Photograph depicting the Sinn Féin ("ourselves alone") party headquarters in Dublin, Ireland. Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, "The mountain glen
I'll seek at morning early
And join the bold united men
While soft winds shake the barley"
Robert Dwyer Joyce
It is 1922. For centuries Britain has ruled Ireland in some fashion. Now there is clamoring for Ireland to be free.
But not everyone agrees.
People in six northern counties - largely Protestants - want their province of Ulster (once a British plantation) to be part of the United Kingdom. People in twenty-six southern counties - largely Catholics - want an independent Ireland, free of United Kingdom rule.
A treaty with Britain, signed on 6 December 1921, is now before the Irish Parliament. If passed, Ireland will split in two. Twenty-six counties in the south would be an independent country; six counties in the north would be part of the United Kingdom.
After heated debates, the Anglo-Irish Treaty passes by a narrow vote.
Some people, in the newly independent South, believe the partition of their country is the best that Ireland can achieve ... for now. Others bitterly oppose splitting the country in two.
Insurgents, on both sides, have built-up arms. Sectarian violence is about to erupt, causing an Irish civil war.
Why would the Irish people, who had endured such anguish for centuries, now kill each other?