No. 2 NAI DT S4743

Memorandum by Kevin O'Shiel on the organisation of
the North Eastern Boundary Bureau

DUBLIN, 14 October 1922


By a Minute of the Cabinet dated the 2nd day of October last1 Commission, and given authority to make all the necessary arrangements for carrying out the task expeditiously and efficiently.

In order to make for the necessary despatch and thoroughness I considered that it was essential to condense the entire scheme of work into one central bureau which would be divided into a number of Departments or divisions, with special work appropriated to them and in charge of competent and wellqualified individuals - All these divisions, of course, to be responsible to me for their conduct of that part of the work entrusted to them, and I, on my part, to be responsible to the Cabinet for the completion and delivery of the whole task in good time for the Boundary Commission.

In starting off on the work of organising the necessary machine I received a number of disappointments from persons who had practically promised to assist me in the work and on whose assistance I was relying. This occasioned an initial delay in my plans, but it worked out for the best as it so happened for, in the meantime, I was enabled to meet and discuss matters with prominent representatives from the North East and to adjust my arrangements in view of their suggestions.

I found it extraordinarily difficult to procure the services of fully qualified persons to undertake the most important task of research and investigation. This was largely accounted for by the necessarily temporary nature of the undertaking and the quite reasonable reluctance of good men to leave, at this time of much change, their permanent positions with whatever possibilities they might carry with them.

Eventually I succeeded in establishing the framework of the organization and am now able to report to you the following achievement in this connection:

Taking into consideration every aspect of my work and in order to secure the maximum results in the minimum time I have proceeded to organise along the following lines:


(A) Research Division and Central Office, (16, Kildare Street)

In charge of a Secretary and staff.

Attached to this will be a number of experts who will be remunerated by us and called in occasionally for consultation. Scale and further details later.


(B) Publicity Division

In charge of a competent person with a small staff.

Details later.


(C) North-Eastern Local Division

In charge of a supervisor and a number of legal agents who will be responsible for their own areas.

Details later.


I will now explain the proposed working of the above scheme.

(1) The Research and Investigation Division has been set up and has now actually commenced work in the Offices recently occupied by the Constitution Committee at 16, Kildare Street. I have put this section in charge of Mr. E.M. Stephens, B/L who, in my opinion, is amply qualified for the work. In addition to his legal and other qualifications I may mention that he has just completed a period of eight months service as Secretary of the Constitution Committee, and his experience in that connection will be most valuable in his present position.

I suggest that Mr. Stephens should be remunerated at the rate of £700 per year. This, I think, is a very reasonable figure when the special circumstances of the case are taken into account.

To begin with it is a purely temporary post. There is no guarantee of any permanence in connection with it, or even that it shall last longer than four months at the outside. Then he has left aside for the present all his usual work, and he will of course have to do work overtime both on Sundays and week days. He is aware of the obligations which the position entails and is quite prepared to perform them.

With Mr. Stephens in Kildare Street is the remains of the staff of the Constitution Committee. As far as I remember[,] this consists at present of Mr. Meara, an expert indexer (whose services will be most valuable)[,] one clerk and two lady typists.

As I have said there is in existence now at least the framework of a staff, and they are actually engaged at present on the preparatory work of their inquiry according to a complete scheme of work with which they have been provided. From this on though it will be essential to augment this staff very considerably, and I may have to make occasional requests for additional help as time goes on. Already we are trying to procure the services of an expert statistician, as well as a couple of competent men to look up certain special matters in Libraries, etc.

We will require frequently to consult with and seek the advice of well known authorities and experts who for many reasons we could not take over as fullypaid officials. I am at present consulting with a number of these people with a view to arranging a satisfactory via media which will enable us to call upon their advice at any time, and get them to furnish us with Memoranda and reports that we may request from time to time.

We may also have to obtain wholly individual and special work. For instance, I have a few men already on the task of exploring every possible aspect of the Silesian, the Schleswig-Holstein and the Hungarian Plebiscites, and also the special position of Alsace-Lorraine (the attempt made to Germanise it, etc. etc.).

(2) The Publicity Division

I consider this an extremely important division to be run in close co-operation with the Research Division. This Division will be under some competent person with both literary and Northern experience.

The functions of this Section will be:

(1) To provide either through the Government Publicity Department or direct, whichever is most convenient, the daily Press of Ireland, Great Britain, America, and the World generally, with suitable and effective articles and circulars bearing on the situation. (This could be conveniently done by sending out a weekly bulletin to all the principal papers).

(2) To get in touch with all the friendly British and foreign Journals with a view to getting them to assist in publishing the weekly circulars and special articles that may be issued from time to time, and also in guiding their own policy along lines somewhat similar to ours in this matter.

(3) To publish occasionally pamphlets, leaflets, etc. etc. bearing on the various aspects of the case and get them distributed, especially in those parts where there is a hostile propaganda.

(4) To anticipate Sir James Craig's forthcoming Press Campaign and to answer Sir James Craig's arguments when they are brought forth.

(5) To run, if it becomes necessary, a small propaganda sheet chiefly for the consumption of those Anti-Partition Unionists who live in areas like Derry City, Newry, etc. etc.

I consider this Division of immense importance in connection with our whole Boundary campaign. We cannot underestimate the vast influence of the Press in all modern politics. We have seen great wars created, Governments overturned and many other things of equal importance done purely through a vigorous Press propaganda.

No one knows better than Sir James Craig the might and power of the Press, and even whilst we are discussing he is making his arrangements to launch forth a vast Press campaign when the proper moment arrives.

It cannot be forgotten [that] the whole 'Ulster question' as we know it in modern times, with its plea for the special treatment of an arbitrarily chosen group of people, has been created solely and absolutely by a gigantic and carefully arranged Press campaign.

The 'No Home Rule' and the 'No surrender' campaign of the early part of the century, and later the Partition Campaign have been purely manufactured by the great Press organization of the late Lord Northcliffe.

Therefore, we cannot underestimate the advantages of a judiciously arranged and timely Press campaign.

It will be recalled that in the two recent European examples of Partition - viz., Silesia and Schleswig-Holstein an enormous literary propaganda was carried on throughout Europe by the various partisans. Prior to the taking of these two Plebiscites one could not enter into a hotel or public lounge on the Continent without finding scattered about the tables and desks enormous quantities of literature from the various viewpoints in many languages.

I do not propose that we should organise this Division on so extensive or ambitious a scale, but I do think much can be done in this direction to influence world opinion, and through world opinion, not the North-Eastern Government, not the Northern Unionist, but the British Government and the Chairman of the Boundary Commission. The importance of this will readily be seen when it is realised that it will be the organised force of public opinion and that alone which will eventually decide whether the Boundary Commission will lean towards our side of the case or the Pro-Partition side.

Hence, the use of a capable and competent editor in this connection will be extremely valuable, and by no means a waste of time.

I have elsewhere outlined a scheme along which I think this Division should work.

(3) North Eastern Local Division

This is an important and necessary Division of the work. We want some machinery for keeping us in touch with the various people concerned in the entire North East, but particularly in those parts where the 'wishes of the inhabitants' will certainly be with us.

This will be a big Division and will require considerable expenditure, but it is, nevertheless, essential to the proper working of the whole scheme.

What I propose to do is to put certain districts in charge of a competent person, preferably a legal man, as he would have most experience for the purposes required. I would throw on that man the onus of making up the case for remaining with the Free State for that particular area over which he has charge. He would furnish me in Dublin with frequent and ample reports, and would also be required to answer any query that may be sent up to him by the Research Division. I propose, therefore, that such a person should be appointed over the following districts:

(1) Fermanagh County

(2) Tyrone County

(3) Derry City

(4) South Derry County

(5) Newry District (including South Armagh and South and East Down).

Later on we may have to appoint some person to look after the special internal areas of Nationalism, such as the Glens of Antrim, the Shores of Lough Neagh, West Belfast and Rathlin Island; but for the present these are the most important areas.

All these men will be under a Supervisor, who, for the present at any rate, will pay special attention to these little islands of Nationalism in addition to his general work of going round and keeping the various Committees, that these agents will start in their own districts, at work.

I propose to appoint Sean O'Hanrahan, Solicitor, Omagh as Supervisor of the entire Northern area.2 The question of his remuneration does not yet arise. For the present, at any rate, he is agreeable to accept only out-of-pocket expenses.

All the agents mentioned above will, of course, have to be remunerated. I will furnish later, when I have had time to consult with Mr. O'Hanrahan and others, what I would consider reasonable remuneration.

This is a very important section of the work as it will provide most of the practical work in connection with the Commission. All reports coming in from this quarter will be carefully examined by us with a view to seeing that the cases of the districts do not conflict in any way with our general scheme for the whole case of the North East stated.

I am able to state now definitely that the following gentlemen have been appointed as our agents to the following districts. They have all been chosen because of their experience in registration work and their personal capacity, and I will propose later that they be paid weekly in order to enable us to dispense speedily with their services should they prove to be unsatisfactory.

Derry City - Mayor O'Doherty. I was personally against this appointment

but the general consensus of all whom I consulted was that it would be very inadvisable to ignore him, as he 'possesses the Bishop's conscience'. I was assured that his son[,] young Hugh C. O'Doherty, who is a fairly3 capable Solicitor, and quite steady, would do most of the work.

Derry County (South) - Mr. P.J. Agnew, Solicitor, Magherafelt.

(This man did a lot of work for Sinn Féin in connection with the Revision Sessions, etc.)

Tyrone County (North and Mid) - Mr. Alec Donnelly, Solicitor, Omagh.

Tyrone County (South and East) - Mr. T.J.S. Harbison, M.P., Solicitor, Cookstown.

Fermanagh County - Not yet filled.

Newry District (including Down County South and East)

(?????????????Armagh?? " ?????South???????????)

Mr. John H. Collins, Solicitor, Newry.

Assistant Legal Adviser

1Not printed.

2O'Hanrahan was a former Sinn Féin Director of Elections in Tyrone.

3The word 'very' in the original has been crossed out and replaced with 'fairly'.

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