In the 1930s, governments in Dublin and London clashed frequently over one state’s role in an international community of nations, argued over questions of sovereignty, the border with Northern Ireland, and the constitutional relationship of both islands. While such issues may now seem frustratingly familiar, the 1930s did actually see a tariff war break out over annuities dating from Irish land legislation which pre-dated Irish independence. The contentions of the period and the debates in parliaments in Dublin and Westminster therefore had their roots in a time when Irish politicians went to parliament in London to make their case for self-government. While the Irish party of that era – the Irish Parliamentary Party – never quite saw their dream of ‘home rule’ realised in quite the way they intended, their major achievement was the extraction of a number of significant land reforms from British governments which transformed the Irish economy and society. It was this legacy along with Ireland’s winding road to self-government which informed the debates and the rancour of Anglo-Irish relations in the 1930s. This paper thus interrogates invocations of the Irish Parliamentary Party in both Dublin and Westminster at the time to analyse the Irish Free State’s relationship with Britain and the Commonwealth. In so doing, it examines how members of the British government as well as members on both sides of the aisle in the Dublin parliament invoked the statements of the Irish Parliamentary Party from previous decades to justify their positions on the tariff dispute.
Dr Martin O’Donoghue teaches modern British and Irish history at the University of Sheffield. His research examines the dynamics of political activism in modern Ireland, the development of party politics, Irish-British relations, Ireland and the Commonwealth, and the Irish revolution. His book, The Legacy of the Irish Parliamentary Party in Independent Ireland, 1922-1949 (Liverpool University Press), won the 2021 NUI Publication Prize in Irish History and was highly commended for the British Association of Irish Studies Book Prize. He was awarded his PhD in 2017 from the National University of Ireland Galway where he was an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Scholar. He has subsequently taught history at the University of Limerick and Northumbria University and been a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory in Frankfurt.
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