Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

No. 12 UCDA P150/2179

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 10) (Secret)

London, 25 January 1937

I saw Mr. Malcolm MacDonald for a few minutes at the end of the British Cabinet meeting today, which meeting I understand was concerned solely with the examination from their point of view of the two constitutional Acts passed by our Government in December last.

Mr. MacDonald said that what he had to say was at the moment informal and confidential and asked that I should give this interim message to the President himself.

He said that the United Kingdom Government's tentative view was that the recent Irish Free State legislation should not be regarded as having altered fundamentally the position of the Irish Free State as a Dominion.

They would decide for themselves but obviously they could not decide for the other partner Governments in the Commonwealth. In view of the President's agreement with Mr. MacDonald that the latter should circulate to the partner Governments our recent Acts, he, Mr. MacDonald, would now circulate them to the other partner Governments and inform them that the United Kingdom Government were of opinion that the Acts should not be regarded as containing any fundamental change in the position of the Irish Free State as a member state of the British Commonwealth.

The United Kingdom Cabinet were however seriously concerned about the possibility of Article 1 of the Constitution being dropped out of the new Constitution and of its not appearing anywhere else. It would make their position very much more difficult and they hoped that the President might see his way either to maintain that Article in the Constitution, or, if he could not for the understandable reason which he gave to Mr. MacDonald, make a fresh clause in Act 2. All that would appear to be needed was an amending one clause Bill adding to the existing Act and saying that the Free State was a co-equal member of the community of nations known as the British Commonwealth. He was afraid that some constitutional provision of this kind was vital from the point of view of the United Kingdom Government.

They would be glad if we could see our way to revise our wording of clause 3, section 1 of Act No. 2 so that our recognition of the Crown as a symbol of the association should be brought into line with that of the other member states of the Commonwealth. The United Kingdom Cabinet also felt that our reference in Act No. 1 to the King as an 'organ' would hurt their people very much on what was a really susceptible point.

Mr. MacDonald concluded this short conversation by emphasising that his remarks were strictly confidential and must, pending the receipt of replies from the partner Governments, necessarily be tentative. The President he thought would see that the foregoing suggestions, though informal and tentative, were put forward in a friendly spirit.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner