No. 4 NAI DT S8892

Memorandum by Kevin O’Shiel to each minister in the Provisional
Government (Very Urgent)

DUBLIN, undated but September/October 1922

To /
Each Minister.
The dramatic collapse of the Lloyd-George Government resulting in the forthcoming General Election in Great Britain has raised a number of urgent and vital issues in connection with the North East, which require to be dealt with immediately.

I. The Question of our contesting certain North-Eastern Seats

The most immediately critical of these issues and one upon which a decision will have to be made at once, is the question as to whether or not we should advise our people in the Six-County area to contest those Constituencies in which there is an excellent chance of their being victorious.

It should be explained that the British General Election will apply to the Six-County Area for the purpose of electing 13 members to the British House. Whilst the voting will be according to the old direct method, the Constituencies will remain as at present arranged under the Proportional Representation Act.

This matter is only particularly pertinent to the Constituency of Tyrone- Fermanagh. This great Constituency will presently be called upon to return 2 members to the Imperial Parliament by the direct method of voting. Should a contest take place it is an absolute certainty that two Nationalist or Anti-Partition members will be returned by a clear majority of from 8,000 to 9,000 over the nearest Unionist candidate. About this result there is not the slightest shadow of doubt whatever.

Personally, I think that this great opportunity of proving once more that Tyrone-Fermanagh, the great territorial centre piece of the Six Counties, does not want to remain under a Belfast Parliament, should be availed of. This is particularly important in view of the forthcoming Boundary Commission. For the Boundary Commission will want every available argument in order to maintain even half our case, and, in my opinion, we certainly should not turn down that golden opportunity that is now offered to us through such a contest.

It does not much matter whether the individuals concerned will, or will not go to the Imperial Parliament. The great thing is that they stand on one plank and on one plank only, viz., Anti-Partition against the inclusion of the two Counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh in the Northern Parliament and for their remaining part of the Saorstát.

I am firmly convinced that should this policy be sanctioned it will enormously strengthen our hands at the Boundary Commission. In the face of such a result what arguments can Sir James Craig put up against these Counties remaining with us?

At any rate, it is a matter on which a decision will have to be made at once, as time presses. The nominations will take place within a week, and if our people are to be advised to engage upon the contest, they will have to make their preparation at once. I may say that the locals all favour a contest. I have been speaking to a number of them, and they [all] are unanimous.

Another reason why we should advise our people to contest this particular seat is that if we do not[,] Mr. Harbison, M.P., the sitting member, and another Devlinite[,] certainly will. The Nationalists will undoubtedly vote for them as against the Orange candidates and we will, in consequence, lose a good deal of prestige.


II. Electioneering at British Elections

1. The Ulster Unionist Council have made extraordinarily elaborate arrangements to take a prominent part in this General Election in Great Britain. They have actually sent over hundreds of Speakers and intend to address at least 600 Meetings at which the 'Cause of Ulster' will be put before the British Electorate.

2. Now, what are we to do about this? Are we to ignore it or to take measures to anticipate and counteract it? We may say that Ireland has nothing further to do with Great Britain. But this is not the case. Until the Constitution and the Boundary Commission have been safely steered through to success we must keep a very attentive eye on Great Britain and British politics.,

Now it is quite obvious that this British Election is a most important one from our particular standpoint. If a powerful Die-Hard Unionist majority is returned it will be very bad for us, especially for our interpretation of the Boundary Commission. What would suit our development at this stage best would be a weak British Government, that is to say, one which has only just a working majority. If we ignore the North Eastern incursion into Great Britain, it is bound to have an enormous effect on the British Electorate and in so light1 a contest it may play a decisive part in the Elections.

3. The question then arises that if we decide to counteract this prejudicial propaganda, what precise measures should we take?

It would obviously be both unwise and undignified for us either to hitch ourselves on to any particular British Party, or to take a part in the campaign as an Irish Government. But I think between these extremes a number of middle ways offer themselves. For instance, what is to prevent a number of individuals from Ireland going across and counteracting any hostile propaganda where it may be presented. Or even a particular Irish Party could take an active part, as a Party. For example, the Irish Labour Party could do a lot of good in this way.

4. But apart from this our main propaganda in Great Britain should be undertaken by the Irish Societies and Organizations there. For example, the Irish Self-Determination League and the U.[nited] I.[rish] L.[eague] of Great Britain under T.P. O'Connor (who is now altogether with us) could do much in counteracting Craig's propaganda.


5. Main Point in Craig's Propaganda

There is no doubt at all that Craig's propaganda will centre around the Boundary Commission. His tone of argument will be mainly

a)  That 'Ulster' is a self-contained, economic and homogenous entity within its Six Counties.

b)  That he never asked for Home Rule. All he asked for was to be allowed to remain part of the United Kingdom, and now that a Parliament has been thrust on him all that he asks is to be let alone to govern it without interference from 'Southern Ireland'.

c)  That 'Ulster's' Present territory was guaranteed to 'her' by the 1920 Home Rule Act - an Act of the British Parliament, just as sacred and as binding as the Treaty Act.

d)  That all the Six Counties are peopled overwhelmingly by Loyalists.

e)  That surely the fair-minded British people would not have any part in flinging him and his Loyalists to the Barbarism of Southern Ireland.

f)  Then much attention will, no doubt, be paid to the 'appalling conditions' in 'Southern Ireland', especially the awful happenings to 'Southern Loyalists'.

Now, these are arguments which, if left to themselves, are bound to have an effect on the British Electorate, but which are quite simple to confute. Therefore, I think it will be essential to have some of our people there to counteract such arguments.


6. Publicity Campaign in England

Craig and his supporters have always believed in propaganda. Their case for the special treatment of the Pro-British thinking people of the North of Ireland has been almost entirely created by a vast Press campaign. I hear that they have already made their preparations for a vast Press campaign in Great Britain during this Election. It is essential to counteract this, and I am endeavouring to get in touch with prominent British Journals that will probably support us and will be glad to publish our stuff and make use of our statistics. Leaflets will also have to be printed and distributed through the various Organizations in England favourable to us. In the Boundary Bureau we are at present preparing suitable stuff for publicity purposes in England. We can supply stuff for leaflets etc.

7. It has just occurred to me that some of our prominent Election experts, like Dan McCarthy, should be placed in control of a distributing and organising centre for getting in touch with and using English parties favourable to us.

8. The whole matter, at any rate, is extremely important, and I would be very glad of your comments on it immediately.

[copy letter unsigned]
Assistant Legal Adviser

1The author may have meant to use the word 'tight'.

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