Seán Mac Eoin looks back on events leading to the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 and his decision to support the agreement.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London on 6 December 1921. After months of violence a Truce was called in July 1921. Following a series of meetings a delegation led by Arthur Griffith and including Michael Collins went to London in October 1921 to begin negotiations with the British government. Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland was reached in December.
Seán MacEoin was a member and leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). On 7 March 1921, he was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of an RIC District Inspector McGrath in January 1921. During an attempt to escape he was shot and wounded was later transferred to Mountjoy Prison. He remained there until he was released as part of the peace negotiations with the British in August 1921.
In October 1921 he recalls having received a letter from the Minister for Defence Cathal Brugha, stating that Irish army was brought under the command of Dáil Éireann. This made the army "unequivocally the army of the nation". The letter offered Seán MacEoin the rank of Commandant General as OC of the Fist Midland Division. Seán MacEoin replied accepting the position. The army was now placed under Dáil Éireann and answerable to the Minister for Defence.
Seán MacEoin says that the Truce was between the British forces and the Irish army. While the British recognised the Irish army, they refused to recognise Dáil Éireann as the legitimate government. The British viewed Éamon de Valera as the leader of the majority of the people of southern Ireland. He says that at the time, Michael Collins was the secret president of the Irish republic and Éamon de Valera as Prime Minister.
Seán MacEoin decided to support The Treaty as it gave freedom and got the British forces out of Ireland. Once that had happened, he considered this to be a victory.
Any force having to evacuate meant defeat.
The Treaty was signed by Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, George Gavan Duffy, Eamonn Duggan and Robert Childers Barton.
This interview was recorded for the four part series '1922'. The interviewer is Kieran Sheedy.
'1922' was broadcast on 3, 10, 17 and 31 December 1972 and marked one of the most fateful years in the history of modern Ireland. The series included the voices of some of those who witnessed and took part in the events of the year as well as material from contemporary sources.