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date: 12 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Established in 1922, the Irish Free State faced serious challenges from the outset. Military and political opposition, led by anti-treaty republicans, threatened its survival until the end of the Civil War in 1923. The imperial constraints imposed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty and nationalist resentment at partition and the failure to achieve full independence posed more long-term challenges to Cumann na nGaedheal. Although successful in building on the Treaty settlement to restore law and order, reconstruct the machinery of the state, and assert the new state’s sovereignty abroad, the high degree of continuity between the new state and Ireland under British rule, the conservatism of the government’s policies, and its growing reliance on coercion eroded its support. While overshadowed by Fianna Fáil’s electoral success in the 1930s, W.T. Cosgrave’s government proved successful in establishing the democratic legitimacy of a twenty-six-county state, particularly when compared with the other post-war successor states.

Keywords: Anglo-Irish Treaty, Civil War, Irish Free State, Cumann na nGaedheal, state-building

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