Farmers, agriculture and politics in the Irish Free State area, 1919-1936
University College Cork
Given the economic and social importance of agriculture in the early years of the Irish Free State, it is surprising that the development of organisations representing farmers has not received the attention it deserves from historians. While the issues of government agricultural policy and the land question have been extensively studied in the historiography, the autonomous response by farmers to agricultural policies and the detailed study of the farmers’ organisations has simply been ignored in spite of the existence of a range of relevant primary sources. Farmers’ organisations have only received cursory treatment in these studies; they have been presented as passive spectators, responding in a Pavlovian manner to outside events. The existing historiography has only studied farmers’ organisations during periods when they impinged on national politics, epecially during the War of Independence and the Economic War. Therefore chronological gaps exist which has led to much misinterpretation of farmers’ activities. This thesis will redress this imbalance by studying the formation and continuous development of farmers’ organisations within the twenty-six county area and the reaction of farmers to changing government agricultural policies, over the period 1919 to 1936. The period under review entailed many attempts by farmers to form representative organisations and encompassed differing policy regimes. The thesis will open in 1919, when the first national organisation representing farmers, the Irish Farmers’ Union, was formed. In 1922, the union established the Farmers’ Party. By the mid- 1920’s, a number of protectionist agricultural associations had been formed. While the Farmers’ Party was eventually absorbed by Cumann na nGaedheal, local associations of independent farmers occupied the resultant vacuum and contested the 1932 election. These organisations formed the nucleus of a new national organisation; the National Farmers’ and Ratepayers’ League. The agricultural crisis caused by both the Great Depression and the Economic War facilitated the expansion of the league. The league formed a political party, the Centre Party, to contest the 1933 election. While the Centre Party was absorbed by the newly-formed Fine Gael, activists from the former farmer organisations led the campaign against the payment of annuities and rates. Many of them continued this campaign after 1934, when the Fine Gael leadership opposed the violent resistance to the collection of annuities. New farmer organisations were formed to co-ordinate this campaign which continued until 1936, the closing point of the thesis.
Irish Free State , Farmers' organisations , Irish Farmers’ Union , Farmers’ Party , Cumann na nGaedheal , National Farmers’ and Ratepayers’ League , Centre Party , Irish government agricultural policy
Ryan, R. 2005. Farmers, agriculture and politics in the Irish Free State area, 1919-1936. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.