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Thursday, 16 January 2014

16 January 1922: Dublin Castle was handed over by the British garrison to Irish soldiers on this day. This came about when the British started transferring power to the Irish Provisional Government set up under the terms of the Treaty. Michael Collins arrived in Dublin Castle to receive the handover of the Castle on behalf of the new regime. He was met by Britain’s’ Lord Lieutenant FitzAlan, who is reported to have said is reported to have said:

"You are seven minutes late Mr. Collins" t

to which he received the reply:

"We've been waiting over seven hundred years, you can have the extra seven minutes".

The Dublin playwright Séan O' Casey, described how FitzAlan handed over Dublin Castle and seemed to be doing it as if in a dream: "here's the key to the throne room, and this one's the key of St. Patrick's Hall, my good man".

The Castle had been laid out circa 1200 AD on instructions from King John of England to act as a secure base which the English could use to conquer Ireland. Through all the centuries of strife, wars and revolts it had never been taken, despite serious attempts to do so in 1534, 1641 and 1916. It had remained the focal point of the Royal Administration down through the years and a physical symbol of the Occupation of Ireland. So the early hand over of this ancient fortress to the supporters of the Free State was a useful coup for Collins and Cosgrave as it showed that the British were serious about leaving the 26 Counties and thus getting out of Dublin forever.