The disruption of scholarly life in the Royal College of Science for Ireland that began with the outbreak of war in 1914 continued for almost a decade. Frank Flood, a UCD engineering student who was registered for courses in the RCScI in the 1920-1921 academic year, was executed in March 1921 for leading an attempted ambush of Auxiliaries in Drumcondra in January of that year. He was nineteen years old.
The signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921 promised an end to political conflict and a return to peace in Ireland. The college, by now commonly referred to as the ‘College of Science’, found itself at the heart of the new state when the provisional government selected Merrion Street for its headquarters in preference to Dublin Castle.
Political events in Ireland were reflected in changes within the college. A number of staff took up the option of retirement as a consequence of the change of government. Many students left the college, including eighteen final-year students who transferred to engineering courses in England. In September 1922, as the college council was planning the new academic year, the provisional government ordered the closing of the college to students ‘in consequence of the disturbed state of the country’.
Determined to carry on as much of the college work as was possible, the RCScI accepted UCD’s offer of accommodation. For the following two academic years, science and engineering lectures took place in the old Catholic University building on St Stephen’s Green. Special arrangements were needed for the admission of students to the electrical engineering laboratories in Merrion Street – approval was conditional on the student obtaining ‘a guarantee of loyalty to the Free State from a Senator, T.D., or other responsible person’. Both students and staff protested at the interruption to the normal work of the college, especially at the delay in allowing the college to return to Merrion Street in 1923 following the effective end of the Civil War in Ireland. Footage of the protests was taken by British Pathé.
However, UCD authorities were already in negotiation with the government about the future of the college and its assets. In 1925 Dáil Éireann took the first steps in transferring the RCScI to UCD, a decision embodied in the 1926 University Education (Agriculture and Dairy Science) Act. The last council meeting of the Royal College of Science for Ireland was held in the council chambers of UCD on 4 May 1926, and the majority of the college staff were appointed as professors and lecturers of UCD from October 1926.