Loose ends? The 1924-5 Irish Boundary Commission and the Protestant border communities
WITH the break-up of empires after the Great War the question of national boundaries bedevilled much of Europe and further afield. Frontiers were rearranged by annexation and plebiscites. The Irish boundary question was part of that general resettling, but different in that it emerged from an internal reordering of the United Kingdom consequent upon the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.
‘Northern Ireland’ had been delineated as the ‘six counties’ in 1920, and a new border between the two jurisdictions of Northern and Southern Ireland was thus established. Following the War of Independence and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty of 6 December 1921, no changes were made in the border, and it was consolidated into a ‘hard’ one. Largely to get the Treaty over the line, Article XII introduced some wriggle-room about adjusting the border by setting up a Boundary Commission. The Commission was constituted in 1924, did its work and produced a report in 1925 which was never implemented. No changes were made to the border. The Commission has a value, though, for historians of Protestant Ireland in the early twentieth century. From the evidence heard before it, its Report exposed and chronicled the particular stresses and questions about identity and belonging that troubled the early twentieth century Protestants in the border shadowlands.1
* Full article available in printed copies.
is Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin.