The revolutionary leader, soldier and politician Michael Collins argued that the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) gave Ireland ‘the freedom to achieve freedom’. He also told his counterparty, Lord Birkenhead, that by signing it he had signed his own ‘death warrant’. This would prove prophetic: he was ambushed and killed by anti-Treaty Republicans in August 1922. The Treaty signed in December 1921 had two provisions that proved fiercely contentious: Ireland’s status as a dominion rather than an independent republic, and the right of Northern Ireland to withdraw from the new state (a right which it duly exercised). The Irish President De Valera repudiated the Treaty despite its ratification by the Irish parliament, the Dáil, while Collins mounted a guerrilla offensive and trade boycott against the now separate north. Hostilities in the north petered out, but the victory of pro-Treaty Republicans in the election of June 1922 precipitated civil war in the newly established Irish Free State.
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