#OTD in 1922 – The six counties of Northern Ireland opt out of the Free State.

The parliament of Northern Ireland exercises its option to opt out of the Irish Free State and petitions King George V:

“MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Senators and Commons of Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.”

On 13 December 1922 Prime Minister Craig addressed the Parliament reporting that the King had responded to the Parliament’s address as follows:

“I have received the Address presented to me by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in pursuance of Article 12 of the Articles of Agreement set forth in the Schedule to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922, and of Section 5 of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, and I have caused my Ministers and the Irish Free State Government to be so informed.”

With this, Northern Ireland had left the Irish Free State and rejoined the United Kingdom. If the Parliament of Northern Ireland had not made such a declaration, under Article 14 of the Treaty Northern Ireland, its Parliament and government would have continued in being but the Oireachtas would have had jurisdiction to legislate for Northern Ireland in matters not delegated to Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act. This, of course, never came to pass.

Thus six counties of the north of Ireland – Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Down, Fermanagh, Derry become an autonomous entity of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

When Michael Collins and colleagues agreed to the treaty in December 1921, they believed that a promised Boundary Commission would significantly alter the partition of Ireland and drastically reduce the size of the proposed Northern Ireland. The Boundary Commission proved to be totally ineffective and Northern Ireland remained as six counties. The first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland was hard-line unionist James Craig who was to state “All I boast of, is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State,” echoing to some extent what De Valera would state later about the Catholic Irish Free State.

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