The Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) and My Father
(from Family Legends, unpublished)
During the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations (signed December,1921), Lloyd George conversed with his private secretary in Welsh. The Irish plenipotentiaries were taken aback by the Prime Minister's bad-manners and their distrust in the proceedings grew. James Hogan, a Celtic scholar aged twenty-three, was called in (some say as an advisor on Northern Ireland, others as secretarial support). He reported to the Irish officials that Lloyd George’s Welsh was incomprehensible. Privately he confided to the leader of the Irish delegation, Michael Collins, that decoding was not necessary, the content of the Welsh exchanges was largely ‘indelicate’ pleasantries. None of this is in the history books. But there is a photo of the deputation with an unnamed young man near the back who resembles him.
In May 1922 James Hogan went to London with Arthur Griffith to arrange security along the Northern Ireland border. He attended as a military adviser. They had a long meeting with Churchill, and next day with government ministers. His counterpart military adviser was a Colonel Barton. I was under the impression my father had the rank of Major General (recall the cartoon in Dublin Opinion' 'Can I speak to General O'Muireacha? 'Hey, Mick, someone wants you'), but my brother Edmund put me right. James Hogan was ranked Assistant Adjutant-General, attached to G.H.Q. at Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin. The meeting with Churchill took place at Whitehall. On the next day they met with the ministers. Present were the Minister for War, Worthington Evans, Austin Chamberlain and Lord Cavan. Lloyd George was not present. James Hogan’s role was apparently to answer questions if required. But none were asked (‘I was merely a silent spectator on both occasions').
On his return he went with Captain Tim Killeen to meet representatives of General Cameron, the OC, 'at a village between Pettigow and Enniskillen' on the Ulster side of the border. In his diaries he noted this was the first time Irish soldiers were openly dressed in uniform across the border and the Ulster Specials barely could conceal their hostility. However, Barton appeared for the parley and relations were cordial. Arrangements were made for a Border Commission. Hardly was he back in Dublin but the Civil War broke out, and so the Border Commission didn't meet until several years later.
During the Civil War James Hogan took over from an overburdened Collins as Director of Intelligence for the fledgling Free State. In August 1923 as the war was fizzling out, he became aware of a plot to kill De Valera on his first public appearance for three years. Michael Collins’s choice gunmen were said to be behind it. Bitterness at the death of ‘The Big Fellow’ focused the blame on Dev without any evidence of his direct involvement. James Hogan informed the Government, and Kevin O’Higgins, then Minister of Home Affairs, had De Valera arrested for his own safety. Dev did not see the arrest in such a kindly light. In anticipation of it, he had drafted a statement claiming it was a ruse to undermine his return to politics. But we had an ornate walking stick at home, which my mother told me was a gift from De Valera to my father for saving his life. James Hogan had an ambiguous relationship with Dev. Although blaming him for the Civil War, and for unraveling much of the good work of the First Government when he gained power in the nineteen thirties, he respected Dev for his promotion of Irish scholarship. Indeed, the respect was mutual. Dev consulted him before Institutes of Advanced Studies were set up to restore Irish culture, and he attended James Hogan’s funeral in 1963 (I refused to shake his hand for reasons I wrote about in Light Years. Not that he noticed being quite blind by then. My mother told me off in no uncertain terms, though politically she thought Dev was the devil.)
James Hogan was one of the last Free State officers to see Michael Collins. They met in Limerick the day before he was shot dead. Some say the Big Fellow walked into the ambush at Beal na mBlath, near Bandon, depressed by the Civil War. Hogan said Collins was in poor form because of a bad cold, but had told him he had a job for him to do back in Dublin. He had merely got out of the armored van to clear his head.
However, at James Hogan’s funeral in 1963, his former batman during the Civil War told me that ‘as the commanding officer was obliged to kill deserters (to spare his men) and he, the gentlest of men, never recovered from it. Deserters were only boys wanting to join their friends’. Adding with a sigh, ‘the day before meeting Michael Collins he had to shoot two young men from the area, and the ambush that killed Collins was a response to this’. There is no documentary evidence to support this view, but it makes sad sense to me.
Five years after the treaty was signed the Boundary Commission, which Lloyd George had promised during the Treaty Negotiations would dismantle the border between the North and South of Ireland, was convened, but came to nothing. The unspoken reason was because Professor Eoin McNeill, the Celtic scholar who led the Free State delegation, did not like to get up in the morning and the Unionists wanted the meetings over early so they could get back to their businesses.
After the War of Independence, James Hogan and brother Michael (who robbed guns from the Chelsea Barracks and stood trial during the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations), rented a car and made a pilgrimage around the Cathedral towns of England, and so in James Hogan’s opinion lingering bad feelings were lessened. But my mother said that though he loved English culture, he never trusted English politicians. When he was part of the Irish delegation to find out what Lloyd George was saying to his private secretary in Welsh, he overheard Churchill joking with Lord Birkenhead, ‘The Ulster Unionists needn’t worry. What Collins has signed will divide his own side. What David has signed will divide Ireland.’ The Border Commission was not to meet again.
In the 1930s Dev now in power started the ill-fated economic war against Britain and Anglo-Irish relations didn’t improve with Ireland’s ambiguous neutrality during the Second World War (on Hitler’s death Dev sent the German Ambassador his condolences).
A hundred years on since the Anglo-Irish Treaty the border is still a political bugbear. British ignorance and/or indifference to Ireland still shows its ugly face. But things have changed. A majority of the Ulster population voted to remain in Europe and thereby reduce the border to a recondite symbol. Moreover, in the past decade, the economy in the Republican has prospered in contrast to Britain’s decline. For instance, average household incomes have risen markedly against a British fall. The boot is on the other foot in a ballgame that isn’t a dodo.