Volume 1 1919~1922

Doc No.

No. 123 UCDA P150/1900

Art O'Brien to Arthur Griffith (Dublin)


London, 2 December 1920

A Chara,
Dr. Clune who will present this letter to you came to see me the day before yesterday (Nov. 30) to get my advice on a position which had arisen. It appears that that same afternoon Archbishop Clune had met some important people (whose names he was not at liberty to disclose to me). I gathered these people were English and were directly connected with matters concerning their Government. They gave the Archbishop to understand that Lloyd-George was much perturbed at the effect of what is known here as the `reprisal' campaign in Ireland, that he was very anxious to secure Peace, and for this purpose was willing to secure facilities for meeting Members of Dail Eireann. The people referred to urged Archbishop Clune to see Lloyd George, and afterwards to take the matter up with our people in Ireland.

Archbishop Clune was leaving to-day for France en route for Australia, but expressed his complete willingness to put off his journey if his efforts would be likely to help. The chief point raised with His Grace apparently was:- If Lloyd George gave a guarantee to stop `Reprisals' could a guarantee be sured (sic) from S.F Leaders that the killing of Members of the English Crown forces in Ireland would cease _ the objective being, I understand from His Grace that a condition of Peace should be reached in which negotiations for the discussion of further terms could be initiated.

His Grace asked me if I thought you could give such a guarantee as that referred to, and whether it would be worth his while following the matter up. I told His Grace that the stand we had always taken was that we wanted Peace in our country and that any steps that would be likely to lead to securing a honourable Peace would, I was sure, be seriously considered by the Ministry of the Republic. I further told His Grace that inasmuch as he had been approached as a private individual to take up this matter, and as he had no official connection with the Republic, his action could not in any way compromise us. On the other hand if there were any sincerity in these suggestions his action in following the matter up might lead to a successful issue to our struggle. On these grounds (and for other considerations which I had in my mind, and which will appear in the succeeding paragraphs) I advised His Grace to follow the matter up. I only warned him to be cautious of Lloyd George and to get definite assurances on:

  1. His (L.G's) ability to stop 'reprisals'
  2. Facilities for His Grace to meet you
  3. Facilities for you to meet your Colleagues in the Ministry1

His Grace met Lloyd George yesterday afternoon. He had also seen Cardinal Bourne in the morning, and Lord H. Cavendish Bentwick, and Mr. Mosley M Pearlin in the afternoon. In each of these two cases also he was insistently urged to see Lloyd George. His Grace will himself give you an account of each of these interviews.

It seems to me pretty clear that Lloyd George and others here are desperately anxious to reach a condition of Peace again with Ireland (1) because of the serious effect which their present barbarism is having on the outside world, but more particularly in Canada, Africa and Australia (2) because they see that the vicious and demoralised forces which they are loosing in Ireland will soon be uncontrollable and will be a great menace to themselves.

It is possible that you were arrested before receipt of my report of my conversation with Alfred T. Davies about 10 or 14 days ago.2 Davies had been very anxious to see me. He and his brother had been ringing up my office and calling there for a week beforehand, whilst I was away ill. Finding him so insistent I made an appointment at the Hotel whilst I was still confined to my room there. As you are already aware Davies is a close friend of Lloyd George. His conversation in most respects was on the same lines as previous occasions. There was one point however, which he dwelt on at length and to which he returned again and again. The new feature about it is its definite character, and it was to the effect that a Meeting should be arranged between Lloyd George and two Members of his Cabinet on the one side, and yourself, De Valera and myself on the other to negotiate terms of peace and settlement between the two countries. In reply to his query as to whether such a Meeting could be arranged, I said I felt sure you would consider it favourably, provided it were understood in advance that no limitations were placed on the discussions. To this Davies answered that the only limitation would be that the question of the Recognition of the Republic would be ruled out. I told him that was a condition which would make it impossible for you to consider the proposal. He could not suggest a way out of the difficulty and went away to think matters over, but I have not heard from him since.

James MacNeill who called to see me on Friday may have been able to convey to you some information about his visit over here with George Russell when they saw a number of important people. At the instigation and by the arrangement of some of these people George Russell also had an interview with Lloyd George. At that interview, which as I understand from James MacNeill, followed very much the same lines as the interview between Archbishop Clune and Lloyd George. The latter stated that he was anxious to meet representatives of Dail Eireann, and that he would guarantee that the field should be left clear for Dail Eireann to meet without interference or interruption.

The three interviews mentioned above, none of which have been sought by us, all seem to me to exhibit a greater anxiety for peace on the part of our enemies, than they have previously exhibited. I have thought it well to put them before you in sufficient detail to enable you to get a grasp of the general perspective before Archbishop Clune relates to you the details of his own particular interview.

If a Truce can be concluded under Conditions sufficiently secure, definite and satisfactory, the subsequent negotiations would, I think, even if they did not lead immediately to a settlement and recognition, open up possibilities of our making a big score in the game which would considerably hasten settlement and recognition. That would all depend upon the terms of the Truce, and the conditions of the negotiations.

I have placed all the facts as clearly as I can before you and I hold myself in readiness to carry out any instructions which the Ministry may have to give me.

Art O'Brien

PS. Just after I had closed this letter word was brought to me from a Mr. Proctor of Finchley, a personal friend of Hamar Greenwood, who expresses anxiety to get in touch with Leaders of movement here. He says majority of Cabinet are anxious for Peace, but Long and Churchill are obstructing. He also says that 60,000 more troops are being sent to Ireland next week.