No. 361 UCDA P150/2179

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

London, 15 September 1936

At his request I went to Sir Warren Fisher's room at the British Treasury this morning when he handed me the enclosed letter signed by him and dated 14th September.1 He had with him Sir Horace Wilson, Sir Edward Harding, and Mr. Grattan Bushe.

Sir Warren Fisher said that he had two points which he hoped could be put to the President as coming personally from him, Sir Warren Fisher. The first was that his letter was a good example of the limits to which mere writing could go. It was officialese, legalistic, and he was afraid that to Dublin it would look rather 'a damned thin document'. He spoke of it as 'a bare horrid-looking thing', a skeleton which could be clothed with flesh and blood only if a frank discussion between officials could have been arranged. His second point was that he hoped the President might delay for a little while at any rate his proposals for a new Constitution until we had really exhausted the possibilities of finding some form of settlement of the present difficulties. In the time-scale of a country's history a few years were on the ordinary time-scale as minutes or as seconds even and he hoped that a few months would not be regarded as supreme in so big a problem. I promised to acquaint the President with Sir Warren Fisher's views.

I explained that I had informed the President of the matters referred to at our meeting on the 7th September, and I said that he had instructed me to inform the British officials that it was useless to consider 'a solution to the outstanding questions between the two countries unless the solution were acceptable to the Irish People. The President had no doubt whatever that a solution which did not involve the unity of Ireland would be unacceptable. He was very anxious that this position should be clearly understood'.

Sir Warren Fisher said that he thought that had been made perfectly clear at the first meeting. He said Mr. de Valera had stated in public that if he had the means of coercing the Six Counties he would not use them. They on the British side had given an undertaking to protect the Six Counties if force should be used. They had not been instructed by their Ministers to include in the present proposals any reference to the Six Counties. But that was not of course to say that any considerable section of the English people would insist upon the present artificial and absurd boundary of the Six Counties being made for ever permanent. In his view it was a stupid and ludicrous arrangement and if he could end it tomorrow he would do so.

Sir Horace Wilson referred to my use of the word 'involve' shown above, and said that he thought if a solution were reached on the points set out in Sir Warren Fisher's letter an advance would have been made towards the desired end of a united Ireland. If a solution were reached it would be possible for Mr. de Valera to say to the Irish people that this solution far from precluding the abolition of partition made that abolition more possible in future in that it had removed some of the present outstanding differences between England and Ireland. He could not promise, but he thought that it would be possible for one of the British statesmen to proclaim that a solution on these lines did not preclude the possibility of an undivided Ireland, an achievement which, so far as the British were concerned, they would welcome, provided that it was effected by free will of both Irish parties concerned.

After reading fairly quickly Sir Warren Fisher's letter, I referred to its second paragraph on the first page where it is stated that 'final agreement could only be arrived at on the basis of a solution of all the matters involved' and asked what the position would be if agreement were not reached, say, on the Constitutional question. Did that preclude the possibility of agreement on one or all of the other three questions? Sir Warren Fisher said that their present instructions were that an agreement on all was necessary. That he said was the position at the present moment, but if the situation which I had described should arise then their Ministers would doubtless reconsider the whole matter.

Mr. Grattan Bushe thought that the Constitutional question was the real crux. He felt that agreement was not likely to be reached by one side 'writing at the other'. He was sure that if he could have an hour or so with our Legal Advisers the position would be greatly clarified. If each side could sit down knowing exactly how far their political chiefs were prepared to go the whole position would be much more sharply defined and it would be plain to both sides whether it would be possible to reach agreement.

The meeting was brief, lasting about 25 minutes only, which minutes were taken up mainly by Sir Warren Fisher in his disparagement of the writing of notes as a satisfactory method of procedure for our mutual and immediate purpose.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner

[handwritten] This report should, I suggest, be read together with that of a conversation today with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald.2


1 Not printed.

2 Not located.

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