Bealthaine 18adh, 1921.
Eamonn de Bhalera, Uasal.
On Monday last a lady called to my house with a request from Lord
Justice O'Connor that I should call to see him at 3.30 that afternoon. This I could
not see my way to do, but called by arrangement, to his house at seven
o'clock yesterday (Tuesday) evening. I was talking to him for about five minutes
on the Irish question, but the conversation had not developed when Mr.
Cope, one of the Under Secretaries, I believe, was announced and entered the
room. A conversation started with reference to a settlement, but I protested at
once that I was not in a position to negotiate and that I held no position of any
kind in the Republican Movement and that, therefore, in the conversation
I represented no one but myself. I was asked if an offer of Independence
within the Empire with complete fiscal control, the withdrawal of the armed
forces [and] no reserve services, no imperial contribution and control of the
armed police were made, would Sinn Fein accept it. I stated that I could not
answer for the reasons already given, but, as a follower of the Republican Party,
I thought that, having regard to the Declaration of Independence which
was approved of by the electors of Ireland in three Elections, the last probably
the most remarkable ever held in any country, I could not see how Dail
Eireann could, without stultifying itself, state at this stage that anything less than
the Republic would be accepted. Cope, who did most of the talking, stated
that Carson, Craig, Lloyd George and 'the powers that be' behind Lloyd
George, were most anxious for a settlement and would give anything short of
absolute independence that would be accepted.
At this stage the Lord Justice, at the suggestion of Cope, produced a
document, [a] copy of which I herewith enclose, and which, he stated, he
believed that Father O'Flanagan had already sent to you, being a suggestion
purporting to come from Craig for a further meeting between you and him. I here
pointed out that the Irish people would never admit that the Irish Question was
a Question as between Ireland and the North-East corner of Ulster, but
would insist upon the Question being treated as it really is _ a Question
between Ireland and England. Cope then stated that if you and Craig were to agree
that the Cabinet would carry through any settlement which you two might
devise. I insisted that there was no guarantee that such would be done, but that it
was more likely that Lloyd George and the Cabinet would interpret the
agreement between yourself and Craig as a weakening of the demand and would
whittle the settlement down to probably an amendment of the present Partition
Act. In reply to this he stated that Carson was no longer Ulster, but was really
the great power behind the Cabinet and that if a meeting could be arranged
between Craig and Carson on the one side and yourself and someone else on the
other, all the interests whom you would like to see represented would really be
there, and that any arrangement come to would immediately receive Cabinet
sanction, but he stated that he thought some concession would have to be made to
Ulster, so as to save Craig's face. The final proposition, therefore, is that if you
and someone else are willing to meet Craig and Carson, a meeting in Ireland
can be arranged.
I NEITHER SOUGHT NOR DESIRED THIS INTERVIEW. I went to see Lord
Justice O'Connor on his invitation not knowing that Mr. Cope would be present.
The latter impressed me as an able man, very adroit and pretending a
full appreciation of, and some sympathy with, our point of view. He stated
that arrangements were already made for the withdrawal of the Auxiliary
Forces, presumably as a preliminary to a truce. He also stated that Carson is
responsible for the suggestion of no Imperial contribution and that he believed a settlement within the Empire, whether as a Republic within the Empire or
a Commonwealth or by whatever name it might be called, would, of
course, have to be preceded by the scrapping of the present Act. He
referred contemptuously to the North-East Parliament as a Parliament that has
smaller powers than an English County Council _ this may have been
It is not for me to suggest anything, but, if the suggested interview
take place I would, with the greatest possible respect, recommend that, as
a preliminary thereto, Carson and Craig should be asked to set forth in
writing the points to which they are prepared to agree without discussion _ but,
of course, it is hardly necessary for me to say anything about this.
The impression which Cope left upon me is that they are desperately
anxious for a settlement and desperately anxious to get us to say that we will
take something less than the Republic and also that they are anxious to save
the face of Sir James Craig.
My own position, having regard to the fact that I am a Solicitor and
that Lord Justice O'Connor is a Judge, is rather invidious. I would ask you,
therefore, to give me some kind of an answer which I can transmit to him, and I wish
to again point out that I neither desired nor sought this interview and that had
I known that Mr. Cope was to be present, I would not have gone to the
I saw Mr. MacDonagh this morning and he suggested that I should
write you thus fully.