The Oath Is Dead and Gone

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The Oath Is Dead and Gone

Author: Jim Maher

Publication Date: November 2011

ISBN: 978-1-907535-19-2

Category: History

Type: Hardback

Price: €27.99

The clause in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, which obliged all elected representatives in the Irish Free State to swear allegiance to the British monarch, was the major cause of the Civil War of 1922-3. The anti-Treatyites were defeated but Sinn Féin emerged with forty-four Dáil seats in the 1923 general election. Gradually, Sinn Féin leader Éamon de Valera became convinced that the party’s policy of abstaining from Dáil Éireann was untenable. In 1926 he proposed ‘that Sinn Féin elected deputies enter the Dáil or Six-County Assembly if the Oath of Allegiance were removed’. His motion was defeated and he resigned as President of Sinn Féin, soon afterwards founding a new political party, Fianna Fáil. In the general election of June 1927, the vast majority of Republican voters voted for Fianna Fáil and forty-four of the party’s deputies were elected. These TDs declared that the Oath was just ‘an empty formula’ and took their Dáil seats.

After a long political battle, Fianna Fáil, in power from 1932 and backed by the Labour Party – which played a very important role in opposing the Oath throughout the 1920s – pushed a Bill through the Dáil and Senate and abolished the Oath in May 1933. The work of Cumann na nGaedheal’s Kevin O’Higgins at the Imperial Conference of 1926, which led to the passing of the Statute of Westminster, also played a vital role in the abolition of the Oath.

Although initially the British government regarded the abolition of the Oath as a breach of the Treaty of 1921, it finally accepted the situation when the people of Ireland endorsed the 1937 constitution by referendum.

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