In the wake of the Easter Rising of 1916, nationalist fervor in Ireland intensified. Attempts to negotiate a form of home rule foundered on the question of the exclusion of six counties in the northern province of Ulster from the newly proposed government.
In the general election of 1918, Sinn Fein, the most aggressive of the Irish parties, won a significant victory, but instead of joining the English Parliament to which they had been elected, they set up their own parliament, the Dail Eireann, in Dublin. Meanwhile Michael Collins, a veteran of the Easter Rising and member of the Dail, organized and led a guerrilla army, to be known from 1919 on as the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Collins's guerrillas targeted members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the government's police force. The IRA conducted many successful forays, attacking police barracks and outposts throughout the country. In response the English government dispatched soldiers and a new group, the Black and Tans (so-called because of the colors of their uniforms), to engage in counter-guerrilla actions. The brutality of the Black and Tans proved to be a public relations embarrassment for the British government, at the time presiding over the dissolution of the Russian, Austrian, and Ottoman Empires, while still exerting traditional imperial repression on their doorstep.
On July 9, 1921, the English government called for a truce, offering Ireland dominion status comparable to that of Canada. The Irish rejected the offer but agreed to negotiate a treaty. The treaty that resulted called for a partition in which the six Ulster counties would retain a separate identity as the Province of Northern Ireland. The treaty created a heated controversy in the Dail, finally passing by a narrow vote, but setting the stage for the Irish Civil War.
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