It was in effect a Fiasco and a humiliation for the Irish Free State and for the hopes of the Irish People. Mr Cosgrave [above], President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, could only hope to salvage something from the wreckage in what was in effect a damage limitation exercise. Cosgrave defended his successful negotiation of the abrogation of the debts due to Britain under Article 5 of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1921 (aka ‘the Treaty’) as a good deal.
That article stated that:
The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set-off or counter-claim, the amount of such sums being determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.
This would have been a heavy burden on the State that had not yet even started to make a contribution to the fund. While the British Government of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was not willing to budge on the Border been adjusted by any significant concession of territory to the Irish Free State it was prepared to concede on these repayments as a sop to the Irish to stave off political instability here.
In the Debate that followed in Leinster House Cosgrave defended his decision to do a deal that abrogated the State’s obligations to Britain’s Public Debt with the following words:
I had only one figure in my mind and that was a huge nought. That was the figure I strove to get, and I got it.
It was a classic case of Realpolitik as the Irish President was between a rock and a hard place and at least walked away from the negotiations with some thing tangible for his efforts - 1 Big 0.
He was also of the opinion that any further pressing of territorial claims on the North could inflame the more reactionary elements of Unionism in a situation in which he would be powerless to intervene. Thus ended the one and only attempt at repartition since the Country was split in two.