No. 277 NAI DT S4084

Memorandum on Northern Ireland policy by Diarmuid O'Hegarty with covering letter

Dublin, 15 October 1924

  1. In submitting the attached memorandum for the Committee's consideration, I realise that the proposals it contains are likely to be regarded as revolutionary, and I place on record that they are solely my personal views.
  2. If they were accepted as the basis of an offer to Craig, the details would, naturally, not be divulged in the first instance.
  3. An offer on this basis would be worded somewhat as follows:-
    1. The Irish Free State to embrace all Ireland and to be governed by a Federal Government and Legislature with two subordinate Governments and Legislatures.
    2. Federal legislature to consist of two houses - the lower house to be elected on proportional representation, and the constituencies to be determined on basis of population - the second chamber to have two electoral areas, viz., Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland with Northern representation in excess of due proportion. Powers of local parliaments to be somewhat as at present subject to financial arrangements in paragraph 6.
    3. A list of key industries to be prepared by each local legislature with approval of federal legislature. No increase in existing taxes on products of, or raw material for, these industries to be imposed without consent of local legislature concerned.
    4. Constitutional provisions to secure equal rights in proportion to population for candidates for public Federal appointments from each local area.
    5. All minorities to have a voice in legislation in proportion to their numbers.
    6. All taxation to be federal and uniform. Revenue to be attributed to local areas as follows:

      (a) Indirect revenue on population basis

      (b) Direct revenue as collected.

      Expenditure on Federal administration to be attributed on population basis. Balance of revenue attributed to each area to be at the disposition of local parliament.

  4. 4. In the event of these proposals being agreed no difficulty arises about the settlement of the boundary. In fact, from the point of view of safeguarding minorities the allocation of nine counties to Northern Ireland would probably be a good bargain.


  1. In order to consider any draft proposals which might be made to Craig after the third Commissioner has been appointed, it is necessary to form a clear idea of what the object of such proposals is to be. The object has been vaguely described as 'Union.' Union is conceivable on any one of three bases:-

    (a) Union on the basis of equality of citizenship;

    (b) Union with the 26 Counties predominant;

    (c) Union with the 6 Counties predominant.

    Craig would in all probability accept (c), and reject (b). We would certainly reject (c) and accept (b). The only possibility of agreement is (a).

  2. Various schemes for bringing about Union have been put forward. An application of the above test to these schemes will be instructive.

    THE TREATY SCHEME provides an All-Ireland Parliament legislating in all respects for 26 Counties and in certain important matters for Northern Ireland, with a separate Parliament for other affairs in the latter territory. The Treaty, by the way, does not provide that the Northern Parliament would be subordinate to the All Ireland Parliament as it is at the moment subordinate to the British Parliament, although the All-Ireland Parliament from its control of Finance would be able to exert pressure upon it. Doubtless the relations between the Parliaments would have to be more closely defined in the Constitution, which would also contain machinery for securing the safeguards in Article 15. These safeguards would in fact be devices to prevent the All-Ireland Parliament from legislating for the Northern Area on certain vital matters such as Customs and Excise without the consent of the 6 Counties. Such an arrangement also connotes a similar veto on such legislation so far as the 26 Counties are concerned, because if there had been no opting out it is inconceivable that a Customs boundary would be set up, and hence Southern Customs duties would have to correspond with Northern Customs duties.

    The Treaty Scheme is unworkable, because the senior Parliament would in effect be subject to the junior Parliament. To put it in another form, if the words of Article 15 were to be implemented, in a manner acceptable to Sir James Craig, the scheme would fall under head (c) and the majority here would certainly not agree to it.

    THE COUNCIL OF IRELAND SCHEME as contained in the British memo. of 1st February, 1924,1 is unworkable for the reasons stated in our memorandum - (a) the subjects for legislation are too limited, (b) the double majority brings the scheme under heading (c).

    THE WALLER SCHEME2 comes closer to fundamentals. It has certain obvious drawbacks. It gives a legislature without an Executive. It properly gives the All-Ireland legislature control of External Affairs, but on the other hand it gives the Executives of the subordinate parliaments alternately power to appoint the Governor-General who is the channel through which the most important external affairs are transacted. The same objectionable anomalies regarding Customs, etc. are retained, but in general the scheme comes under heading (b). I believe that the absence of provision for an Executive for the All-Ireland legislation apart from any other consideration vitiates the proposal.

  3. If there is a genuine desire to achieve Union it can only be successful if it conforms generally to two conditions, viz:-

    (a) that it accepts the principle outlined in 1 (a) that a Northern citizen is entitled to equal consideration with a Southern citizen, and vice versa;

    (b) that it renders a majority incapable of infringing 'the rights' of a minority as distinct from 'the privileges of a minority'.

    No scheme which creates or establishes a definitely privileged minority can ultimately be satisfactory. The very existence of such privileges provides a raison d'être for a party to maintain them.

  4. Any scheme based upon an All-Ireland Parliament legislating for the 26 Counties on all matters, and restricted in so far as the 6 Counties are concerned by a second, even though subordinate[,] parliament possessing complete legislative control over a very large number of important affairs establishes the 6 Counties in a privileged position. A party will always be able to exist for the maintenance of that privilege - to prevent in fact a complete fusion of interests.

  5. It is quite evident that Northern Ireland will not consent to give up its legislature or its Executive as it is at present constituted. The problem then resolves itself into finding a solution which while it preserves intact the Northern Parliament and Government will at the same time deprive it of the privileged position which it occupies under Articles 14 and 15. I submit that the only possible solution is on federal lines. We must set off the Northern Parliament and Government by a Southern Parliament and Government co-equal in status, privileges and power. The Dominion of Ireland would then be governed in respect of all matters, exclusive of affairs of local importance, by a Federal Parliament. Matters of local importance would be dealt with by two co-equal local parliaments. A rough memorandum showing the relation of the three Parliaments is attached.3

  6. One grave objection to this solution is that it opens the way for a separate dominion of Northern Ireland. I admit this, but I contend that this objection is applicable with equal force to all the other apparently less revolutionary proposals. The mildest is the British proposal of February, 1924, which transfers to the All-Ireland Authority control of Fisheries, Railways and Diseases of Animals legislation. Let us suppose for a moment that this Scheme were tried and found to fail. The All-Ireland Authority would in some manner or other resolve itself out of existence. Can anyone contend, in such event, that the body would recommend that its powers in relation to Northern Ireland should be re-transferred to Great Britain? Is it not inconceivable that Free State representatives would father such a suggestion as against a proposal to place them in the hands of Irishmen?

    Whether we like it or not, the Irish Free State will ultimately find itself unable to continue to demand the retention by Great Britain of powers in respect of any portion of Ireland. Such a course may be within our powers under the Treaty - but once it has been established, if it is established, that a United Ireland is impracticable, it would be contrary to all our protestations to prevent the governed of say, for argument's sake, the Six Counties, from choosing the form of government under which they desire to live.

  7. The most probable objection will be, however, on the grounds that such a proposal reduces the sovereignty of the Oireachtas. Of course it does, but so does every other proposal which has yet been made. The present Oireachtas will have to delegate powers to any All-Ireland body - even if that body is comprised of the present Oireachtas 'in toto' with additions from the Six Counties. This objection is based upon a desire for the Union of Ireland with the 26 Counties predominant which is, I believe, the correct exposition of the views of the majority of our people who talk about Unity.

  8. The annexed memorandum on a Federal Ireland4 contains very rough proposals for:

    (a) The acquisition and subdivision of powers as between the three Parliaments.

    (b) Constitutional safeguards for minorities.

    (c) The establishment of a Federal Executive.

  9. Behind the proposal is the hope that with the objective of privilege maintenance withdrawn, the All-Ireland Body will in time tend to restrict more and more the powers of the local Parliaments until their disappearance on the grounds of inutility will ultimately become a general popular demand. The proposal will in all probability be rejected by the North-East because it gives them no dominance. Undoubtedly they get a very big preference in the Seanad - the Unionists holding for twelve years from 1922 an equal voice with Nationalists, i.e. 15 of the nominated Southern members with 30 Northerns out of a total of 90. No effort has been made to go into details about the financial provisions or the Judiciary. These are matters which have many reactions and will require very careful consideration.

  10. The only reasonable alternative is, in my opinion, to forego all thought of political union, to give full Dominion powers to the Six Counties subject to a Customs convention. This proposal is likely to be quite unacceptable in the Irish Free State, although it has, in justice, more to be said for it than the 'wart' solution which was originated by de Valera and has since been the basis of all the suggested solutions of the problem.
  11. [signed] Diarmuid Ó hÉigeartaigh

    1 Not printed.

    2 See above No.272.

    3 Not printed.

    4 Not printed.

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