Irish Independence Day A Holiday In Ireland? (Surprising)

The latest US Census shows that Irish ancestry is common for Americans, second only to those with German ties. With that being said, many like to get back to their roots through food and fun. Other than St. Patrick’s Day, though, most Irish-Americans lack knowledge of Irish history, including holidays. Is Irish Independence Day a holiday in Ireland and should Irish-Americans celebrate it, if so?

Irish Independence Day is not an official celebration for the Republic of Ireland. With a continuing tense relationship with Northern Ireland and a troubled past with Britain, the Easter Uprising in 1916 and subsequent treaty for freedom in 1921 remain somber days of remembrance in Ireland.

As an American with Irish descent, the trip to Ireland my husband and I took back in 2017 is the best one of all our various trips abroad and stateside. It was fun being there, of course, with the pubs and shops of Dublin, but also emotionally overwhelming at times as we retraced Irish history, step after step.

In this article, I’ll share some things I’ve learned about Irish Independence specifically, and then you can decide for yourself if it’s appropriate (or not) to wave the Republic of Ireland Flag on Dec. 6th.

Irish War of Independence- An Overview

The Irish War of Independence, also known as the Anglo-Irish War, was a guerrilla war fought in Ireland between the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the army of the Irish Republic, and British forces. The British Army and the quasi-military Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) also included its paramilitary forces, the Auxiliaries and Ulster Special Constabulary (USC). It took place during the Irish Revolutionary War.

Irish republicans staged the Easter Rising against British authority in April 1916, declaring an Irish Republic. Despite being crushed after a week of battle, the Rising and the British reaction increased public support for Irish independence, ultimately leading to its achievement in 1921.

History between England/Great Britain and Ireland is rife with conflict and tumult, before the Republic of Ireland was established in 1921.

In Ireland’s December 1918 election, Republican Party’s Sinn Féin won the most votes. They created a breakaway government and declared Irish Independence on January 21, 1919. Irish Republican Army volunteers acting on their initiative killed two Royal Irish Constabulary officers that day in the Soloheadbeg ambush.

The dispute grew gradually. During much of 1919, the Irish Republican Army focused on collecting weapons and liberating republican prisoners, while the Dáil worked to establish a state. The British government abolished the Dáil and Sinn Féin in September, escalating the strife. 

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The Irish Republican Army began ambushing Royal Irish Constabulary and British Army patrols, assaulting their barracks and forcing the abandonment of isolated outposts. The British government supplemented the Royal Irish Constabulary with British recruits—the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries—known for ill-discipline and retaliatory assaults on civilians, some of which were condoned by the British government. 

As a result, the fight is sometimes referred to as the Black and Tan War. Civil disobedience was also used during the conflict, most notably the refusal of Irish railwaymen to deliver British soldiers or military supplies.

By the mid-1920s, Republicans had gained control of most county councils, and British authority had crumbled in most of the south and west, compelling the British government to impose emergency powers. 

On Bloody Sunday, November 21, 1920, fourteen British intelligence operatives were slain; later, during a Gaelic football match, the Royal Irish Constabulary opened fire on the crowd, killing fourteen civilians and injuring 65. The Irish Republican Army killed seventeen Auxiliaries a week later in the Kilmichael Ambush in County Cork.

The band U2 is probably the most well-known Irish band in the world, and one of their famed hits is called Sunday Bloody Sunday.

British authorities proclaimed martial law in parts of southern Ireland in December, and in retaliation for an ambush, British soldiers burned down the center of Cork City. As the violence escalated over the following seven months, 1,000 people were slain, and 4,500 Republicans were interned. Much of the fighting took place in Munster, Dublin, and Belfast, which accounted for more than 75% of all war casualties in Ireland.

The fighting in northeast Ulster was sectarian. While the Catholic minority supported Irish independence, the Protestant majority supported the union and Loyalist causes.

A special constabulary comprised primarily of Protestants was organized, and loyalist paramilitaries were active. In retaliation for IRA acts, they assaulted Catholics, and a sectarian fight erupted in Belfast, killing about 500 people, the majority of whom were Catholics.

The Government of Ireland Act, which founded Northern Ireland, partitioned Ireland under British jurisdiction in May 1921.

On July 11, 1921, a cease-fire was declared and the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed on December 6, 1921, as a result of the post-ceasefire discussions.

On December 6, 1922, the Irish Free State was established as a self-governing Dominion after a ten-month transitional period overseen by a provisional administration. So while southern Ireland, commonly referred to as ‘Ireland’, gained its official freedom, Northern Ireland has remained a member of the United Kingdom.

Thus, there also remains strong tensions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to this day.

When we visited the Republic of Ireland in the fall of 2017, we were cautioned to not go on excursions to Belfast and other Northern Ireland territories by Dubliners due to perceived dangers for travelers to areas outside of official Ireland.

Do The Irish Celebrate Independence Day?

Even though it is not formally recognized, the Irish state has an independence day. The date is December 6. This is not a significant occasion for Irish people to party or celebrate, nor is it often acknowledged by historians, however.

Still, it was the date on which the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, culminating in the foundation of the independent Irish State over a century ago.

There are lingering feelings regarding the Irish uprising in 1916 for freedom.

The Treaty was finally signed a year later, on December 6, 1922, with fair laws adopted on both sides of the Irish Sea, and independent Ireland made its international debut.

Despite this, the Treaty was not considered a success, which is why no one wants to remember it. This is because it failed to obtain complete sovereignty for Ireland.

For many the treaty seemed like a betrayal and didn’t have a resounding victor.

Another reason why no one wants to recall the treaty is because its immediate ramifications may still be felt today.

Unlike in most modern Europe, where the political conflict in parliament has historically been between the left and the right, political conflict in Ireland has historically been between two sides. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which owe their origins to the Dáil, split over the Treaty in January 1922 and the ensuing civil war.

The treaty did not also result in a unified Ireland. And this discord is felt even today.

Is Irish Independence Day A Holiday?

Many Irish wonder why they don’t officially celebrate Irish Independence.

Independence Day in Ireland is not a holiday. There are many reasons but the main one is that it’s not officially recognized, making it not a legal holiday for Ireland. And since the Irish do not even legally acknowledge this day, it cannot be declared a public holiday.

Some of the reasons the Irish don’t acknowledge ‘Irish Independence Day’ is that the treaty granting independence seemed like a betrayal to the cause; didn’t satisfy the majority of Irish; didn’t unify the island; and still lacked total sovereignty for the Republic.

Many Irish individuals therefore just opt to forget the day of independence.

One outspoken Irish actor about this is Com Meany. While he’s experienced a long, prosperous career in Hollywood, Com is also a proud Irishman. He spoke about his support for celebrating Irish Independence Day holiday just like Americans celebrate their independence (July 4th). He said, ironically Ireland celebrates other ‘Independence Days’ but they won’t celebrate their own, as he discussed an Irish airport on July 4th being decorated in red, white, and blue for America.

Wrapping Up Irish Independence Holiday

To wrap it up, there is no official Irish Independence Day holiday. So then Ireland doesn’t celebrate its actual independence, not in the way Americans and others typically celebrate their freedom.

There are several reasons for this contradiction, but truthfully they are much more complex than can easily be explained here.

However, the main ones seem to be that the Easter Rising of 1916, subsequent battles between differing groups, and the eventual Treaty of 1921 are not out and out ‘wins’ for any side worthy of celebrating by Irish standards.

The treaty of 1921 while granting Ireland ‘freedom’ in the form of the Republic of Ireland, and creating Norther Ireland as well, did little to fulfill most people’s expectations.

  • Ireland doesn’t have complete sovereignty.
  • Northern Ireland remains bitter towards its southern brothers and sisters, claiming themselves as loyalists.
  • Ireland is a divided island to this day.
  • The bloody battles and lives lost make any celebration seem inappropriate.
  • And ‘Betrayal’ is the common word that pops up from all sides when Ireland’s independence is even discussed.

Thus, it’s not appropriate for Irish-Americans to celebrate Irish Independence Day on December 6th, or any day of the year for that matter, when it’s not considered celebratory in all of Ireland.

It’s my recommendation that you stick to St. Patrick’s day as your nod to your Irish heritage!

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Sources Decade Of Centenaries; Irelands Own; Irish Times

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