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Free State centenary: The independence day Ireland has chosen to forget

The Free State was born on December 6, 1922, but a people battered by years of violence, a bitter civil war and economic hardship were in no mood to celebrate. Frank Coughlan reflects on the overlooked significance of the date, 100 years on

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Watershed: WT Cosgrave, who spoke to the newborn state as the President of the Executive Council on December 6, 1922

Watershed: WT Cosgrave, who spoke to the newborn state as the President of the Executive Council on December 6, 1922

Rory O’Connor, who was executed on December 8, 1922

Rory O’Connor, who was executed on December 8, 1922

The bombed buildings at the corner of Sackville Street and Eden Quay on the banks of the Liffey in Dublin after the Easter Rising.

The bombed buildings at the corner of Sackville Street and Eden Quay on the banks of the Liffey in Dublin after the Easter Rising.

Sinn Féin leaders at the First Dáil Éireann in 1919.

Sinn Féin leaders at the First Dáil Éireann in 1919.

Michael Collins signs the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6, 1921

Michael Collins signs the Anglo-Irish Treaty on December 6, 1921

Éamon de Valera on the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin after finalising the new Irish constitution in 1937. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Éamon de Valera on the steps of Government Buildings in Dublin after finalising the new Irish constitution in 1937. Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

Crowds on O'Connell Bridge for a 21-gun salute heralding the new republic.

Crowds on O'Connell Bridge for a 21-gun salute heralding the new republic.

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Watershed: WT Cosgrave, who spoke to the newborn state as the President of the Executive Council on December 6, 1922

WT Cosgrave stood up in the Dáil on December 6, 1922, and delivered a speech that the newborn state should have been eager to hear.

The President of the Executive Council was speaking immediately after King George V had signed the Irish Constitution Act into law. The Free State was born after a long and painful labour and Cosgrave, a man not given to demonstrative oratory, made no attempt to hide his pride.


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