Irish Provisional Government

From Academic Kids

This article is about the 1922 administration. The term may also refer to the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.

The Provisional Government was, in British law, the transitional government of Southern Ireland in 1922 from the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty to the creation of the Irish Free State. It is referred to inconsistently both as the Provisional Government of Ireland and, because its jurisdiction did not extend to Northern Ireland, the Provisional Government of Southern Ireland.



Under the Irish Republic's Dáil Constitution adopted in 1919, Dáil Éireann continued to exist after the Treaty. De Valera resigned the presidency and sought re-election (in an effort to destroy the Treaty just approved by the Dáil), but Arthur Griffith defeated him in the vote and assumed the presidency. (Griffith called himself President of Dáil Éireann rather than de Valera's more exalted President of the Republic.)

However that government or Áireacht had no legal status in British constitutional law, so another co-existent government emerged, in theory answerable to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. Michael Collins became Chairman of the Provisional Government (i.e. prime minister). He also remained Minister for Finance of Griffith's republican administration. An example of the complexities involved can be seen even in the manner of his installation. In theory he was a Crown-appointed prime minister, installed under the Royal Prerogative. To be so installed, he had to formally meet the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount Fitzalan of Derwent (the head of the British administration in Ireland). According to republican history, Collins met Fitzalan to accept the surrender of Dublin Castle, the seat of British government in Ireland. According to British constitutional theory, he met Fitzalan to 'kiss hands' (the formal name for the installation of a minister of the Crown), the fact of their meeting rather than the signing of any documents, duly installing him in office.

Anti-treatyites, having opposed the Treaty in the Dáil, withdrew from the assembly and, having formed an opposition 'republican government' under Eamon de Valera, began a campaign that led to the Irish Civil War. By mid-1922, Collins in effect laid down his responsibilities as President of the Provisional Government to become Commander-in-Chief of the National Army, a formal structured uniformed army that formed from the remnants of the Old IRA. As part of those duties, he travelled to his native Cork. En route home through County Cork on August 22 1922, at Beal na mBlath (an Irish language term that means 'the Mouth of Flowers'), he was killed in an ambush, probably by a ricocheting bullet. He was not yet 32 years old.

After Collins's and Griffith's deaths in August 1922, W.T. Cosgrave became both Chairman of the Provisional Government and President of Dáil Éireann, and the distinction between the two became increasingly confused and irrelevant. In December 1922, both Southern Ireland and the Irish Republic were replaced by the Irish Free State, with executive authority nominally vested in the King, but exercised by a cabinet called the Executive Council, presided over by a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.

List of ministers

First cabinet (16 Jan.–30 Aug.)

Portfolio Minister
Chairman Michael Collins
Minister for Finance

Michael Collins (16 Jan–17 July)
W.T. Cosgrave (17 July–30 Aug, acting)
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Arthur Griffith (26 July–21 Aug.)
Michael Hayes (21–30 Aug.)
Minister for Home Affairs Eamonn Duggan
Minister for Local Government W.T. Cosgrave
Minister for Economic Affairs Kevin O'Higgins
Minister for Education Finian Lynch
Minister for Agriculture Patrick Hogan
Minister for Labour Joseph McGrath
Postmaster-General James J. Walsh

Second cabinet (30 Aug.–6 Dec.)

and Minister for Finance
W.T. Cosgrave
Minister for External Affairs Desmond FitzGerald
Minister for Home Affairs Kevin O'Higgins
Minister for Industry and Commerce Joseph McGrath
Minister for Defence Richard Mulcahy
Minister for Education Eoin MacNeill
Minister for Agriculture Patrick Hogan
Minister for Local Government Ernest Blythe
Postmaster-General James J. Walsh
Minister without portfolio Finian Lynch
Minister without portfolio Edmund Duggan

See also


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