No. 343 NAI DT S1801O
Resumé of a statement by Eoin MacNeill at a meeting of the Executive Council
DUBLIN, 21 November 1925
On Friday morning the 20th November he, Dr. MacNeill, went to the High Commissioner's Office and 'phoned to the Secretary of the Boundary Commission asking whether any time had been fixed for the meeting of the Commission that day.
The meeting having been fixed for 11-45 a.m. Dr. MacNeill attended at that hour and found Feetham and Bourdillon present. Fisher arrived almost immediately.
The minutes of the previous meeting having been read, they were proceeding to deal with the Agenda, when Dr. MacNeill asked leave to make a statement.
He said that a situation of extreme gravity had arisen in Ireland consequent on the Morning Post Revelations. He emphasised the word Revelations.
Feetham replied that the Morning Post statement was not accurate, but admitted, in response to a question from Dr. MacNeill, that it was substantially correct.
Dr. MacNeill continued that he had been in touch with representative persons of all kinds in Ireland and that the unanimous opinion of all classes was that the fixing of a boundary line such as that indicated as in the Morning Post would be a violation of the Treaty.
He himself would not go so far as to say that such a line would endanger the Treaty but it would certainly endanger the common objects of the Treaty, that it would seriously injure the friendly and existing sound relations between the two countries.
Dr. MacNeill developed his argument on these lines, and finished by stating that under the circumstances he had come to the conclusion that it was his duty to withdraw from the Commission and to place his resignation immediately in the hands of his Government.
Fisher who all through the proceedings of the Commission has been impassive and had left all to Feetham, made no comment which Dr. MacNeill could remember.
Feetham said that this was a very serious step to take and asked that it be not taken without very full consideration, suggested that Dr. MacNeill should wait to hear what the other members had to say, and enlarged at length on the results which would follow on the taking of this step.
Dr. MacNeill replied that he had given the matter full consideration, that none of the aspects covered by Mr. Feetham had failed to be considered by him, and that he had made up his mind accordingly.
Mr. Feetham seeing that Dr. MacNeill had definitely made up his mind to withdraw, passed to other considerations and tried to induce him to take some time to consider the matter, even to postpone action until the afternoon.
Dr. MacNeill stated he was acting on an existing state of things and he could not foresee that anything was likely to arise which would justify an alteration of his decision.
Feetham asked then whether this decision was construed by Dr. MacNeill as releasing him from the obligation to secrecy imposed on [and undertaken by] the members of the Commission and Dr. MacNeill replied that that was his opinion.
Immediately - though it is not clear that this has any significance - Bourdillon turned up the entry in the minutes imposing this obligation, as if this step on the part of Dr. MacNeill had not been unexpected.
Feetham then suggested, obviously with a view to playing for time, that it was desirable that Dr. MacNeill should be in possession of everything necessary to enable him to make a full and accurate statement on the whole matter and that he would require maps, documents, etc. It was obvious that he was anxious to gain time so as to consult with some one outside the Commission.
Dr. MacNeill replied that the facts in his memory were sufficient for the explanation which he intended to make to the Executive Council and that he required no documentary aids.
Finally after discussion lasting about an hour Feetham saw that Dr. MacNeill had made up his mind and the matter dropped.
Dr. MacNeill then turned to Bourdillon who had charge of his papers and keys to arrange for their future custody, and immediately Feetham interjected:'-Oh, by the way, I have your copy of that memorandum'.
In explanation of the reference to the memorandum Dr. MacNeill mentioned that after the compilation of evidence, Feetham drew up a memorandum setting out his view of the interpretation and application of Article 12 of the Treaty. He handed copies of this to the other two members and stated that he did not think that it need be discussed or replied to by a formal memo. from them. It was drawn up simply to show the state of his mind on the subject.
Dr. MacNeill read it and stated his objections to it in detail, having, for his own information, summarised the various points by way of brief outspoken marginal notes entered on his copy of the memorandum.
Feetham borrowed this copy on the plea that he had lost his own copy, apparently for the purpose of fortifying himself against Dr. MacNeill's arguments.
When the question of custody of Dr. MacNeill's documents arose, Feetham had to explain the absence of this memo from Dr. MacNeill's papers.
Dr. MacNeill offered no objection to his retaining it.
Before the meeting dispersed it was clearly understood that Dr. MacNeill was free to make any statement he liked.
Papers which are duplicates of the Commission's documents are to be retained by the Commission. Personal papers of Dr. MacNeill are to be forwarded to the office of the High Commissioner.