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Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes: The Treaty, 1921- Stories from the Archives, Part 2

Last year, the National Archives’ Commemoration Programme marked significant events of 1921, culminating in the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. A major exhibition, The Treaty, 1921: Records from the Archives, previewed in the British Academy in London on 11 October and opened in Dublin Castle on 6 December. https://www.nationalarchives.ie/2021commemorationprogramme/the-treaty-1921-records-from-the-archives/

The exhibition is on display in Dublin until 27 March after which it will tour to 7 counties across the country between April and June 2022. A comprehensive exhibition catalogue, featuring over 100 document images and 30 photographs relating to the period will be published in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy in March 2022. A high quality educational resource will be distributed to secondary schools nationwide to accompany the exhibition tour. A virtual tour of the Treaty exhibition is accessible here.

In preparing for the exhibition, the National Archives curatorial team reviewed a lot of archival material both from the National Archives and in collections held by other institutions. The team was delighted to partner with National Library of Ireland, the Military Archives and UCD Archives when it came to the final selection of documents. It was, however impossible to include everything. Here,  archivist Rosemary King highlights material from one our lending partners,  Br Allen Collection courtesy of the Military Archives, which demonstrates how even the smallest item of ephemera can enrich our appreciation of events surrounding the delegation in London in 1921.


Hottest ticket in town! 

On the evening of Wednesday 26 October 1921, the Royal Albert Hall was the place to be for the London Irish!  The event was a ‘Reception of Irish delegates’ organised by the Irish Self-Determination League, the Gaelic League of London, the GAA and the Roger Casement Sinn Féin Club.

The Irish Self Determination League of Great Britain [ISDL] was established in March 1919 ‘to band together the Irish residents in Great Britain in order that they shall as a body support their compatriots in Ireland, and use every means in their power to secure the application of the principle of self-determination for Ireland.’  

A letter from Art O’Brien, Vice President of the ISDL responds to a request for a ticket to the event, but also extends the offer if more are required. It was reported that 5,000 people attended the evening. 

A souvenir programme was produced for the event and it details an evening of speeches, traditional Irish dancing from school children, music and songs.  Gathering the autographs of the delegates and others in attendance, appears to have been the ultimate keep-sake of the evening. One signed souvenir programme proved to be very useful on the afternoon of 6 December when in his absence delegate Éamon Duggan’s signature was cut out and pasted to the British copy of the Agreement.  

These documents highlight the importance of the Irish diaspora in London and the role Art O’Brien (Vice President of ISDL; appointed London envoy of first Dáil Éireann in early 1919) played behind the scenes during the negotiations.

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