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Main article: Partition of Ireland

The fourth and final Home Rule Bill (the Government of Ireland Act 1920) partitioned the island into Northern Ireland (six northeastern counties) and Southern Ireland (the rest of the island). Some Unionists such as Sir Edward Carson opposed partition, seeing it as a betrayal of Unionism as a pan-Irish political entity. Most Nationalists also opposed partition.

For three days from 6 December 1922 Northern Ireland stopped being part of the United Kingdom and became part of the newly created Irish Free State.[8] This remarkable constitutional episode arose because of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the legislation introduced to give that Treaty legal effect.[9]

The Treaty was given effect in the United Kingdom through the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922. That Act established a new Dominion for the whole island of Ireland but also allowed Northern Ireland to opt out. Under Article 12 of the Treaty, Northern Ireland could exercise its opt out by presenting an address to the King requesting not to be part of the Irish Free State. Once the Treaty was ratified, the Parliament of Northern Ireland had one month to exercise this opt out during which month the Irish Free State Government could not legislate for Northern Ireland, holding the Free State's effective jurisdiction in abeyance for a month.

On 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State) the Parliament of Northern Ireland demonstrated its lack of hesitation by resolving to make the following address to the King so as to opt out of the Irish Free State:[10]

"MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Senators and Commons of Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland."

On 13 December 1922 Prime Minister Craig addressed the Parliament of Northern Ireland informing them that the King had responded to the Parliament's address as follows:[11]

"I have received the Address presented to me by both Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in pursuance of Article 12 of the Articles of Agreement set forth in the Schedule to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act, 1922, and of Section 5 of the Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922, and I have caused my Ministers and the Irish Free State Government to be so informed."

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