“Terrible Finality”: Treaty, Constitution, and Boundary Commission, 1921–1925
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Many scholars assert that, as Sinn Féin and Lloyd George’s Cabinet began to negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921), the terms were already set: partition was accomplished by Northern Ireland’s establishment, and the British would not countenance any constitutional arrangement but a truncated dominion status. Rast asserts that British officials considered alternatives to both facets. Sinn Féin argued for bringing Northern Ireland into an island-wide parliamentary framework. De Valera’s constitutional formula of external association provoked interest, but Sinn Féin negotiators adhered to British terms hoping to secure Irish unity. The Irish nationalist press and public were hesitant toward an early draft and accepted the final agreement based on misconceptions concerning its operation. Through 1925, Free State officials feared a popular backlash against the Treaty.