Pro-Treaty Cumann Na NGaedheal
In 1922 the pro-Treaty Government of Ireland lost the support of Sinn Féin, their political party. The need to create a party supporting the Government was not immediate and the second Cumann na nGaedheal did not come into existence until more than a year later, on 27 April 1923 when the pro-Treaty TDs recognised the need for a party organisation to win elections. Initially the Party's ability to influence the Government was limited.
The party was largely centre right in outlook. The pro-treaty wing of Sinn Féin had decided to formally break off and become a distinct party in late December 1922, but its formal launch was delayed until after the New Year as a direct consequence of the turmoil caused by the civil war.
The leadership of the pro-Treaty Sinn Féin in 1922 included Arthur Griffith, Michael Collins and W. T. Cosgrave. Cosgrave and Griffith had been prominent in Sinn Féin since the 1900s, while Collins rose quickly through its ranks after 1916. Griffith and Collins died in August 1922 during the early stages of the Irish Civil War, leaving Cosgrave to lead the pro-treaty faction and the Provisional Government in the run-up to the formal establishment of the Irish Free State. Cosgrave had fought in the 1916 Rising and had been prominent in the Government of the Irish Republic; the burden of responsibility for building the new state on solid foundations was now on Cosgrave and his colleagues. Difficult years of state building, in the face of Republican violence, would characterise the party throughout its time in Government.
The Irish Unionist Alliance was dissolved in 1922, when many of its followers swung their support behind Cumann na nGaedheal, seeing it as less hostile to them than the anti-Treaty Republicans and later Fianna Fáil.
The first election the party contested was the general election of 1923, when it won 63 seats, with 39% of the votes cast. Until 1932, Cumann na nGaedheal continued to form the Government of the Irish Free State, with Cosgrave as President of the Executive Council. The fact that its leaders and members of parliament had been in Government before the party was founded would prove a major stumbling block to party unity and loyalty.
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