No. 194 NAI DT S1801D

Rough notes by Kevin O'Shiel of a conference heldin the President's Room with the Governor General


Dublin, 30 January 1924

  1. Present:






  2. The Governor-General commenced by giving a brief summary of what, from his experience of them, he considered would be the likely attitude of the new British Government. On the whole he considered that RAMSAY MacDONALD and his Ministers would be inclined to deal fairly and justly with us. He mentioned in particular MR. HENDERSON1 whom he thought likely to be exceptionally favourably disposed towards us as during the Black and Tan regime he came across to Dublin as part of a Labour mission of investigation and told Sir Hamar Greenwood2 in strong language what he thought of him.

  3. The Governor-General impressed on his listeners the necessity of remembering in their dealings with the Labour Government that in spite of its undoubted friendliness toward Ireland, it was absolutely ignorant about Irish affairs. It did not know, he declared, the A.B.C. of the general situation and in particular the North-Eastern situation. The delegates, he said, should not hesitate to explain the whole situation from A. to Z. to these men as their minds have been in the main occupied with such matters as wages, trades' union affairs and continental internationals, etc., etc. and they have never had time to get a good grasp of the Irish situation.

    In particular they should be told all about the passing of the 1920 Act - that it was passed through the British Parliament at a time when the greater part of Ireland was subject to a tyranny and could not express its opinion and that in that Parliament not one member for any Irish constituency, Nationalist or Unionist, recorded their vote for the measure.

  4. The treatment of the Catholic minority in the Six Counties is another matter we should stress, laying particular emphasis on the pogroms, the imprisonment of large numbers of Catholics without trial, the absolute immunity extended to criminals who were not Catholics, the driving out of their homes of Catholic men for no conceivable reason, many of whom could not be accused of belonging to any political party, the special consideration meted out to Irregulars and those who were opposing the Government of the Saorstát (e.g. Frank Aiken permitted to wander about County Armagh unmolested and to consolidate his plans against us; he attended Mass and funerals openly all during the trouble of last year and at present cycles openly along the open country in County Armagh). The vexatious arrest and imprisonment, without trial, of our people who go to their homes in the Six Counties, including Military Officers of high rank.

    On the other hand in the Free State there is perfect religious and civil freedom. We hold none of their people prisoners without trial. Protestant citizens throughout the Saorstát are as free to take part in their legitimate avocations as Catholics, and as a matter of fact none of the Protestant communities have uttered a word of complaint against the Saorstát Government. Many Protestants are members of the Oireachtas but in no sectarian sense, having joined one or other of the several national parties.

    If they complain about the size of our Army and Police Force, we can say that this necessity is occasioned by the inimical attitude of the Belfast Government which is working so strongly against us, and that we will have to continue this for our own protection.

HISTORICAL ARGUMENT: We should not neglect, the Governor-General declared, to urge strongly the historical argument which he considered very strong. We should point out that Ireland was always one compact unit, economically, geographically and historically. At no time in history was it ever divided or partitioned, certainly never in the present disgraceful manner. The Six Counties are especially Irish. County Down, for instance, contains St. Patrick's grave and St. Brighid's; Shane O'Neill's grave is in County Antrim, and in Tyrone and Fermanagh are the memorials of many battles and culture sacred to Irish memory.

A STIFF ATTITUDE: The delegates, he declared, should preserve a very stiff and unbending attitude, being careful never to yield an inch. It must not with us be a case of addition but of subtraction. We will gain nothing by yielding, and may gain - if we are to gain at all - by adopting and maintaining all through a good firm attitude. Look at Craig. He is like a piece of iron. He never yields, for he knows that should he yield he would be torn to pieces in Belfast within twenty-four hours afterwards.

Craig and his Government are exceptionally intimate with very influential British political and social circles and they are informed through these quarters of exactly what they are to expect.

Delegates should, of course, be as sweet as honey with MacDonald and the other Ministers. They can say whatever they like in private or speaking separately with British Ministers to show their reasonableness and moderation, but at the meetings of the Conference let them be as hard as granite.

[initialled] C.Ó S.3

1Arthur Henderson,British Labour MP(1923-24, 1929-31, 1935-51), Home Secretary (1924), Foreign Secretary (1929-31).

2Chief Secretary for Ireland (1920-22).

2Caoímhghín Ó Síadhail.

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