Uncelebrated anniversary

Today is St Nicholas’ day, Sinterklaas, in Belgium; F left his own shoe, and a shoe for each of his sisters, by the chimney last night, with a carrot for the saint’s horse in each shoe, and a letter he had written. (He worried a bit about the fact that neither of his sisters had written a letter, but we assured him that the saint would understand.)

And when he got up this morning there were no carrots left, but biscuits and oranges for each child, and a mysterious box – which in F’s case contained a rather nice dragon puppet. He was delighted with it.

Today is also the day on which the Finnish Parliament declared independence from Russia in 1917, and the day on which the Spanish people approved their new constitution in a referendum in 1978, and is celebrated as a national holiday in both countries.

I have always found it odd that another anniversary today is not celebrated. On this day in 1921, the British and Irish negotiators led by Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins on the Irish side, and Lloyd George and Winston Churchill on the British side, signed the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Precisely a year later, in 1922, the provisions of the Treaty came into force, and the Irish Free State became independent. Indeed, for a few hours there was in fact a 32-county independent Irish state, until the Northern Ireland Parliament exercised its right to opt out later that afternoon. In the meantime, of course, Griffith had died and Collins had been killed in the Civil War.

It is often forgotten that the immediate consequences for British politics were also pretty serious; during those twelve months a revolt by what is now called (in memory of the event) the 1922 Committee, ie Conservative back-benchers, had ejected Lloyd George and his fellow negotiators from power, in the case of Lloyd George never to return, triggering a general election. There would be two more elections and three more changes of prime minister in the next two years.

However, the politically traumatic circumstances of the Treaty negotiation, and the ambiguous quality of the Irish Free State’s independence, I guess were sufficient to prevent this important anniversary from ever being celebrated. Ireland’s national holiday remains 17 March. Which I supppose is sensible enough; the weather is usually better.

One thought on “Uncelebrated anniversary

  1. I agree that it would be interesting if it wins – it is absolutely fanfic. Which I’m all for, by the way, but not for money or awards.

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