This is a Timeline that illustrates some of the Background to the notable events of 1921, rather than being a comprehensive record of all events of note.
“Think of the "Ulster Infant" (Government) as you do of that lovely little son of yours and take the same care of it as you have done of your boy since his birth.
There are nearly one million Ulster men and women looking to you to give them the lesson in self Government at the start. You can do it as no one else can. If you do Ulster Parliament's success is assured.’”
An RIC Patrol in Ballybay Co Monaghan is ambushed killing one officer.
Two RIC men are shot dead by the IRA in a Belfast Hotel.
Two British Army troop trains were ambushed in Co Donegal.
Troops manning a checkpoint in Dublin open fire on a crowd of Civilians killing two.
AN RIC Officer in Armagh is killed in a grenade attack.
On 17 January, two prisoners at Ballykinlar internment camp, Patrick Sloane and Joseph Tormey, were shot dead by a camp guard after failing to disperse when ordered.
Three RIC Officers are killed near Starnoodan Barracks Co Monaghan
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam issues a letter decrying participants in ambushes as having “broken the truce of God”
Belfast Charitable Society, based at Clifton House Belfast, makes a Formal Appeal for Funds.
Captain Con Murphy from near Millstreet, County Cork is executed by British authorities, the first man to be executed in front of a firing squad since the 1916 Rising.
The Irish White Cross is established to distribute funds raised by the American Committee for Relief in Ireland.
Irish Republican Army sets fire to Summerhill House in County Meath, destroying it.
Sir James Craig is elected Leader of the Ulster Unionists following the resignation of their leader Sir Edward Carson on 4th February
At a meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council, in Belfast, Carson makes "some observations of the future”:
‘You must remember that if you are in the majority, that fact carries with it
heavy responsibilities. If you get a majority at the election you will be a
Parliament for the whole community in Northern Ireland. We used to say that
we could not trust an Irish Home Rule Parliament in Dublin to do justice to
the Protestant minority. Let us take care that that criticism cannot be made
against your Parliament. From the start, let the Catholic minority see that they
have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority here’.
In Brighton, England, the widow of Charles Stewart Parnell, Katherine Parnell, dies aged 76.
There was a meeting in Dublin of the Irish Dominion League, an organisation founded in 1919 in opposition to Partition. A number of resolutions were made against working with the Southern Parliament, under protest, or otherwise. Another resolution asserts that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was not merely unacceptable, but actually constituted a grave invasion of national rights, as remained to Ireland under the Treaty of Union 1800.
Winston Churchill was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies, a post he will hold until October 1922.
Most of his work during this time was devoted to negotiating what would later become the Anglo Irish Treaty.
On 15 February 1921 King George V addressed the House of Lords and House of Commons in Westminster as part of the state opening of Parliament. In a wide-ranging speech which covered peace in Europe, trade with Russia, and church union in Scotland, George V assessed the soon to be enforced Government of Ireland Act, and the potential for Irish unity through peaceful means.
An extract from the King’s Speech to the House of Commons:
“The situation in Ireland still causes me distress.
A misguided section of the Irish people persist in resorting to methods of
criminal violence with the object of establishing an independent Republic.
Neither Irish unity nor Irish self-government can be attained by this means.
The arrangements for bringing into force the Government of Ireland Act are
now well advanced, and I earnestly trust that in the near future the majority
of the people will show their determination to repudiate violence and to work
an Act which confers upon them the responsibilities of self-government and
provides the machinery whereby they can attain to Irish unity by
On 16 February 1921 the Liberal MP and Chief Secretary of Ireland, Hamar Greenwood, answered questions in the House of Commons concerning recent alleged controversies that had engulfed both the British Army and the Ulster Special Constabulary in Ballykinlar and Newry respectively.
Rioting in Belfast: Revolvers and Iron Bolts Used in a Night Street Fight
A riot, which lasted for over an hour, broke out in Corporation street, Belfast.
The outbreak developed into a serious riot, and revolvers were used indiscriminately on each side.
In August 1920 Dáil Éireann called for a boycott of goods from Belfast, in response to recent expulsions of Catholic workers from the city’s shipyards. Many of its members hoped that by boycotting goods in this way they might be able to reverse the partition of Ireland.
By 1921 the boycott had extended to goods and business across the six counties. Trains travelling to and from the north were frequently held up and raided by the IRA.
On 19th February there was an attack an early train from Belfast to Cavan. About 100 armed men held up the driver and other officials, and made a search for the Mail which it carried for Cavan. These they took away. They then seized on all goods, including meal & flour, booked from Belfast to be delivered to different traders, and pitched them out of the train into a river, which runs near the spot.
In reprisal for the shooting of a USC Officer ten nationalist owned homes and a priest’s house are burned in Roslea Co Fermanagh by members of the USC and UVF.
In the House of Commons Sir H. GREENWOOD the Chief Secretary for Ireland makes a speech regarding the upcoming elections in Ireland:
“There will be elections in Ireland within two months from now. The Northern Parliament will be elected and will be opened in June, and it is hoped that all the Prime Ministers of the Dominions will be able to welcome in Ulster a new and vigorous partner into the Commonwealth.
I certainly hope that the same procedure will take place in Dublin in reference to the Southern Parliament.
At any rate the electors of the Southern Parliament will have an opportunity to decide for themselves. That vital and overshadowing fact in Irish history, the terror of the Sinn Féin gunmen, will be the only bar to the election of a really representative Parliament for Southern Ireland.
I shall do my best to see that these Sinn Féin gunmen have not the power to terrorise.
I submit that the future government of Ireland is now in the hands of the Irish people. The Act provides for the political unity of Ireland.
No one outside Ireland can prevent that unity. Any Amendments of the Act must come from Ireland.
If the representatives of the two Parliaments ask for anything from this House, subject to Imperial and strategical unity and goodwill, I am sure the request would not be refused.
For years past and now Sinn Féin extremists and their Soviet colleagues in Ireland—there is Sovietism in a marked degree in Ireland—have conspired to smash the Empire. A policy of calculated and brutal arson and murder, with all its ghastly consequences, remains uncondemned by Mr. De Valera and the Sinn Féin leaders.
The authors of that policy hope to terrorise into submission the British people and the British Government. It is the policy of the assassin that we are fighting, and it is watched by sinister eyes in Great Britain, in Egypt, in India and throughout the world.
Its success would mean the break-up of the Empire and our civilisation. I submit that there are only two alternatives. The one is to surrender to the assassin and the other is to fight. I am for fighting the assassin.”
The winter of 1920–21 witnessed some of the bloodiest events of the War of Independence. In response to IRA attacks, Crown forces enacted violent reprisals, often involving attacks on civilians. Such reprisals were extremely controversial, and condemned not only in Ireland but in Britain.
Right Rev. Dr. Gore, was one of the first Church of England prelates to take up the subject of ‘reprisals’ in Ireland
Bishop Gore said the Government was engaged in the perpetration of crime in Ireland against justice and the foundation of civil liberty and order.
‘This accursed policy of reprisals’, he declared: must not be allowed to go on any longer.
The Government must be made to understand that England still, in some senses, stands for liberty and justice.
No sane man can fail to see that our treatment of Ireland through the centuries has been characterised by oppression, injustice, and a profound lack of sympathy.
The Clonbanin Ambush: Irish Republican Army kills Brigadier General Cumming.
Dail Eireann debated, resolved and finally declared war on the British administration
Three RIC men were attacked and killed near Victoria Square in Belfast.
The Crossbarry Ambush: British troops encircle an outnumbered column of Irish Republican Army volunteers in County Cork, with at least ten British and three IRA deaths.
The Headford Ambush: Irish Republican Army kills at least nine British troops.
The Homes of at least 16 USC Officers are attacked in the Roslea district of Fermanagh leading to three deaths.
The Press reports that 28 people were killed and 33 wounded in various ambushes the previous day.
In Derry/Londonderry the RIC Barracks is attacked resulting in the deaths of two RIC officers.
With the impending creation of the first Parliament of Northern Ireland but with however no building staff or procedure under which to operate it - it was agreed on 6th April to use Belfast City Hall for it’s initial meetings and then the Union Theological College also in Belfast as temporary homes until a permanent base for the Parliament could be constructed.
An ambush in Creggan Co Armagh leaves a USC officer dead. A number of nationalist homes in Killylea are burned by USC officers in reprisal.
In central Belfast two Black and Tans are killed by the IRA. Two Catholic civilians are killed by loyalist gunmen in reprisal.
Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the first Roman Catholic granted the office since 1685.
Pope Benedict XV issues a letter that encourages the “English as well as Irish to calm consider…some form of agreement”
Sir James Craig writes to the Clerk of Assembly at Union Theological College, situated close to Queens University, Belfast, asking whether, and on what terms, the College Buildings might be made available for use on a temporary basis by the new Northern Ireland Parliament.
It is set out that it is intended that it would be for around 3 years or so whilst a new Parliament building is built to house the Parliament.
The province of Northern Ireland is created within the United Kingdom under terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920.
The Irish border becomes a reality separating a Home Rule Northern Ireland from the rest of the island which was still run directly from Westminster
The new Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent declares that 24th May will be election day both north and south of the border with 7th June set as the date for the first meeting of Parliament.
Irish elections, under terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920: At close of nomination for elections to the new Parliament of Southern Ireland, all 128 candidates are returned unopposed and deemed elected. All 124 Sinn Féin candidates regard themselves as elected to the Second Dáil.
Irish elections, under terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920: In the Northern Ireland general election for the new Parliament of Northern Ireland (held by single transferable vote), it is apparent by 29 May that the Unionists have a substantial majority (40 out of 52 seats).
A special Service of Intercession is held in St Anne’s Cathedral in advance of the first meeting of the Northern Ireland Parliament on 7th of June
The British Government calls off the policy of House burnings as official reprisals for killings.
The forty Elected Unionist Members of Parliament gather in Belfast City Hall.
With James Craig’s party having won the Election the Lord Lieutenant asks James Craig to form the first Government of Northern Ireland. He appoints James Craig as the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. The Lord Lieutenant also establishes the seven new local Government Departments, and appoints Members to head each Department.
The twelve Nationalist and Sinn Fein MPs won six seats each, in the Election, but refuse to attend the meeting.
The Lord Lieutenant opened nominations for the Election of 24 Senators, to sit in the Senate of the Northern Parliament. These were to be made by 11th June. The Ulster Unionist Party Whip submitted 18 names, and, in the absence of any nominations from the Nationalist parties, a further six. The Speaker declared all 24 returned for the Senate.
The Lord Lieutenant reads a telegram from the King announcing that he would be in attendance, formally, to open the Northern Parliament, on 22nd June 1921
Three RIC men attacked in the Falls Road in Belfast . Over the next two days a total of 9 Catholics and 3 Protestants are murdered.
The Northern Ireland Cabinet meets for the first time. It selects Northern Irelands 20 representatives on the Council of Ireland, 13 from the Commons and 7 from the Senate.
Sir James Craig meets with representatives of the Union Theological College at his house at Cabin Hill to discuss the Parliaments renting of the Theological college in depth.
James Craig sends a Wire to The Queen asking if she will attend the Opening of Parliament with The King.
Queen Mary confirms to James Craig that she will attend for the Opening of Parliament on the 22nd with the King
British Major-General Lambert dies at Athlone of a gunshot wound sustained in an IRA ambush
The Senate of Northern Ireland meets for the first time.
James Craig hosts a Government Dinner on the eve of the Opening of Parliament.
Arrival of the Royal Party open the Royal yacht at Belfast Docks. They process through Belfast to City Hall for the Opening of Parliament.
The new Parliament of Northern Ireland meets at Belfast City Hall and is opened by George V of the United Kingdom, making a speech (drafted by Jan Smuts) calling for reconciliation in Ireland.
A Further event is held in The Ulster Hall attended by the Royal Party and dignitaries.
The Royal Party leave Belfast on the Royal Yacht.
The First meeting of the Northern Ireland Parliament is held.
The Senate met and the Lord Lieutenant read out the King’s Speech from the previous day.
The Commons followed Westminster precedent by asserting their right to deal with matters other than those referred to in the Kings Speech. Members debated an address and having elected representatives to serve on the Council of Ireland adjourned the session until 20th September
Adavoyle is located in Co Armagh. The Attack that occurred, here, on this date, was on a Train carrying the King’s Escort, who had taken part in the Opening of Parliament, just two days earlier.
The Train was taking the Soldiers back to Dublin, on their way to board a Boat in Dublin, to return to Barracks, in England.
The attack on teh Train led to the deaths of 5 soldiers and 40 Horses.
The British Coalition Government’s Cabinet under Lloyd George resolve to hold talks with the leaders of Sinn Fein.
Austen Chamberlain said
“The Kings speech ought to be followed up as a last attempt at peace before
we go to full martial law”
Lloyd George writes to James Craig and Eamon De Valera inviting them to conference with the PM at 10 Downing Street.
The new Parliament of Southern Ireland meets at the Royal College of Science for Ireland in Merrion Street, Dublin and is opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount FitzAlan. In addition to the appointed Senate, only the four Unionist MPs representing the University of Dublin attend the House of Commons. Having elected Gerald Fitzgibbon to be Speaker, the House adjourns until 18th July.
De Valera writes to James Craig asking him to come to Dublin for discussions.
James Craig holds a Cabinet meting and resolves to attend the Downing Street meeting on the invitation of the PM.
James Craig refuses to attend a peace conference in Dublin because the invitation by President Éamon de Valera was addressed to him personally instead of to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
At the Peace Conference in the Mansion House, Dublin, President de Valera accepts an invitation to meet the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Lloyd George, in London.
Jan Christian Smuts the South African Prime Minister, sent by Lloyd George the British Prime Minster, brokers a ceasefire.
In The War of Independence A Truce is signed between British forces and the Irish Republican Army to become effective on 11th July.
“Belfast’s Bloody Sunday”:
Clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast result in 16 deaths (23 over the surrounding four-day period) and the destruction of over 200 (mostly Catholic) homes
There were continued clashes and a further 23 deaths over the following four-day period
In the War of Independence under the terms of the truce (signed on 9 July) which becomes effective at noon, the British Army agrees that there will be no provocative display of forces or incoming troops. The Irish Republican Army agrees that attacks on Crown forces will cease at 12 Noon.
Violence in Northern Ireland and unofficial violence in the South and West continue.
The Office of Works formally requests the rental of the Union Theological College for a Let of 3,4, 5 or 7 years at rental of £5,000 per annum.
De Valera and Lloyd George meet
De Valera and Lloyd George meet for the first time after the Truce came into operation. They meet a total of four times over the course of this week
De Valera and Lloyd George negotiate in meetings in London
The Union Theological College write to The Director of Lands and Accommodation in Whitehall, London turning down an initial Offer made of £5,000 per annum, for rental of the Theological College as the Northern Parliament’s temporary home.
De Valera and Lloyd George negotiate in meetings in London
De Valera and Lloyd George negotiate in meetings in London
The British Government make it’s first offer of Dominion status within the British Empire but only for the 26 Counties.
De Valera informs Lloyd George that the memorandum of British proposals delivered late on 20th July are unacceptable.
A House in Belfast is bombed by loyalists. Over the next two days two Protestants are killed by republican snipers.
18 people were killed in street battles in Belfast in the course of this day and the next - 9 Protestants and 9 Catholics.
De Valera writes to Lloyd George confirming his judgement that British Government’s proposals are unacceptable
At a low key ceremony in Portrush Town Hall Sir Denis Stanislaus Henry is sworn in as the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland - Northern Ireland’s senior Judge.
Following the uncontested election for the Parliament of Southern Ireland, 125 Sinn Féin Teachtaí Dála assemble as the Second Dáil at the Mansion House, Dublin.
Six represent constituencies in Northern Ireland (five of them jointly with constituencies in the South).
The Northern Cabinet agrees that Stormont Castle will be the permanent site of the Northern Houses of Parliament.
De Valera informs Lloyd George that Dáil Éireann has rejected British proposals by a unanimous vote
Following the election of a new Dáil De Valera is unanimously re-elected as ‘President of the Irish Republic’ by the Second Dáil.
David Lloyd George summons a meeting of the Cabinet of the United Kingdom at Inverness to discuss an independent Ireland's relationship with the British Empire.
Dáil Éireann selects five delegates or plenipotentiaries to negotiate agreement with Lloyd George in London, including Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith.
There are further riots in Belfast
Lloyd George states to Eamon De Valera
“From the very outset of our conversations [in June 1921] I told you that we looked to Ireland to own allegiance to the Throne, and to make her future as a member of the British Commonwealth. That was the basis of our proposals, and we cannot alter it.”
On this day the Northern Ireland Parliament votes to approve the choice of Stormont Castle and Demesne as the place where the new purpose built Parliament and Ministerial Buildings would be constructed with an expected three year build schedule.
Winston Churchill speaking in Dundee threatens war if The Dail refuses to accept the British Offer.
There is more rioting in Belfast with two deaths.
Lloyd George reiterates to de Valera that recognition of the Irish Republic was
"a recognition which no British Government can accord",
and he repeated his invitation for talks on
"ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations”
Eamon de Valera accepts an invitation to send delegates to a conference in London ‘with a view to ascertaining how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations’
The new Justice System for Northern Ireland becomes operative.
De Valera signs Letters of Accreditation for his delegates to the Downing Street talks as “President” on behalf of “The Government of the Republic of Ireland”
The Irish delegation leaves for London to discuss the Treaty.
Large crowds greet the Irish delegation from Dail Eireann at Euston Station in London.
Griffith tells the crowd that de Valera will not travel to London.
The Irish Treaty Conference opens in London. Over the next two months there will be a total of seven Plenary sessions, 24 Sub-Conferences and 9 Meetings of Special Committees before Agreement is brokered…
The formal Opening of the Northern Ireland Supreme Court of Judicature, based at Crumlin Road Courthouse, Crumlin Road, Belfast.
On 9 November, the King made two Orders in Council under s69 of the 1920 Act which enabled the transfer of powers.
One Order set 22 November 1921 as the appointed day upon which financial provisions would come into operation.
Law and order and the administration of justice were to be transferred on 22 November, with local government, housing, pensions, road transport and public health following on 1 December. All other Irish services were to be transferred to Northern Ireland on 1 January 1922 (except education, which was scheduled for 1 February 1922).
Sir James Craig wrote to Lloyd George on 11 November 1921 saying that “as a final settlement and supreme sacrifice in the interests of peace the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 was accepted by Northern Ireland, although not asked for by her representatives
Between 21st to 25th November a total of 30 people are killed in violence in Belfast
After Westminster decided to hand over responsibility for local Government to Stormont, Tyrone County Council pledged its allegiance to Dail Eireann.
Eight smaller public bodies follow.
That same day a Bill was introduced in Stormont which allowed it to dissolve any Local Authority.
Speaking about recent Violence James Craig announces in Parliament that 700 A Specials and 5,000 B Specials would be enrolled immediately to respond to the violence.
Around this time the Divisional Commander of the RIC in the North orders his men to regard the ceasefire as non existent.
The Offices of Tyrone County Council are raided by Police and records seized.
The Irish delegation return to Dublin to consult the Cabinet according to their instructions regarding ongoing discussion on the Treaty.
An agreement is reached in the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations in London. The main points include the creation of an Irish Free State within the Commonwealth, an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, and retention by the British naval services of the use of certain ports.
Éamon de Valera accuses the delegation to London of having ignored its instructions.
Arthur Griffith accuses de Valera of knowing at the time that a Republic could not be achieved.
Newspapers around the World report on the Agreement on the Anglo Irish Treaty
IRA Prisoners begin to be released as part of the Terms of the Anglo Irish Treaty.
At a meeting of the Irish Republican Brotherhood Supreme Council there is a split in respect of the Treaty with 11 Council members in support and 4 in opposition.
In Belfast a number of nationalist areas are attacked by loyalist gunmen.
Both the British Parliament and Dail Eireann begin to formally debate the Treaty.
In a debate on The Treaty in the British House of Lords on 14 December 1921, Edward Carson said:
"What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was
Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into
Fermanagh County Council pledges allegiance to Dail Eireann .
After the meeting the RIC took over the Council Chamber
The British House of Commons formally accepts the Articles of Agreement of the Anglo Irish Treaty - 401 in support with 58 opposed.
The House of Lords also votes to accept the Treaty by a large majority - 166 in support and 47 opposed.
Four people are shot dead in Belfast
Six IRA men are captured in an attempted raid at Balmoral military base in Belfast
In his Christmas Day Sermon at St Malachy’s Catholic Church in Belfast
Bishop Joseph MacRory made a speech in favour of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty which had been signed in London less than three weeks earlier.
There is a shoot out in Belfast between an RIC Patrol and an IRA unit leaving one RIC officer and one IRA man dead.