Partitioning Ireland
: Transnational responses to the partition of Ireland in Australia and Canada, 1919-22

  • Steven Egan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the transnational dimension to the partition of Ireland within the two British dominions of Australia and Canada. Typically understood within an Anglo-Irish framework, this thesis aims to explore how the Irish diaspora within Australia and Canada engaged with the partition process and how they felt about the separation of their ancestral homeland. Amongst Irish nationalists and other sympathisers, transnational activists helped organise grassroots movements such as the Self-Determination for Ireland Leagues which aimed to support the Irish request for independence, whilst also championing the territorial integrity of the island. In contrast, Irish unionists in the diaspora, who at first were sceptical or opposed to partition, would later rally to maintain the six-counties of Northern Ireland separate from the jurisdiction of the Irish Free State, and within the United Kingdom. Whilst their objectives differed, unionists would also utilise transnational networks to support and reinforce the partition line in Ireland. Throughout this process, there is evidence of a distinct shift in the fabric and nature of the Irish diaspora in these two dominions. Whereas Irish unionists once associated themselves with the Irish diaspora, the emergence of an Ulster identity obtained a new foothold once partition came into effect. Beyond activists, this thesis also examines the role of various nationalist and unionist organisations and the means by which they influenced their community’s support. The nature and presence of transnational literature which moved around the globe was additionally vitally important in influencing public opinion in the dominions. The movement of people around the empire also proved to be an essential component of the diasporic experience, who despite being hundreds of miles from a homeland which many had never seen, felt deeply and intrinsically connected to.

Thesis embargoed until 31 July 2027.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy, Royal Irish Academy & Association for Canadian Studies in Ireland
SupervisorMarie Coleman (Supervisor) & Margaret O'Callaghan (Supervisor)


  • Partition of Ireland
  • transnational history
  • diaspora studies
  • Irish Canada
  • Irish Australia
  • Irish history
  • Irish identity
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • British Empire
  • imperial identity
  • partition
  • Ulster
  • Irish nationalism
  • Irish Unionism
  • Irish Loyalism
  • self-determination

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