Volume 5 1936~1939

Doc No.

No. 120 UCDA P150/2487

Memorandum from Maurice Moynihan to Eamon de Valera (Dublin) on the possibility of the restoration of the six counties

Dublin, 13 January 1938

Conference with British Ministers, January 1938.
Restoration of the Six Counties

It is, I think, unlikely that the forthcoming Conference will include in its direct results

  • (a) the restoration of the Six Counties, or
  • (b) the detachment of any portion of the present Six County territory and the addition of such portion to the area within our jurisdiction, or
  • (c) the setting up of any authority having functions of an advisory or other character in respect of the whole of the 32 Counties.

2. There is perhaps some remote possibility of achieving the setting up of some joint authority having advisory functions, if that would fall in with your policy. I take it, however, that failure to achieve (a), or (b), or (c) would not be regarded by you as necessitating by itself a breakdown of negotiations in regard to finance, trade and defence.

3. It was provisionally agreed at the meeting of the Government on Friday last, the 7th instant 1, in regard to which I have already given you some notes, that any agreement which does not include the restoration of the Six Counties will not be regarded as disposing completely of the matters at issue between Ireland and Great Britain. An understanding of this nature clearly and publicly expressed and assented to by both parties to the Conference appears to be a necessary concomitant of any agreement that may now be reached. You may consider that failure to reach such an understanding would justify from our point of view a complete breakdown of negotiations.

4. The understanding might cover the following points:

(1) The British Government to accept and publicly to recognise the position of the Irish Government that while the question of partition remains unsettled, the matters at issue between the two countries cannot be regarded as disposed of completely.
(2) Both sides to recognise that there is no question of coercing the majority in the Six Counties into any settlement of the partition problem.
(3) The British Government to express themselves as being favourably disposed towards Irish union and as being prepared to do everything within their power by peaceful and friendly means to encourage it.

5. The prominence which has been given to partition, not merely in relation to the forthcoming Conference, but generally in statements of the Government's policy, seems to make it imperative that some such declarations as those at (1) to (3) should be made in conjunction with any agreement, particularly an agreement including clauses in relation to defence.

6. As a matter of tactics at the Conference, I would suggest that a full discussion of partition ought to come last, so that so far as possible we may know where we stand in regard to trade, finance and defence before the matter which may be regarded as containing the greatest danger to the success of the negotiations is reached. It will be impossible to keep partition altogether out of the earlier discussions, because all four questions are to a considerable extent interdependent, but I think the greatest possible light should be obtained on the British intentions regarding trade, finance and defence before all the cards are put on the table regarding partition.

[signed] M. O'Muimhneacháin

1 See document No. 118. This matter does not appear in the agreed minutes.