No. 213 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S1

Despatch from Eamon de Valera to J.H. Thomas (London)
(No. 142) (Copy)

Dublin, 29 November 1933


I have the honour to refer to the statement made by you in the House of Commons on the 14th instant in reply to a question relating to the dispute between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State.

2. On that occasion, having stated that the British Government were advised that the Bills to amend the Constitution of the Irish Free State, then before the Oireachtas, conflicted in important respects with the Treaty of 1921, you declared that the Irish Free State as a member of the Commonwealth was completely free to order her own affairs. You also said that it was the desire of the British Government to see the Irish Free State taking her full share as a member of the Commonwealth, not grudgingly but of her own free will, accepting the responsibilities and enjoying the privileges. You added that if the Irish Free State renounced the responsibilities she could not hope to enjoy the privileges of membership.

3. Following this statement the Government of the Irish Free State feel obliged to make clear beyond any possibility of doubt the attitude of the Irish people towards the British Commonwealth. The Irish people have never sought membership of the Commonwealth. Their association with Great Britain and the Commonwealth has never on their side been a voluntary association. In every generation they have striven with such means as were at their disposal to maintain their right to exist as a distinct and independent nation, and whenever they yielded to British rule in any form they did so only under the pressure of overwhelming material force.

4. The Treaty of 1921 involved no fundamental change in their attitude. They submitted to the Treaty because they were presented with the alternative of immediate war. They did not accept it as a final settlement of their relations with Great Britain. Still less did they regard the Treaty - in the sense in which the British Government seek to interpret it - as giving Great Britain a permanent right to interfere in their constitutional development.

5. The experience of the last twelve years has made it abundantly evident that lasting friendship cannot be attained on the basis of the present relationship. The Government of the Irish Free State infer from your statement of the 14th instant that the British Government also now realise the evils of a forced association and have decided not to treat as a cause of war or other aggressive action a decision of the Irish people to sever their connection with the Commonwealth. This attitude of the British Government appears to the Government of the Irish Free State to be of such fundamental importance that it should be formulated in a direct and unequivocal statement. The Government of the Irish Free State would sincerely welcome such a statement. They believe that it would be the first step towards that free and friendly co-operation in matters of agreed common concern between Great Britain and Ireland which ought to exist between them.

I have the honour to be,
Your most obedient,
humble servant,
(Sgd.) Eamon de Valera
Minister for External Affairs

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