Partition of Ireland - Background - Unionist Objections To Anglo-Irish Treaty

Unionist Objections To Anglo-Irish Treaty

Sir James Craig, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland objected to aspects of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In a letter to Mr Austin Chamberlain dated 14 December 1921, he stated:

We protest against the declared intention of your government to place Northern Ireland automatically in the Irish Free State. Not only is this opposed to your pledge in our agreed statement of November 25th, but it is also antagonistic to the general principles of the Empire regarding her people's liberties. It is true that Ulster is given the right to contract out, but she can only do so after automatic inclusion in the Irish Free State. It is a complete reversal of the British Cabinet's own policy as declared in the King's speech at the opening of the Northern parliament and in the Premier's published correspondence with de Valera. That policy was that Ulster should remain out until she chose of her own free will to enter an All-Ireland parliament. Neither explanation nor justification for this astounding change has been attempted. We can only conjecture that it is a surrender to the claims of Sinn Fein that her delegates must be recognised as the representatives of the whole of Ireland a claim which we cannot for a moment admit......What right has the Sinn Fein to be a party to an agreement concerning the defences of Belfast Lough, which touches only the loyal counties of Antrim and Down...The principles of the 1920 Act have been completely violated, the Irish Free State being relieved of many of her responsibilities towards the Empire. The Sinn Fein receives a financial advantage that will relieve her considerably from the burden borne by Ulster and other parts of the Kingdom. Ulster can obtain such concessions only by first becoming subordinate to the Sinn Fein...In spite of the inducements held out to Ulster, we are convinced that it is not in the best interests of Britain or the Empire that Ulster should become subordinate to the Sinn Fein. We are glad to think that our decision will obviate the necessity of mutilating the Union Jack.

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