In May 1923, U.S. newspaper editorial pages assessed Ireland’s 11-month-old civil war as Éamon de Valera and recalcitrant republicans took the final halting steps toward ending their insurgency against the Irish Free State. “Strong hope that peace nears in Ireland is voiced by American editors,” began an “editorial digest” from more than a dozen dailies. (Clicking the image will enlarge it in most browsers.) Below it are opinions from three other papers after the IRA’s May 24 order to “dump arms,” officially ending the hostilities.
Periodic violence and political turmoil continued to trouble Ireland, but the revolutionary period that began in 1912 with the arming of Ulster and Nationalist volunteers had finally ended. As important, the civil war permanently shifted Irish American attention from the politics of the old country to assimilation in their adopted country, though affection remained for the homeland.
The Buffalo (N.Y.) Enquirer compared the situation in Ireland to the U.S. Civil War, which ended nearly 60 years earlier.
If de Valera is seeking an example for the future he may find it in America where all are friends of Ireland. Our own civil war was fought with all the bitterness of Ireland’s civil war: but when the Confederacy laid down its arms, it did so with no thought of taking up arms again after a period of recouperation. It kept alive no purpose to take up arms again. To that noble action this country owes its present peace, unity, prosperity, and greatness. It will serve Ireland as magnificently as it has served the United States.”Peace In Ireland”, The Buffalo Enquirer, May 31, 1923.
The Birmingham (Ala.) News, which encouraged anti-Catholic and nativist opposition to de Valera’s April 1920 visit to the city, remained hostile to the republican leader:
Lack of common sense has been de Valera’s besetting sin–or was it ambition? … For de Valera’s ambition or idealism or lack of common sense the greensward of Ireland has been drenched in the blood of Irishmen–and women–shed by other Irishmen. … It is well that Mr. de Valera has finally admitted that he cannot impose his will upon the majority of the Irish–but at what ghastly price has he become convinced! The wraiths of the unnecessary dead should attend him always; the sorrows of mothers who have lost their sons–at his command; the wailings of helpless children who are so by his devotion to his ambition in the fade of the majority; the moans of the widows–made so at his behest–should ring in his ears as the tolling of some ceaseless, solemn knell.”De Valera At Last Bows To Inevitable; He Orders A Cessation of Hostilities”, The Birmingham News, May 31, 1923.
While heartened that de Valera and Irish republicans had finally decided to stop fighting, the Decatur (Ill.) Herald noted other roadblocks remained for Ireland’s path forward:
The chaos brought by the Republicans afforded exactly the opportunity desired by the Communists, including large groups of strongly organized workers. The Communists will scarcely cease their activities because the Republicans have decided to become good citizens. Finally, of course, there is Ulster, a problem as relentless and troublesome as ever. If the Free State does succeed in overcoming all of the difficulties thrown in its way … it will be entitled to credit for a remarkable achievement. It is not yet time for the expression of unreserved optimism.”It Comes Late”, Decatur (Ill.) Herald, May 30, 1923.
See my American Reporting of Irish Independence series.