The Irish boundary crisis and the reshaping of British politics, 1920-1925
This thesis investigates the interaction between the evolution of the Irish Question and the re-emergence of Britain's two-party political system after World War I. It challenges the contention summed up in A.J.P. Taylor's suggestion that David Lloyd George 'conjured' the Irish Question out of existence with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921. Here, it is shown that on the contrary the Irish dispute continued to be a highly sensitive issue for successive British governments until the Treaty's Boundary Commission report was shelved in 1925. This was so because British politics was then undergoing a profound revolution. Its climax was the 1924 general election, which established the Conservatives as the dominant players in British politics, ensured Labour's place as the leading party of the left, and confirmed the eclipse of Liberalism. The first of this study's two aims is to set the Irish dispute within this wider context. Specifically, it examines how the answer to the Irish Question that was devised by Lloyd George and his Coalition partners was constructed and then dismantled as a result of this revolution. The second aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that the Boundary Commission was only one element in the Treaty's Ulster clauses, all of which were designed to bring about Ireland's re-unification. The intent was to exploit the financial restrictions of the 1920 Government of Ireland Act and thus pressure Ulster Unionists into joining a single Irish Parliament. This aspect has been overlooked in other studies, though it posed as serious a threat to Northern Ireland's survival as the Commission itself.