Cumann na nGaedhael Government 1922-37: BUILDING A STATE AND CONSOLIDATING DEMOCRACY
The Institutions of the Irish Free State. • Born in a civil war at a time when democracy was under threat in Europe. • Building on the British Model • Why? • Most politicians, lawyers and civil servants trained that way. • Britain a success so why change?.
The Free State Constitution • A dominion of the Commonwealth • All TDs had to swear an oath to the king, who was head of state • Dail and Seanad (selected by Dail and President) • PR • President of the Executive Council (PM) • Oireachtas could change Constitution without referendum.
Civil Service • British model • Civil Service Commission set exams that reduced favouritism and bribery. • 98% decided to stay. • This provided experience and stability but made change difficult.
Courts • British model, new names. • District, Circuit, Court of Criminal Appeal, High and Supreme courts. • Local government • Little change. Selected and funded by ratepayers. • Looked after roads, sewerage, water and housing. • Cosgrave’s government tried to stamp out corruption. • Local authorities took over the Poor Law unions and the workhouses became County Homes for the elderly and orphans but conditions did not improve.
The Development of Democratic Parties • Could Democracy work? • The opposing sides in the civil war determined our main political parties. • Anti-treaty IRA had gone to war against the legally elected government. Anti-democratic. • The Free State government had not obeyed the law either. • 1923 Election. • Cumann na nGaedhael was set up and led by Cosgrave and O Higgins. • Sinn Fein did better than expected but adopted the abstentionist policy. • No opposition not good for democracy.
Cumann na nGaedhael • Cosgrave was quiet and conservative. No charisma and too honest. • His aims were stability, to set up the institutions of state and to prove the Irish could run themselves. • Kevin O Higgins was Minister for Home Affairs (Justice). He was hated by the IRA as he had signed the death warrants. • Richard Mulcahy Defence. • Eoin MacNeill Education. • Desmond Fitzgerald External Affairs. • Ernest Blythe (Ulster Presbyterian) Finance.
The Labour Party • Small and weak because: • Few industrial workers • Success in local elections • Church suspicious of socialsm. • Internal quarrels • ‘godless communism’.
1922 to 1927 Moving Towards Democracy Two major crises
1: The ‘Army Mutiny’ • Some of the army were unhappy because: • They were being reduced by 75%. • Trained ex-British soldiers being kept on. • They wanted more progress towards a republic • March 1924 Liam Tobin Emmet Dalton and their newly formed ‘Old IRA’ sent an ultimatum to Cosgrave demanding the above and the dismissal of Mulcahy.
The ‘Army Mutiny’ • O Higgins put the Garda Commissioner Eoin O Duffy in charge of the army over the head of Mulcahy and the ‘mutineers’ were assured they would not be victimised. • A senior army officer working for Mulcahy arrested the leaders in a Dublin pub. • Mulcahy resigned before he was sacked. Joe McGrath (industry and commerce) and 8 TDs resigned in sympathy. • Results: • Army put under control • Cumann na nGaedhael weakened.
2. The Boundary Commission • To be set up under the Treaty but delayed until 1925. • MacNeill, Fisher and Justice Feetham. • Report leaked to papers. Some of Donegal was to go to the north and only a small part of Armagh to go South. • Outrage on both sides of the border. • MacNeill resigned. • The border was to remain the way it was. • Seen as a loss for the Free State but they got away with it because the opposition was abstaining.
Dev breaks with Sinn Fein • Abstention losing them support and getting them nowhere. • Hardliners in Sinn Fein would never take the Oath so Dev resigned and set up Fianna Fail in 1926. • Within a year the new party has persuaded most SF to join them. • Dev went to the US and raised lots of money. • They promised jobs.
Cumann na nGaedhael become unpopular • Cut old age pensions • Intoxicating Liquor Act reduced the number of pubs by half and shorter opening hours. • Insisted on paying land annuities. • June 1927 General Election • C na G 47. FF 44 (still abstentionist).
July Death of Kevin O Higgins • Opportunist IRA killing. • Cosgrave responded by passing the Electoral Amendment Act. • Any candidate had to take the Oath. • Dev and FF took the Oath as a formality. • For the first time all elected TDs took their seats and there was a proper opposition.
Consolidating Democracy 1927-36 • FF made it clear that they were only entering the Dáil in order to dismantle the Treaty. • FF still had close links to the IRA which was robbing banks and guns. • In 1931 they murdered a Garda superintendent. • Cosgrave responded by inserting article 2A into the constitution. This banned 12 organisations including the IRA. Political crimes could be dealt with by a military court.
1932 Election • Would C na G allow FF to take power if they won. • Reasons why FF won: • Great depression • 1931 C na G had cut the wages of public servants. • Dev a charismatic leader • FF had money and were well organised. • C na G tired. • Dev promised to dismantle the Treaty • He promised not to pay land annuities • He promised housing and better social welfare • Promised protectionism • 1931 Irish Press
Result: FF 72, C na G 57. • FF went into the Dáil with guns in their pockets. • However Cosgrave had instructed the army and the Garda to accept their new masters. • Dev did not sack public servants that had been loyal to C na G.