Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of Irish Government [116]

The 75th Anniversary

1997 was the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the modern Irish State in 1922.  Born after 600 plus years of rebellions, the Irish wore down the British after a bloody rebellion in 1916 and a four year guerilla war.  As with many other rebellions, not all goals were won nor all dreams achieved.  After ratifying the 6 December 1921 Treaty, a provisional government was establish to conduct elections and start the myriad of events necessary to function as a self-governing entity.  The six Counties in Ulster were not included which was to trigger future conflict.  Irish officials still swore a loyalty oath to the British Crown, and Ireland did not have control of its Foreign Relations and external defense.

One of the early actions on 17 February 1922 was the issuance of British stamps overprinted
the Gaelic words Rialtas Sealdach na h’Eireann 1922 or The Provisional Government of Ireland.  (Figures 1 & 2) These were to serve until late 1922, since the Provisional Government did not assume control of the Post Office until April 1922.   Designs for new stamps were developed rapidly. The Irish had neither the equipment nor expertise to print their own stamps, thus the stamps were printed initially in England.  Even the paper, with a unique watermark, an entwined SE (Figure 3) had to be created, since to use paper with the British Royal Cypher watermark was taboo.  The first uniquely Irish stamp, the 2d Map definitive, (Figure 4)was issued on 12 June 1922.  After the initial run, equipment was installed and future printing was done in Dublin Castle.

In November 1922, the establishment of the Free State of Ireland (Saorstat Eireann) was approved by the electorate.  A series of British stamps were overprinted for immediate use.(Figure 5)   Eleven further Irish low value stamps were introduced over the next year and a half.  The last issued, the 6d, (Fig.6) was first sold on 21 December 1923.  The three high values, 2 shilling six pence, 5 , and 10 shillings (Figure 7) continued using overprinted British stamps until replaced in 1937 by Irish stamps.(Figure 8)

To celebrate the anniversary, the Irish Post Office, An Post, issued a series of 12 stamps between February and December and a sheetlet of all twelve stamps. (Figure 9).   

See also: Paper – The Fiji Stamp