The partitioning of Ireland

The partitioning of Ireland

Partition of Ireland


  • The Act of Union in 1800 had joined Ireland and Great Britain under one parliament in London.
  • Throughout the 19th Century, there was a growing nationalist movement for Irish home rule.
  • Divergent opinions between the largely Catholic southern counties and the largely protestant northeastern counties, collectively known as Ulster, resulted in political strife.

Events leading to Partition

  • In 1912, the Third Home Rule Bill was passed by the UK Parliament, granting Ireland self-governance. This triggered massive protest among Ulster Unionists.
  • The Ulster Volunteer Force, a paramilitary force, was formed to resist Home Rule, if it was imposed.
  • The onset of World War I in 1914 delayed the implementation of the Home Rule.

Easter Rising and its Aftermath

  • In 1916, the Easter Rising was staged by Irish republicans to establish an independent Irish Republic. The event was put down, but it ignited wider support for Irish independence.
  • Subsequent UK’s handling of the situation, particularly the execution of the Easter Rising leaders, drew international condemnation and increased support for Irish independence.

Irish War of Independence

  • In 1919, Irish republicans started the Irish War of Independence against the British government to establish an independent Irish state.
  • It resulted in the collapse of British control in many parts of Ireland but the conflict was acutely felt in Ulster, where it intensified communal violence.

Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Partition

  • After two years of violence, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921, ending the Irish War of Independence.
  • The treaty established the Irish Free State in the predominantly Catholic south, while the predominantly Protestant north continued as a part of the UK, thus leading to the partition of Ireland.
  • The six north-eastern counties of Ulster were formed into Northern Ireland which remained part of the UK.

Consequences of the Partition

  • Ireland was divided into two political entities, each with a different status.
  • The partition was supposed to be temporary, but it remained permanent and resulted in decades of violence and discord well-known as the Troubles.
  • The partition and its accompanying violence resulted in a significant shift in the demographic balance creating highly sectarian societies.

Civil War and the Aftermath

  • The partition and the treaty led to the Irish Civil War as IRA split into factions: one against the Treaty and one in favour.
  • The pro-Treaty side eventually won the civil war, but the violence led to further alienation and resentment among Irish nationalists.
  • The impact of the partition and the subsequent events are still apparent today in the tense relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.