiators thus conceded that a 32-county republic would not be achieved.

Instead, six counties remained partitioned while Britain would remain Head of State, issues that led to the outbreak of civil war in Ireland on June 1922.

"The ensuing Civil War may have claimed more lives than the War of Independence that preceded it, and left Irish society divided and embittered for decades," said President Higgins.

"Yet, as terrible as events would transpire to be in Ireland, the spectre of what might have been if an agreement had not been reached has examples for consideration in other independence movements seeking exit from empire."

Also this week, Trinity College Dublin hosted a two-day conference tat Dublin Castle to explore the implications of the 1922 power shift.

Meanwhile, An Post have released a new stamp to commemorate today's anniversary.