State ceremony marks British handover of power to first Irish government 100 years ago

Troops from the Defence Forces form a Guard of Honour in Dublin Castle
Troops from the Defence Forces form a Guard of Honour in Dublin Castle

THE Republic yesterday marked 100 years since the handover of Dublin Castle by British forces to the incoming Irish Provisional Government in a deeply symbolic event.

The ceremony was held at the same time as events of 1922, which historian Dr Éamon Phoenix said were viewed that day as the "fall of the Irish Bastille" - given British rule in Ireland had centred on the castle since the 13th century.

Dr Phoenix is a member of the taoiseach's Expert Advisory Group on Centenaries.

"Dublin Castle was the nerve centre of British rule for centuries. When you came to 1916 and the War of Independence it again was the centre for British spying and espionage," he said.

"Cited in the ceremony was the fact the Michael Collins had joked when he took over the castle 100 years ago today that his last visit there had been incognito as a pauper on a coal cart - that he had arrived in with a British security price on his head."

The transfer of power followed the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921, which was carried by just seven votes in the Dáil the previous week.

However, the actual handover to the first Irish government was a low-key, hurried affair that was the culmination of years of war and revolution in Ireland.

It also came following partition and creation of Northern Ireland in 1921.

"Vast crowds surrounded the castle in Dame Street on the day and surged forward. They knew it was going to be a very short ceremony between people who were not friends but who would have to co-operate in the future," Dr Phoenix added.

"Collins arrived in that day with his eight-man cabinet with the burdens of the world on his shoulders - even if he didn't quite feel them at the time - with the split in the Dáil over the treaty, the impending split of the IRA and the problems erupting in the north where violence continued.

"He was given effectively the keys to the castle. The statement Collins released afterwards is very interesting. It was released by the Provisional Government of Ireland and said: "The members of the provisional government received the surrender of Dublin Castle at 1.45pm today. It is now in the hands of the Irish nation."

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, as well as Tanaiste Leo Varadkar, were among those in attendance yesterday.

In an address before the tricolour was hoisted in Dublin Castle, Mr Martin said: "As we honour the achievements of the revolutionary generation, we do so with pride that the state they helped to create is entering its second century of independent, democratic government."