The Anglo-irish Century


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In this, the first of four programmes looking back at a century of Anglo-Irish relations, Diarmaid Ferriter begins with the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1921. The names on the treaty document, and indeed the names missing from it, tell a story in themselves. Ireland's Michael Collins signed fearing it was a suicidal gesture, accepting, as it did the New Free States allegiance to the Crown. Churchill felt it was one of his first great political successes, bringing an end to a damaging war. The Irish leader De Valera had operated at arms length from the Irish negotiating team and his opposition to the resulting treaty resulted in the violent turmoil that followed.

But the years leading up to the treaty were themselves some of the most bloody in Irish history. Diarmaid turns back to the failed Easter Rising and the brutal suppression of it, the growing tensions and the electoral disaster of the Irish Parliamentary Party in the 1918 elections. Thereafter there was a slide towards a war of independence that saw brutality on both sides. It reached a grim climax with the events of Bloody Sunday on 21st November 1920 which prompted a parliamentary debate in which the former Prime Minister H. H. Asquith attacked both sides from the back benches.

Diarmaid also explains the importance of the unlikely partnerships forged during the subsequent treaty negotiations, partnerships of mutual understanding if not friendship, between the likes of Michael Collins and Winston Churchill. That they were able to reach a compromise accepted by the majority of the new Irish parliament and the country is significant. But as this first programme in the series underlines, the new Free State had been born out of an armed struggle and the arms were not yet to be turned into ploughshares.

Producer: Tom Alban.

Photo: University College Dublin


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In the second programme in his series looking at the last hundred years of Anglo-Irish history historian Diarmaid Ferriter covers the period following the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1921 which brought into being the Irish Free State and saw then saw it descend, within a year, into a bitter civil war. Although the British were now observers from the sidelines letters from Churchill to Michael Collins reveal that there was an understanding between the two men that had survived the settlement negotiations of the previous year. In the event Collins was the most significant casualty of the war which ended with the anti-treaty forces defeated and their leader Eamon de Valera in the political wilderness.

Under a new leader W.T.Cosgrave the Free State established a degree of stability in its dealings with Britain, although it was a period described by one of his ministerial colleagues, Kevin O'Higgins as "simply eight young men in city hall standing amidst the ruins of one administration with the foundations of another not yet laid and with wild men screaming through the keyholes.."

Diarmaid carries the story through the Irish engagement with the other Dominions in forging new freedoms in the form of the Statue of Westminster of 1931. And then, a year later, de Valera's return and subsequent progress towards complete Irish independence which saw changes in the country's name, the return of Irish ports to Irish control and, with an agreement in 1938, all but the most minimal British involvement. It would allow de Valera to achieve his ambition in the war that threatened Europe, to maintain Irish neutrality.

The results of that stance, Churchill's reaction to it at the end of the war and de Valera's response bring this period of The Anglo-Irish Century to a close.

Producer: Tom Alban.


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Although the ambitions and progress of politicians and diplomats has been vital to the developing story of Anglo-Irish relations over the last century, in his third programme in the series covering the last hundred years, Diarmaid Ferriter turns his focus to the ordinary Irishmen and women who forged often unbreakable links with Britain by the simple expedient of moving there. The scale of Irish immigration, the lives those immigrants lead and the wealth they sent back to the now independent Republic are central to the post war period.

It was also an era that saw a changing of the guard in Ireland as de Valera gave way to the very different leadership of the Taoiseach Sean Lemass. Lemass also changed the language of his Republican colleagues, referring to Northern Ireland for the first time and, in the 1960s forging links with the Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O'Neill.

The impact of that shift, the restlessness of the Catholic population in the north over civil rights and of the Loyalists over what they perceived as a threat to the status quo saw the situation deteriorate rapidly.

Diarmaid debates the impact of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising on all sides in what was to become a violent sectarian conflict.

Roy Hattersley, the man who called the troops in to keep the peace in 1969, Martin McGuinness and Lord Trimble describe the inexorable slide into conflict and the breakdown of trust between Dublin and Westminster which reached a peak with the events of Bloody Sunday and the fallout thereafter as the then Taoiseach Jack Lynch and Prime Minister Edward Heath argued on the phone and the British Embassy in Dublin was set aflame.

Producer: Tom Alban.


04It's Good To Talk2016051320161115 (R4)'In the final programme of Diarmaid Ferriter's four part series looking at the last hundred years of Anglo-Irish History the story moves from the darkest days of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland by way of the Sunningdale agreement, the false dawns of MARGARET THATCHER's era, the Downing Street Declaration and the Good Friday peace process.

Diarmaid speaks to several of those involved in that process including former First Minister of Northern Ireland Lord DAVID TRIMBLE, Northern Ireland's current Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, former Prime Minister Sir JOHN MAJOR and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

They talk about the challenge of establishing trust, the importance of personal relationships between the leaders involved and the sheer weight of history carried by Her Majesty The Queen in visiting Ireland in 2011. And Bertie Ahern reveals exclusively his role in the organisation of that visit.

Producer: Tom Alban.