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The words "allegiance to the Constitution of the Irish Free State" were taken from DeValera's preferred version, which read: "I (name) do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State, to the Treaty of Association, and to recognize the King of Great Britain as Head of Associated States."[2]

Reaction[edit]

The Oath had to be taken in front of the Governor-General of the Irish Free State or some other person authorised by him.

The Oath was widely condemned by the anti-treaty campaigners as involving Irish politicians taking an Oath of Allegiance to the British King. They claimed:

In contrast to this Pro-treaty campaigners claimed that:

As the Oath was effectively to the elected government in the Irish Free State, it was also described as the "Crown in Ireland". Opposition to this was based on the fact that it was not fully discussed and explained before the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in December 1921, and that many of the members of the second Dáil Éireann, elected without opposition in May 1921, had already sworn an Oath to uphold an Irish Republic.

While the Republican Oath was much mentioned in the Treaty debates of 1921–22, it had taken over a year to arrange to have the oath sworn by the Dáil TDs and IRA volunteers, between May 1919 and August 1920. It then became a suitably symbolic reason to oppose the Treaty.

Background[edit]

Ironically, in view of the opposition expressed to the Oath by anti-treatyites, it was in fact largely the work of Michael Collins, based in its open lines on a draft oath suggested by the President of the Republic, Éamon de Valera, and also on the oath of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In fact, Collins cleared the Oath with the IRB before proposing it during the Treaty negotiations.[4] By the standards of the oaths of allegiance to be found in other British Commonwealth dominions, it was quite mild, with no direct personal Oath to the monarch, only an indirect oath of fidelity by virtue of the King's role in the Treaty settlement as "King in Ireland", a figurehead position. The public perception among those who were hostile to the Treaty was that it was an offensive Oath to the British monarch.[5]

De Valera and abolition[edit]

When de Valera founded Fianna Fáil as the party of an "Irish Republic" in 1926, he and his party, though agreeing to contest elections, refused to take the Oath. However the assassination of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, Kevin O'Higgins, led the Cumann na nGaedheal government under W. T. Cosgrave to introduce a law requiring all Dáil candidates to promise that they would take the Oath. Otherwise they could not contest the election. Backed into a corner, de Valera took the Oath, declaring that he was simply signing a piece of paper to be admitted to the Dáil. In power from 1932, de Valera amended the Free State's constitution [at the time, amendable by simple majority in the Dáil], firstly to allow him to introduce any constitutional amendments irrespective of whether they clashed with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, then amended the constitution to remove Article 17 of the constitution which required the taking of the Oath.[1] It was the political descendants of Michael Collins, the pro-treaty Fine Gael party (leading a multi-party coalition that included an anti-treaty party, Clann na Poblachta), not de Valera of the anti-treaty Fianna Fáil party – who finally declared the state to be a republic in 1948.[6]

Historical oaths of allegiance[edit]

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