In December 1920 the British parliament enacted the Government
of Ireland Act, providing one parliament for the six north-eastern
counties of Ireland and another for the remaining 26 counties in
the south. The Act also provided for a Council of Ireland to consist
of 20 members from each assembly, to promote co-operation and the
possibility of a future all-Ireland parliament.
The Protestant majority in the north accepted this limited Home
Rule and elected a separate parliament in May 1921, although they
rejected the Council of Ireland. The partition of Ireland was, however,
not accepted by the Roman Catholic minority in the north and majority
in the south. Efforts to implement the new government in the 26
counties served only to solidify Sinn Féin's position.
The guerrilla war ended with a truce on July 11, 1921. Preliminary
negotiations began between De Valera and the British prime minister
David Lloyd George, following which a plenipotentiary delegation
representing the Dáil was sent to London, headed by Arthur Griffith
and Michael Collins.
After intense negotiations a treaty was signed on December 6, 1921,
under which the 26 counties would become the Irish Free State (Saorstát
na hÉireann) within the Commonwealth of Nations, with dominion status
equal to that of Canada.
A Governor-general was to be appointed to represent the British
monarch, and a modified oath of allegiance was required. Although
partition remained in effect, a Boundary Commission was to be established
to review territorial claims. Further, Britain retained ownership
of a number of ports in the Free State for defensive purposes.
The treaty was immediately rejected by De Valera and other Sinn
Féin members, largely in opposition to the oath of allegiance
and the office of Governor-general. The Dáil, however, following
heated debate ratified it on January 7, 1922, by a small majority
of 64 to 57.
De Valera resigned as president, and was replaced by Griffith.
The pro-Treaty side formed a Provisional Government with Collins
as chairman that, under the terms of the treaty, coexisted with
the Dáil and was responsible for overseeing the formation of the
new state, drafting its constitution and organising elections for
the new assembly.