No. 7 NAI 2006/39
Memorandum of aspects of the discussion between Eamon de Valera and Malcolm MacDonald by John W. Dulanty1
London, 14 January 1937
Mr. MacDonald said that he would do his best to let us see a draft of any answer he would make in the House of Commons on Tuesday next.2 It could only be a partial answer since the Cabinet would not have reached a decision on our recent legislation until next Wednesday. He hoped that the Cabinet's decision would be that what we had done and were intending to do was not incompatible with full membership of the Commonwealth. In the event of that decision being reached would the President prefer to communicate with the other member states of the Commonwealth on his recent legislation or would he prefer that the United Kingdom Government should send the texts of legislation and intimate at the same time that so far as the relations with the other member states of the Commonwealth were concerned there had been no change? The President said he would like to think about that question but he thought the United Kingdom Government might send the Acts. On the principle that there had been no change it was perhaps hardly necessary for him to communicate with the other member states. Mr. MacDonald said he wanted the whole of the States of the Commonwealth to accept and then he could get ahead with the ports and other questions.
I suggested that if the British Cabinet decide as Mr. MacDonald hoped the discussion on the ports and other questions need not wait until the views of the Dominions had been obtained. With this Mr. MacDonald agreed.
Mr. MacDonald was inclined to think that he should say next Tuesday in the House of Commons that the Irish Free State remained a full member of the British Commonwealth and refer to his conversations with Mr. de Valera in London. The President said that the British could have if they wished good relations. He, Mr. de Valera, would not bother his head for a moment as to any doubt as to that possibility.
The President said that in the matter of Defence care must be taken by the British that they must not look for entry into our ports at any time except on our invitation and with our goodwill. Our attitude as he had already explained was that we would not allow our territory to be used as a base of attack on Britain but we could not be in any war just because Britain was at war. We could only be at war when our interests were jeopardised.
Mr. MacDonald agreed and said that General Hertzog and other Prime Ministers had laid it down that their country was only at war when their Parliament so decided.
Mr. MacDonald said that the use of our ports would be absolutely vital to them if they were at war but he quite saw that a proposal that they the British must have our ports when they wanted them would be quite impossible of agreement for us. The President thought that the ports as an example of things being allowed to settle themselves - there was no chance of settlement if the British made the occupation by them of our ports a condition to any agreement.
The President said that Mr. MacDonald would of course have to consider his own answers but he thought that any answer based on statements which the President made in the Dáil would be quite acceptable to us.
Mr. MacDonald again said he would try to let me have the draft answer.