THE SIXTH OF December this year found the country reeling in the aftermath of the sixth austerity Budget in a row.
The special anniversary that fell on Thursday went largely unnoticed: 90 years ago on that day, the Irish Free State or Saorstát Éireann officially came into being.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty, which put an end to the War of Independence against Britain, was approved by the second Dáil on 7 January 1922. But the margin of approval was narrow – 64 votes for; 57 votes against – and led to the resignation of Éamon de Valera as president of the Dáil two days later. Arthur Griffith stepped into the role of president and the country began to hurtle towards civil war, with de Valera leading the anti-Treaty rebels and Michael Collins commander-in-chief of the National Army and chairman of the Provisional Government.
By the time the Free State came into existence 11 months later, both Griffith and Collins were dead, the latter killed in an ambush in Cork, and the country was in the grip of the bloody violence which would mark the civil war until a ceasefire in May 1923.
Flashbacks to 1922
The full heated debate in the Dáil on the day of the vote on the Anglo-Irish Treaty, 7 January 1922, is available to view in the Oireachtas parliamentary debates archive here.
Harry Boland, then a close friend of Michael Collins but who would later be shot by the Irish Free State Army, opened the debate by saying he was against the Treaty as, “in my opinion, it denies a recognition of the Irish nation”. He said:
I object to it on the ground of principle, and my chief objection is because I am asked to surrender the title of Irishman and accept the title of West Briton.
Poignantly, he refers to Collins frequently in his statement to the Dáil as “my friend” and there is some interaction between the two where they call each other by their first names.
On passing of the Treaty by seven votes, Collins asks permission to make a statement and appears to appeal that the opposing sides do everything in their power to stop the country descending into violence, a sentiment with which Éamon de Valera agrees.
MR. M. COLLINS: I ask your permission to make a statement. I do not regard the passing of this thing as being any kind of triumph over the other side. I will do my best in the future, as I have done in the past, for the nation. What I have to say now is, whether there is something contentious about the Republic—about the Government in being—or not, that we should unite on this: that we will all do our best to preserve the public safety (hear, hear).
PRESIDENT DE VALERA: Hear, hear.
As it would turn out, neither could prevent the civil war to come in which – as different estimates have had it – anywhere between 1,000 and 4,000 people died, both combatants and civilians.
This photograph shows Michael Collins, marked with an ‘X’, Kevin O’Higgins and WT Cosgrave (before and after Collins), leaving Dublin Castle after a surrender ceremony by the British on 16 January 1922. Pic: Topham Picturepoint/PA Images.
The Provisional Government then went straight that same day to Dublin’s Mansion House, for the formal ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Arthur Griffiths is seen in the centre left, with glasses, and Michael Collins is facing the speaker. Pic: PA Archive.
This was a pro-Treaty poster from the time. Pic: National Library of Ireland/Flickr.
Michael Collins, by then Chairman of the Irish Free State and Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, drums up support for the Treaty in College Green on 18 March 1922. Pic: Press Association Images.
The Four Courts on fire after being bombarded by National Army forces on 28 and 29 June, 1922. Anti-Treaty forces had taken the complex over on 14 April. A huge swathe of Irish public records were lost in the fire. Pic: Wikimedia Commons.
An injured Anti-Treaty man is supported by a fellow fighter in Dublin on 13 July 1922. Over 500 Anti-Treaty fighters were taken as prisoners after the battle died down in the city. Pic: Press Association Images.
The funeral of Arthur Griffith on 16 August 1922: pictured here are General Richard Mulcahy and Michael Collins, who would die in an ambush one week later.
Boys in Na Fianna Éireann uniforms carry wreaths in the funeral cortege for Michael Collins on 28 August 1922. Pic: National Library of Ireland/Flickr.
This image is from 1921, and shows the wedding of Kevin O’Higgins. By the end of 1922, it was a wedding photo loaded with poignancy. It represented the internecine brutality of the Civil War: O’Higgins, centre, is pictured here with Éamon de Valera on the left and his best man Rory O’Connor on the right. The groom and the best man were to end up on opposite sides of the war to follow – and O’Higgins ended up signing his former friend’s death warrant. O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett and Joe McKelvey had been captured at the fall of the Four Courts and executed on 8 December 1922 in reprisal for the killing of a Free State member of parliament Seán Hales. Pic: Wikimedia Commons.
This article looks at the failure of successive governments to make full use of the natural resources of Ireland leading to the current strategy of heaping more and more new taxation upon the Irish people to make up for their loss of income
Since the formation of the Irish State in 1922, financial sources for the maintenance and development of the state as an independent entity have been in decline. This has arisen through Ireland’s joining the EEC in 1973 and subsequent Treaties of the EU, to successive governments’ neo-liberal economic policies that gradually reduced the role and income of the state. Contributing to these problems was the loss of fiscal autonomy when Ireland joined the eurozone in 2002.
Sources of income such as customs duties and charges, fisheries, agriculture, oil and gas, and minerals were all affected in different ways, leaving the increasing taxation of the people as the main plank of the government’s policy to extricate itself from the economic crisis. Since the banking crisis of 2008, government borrowing  has increased the national debt  from € 50.4 billion to € 119.1 billion in 2011, more than doubling it in a few short years.
The establishment of a customs union (a free trade area with a common external tariff) was one of the main aims of the EEC. On joining the EEC in 1973, the Irish government lost import duties as a source of income from its main trading partners. Three years later, in 1976, the EEC extended its fishing waters from 12 miles to 200 miles under the Common Fisheries Policy  when it was agreed that fishermen from any state should have access to all waters. Thus, while Ireland owns 23% of the fishing waters  in Europe, it is only allowed 3% of the European fish trade quota. 
Since joining the EEC there has been ongoing change in Irish farming  but “with fewer and larger farms, less employment, more specialisation and concentration of production and growth in part-time farming” yet “agricultural output remains at about the level of 20 years ago”. As a source of employment farming has been in decline for a long time, about 24 per cent in the period from 1980 to 1991 and a further 17 per cent between 1991 and 2000. Recent demonstrations by farming families in Dublin have shown the negative effect of government cutbacks, increased costs and taxes. According to a recent Irish Times  article, “the protest was called to highlight concerns about planned reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy and the upcoming budget. It also highlighted the margins being taken by supermarket chains at the expense of farmers. Placard messages included ‘No Cap cuts; no farm cuts; no extra costs; regulate the retailers.’”
More short-sighted policies can be seen in reports  that the State is “also considering selling off some assets of the forestry body Coillte (The Irish Forestry Board)” to private investors. Coillte  was established under the Forestry Act 1988, and the company is a private limited company registered under and subject to the Companies Acts 1963-86. All of the shares in the company are held by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Minister for Finance on behalf of the Irish State. Profits have increased from a loss of €438K (1989) to profits of €4.2 million (2009). Moreover, the company  employs approx 1,100 people and owns over 445,000 hectares of land, about 7% of the land cover of Ireland.
More state assets
In the same article,  plans to sell off other state assets such as parts of Bord Gáis (Gas Board) and ESB (Electricity Supply Board) and “its 25 per cent shareholding in Aer Lingus” were also being considered.
According to Sinn Féin’s deputy leader and spokesperson for public expenditure and reform, Mary Lou McDonald,  “Both the ESB and Bord Gáis are wealth generating self-financing companies that have invested heavily in first world energy infrastructure across the island and created thousands of good jobs benefiting hundreds of thousands of families over the decades”. She added, ““Fine Gael and Labour’s decision to treat the profitable elements of these companies as a cash cow for bank debt reduction makes no economic sense and reflects the kind of short term policy and political decision making that got us into this economic mess in the first place.”
The extent to which the Irish Government has bent over backwards to attract foreign investment in mining – and in the process delimit its share of potential income – can be seen in an extract from a Government Report  titled ‘Land of Mineral Opportunities’,  published in May 2006. “Tax incentives relevant to exploration and mining in Ireland include:
*No State Shareholding in the Project and No Royalties are Payable to the State.
*Immediate write-off of development and exploration expenditure
*Corporation Tax of 25 percent (reducing to 12.5% for downstream manufacturing)
*Capital Allowance of up to 120 percent
*Expenditure on rehabilitation of mine sites after closure is tax-deductible
*There are no restrictions on foreign investment in Ireland,
*There are no restrictions with capital repatriation from the State.”
Oil and Natural Gas
Over the past 15 years gas and oil  have been discovered under Irish waters in the Atlantic  Ocean. However, the government’s “Minister Ray Burke (later jailed for corruption) changed the law in 1987, reducing the State’s share in our offshore oil and gas from 50% to zero and abolishing royalties. In 1992, Minister Bertie Ahern reduced the tax rate for the profits made from the sale of these resources from 50% to 25%.” In May of this year , an article  by economist Colm Rapple stated that a committee that included 12 TDs [MPs] and senators from Government parties and nine from the opposition thought that “the terms at which we give away rights to potential offshore oil and gas reserves are far too generous. […] They want far tougher terms applied to all new licences.”
So how will the government square this dismal history of giveaways with the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising in 2016, an attempted revolution which was initiated with a proclamation  read out in the centre of Dublin declaring “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people.”
This declaration was followed up in 1922 with The Constitution  of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) Act, 1922 which stated in Article 11 that “All the lands and waters, mines and minerals, within the territory of the Irish Free State hitherto vested in the State, or any department thereof, or held for the public use or benefit, and also all the natural resources of the same territory (including the air and all forms of potential energy), and also all royalties and franchises within that territory shall, from and after the date of the coming into operation of this constitution, belong to the Irish Free State”.
There seems to be no limit to the government’s sticky fingers. The National Pensions Reserve Fund  has seen its total value reduce from €24.4 billion in 2010  to € 15.1 billion in 2012 with €20.7 billion of the fund  spent on preference shares and ordinary shares in Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland since 2009. As the government props up the banks and pays off unsecured bondholders, it is likely that the forthcoming significant national commemorations will refocus the Irish people on past conceptions of national democracy. Chicken, anybody?
Former Irish presidential candidate, David Norris, has claimed that revolutionary leader Michael Collins may have been a homosexual.
Norris, an Irish Senator and gay rights activist made the claims in his newly published autobiography.
Norris writes in his new book ‘A Kick Against the Pricks’ about an incident where he claims he chatted to an elderly man who said he had been “one of Mr Collins’ principal boyfriends.”
“Other heroes of Irish nationalism were also less than 100 per cent heterosexual.
“If Michael Collins was gay or bisexual – so what? Who cares? It shouldn’t matter as it is just a neutral fact,” he wrote.
“It certainly isn’t a slur, and the vast majority of the Irish people no longer regard it as such.”
Meanwhile, a Sinn Fein spokesman dismissed the claim as speculation.
“Speculating on what was some historical person’s sexuality is the stuff of the tabloid media,” a spokesman said.