Ireland in the 1920s was relatively peaceful compared to the decades before. Living standards were very low and most people worked on the land. In 1927 Ireland’s first hydroelectric power plant opened, providing electrical power to factories and homes.
Anglo-Irish Treaty supporters formed themselves into a new political party and ruled Ireland for the next ten years. In that time they:
set up a new police force in 1923
centralised the law courts
introduced public safety laws to deal with the IRA
Sinn Féin refused to take part because they would not take the Oath of Allegiance to the King of England.
Sinn Féin leader Eamon de Valera resigned and set up a new party, Fianna Fáil, that had three main aims: make 32 counties in Ireland (end partition in the north of Ireland), re-establish the Irish language, and improve agriculture and industry.
Popular ideas saw Fianna Fáil win 44 seats at the 1927 General Election.
The 1929 Wall Street Crash raised unemployment figures higher and plunged Ireland further into political chaos.
At the 1932 election Fianna Fáil won 72 seats and de Valera became Taoiseach, the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, a position he was to hold until 1948.
The age of de Valera 1932 – 1948
De Valera’s challenge lay in rebuilding a shattered country and dismantling the first Anglo-Irish Treaty. He was very firm in the way he went about it:
In April 1932, he abolished the Oath of Allegiance.
He stopped paying ‘Land Taxes’ to Great Britain.
He refused to attend events where the Viceroy was present.
He introduced passports with the emblematic Irish Harp, replacing the British Crown.
He regained control of the three main ports from the British Navy.
In 1937 he introduced a new Constitution to replace the Treaty which was accepted by the people in a referendum. The Treaty was dead.
Ireland was now Éire.
Ireland during the Second World War 1939 – 1945
De Valera kept Ireland neutral during the war, refused the British use of southern Irish ports and vigorously protested military activity in Northern Ireland. Emergency Powers granted government limitless power to deal with any situation that might arise.
Media was strictly controlled.
Rationing was introduced to control fuel, food, clothing and resources.
IRA leaders were rounded up and interned in case they should side with the Germans.
Army doubled in size to 250,000 members.
There was widespread fear that either Britain or Germany would invade.
Most Irish people supported the British during the Second World War and the Irish government offered covert support:
The Royal Air Force (RAF) were allowed to fly over Irish air space.
RAF pilots who crash-landed in Ireland were sent back to Britain. German pilots were imprisoned.
Weather reports were secretly given to Britain.
50,000 Irish served in the British Army and 100,000 moved to Britain to work in the factories.
The Second World War and its effect on Ireland
Neutrality made Irish people believe they were independent.
Tensions between north and south Ireland increased.
Ireland was refused US money from the Marshall Plan in 1947.
Ireland was not allowed to join the UN until 1955.
By 1948 the country had been ruled by Fianna Fáil for sixteen years and most people wanted a change.
The opposition parties in the Dáil came together to form a coalition government after the election in 1948.
They passed the Republic Of Ireland Act, which took Ireland out of the British Commonwealth. Ireland was now independent and a Republic.