1922 – Arthur Griffith is elected president of the Irish Free State by Dáil Éireann.

Michael Collins and the Ploughman

Following Eamonn De Valera’s resignation the previous day, Michael Collins uses a farming analogy to highlight the importance of voting in a new President of Dail Eireann.

“(T)he Irish nation at the present moment is a ship without a captain, and a ship, we all know, cannot get on without a captain. I want to move this motion so that we may have some captain for the ship. I saw a thing happening down at home years ago that I can illustrate my remarks with, I think, in an apt way. I remember one day passing along the road and I saw two horses standing in a field with a plough behind them, and there was no ploughman. I watched that thing for about two hours, and the ploughman was still absent. The horses that were able to plough were idle—there was no ploughman between the handles. There was no work done. Now, a bad ploughman is better than no ploughman, and the Irish nation is watching us at the present moment; in the same way as I watched that scene they are watching us. They see the horses idle, the plough idle; they see that we are doing nothing at all; they see that we are not taking action to put any sort of ploughman between the handles. I knew where the ploughman was. He was in some place wasting his time. We are very much before the Irish nation at the present moment in the position of that ploughman.”

The Dail elected Arthur Griffith President of the Provisional Government. Michael Collins becomes Minister for Finance. Éamon de Valera and 56 of his supporters walk out of Dáil Éireann. The official Dail record shows that insults continued to be thrown right to the end.

MR. DE VALERA: As a protest against the election as President of the Irish Republic of the Chairman of the Delegation, who is bound by the Treaty conditions to set up a State which is to subvert the Republic, and who, in the interim period, instead of using the office as it should be used—to support the Republic—will, of necessity, have to be taking action which will tend to its destruction, I, while this vote is being taken, as one, am going to leave the House.

MR. DE VALERA then rose and left the House, followed by the entire body of his supporters.

MR. M. COLLINS: Deserters all! We will now call on the Irish people to rally to us. Deserters all!

MR. CEANNT: Up the Republic!

MR. M. COLLINS: Deserters all to the Irish nation in her hour of trial. We will stand by her.

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: Oath breakers and cowards.

MR. M. COLLINS: Foreigners— Americans—English.

MADAME MARKIEVICZ: Lloyd Georgeites.

Read full Debate: http://www.generalmichaelcollins.com/Treaty_Documents/The_Treaty_Debate_1922_10.htm

Photo: Griffith, De Valera, Collins and other leading Irish republicans.

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