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The Second Dáil was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 16th August, 1921 until 8th June, 1922. From 1919-1922 Dáil Éireann was the revolutionary parliament of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic. The Second Dáil consisted of members elected in 1921. One of its most important acts was to bring an end to the War of Independence by ratifying the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty.

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Elections of 1921

In 1920, in the middle of the Anglo-Irish War, the British Government passed the Government of Ireland Act. This was intended to find a solution to the "Irish problem" by partitioning Ireland into two parts, each of which would have a separate home rule parliament. In 1921 the first elections were held to these new bodies. One general election occurred to the House of Commons of Northern Ireland, and another to the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. In both jurisdictions the electoral system used was the single transferable vote.

Sinn Féin nationalists participated in these elections but refused to recognise the new home rule parliaments. Instead the party treated the elections in both parts of Ireland as elections to the Second Dáil. Thus the Second Dáil theoretically consisted of members elected in both parts of Ireland.

The general election to the Northern Ireland House of Commons occurred on 24th May. Of 52 seats, forty were won by Unionists, six by moderate nationalists and six by Sinn Féin. No actual polling took place in Southern Ireland as all 128 candidates were returned unopposed. Of these, 124 were won by Sinn Féin and four by independent Unionists representing the University of Dublin (Trinity College). Only Sinn Féin candidates recognised the Dáil and five of these had been elected in two constituencies, one in each part of Ireland, so the total number of members who assembled in the Second Dáil was 125 1.

The Treaty

During the Second Dáil the Irish Republic and the British Government of Lloyd George agreed to hold peace negotiations. As President of Dáil Éireann Eamon de Valera was the highest official in the Republic at this time but was notionally only the head of government. In August 1921, in order to strengthen his side's hand the in negotiations, he had the Second Dáil amend the Republic's brief Dáil Constitution to grant him the title President of the Republic. The purpose of this change was to impress upon the British the Republican belief that the negotiations were between two sovereign states with delegates accredited by their respective heads of state: the British king and the Irish president.

On 14th September, 1921 the Dáil ratified the appointment of Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins, R.C. Barton, E.J. Duggan and George Gavan Duffy as envoys plenipotentiary for the peace conference in England. Of the five only Collins, Griffith and Barton were members of the cabinet. These envoys eventually signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6th December. After almost a month of acrimonious debate the treaty was formally ratified by Dáil Éireann on 7th January, 1922. The vote went 64 in favour to 57 against. In the vote the deputies who represented more than one constituency were each only permitted to vote once.

To satisfy the requirements of the British constitution, the treaty also had to be ratified by the House of Commons of Southern Ireland. Thus Irish nationalists ended their boycott of the home rule parliament to attend the southern House of Commons as MPs. This they did alongside the four Unionist MPs who had refused to recognise the Dáil. In this way the treaty was ratified a second time.

Under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty a provisional parliament, considered by nationalists to be the Third Dáil, was elected on the 16th June. This parliament was recognised both by nationalists and the British Government and so replaced both the Parliament of Southern Ireland and the Second Dáil with a single body.

Footnote

1. The five TDs (MPs) elected for two constituencies were Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Arthur Griffith, Sean Milroy and Eoin MacNeill.

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