No. 100 NAI DFA ES Box 16 File 106(4)

Memorandum on the Boundary Question to each member
of the Executive Council by Kevin O'Shiel

DUBLIN, 19 July 1923


1. Belfast Government Police Circulars - Some time ago we received information from an authentic source that two confidential circulars from the Office of the Inspector General of the Ulster Constabulary had been despatched on the 31st May and the 1st June respectively to the various Border-County headquarters of that Force.

The earlier of these circulars declared that the 'Northern Government was determined to resist the Boundary Commission, if supported properly by the Imperial Government', and requested its officials to have the opinions of prominent local Nationalists forwarded to P.R. Gilfinnane, a D.[istrict] I.[nspector] of the 'C' Specials on the G.H.Q. Staff of the Force in Belfast 'in the event of a plebiscite being decided on by the Commission'.

It is necessary to explain that 'Nationalist' in the vernacular of the Orangeman has now come to mean exclusively one who holds the view of the A.O.H. section. It was generally hoped a few months ago that the retainers of this Order might be prevailed upon to cast in their lot with the Northern Secessionists, as relationship was rather strained between them and the Sinn Féin element. That phase has now happily passed, and these people can be now relied upon to stand by us for the Treaty.

The second circular requested the County Inspector of the Police to furnish the Head Office 'without delay' with a list of the stations situated on the Border that he considered it necessary 'to have Vickers Guns planted, also the names of men in the County suitable to man same'.

2. Provocative Actions by Specials - Shortly after this move a recrudescence of extremely provocative conduct, reminiscent of the Border disturbances of a year ago, manifested itself amongst particular groups of Specials along the Southern Fermanagh Border.

I have already submitted some instances of this conduct for the consideration of the Executive Council, notably the instance of the wanton, wilful and most unnecessary destruction of the bridge on the Swanlinbar-Enniskillen road, and the treatment meted out to the local people who endeavoured to mend it. This has been all very clearly set out in the Memo. of Mr. Johnston of the Bureau, circulated about a week ago, who paid a special visit to the locality for investigation purposes.

The Defence Department quite lately provided further evidence of this growing 'war atmosphere' on the part of the Specials in a statement circulated recently setting forth the extraordinary treatment of a number of Co. Waterford pilgrims (men and women) on their way to Lough Derg. This occurrence took place at Garrison and Belleek, if I remember right.


3. Treatment of Our Chief Customs Officer at Clones - I am able to supply a still further and very bad instance in the copy attached letter of Mr. P. McCartan, our Chief Customs Officer at Clones, to his brother Mr. Hugh A. McCartan, our publicity agent in the Bureau.1

Ministers may remember that recently at my request Mr. H.A. McCartan paid a visit to Clones in order to enable me to supply Ministers with an accurate account of the Twelfth celebrations in the Free State. The man Robinson complained of, Mr. McCartan tells me, watched both his and his brother's movements all that day. Mr. McCartan in a covering note to me comments aptly as follows:-

'You will see that the letter more than confirms all that I have said in my reports regarding the offensive and provocative conduct of the Specials on the Border. It seems to me that these people are deliberately trying to stir up trouble. If one of our people in the Six Counties had acted as Mr. Robinson did he would be promptly arrested and placed on the ?Argenta?. The press has been silent on this episode so far, but it might be considered whether the facts should be conveyed to it. The contrast between the Free State attitude towards the Orange procession and the ?Specials? treatment of a Free State official and clergyman is very marked. Sir James Craig may not be aware that the conduct of the Border ?Specials? is the only real danger to peace'.


4. Object of all this - I think we can no longer shut our eyes to the fact that the Specials, acting very obviously on instructions from some superior quarter, are now deliberately endeavouring once again to stir up trouble along the delicate and dangerous Border regions. With commendable 'restraint' they have remained quiet and inoffensive for months past, and now for no apparent reason (for the Border was never freer from trouble than it is to-day) their whole attitude undergoes an immediate and sudden change.

The object of all this is obviously to create a position of actual warfare along the Border so that they will be able to assert, as they did last year under similar circumstances with considerable success (see the 'Times' 'Daily Mail' of the period) that they are being attacked from the South, who are trying to indulge in Korfanty2 tactics, and so prejudice the Commission's findings in their favour. Instances have recently re-occurred of continued firings at night into the Free State by gangs of armed Specials.

All this is very sinister and I am strongly of the view that representation should be made to the Duke.3 For, if this dangerous humour continues there is bound to be a conflagration on the Border in a short time, and then Craig may get the entire ear of the Duke. It would be well, therefore, for us to make some representation now, so that we could get, as it were, our say in first. And we could not choose a better moment for this, with such excellent evidence now quite fresh.


5. Troops Along the Border - May I suggest that it would be a very good thing if, from this on, our side of the Border was guarded by our best, most reliable and most seasoned troops, as it is more than likely that our men there will be submitted to a great test of patience and endurance before the Boundary negotiations are over.

It would be well that no troops (or as few as possible) who are natives of the Province of Ulster should be stationed along Frontier Posts, as human nature being as it is their naturally strong Irredentist sentiments may at an awkward moment get the better of them with disastrous consequences.

Assistant Legal Adviser

1Not printed.

2Wojciech Korfanty (1873-1939) Polish politician. Originator of the Korfanty Line, a Polish- German boundary in Upper Silesia. The line was never accepted as the official border, but provided a basis for a compromise border, which was less favourable to the Poles. Forces led by Korfanty occupied the German section of Silesia in May 1921, until they were forced out by British troops.

3The Duke of Devonshire, the Secretary of State for the Colonies.

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