No. 224 NAI DT S1801H
William T. Cosgrave to Ramsay MacDonald (London)
Dublin, 4 June 1924
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
- I have given earnest consideration to your letter of yesterday1 in which you express the opinion that the interval which will elapse before you receive a report from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council might profitably be employed, with the assistance of the Chairman of the Boundary Commission, in examining the general aspect of the problem with a view to seeing how far an agreed settlement is possible. I regret that I cannot accept this view for the reasons which I gave you on Saturday, namely, that such a course would be bound to afford opportunities for suggestions from one quarter or other of a departure from strict impartiality on his part, which would be a source of serious embarrassment in the judicial task which he is to undertake.
- The gravest apprehension is felt in Ireland regarding the manner in which Clause 12 of the Treaty has been canvassed. Since February last it would appear as if the terms of the Clause, viz., the wishes of the inhabitants[,] were to be subordinated to whims of persons in positions of authority and power. Further examination and approaches towards possible agreement in these circumstances would, of necessity, imply that the rights guaranteed by this Article are in jeopardy, and I have never had any authority to agree to any abrogation of the rights of the inhabitants as defined in the Article.
- You mentioned in the course of the discussion on Saturday last that you were in a position to show me your signature appointing the Chairman. I must say that in the opinion of my Government - with which I concur - the appointment should be immediately announced. There is a large amount of preliminary work to be done which could be undertaken forthwith. It is evident that a census of the wishes of the inhabitants must be taken before the Commission can settle down to consider the problems which they will finally have to determine. This census is purely a matter of machinery for the ascertaining of facts and statistics, so that they may be available for the Commission to work upon. The collection of this information is in the opinion of my Government a duty which should be undertaken at once by the Chairman in conjunction with our representative, and we have addressed an official despatch to Mr. Thomas on these lines.2
- I cannot conclude without urging upon you most earnestly that the delay which has occurred in the setting up of the Commission is causing very grave anxiety and unrest in this country. I realise that you desire to obtain the best legal advice possible as to the steps His Majesty's Government must take to implement Clause 12, and I understand that the reference to a Judicial Committee on which it is proposed to have the Chief Justice of Australia as a member must entail delay, but it will be represented here publicly and otherwise, and will obtain some measure of credence, that the British Government must have known all along that Sir James Craig would decline to appoint his representative, and that the reference to the Judicial Committee is a device to cause further delay, and if possible to shelve the whole matter.
- This is the type of criticism which is most pronounced here and it is strengthened by the daily references to Conferences and solutions in which it is implied that the wishes of the inhabitants are to be ignored. The situation is fast becoming critical and I shall find it necessary in the very near future to give a day for discussion in the Dáil of the whole problem. I am very much concerned at the prospect of such a discussion and its possible outcome, unless some definite progress towards the operation of the Commission can be shown. Mr. Thomas wrote me on the 10th April3 that all the necessary steps had been worked out in advance. The position now is that delay follows delay, and if we point to the assurances which we have received we will be countered by an inquiry as to what tangible evidence of progress we can show. The immediate appointment of the Chairman and the starting of the work on the preliminaries would make matters much less difficult and would be regarded by our people as practical evidence that Article 12 is being fully carried out.
[signed] L.T. MacCosgair