No. 154 UCDA P150/1905

Report from Harry Boland and Joseph McGrath to Eamon de Valera

14 September 1921

As directed by you, we proceeded to, and arrived at Gairloch on Tuesday, 13th inst. at 3 o'c. p.m. Mr. L. George was away. He returned at 5.20, when we presented your reply. While he appeared in very good humour, and remarked when taking the reply 'I hope you have brought something definite this time', he changed immediately he read it and said 'It won't do, I can't have it, why did he put in that second Paragraph? - he, De V., said that on each occasion I saw him; he said it in Public, why could he not leave it at that I am done, I am done.'

Up to this no opportunity had presented itself for my mentioning your difficulties, etc. to his Secty, Sir E. Grigg, as per your direction, so I, by way of reply to L.G., pointed out that his last reply was of such a nature that you were driven to reply as you had done, and even with that you expected grave opposition from AN DAIL, perhaps a reverse note. He replied, 'I know, but since the opening up of negotiations I have given way each time against the wishes of my supporters, but he (De V.) has not moved an inch. In a case of a Big and a Small nation, the Big nation should not have to give all and get none. No, I have dealt with all nations, all men, Mr. Clemenceau, Mr. Briand, etc. we all have to give something, but De Valera will give nothing. I am done, done.

He then left with his Secty. asking us to remain - after five minutes he returned, and said 'no, I can't accept that. I am indeed very sorry, you had better wire Mr. De Valera saying the Conference is off. You will get no British statesman to accept that - no British statesman dare. I have received a protest, signed by 60 of my supporters, protesting against my having gone so far. Sir E. Grigg received a letter from a very influential and respected personage protesting. Why all peoples, all papers, with the exception of the 'Bulletin' favour acceptance.

We again pointed to your great difficulties. He replied that he knew them well. 'I know', he said' of the different elements he (De V.) has to deal with, and it was because I knew I worded my reply in such a way. I even used his own term 'association' to help him mind you that was not in the first draft.

He again glanced at your reply, and said 'why could he not see it. I can't say what I think, but it is Hell. Consent of the Governed is all right, I don't mind that, he has a good score off me there, but the other, I can't have - Sovereign State 'NO' - I can't go into conference and treat as I would with France, for instance, I could not even call a Cabinet on it.

I can do nothing except ask him to withhold publication, or if you like I will give you back the reply. I can only answer it by declaring off the Conference'. We asked time to consider. Having consulted, we decided not to take back your reply, but told him we would stop publication. Then the question of our visit arose, and we agreed on communiqué published by P.A. He said he would accept it without second Paragraph, and if you agreed you could hand reply to Cope. If he had received it by Friday the Conference could come off on Tuesday. If on Saturday, he suggested Wednesday. After some further discussion on details re conference, we parted. I wired Publicity not to publish announcement re handing of reply, and explained as best I could with safety on phone from Inverness what had happened.

J. McGrath
Harry Boland

Editorial Note: Dáil Éireann met in private session at 11 a.m. on September 14 at the Mansion House, Dublin. The Cabinet's reply to the British Prime Minister's letter was read and unanimously approved. In view of a possible conference with representatives of the British Government, the following delegation of plenipotentiaries was ratified:

  • Arthur Griffith, Minister for Foreign Affairs (Chairman).
  • Michael Collins, Minister of Finance.
  • Robert C. Barton, Minister for Economic Affairs.
  • Eamon Duggan (Deputy for Meath and Louth).
  • George Gavan Duffy, Envoy at Rome (Deputy for County Dublin).

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