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Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes: The Treaty, 1921- Stories from the Archives, Part 3

Secrets of the British Cabinet: nearly 50 years on

In 1967, documents of the British secret service from the period 1916-1922 were released. The release of these archives by the British government led to renewed media interest in the Treaty and allowed Irish journalists to look again at the signing of the Treaty and the relationships between the major figures during this tumultuous period. In particular, it focused on what the British government, and more specifically David Lloyd George, thought of their Irish counterparts. In 1968, The Irish Press produced a series of articles drawing on these secret documents with titles such as ‘What Lloyd George thought of Eamonn de Valera’ and ‘The Breaking of Irish Unity’.


Why are they important?

These articles show the value of archives in engaging the public interest. Making government records public to all provides an insight into how much any nation building activity is about the personalities and the relationships that framed their political interactions. They also highlight the value of safeguarding documents for future public scrutiny; an activity that can only be done with the hindsight of time. Finally, they demonstrate how significant it is that both sides of opposing governments release their documents so that each presents their stories to the world. The introduction of the 20 year rule for Anglo-Irish records in Ireland for 2022 demonstrates perfectly this interdependence. To only have one side of the Anglo-Irish story would be diminishing for all.


Antoinette Doran, Archivist

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