The truce in the War of Independence / Anglo–Irish War on 11 July 1921 brought an end to two–and–a–half years of guerrilla conflict in Ireland. It cannot be denied that this had been a difficult period for church members many of whom were victims of personal, sometimes fatal, injuries, or damage to their property. At the same time, prominent church members, including Sam Maguire, Ernest Blythe, Erskine Childers, Albina Broderick and Robert Barton, made a significant contribution to the achievement of Irish independence.
The subsequent agreement of the Anglo–Irish Treaty in December 1921 and the creation of the newly independent Irish Free State as a dominion of the Commonwealth was a wrench for many Church members in breaking ancestral ties with Britain. The Church of Ireland Gazette noted honestly that many would not ‘regard the change which is impending with any great enthusiasm’, but recognised the community’s willingness to accept the new situation and ‘give their whole–hearted and active support to the Irish Free State’. Though never accounting for greater than five per cent of the population of independent Ireland the Church of Ireland is proud of its contribution to making the state what it is today, including having two of its members serve as Head of State.
Although Ireland was partitioned politically one hundred years ago, the churches have remained as important structures helping to retain connections between their members on both sides of the border.
Dr Marie Coleman
Queen’s University Belfast
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