No. 602 NAI DT S5340/19

Letter from William T. Cosgrave to Ramsay MacDonald (London)

Dublin, 21 November 1931

My dear Prime Minister,

I have read the report of last Friday's Debate in the House of Commons on the Statute of Westminster Bill and am gravely concerned at Mr. Thomas' concluding statement that the Government will be asked to consider the whole situation in the light of the debate. I sincerely hope that this does not indicate any possibility that your Government would take the course of accepting an amendment relating to the Irish Free State.

I need scarcely impress upon you that the maintenance of the happy relations which now exist between our two countries is absolutely dependent upon the continued acceptance by each of us of the good faith of the other.

This situation has been constantly present to our minds and we have reiterated time and again that the Treaty is an agreement which can be altered only by consent. I mention this principally because there seems to be a mistaken view in some quarters that the solemnity of this instrument in our eyes could derive any additional strength from a Parliamentary Statute. So far is this from being the case that any attempt to erect a Statute of the British Parliament into a safeguard to the Treaty would have quite the opposite effect here, and would rather tend to give rise in the minds of our people to doubts as to the sanctity of that instrument.

It is also, I am sure, quite unnecessary for me to say that the Statute of Westminster in its present form represents an agreement between all the Governments of the Commonwealth, an agreement which has been considered at great length by our representatives at the Imperial Conference and by our Government, and endorsed, as it stands, by our Dáil and Senate. Any amendment of the nature now suggested would be a departure from the terms of the Imperial Conference report and would be wholly unacceptable to us.

You will agree that this is a time when the interests of the peoples of the Commonwealth as a whole must be put before the prejudices of the small reactionary element in these islands. I do not believe for a moment that your Government have any intention of giving in to these prejudices, but Mr. Thomas' statement has made it imperative that I should let you know how I and my colleagues view the situation.

Yours sincerely,
sgd Liam T. MacCosgair

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