No. 219 NAI DT S1801P

Copy of interview given by William T. Cosgrave to the press

Dublin, 24 May 1924

From Sir James Craig's recent pronouncements, I take it to be admitted as a governing principle that the Boundary question is to be settled, so far as is geographically and economically practicable, in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants.

On that basis, I see no reason why there should be any delay in proceeding with the business of the settlement. There is certainly not on my side any desire to prolong this controversy. If I am not mistaken, the great majority of the people in Great Britain as well as in Ireland expected and intended, as a result of the Treaty, that the affairs of each country should cease to be an intruding and disturbing factor in the life of the other. There is a relatively small minority in both countries, small but active and persistent and apparently with influential connections, who seem determined to maintain friction and controversy atthe maximum, and whose minds, as General Smuts once said, are back in the seventh century. It is this minority which has been using every effort and every variety of argument to prevent the issue being decided in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants, and thus to force it, if they can, as an international quarrel upon the public of both countries.

It is regrettable and disquieting that Sir James Craig, when he approaches this problem in a manner that seems to hold out hope of a better understanding, should find himself at the same time obliged to speak of his retirement being involved. The public must take this to mean that others will be in a position to disavow and nullify any agreement that does not please them, and the only result will be that they took Jonah and cast him into the sea, but the sea did not cease from raging. I would be without sincerity if I failed to keep to the point that we must seek to have this controversy ended not prolonged, and that it cannot be ended except in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants of the areas concerned.

My Government holds itself bound by the terms of the Treaty to give effect to the wishes of the inhabitants in regard to the settlement of the Boundary. The British Government is equally so bound. I do not remember that anything so crude and indefensible as a claim to disregard and override the wishes of the people in the areas concerned has ever been put forward expressly on behalf of Sir James Craig's administration. But it did appear to me as implied from the various pleas and pronouncements that one read from time to time, that the wishes of the people of those areas were to be ignored. These people have natural rights in the matter, they have Treaty rights, and they have statutory rights. If Governments were to annul those rights, the people concerned would be entitled to seek every possible remedy in national and [in] international law. I am sure that they would prefer, as I would prefer, to see their right accorded without strife of any kind, and therefore I am glad to recognise - if I am right in recognising - that these elementary rights of theirs, which are also statutory rights and Treaty rights, are admitted to be the basis of a settlement. It will ease the situation when it is known that justice is not to be denied and is not to be delayed.

These people complain that they are at present governed by sheer force, that their franchises are annulled, that their majorities are converted by legislative devices into minorities, electoral districts being remodelled for the purpose on the principle of the jigsaw puzzle, and that their condition, for which British Government is still responsible, is intolerable. They are officially warned that there is worse still to come.

If such charges were brought against my Government, certain publicists and politicians, who think it good policy to keep up and stir up enmity between our country and theirs, would make the Press and the platform and the British Houses of Parliament resound with our iniquities.

I want to see and I think I am entitled to demand some earnest of good will and fair play in these matters.

I welcome every word of good will. Still more will I welcome actions that will bear out good words.

My willingness to enter into conference cannot be questioned, but I cannot be expected to take part in conferences that hold out chiefly the prospect of delay and consequent exasperation.

My Government has already asked that the Boundary Commission be set up without delay. When this is done, it will facilitate agreement. If then Sir James Craig and I, or any other two men or number of men duly representative, can come together and arrive at a settlement in due accord with the wishes of the inhabitants, we can present our agreement to the Commission for ratification in accordance with the Treaty and with the Statutes of both countries.

If a settlement is not to be reached in this way, what prospect is there of reaching it otherwise? In the event of a disagreement, the Commission would still be necessary - that is, unless the Treaty is to cease to operate. The establishment of the Commission in the first instance is the sole effective guarantee in sight for arriving at a settlement by consent or, failing that, for a settlement by procedure. I don't suppose that anybody imagines this issue will be settled by any amount of elaborate special pleading in newspapers, much of it directed to the opposite purpose.

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