Volume 1 1919~1922

Doc No.

No. 132 UCDA P150/1902

Seamus Ó Concubair to Eamon de Valera

Dublin, 18 May 1921

Bealthaine 18adh, 1921.

Eamonn de Bhalera, Uasal.
A Uachtarain,
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 merely conversation.

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 Judge's house.

I saw Mr. MacDonagh this morning and he suggested that I should write you thus fully.

Beir buadh agus beannacht,
Séamus Ó Concubair