The Irish State - History Of The State

The first Government of the new State was headed by William T. Cosgrave of the Cumann na nGaedheal (later Fine Gael) party. Cosgrave set about establishing an administration which would enable the country to recover from the ravages of war. The Government’s founding of the Electricity Supply Board in 1927 and the opening of the Shannon hydro-electric scheme marked an important stage in the country’s economic development.

Éamon de Valera led the Fianna Fáil party which drew support from those who had opposed the treaty. Fianna Fáil came to power in 1932 with de Valera as head of Government. A dispute over continuous land payments to the British Government led to the ‘economic war’ of 1932-38. Trade with Britain was restricted and considerable hardship resulted. In 1937 de Valera introduced a new constitution declaring Ireland to be a sovereign, independent, democratic state.

Ireland remained neutral during the Second World War, 1939-45. Although the wartime years were a period of shortages and difficulties, the country was spared the worst effects of the conflict.Fianna Fáil lost office in the 1948 election after sixteen continuous years in power. The new administration, headed by John A. Costello, was an inter-party Government formed by Fine Gael, Labour and other parties. In 1948 the Republic of Ireland Act was passed, severing the last constitutional links with Britain.

Costello’s Government fell in 1951 after a controversy over the future direction of social policy. De Valera led another Fianna Fáil administration for the next three years and Costello returned to Government in 1954.Ireland was admitted to the United Nations in 1955. Irish delegations have played an active role in UN affairs over the years and from 1958 onwards Irish troops have been involved in a large number of UN peacekeeping operations. Fianna Fáil regained power in the 1957 election and Éamon de Valera resigned the leadership of the party in 1959 to serve as President of Ireland. He was succeeded by Sean Lemass under whose premiership the country began a period of rapid economic expansion.

The signing of the Anglo-Irish free-trade agreement in 1965 led to significant developments in trading patterns and to industrial expansion. Even more importantly, Ireland became a member of the European Community in 1973.In the years since 1969 the crisis in Northern Ireland has affected the Irish State. Successive Governments have sought to develop a solution to the problem which will provide lasting peace and stability. Profound change has affected the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country in the intervening quarter century.

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