The Irish Free State

One of the key issues that Lloyd George’s government faced was that of Ireland.

The anti-British and anti-Monarchical sentiment of the Irish culminated in the Easter Rising of 1916, resulting in quick suppression by the Royal Army, and harsh repression by the Government, including 2000 arrests and the execution of 15 leaders.

These punishments angered the Catholic Irish, who demanded independence and wanted revenge. The rise in republicanism in Ireland and Lloyd George’s failed attempt at extending conscription to Ireland in April 1918 resulted in the old Irish Home Rule Party, which had supported the British involvement in the Great War, being defeated by the republican and social-democratic party Sinn Féin. They subsequently refused to assume their place in British Parliament, instead setting up their own parliament in Dublin, and declaring an Irish Republic.

How did Lloyd George's Government respond to the declaration of an Irish Republic?

The Coalition Government was unable to decide wether to wage war to protect the union, or to keep the peace. The forces he sent committed atrocities, which further angered the Catholics in Ireland and overseas, and the Liberals in Britian. However, the forces were unable to suppress the rebels outside the cities. He sent in 40,000 troops and the “Black and Tans” and the Auxilaries– two new para-military forces. Again, the British were able to maintain control in the cities, but not in the countryside, where the IRA was in control and set up an alternative local government.

One of the reasons why the Irish Republic was able to gain independence was the highly effective organisation of the Irish Republican Army which involved using informers to destroy the system of British intelligence system through the assassination of its leadership.

The crisis was solved when the Government of Ireland Act 1920 split Ireland into Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland in May 1921. However, Ireland faced internal issues, and smaller issues with Britain, over the coming decades, such as disputes over the island’s relationship with the monarchy, a trade war in the 1930s, and British use of Ireland’s naval ports.