Courtesy Reuters

Eire and the British Commonwealth

AFTER sixteen years of troubled life, the Irish Free State executed its own death warrant on December 29, 1937. Its successor, though it includes but twenty-six of the thirty-two Irish counties, is officially entitled "Eire, or in the English language, Ireland." According to Article 2 of the new constitution, "the national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas." Article 3 brings us back to earth by affirming that "pending the re-integration of the national territory" the laws of the Parliament of Eire shall extend only as far as did those of the Irish Free State. This casuistry epitomizes the Irish problem of today; for the leaders of the twenty-six counties, while perforce accepting the present reality of the partition of Ireland, will sacrifice none of their permanent ideal of a unified country. Moreover, to minds like Mr. de Valera's the unaccomplished ideal is far more important than the existing reality. Such facts as these largely explain the inability of Great Britain and Ireland hitherto to reach a lasting settlement; for the British temperament, by contrast, is always ready to accept a practical compromise, to forget the past and to let the future take care of itself.

The original proposal was to call the state simply "Eire." The Dail and the Irish public, however, reminded the Government that their national heroes had fought and died, not for Eire, but for Ireland, and that Ireland, not Eire, claimed the love of the scattered Irish people. This was a shrewd blow for political realism. The ideal of a "united Ireland" makes an appeal, not only to Irishmen wherever they may be, but even to Englishmen who would merely scoff at the notion of a "complete Eire." The political commentator, however, is threatened with perpetual confusion between the political Ireland of twenty-six counties and the physical Ireland of thirty-two. In this article, therefore, the name "Irish Free State" is generally used to denote the twenty-six-county state, whether before or after its change

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