No. 358 NAI 2003/17/181

Letter from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Secret) (Copy)

London, 8 September 1936

Note of a Meeting held at Treasury Chambers,

Whitehall, at 11 a.m. on Monday,

7th September, 1936



Sir N.F. Warren Fisher

Sir Horace J. Wilson

Sir Edward J. Harding

The High Commissioner for the Irish Free State - Mr John Dulanty

Sir Warren Fisher stated that the British Government shared President de Valera's wish that a spirit of co-operation should prevail between Great Britain and the Irish Free State, and for that reason they had agreed to Mr. Malcolm MacDonald's proposals that exploratory talks should take place with a view of seeing whether it would be possible to find a solution of the questions outstanding between the two countries. The friendly atmosphere on the part of the British Cabinet was referred to in terms of emphasis by Sir Warren Fisher.

I said that I thought my Government, whilst ready and willing to consider such proposals as the British Government might put forward, were of opinion that no real solution bringing permanent peace and goodwill between the two peoples was possible so long as the present disunion of Ireland existed. The President had recently explained to Mr. MacDonald his view that the British should not be misled into thinking that superficial modifications, instead of really fundamental changes, would lead to a satisfactory settlement.

Sir Horace Wilson thought that the task before us was to put side by side full statements of the British and Irish positions and to make a close examination of them with the object of discovering points of approach or contact which would enable us to reach agreement on the questions outstanding.

Sir Warren Fisher read the concluding paragraph of a memorandum which had been submitted to the British Cabinet - drawn up by Ministers who were also lawyers - the point of which paragraph was its emphasis on the fact that it was the spirit of the British Commonwealth which gave it the flush of life, which made it a workable institution, whereas the 'letter alone killeth'. It was their hope that on constitutional matters, bearing in mind this idea of the living spirit as against the dead letter, forms of words might be found which would satisfy both countries.

On the constitutional aspect two other questions were raised. If the present King in his capacity as head of the British Commonwealth visited Dublin would he under the proposed new Free State Constitution be received with the politeness extended to a foreign monarch such as the King of Denmark, or would he be recognised as the head of a group of States of which the Irish Free State was one? I said this was clearly a matter for reference, but I called attention to President de Valera's statement that in the new Constitution the King would have no part or lot in the internal affairs of our country but would continue his present functions on external matters. The other question, raised by Sir Horace Wilson, was as to whether the President under the new Constitution would in any way maintain the link between the King and the Irish Free State in relation to its internal affairs, or alternatively whether any other link could be established. Thus far that link had been provided, in however attenuated a form, by the Governor General, and whilst there would probably be no great concern in England about the abolition of the title of Governor General it would certainly be important for the British Government to be able to say that there was still some link between the Irish Free State Government and the King in relation to its internal affairs.

I asked whether it would not be possible to let me have a statement giving, even in outline only, the general principles of the settlement contemplated by the British Government. Sir Warren Fisher said the difficulty about that was that the British Government had taken so definitely the line that whatever arrangements might be made on the financial and economic questions those arrangements should not in any sense even appear as a consideration in return for possible agreements on the constitutional question; but he promised to supply me with notes at any rate on the Constitutional and Defence aspects.

On the assumption that Commonwealth status would be maintained in such a way as would satisfy Great Britain and the other States of the Commonwealth group I gathered that the British Government would make suggestions on the Defence question which would, they thought, satisfy the Irish Free State Government on certain conditions, as for example, the availability of the Irish ports to the British Navy and Air Force in time of war. Sir Warren Fisher said that the position of the British Government on the question of finance was that they would be glad to receive proposals from the Irish Government. The possibility of an economic or trade agreement on the basis of reciprocity would be dependent, Sir Horace Wilson thought, on the settlement of the outstanding financial dispute.

[copy letter unsigned]
High Commissioner

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