More than 1 million Irish immigrants were living in America on Dec. 6, 1921, when Sinn Féin separatists and the British government signed an accord that ended their three-year war and provided limited political autonomy to four fifths of Ireland. The day climaxed centuries of struggle, but hardly ended strife on the island, which was partitioned six months earlier.
Most Irish immigrants and the U.S. press welcomed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. During Dublin debates about the deal, Sinn Féin‘s Harry Boland observed “the great public opinion of America is on the side of this treaty … [and] just as it seems the press of Ireland has adopted a unanimous attitude in favor of this treaty, so too did the American press adopt that attitude.”Dáil Éireann debates, Jan. 7, 1922. Houses of the Oireachtas.
As was often the case during earlier events in the revolutionary period, some Irish republicans on both sides of the Atlantic alleged bias in mainstream newspaper coverage. Mary MacSwiney, also addressing the treaty debates, complained of “the pro-English American press.” She specifically targeted “the Hearst papers as being utterly unfair.”Dáil Éireann debates, Dec. 21, 1921. Houses of the Oireachtas. Hearst owned nearly two dozen U.S. dailies at the time.
The Irish Press of Philadelphia, with direct ties to the separatist government in Dublin, charged: “The deliberate attempt of the American press to mislead the people as to the meaning of the articles of the treaty is to say the least despicable. Their efforts … [are] proof that they do not will a free Ireland.””Irish Republic Triumphs“, The Irish Press, Dec. 10, 1921.
The Dec. 6, 1921, frontpage headlines of the Irish accord were the “breaking news” of an age just before widespread radio access. Some of the papers mixed other international, national, or local news in their top banners. The dozen examples below include three New York City dailies and papers in nine other U.S. cities and towns. Notes are offered below the headlines. I’ll explore Irish-American press reaction to the treaty in my following post. MH