Five months after the separatist Sinn Féin party narrowly approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty to end the war with Britain, rank and file voters in the partitioned 26 counties of southern Ireland went to the polls on June 16, 1922. The Irish Free State’s first general election was complicated by a pact between the pro-treaty faction of Michael Collins and the anti-treaty side of Éamon de Valera. The deal provided incumbent Sinn Féin members would not oppose each other. The publication of a draft constitution a day before the vote caused additional confusion.
It took days to finalize the results under the single transferrable vote system. There were allegations of voter intimidation and ballot irregularities. (Sound familiar?) At last it became clear that the pro-treaty Sinn Féin and candidates from like-minded independents and smaller parties prevailed with the support of three quarters of the electorate.
Below are six editorial views on the election from the U.S. mainstream, Irish American, and Catholic press. The opinions range from seeing the results as a clear mandate for the pro-treaty faction to just another sign of uncertainty and division in the fledgling nation. The editorials were overly optimistic, considering the Irish Civil War erupted before the end of June 1922.
“…the best indication of the defeat of the de Valera forces comes in the vigorous complaints uttered by their representative newspapers. … It would appear that the Irish settlement moves on from crisis to crisis, but those who are closely watching events are convinced that each crisis brings a satisfactory close to the rebellion nearer.”–“The Irish Elections”, Brooklyn (New York) Daily Times, June 19, 1922
“The election has served to strengthen the group which favors acceptance of the treaty. Moderates are usually in the majority everywhere. It becomes clearer that Ireland is no exception to the general rule which makes people prefer a peaceable settlement.”–“The Treaty Stronger”, The Boston Globe, June 21, 1922
“Not more clearly or emphatically could the Irish people have manifested their disapproval of lawless violence, or have voiced their desire for peace than they have now done. They have declared for the treaty and for the Free State in a manner which admits of no misunderstanding, and the malcontents will have no excuse for refusing to abide by the verdict they have rendered.”–“Irish Vote A Pro-Treaty Landslide”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 22, 1922
“The elections in Ireland have given the Free State a large majority, but the result is by no means conclusive. … the best that can be said of the election is that it gives an opportunity to create a temporary working Government in Ireland that, if sanity prevails, may tide over the present internal crisis and enable Southern Ireland to present a united front to England and to Northeast Ulster. … Ireland, as the result of the elections, has been given a respite, and a respite only.”–“Irish Elections Not Decisive”, The Gaelic American (New York), July 1, 1922
“With patience and skill Griffith, Collins and their colleagues brought about working arrangements with the Republicans and with the British. Their tactics have shown a complete realization of the problems of compromise, and a supreme confidence in the ability of Ireland to work out those problems to the ultimate ends of unity and self-determination. They have been justified to the extent that at the election just held a decisive majority of their fellow countrymen of Southern Ireland have voted with them to accept the treaty. The opportunity to test the treaty as a practical working arrangement has been achieved; the final test of the faith of those who have steadily believed in Ireland is at hand. … Will mutual forbearance, understanding and cooperation … go down before a storm of popular fury? We cannot think it.”–“Ireland: A Faith On Trial“, The New Republic, July 5, 1922
“While the various factions of American citizens of Irish lineage were presuming to dictate to the people of Ireland what kind of a government should be established in the Emerald Isle, The Catholic Telegraph held consistently to the opinion that this vitally important matter should be left to the decision of those personally and immediately concerned, namely, the inhabitants of Ireland. We were convinced that this was the only proper way to conform to the principle of the self-determination of peoples. We felt that, if there were family differences “at home,” there was enough intelligence, patriotism, justice and charity among the sons and daughters of Mother Erin’s household to compose them satisfactorily. The political sea has not been without its storms, but brave and keen Irish statesmen have been steering their vessel to the secure harbor of national freedom. The Anglo-Irish Treaty has been approved by an overwhelming majority of the people: and the charter of the Irish Free State is now being drawn.”–“Voice Of Irish People”, The Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, Ohio), July 13, 1922
See my full American Reporting of Irish Independence series.