No. 410 UCDA P150/2285

Letter from Robert Brennan to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
(Private and Confidential)

Washington DC, 21 December 1936

During the past week there has been various rumours to the effect that there was considerable dissatisfaction amongst the members of the AARIR1 at the recent turn of events in Dublin. Mr. Reilly, the National President, acquainted me with the contents of the cable he sent to you on Friday the 11th instant and I heard from New York that there was a heated discussion at the State Board Meeting there regarding the effect and implication of the legislation passed by the Dáil, some of the members holding that the republic had been let down and that the voluntary recognition of George VI as head of the Commonwealth was an abandonment of the republican ideal. Mr. Reilly had called a meeting of the National Executive to be held in Washington about the time of the inauguration of President Roosevelt, to consider whether the AARIR should continue to support Fianna Fáil. Mr. Charles Edward Russell had told Bob Mahoney that he could no longer support you as the Dáil had abandoned the republic and voluntarily admitted that Ireland was a dominion.

I invited Mr. Reilly and Mr. Russell to dinner yesterday and we had a very exhaustive discussion on the whole situation. At first both gentlemen were adamant. They put forward the statements above mentioned and said that this was the first time in history that there had been free acknowledgment of the sovereignty of a British King.

I put forward the following points for consideration:

1. The form of government in the Irish Free State is democratic. The Fianna Fáil Party had previous to the election put forward a program and had stated that they would not move beyond that program. It consisted on the political side mainly of:-

(a) The refusal to pay the annuities.

(b) The abolition of the oath.

(c) The ultimate abolition of the position of Governor General.

(d) The abolition of the Senate.

(e) The removal of the appeal to the British Privy Council.

I pointed out that this election program had been fulfilled even beyond the expectations of the Electorate since the abolition of the Governor General was not expected to take place during the life of the present Parliament. The Government had no mandate to go further.

2. To take advantage of a fortuitous happening in England would be the same as taking advantage of a change in the kingship caused by the death of George V, no more and no less. Such a step had not been contemplated.

3. The new constitutional position was that the King had no control whatsoever in the internal affairs of the Irish Free State. The use of the King's name in external affairs is not with regard to the empire but with regard to certain states which are named.

4. The new position is that a simple Act of Parliament passed by the Dáil can sever the connection with these states.

5. If more extreme action had been taken it was possible that England would not go to war but she certainly might embark on an economic war of a far more serious nature than that which she waged over the annuities. This would affect nearly 90% of Ireland's external trade and less than 10% of England's. The shock of the previous economic war had been very severe. An intensification of such a war would have serious repercussions. The Dáil should not be expected to take up a position which might become untenable. Even if Ireland were entirely free she would need, for a considerable time to come, a trade arrangement with England.

6. Any action which would split the American organization or would place it out of step with Fianna Fáil would be misinterpreted and would be used against the common good of Ireland. It would strengthen the hands of the factions who were trying to trip up the administration.

7. Any such action would put the American organization out of court. The only party that could march any further on the road to freedom was the Fianna Fáil party and if the American organization continued to support the home organisation it had a right to urge that every forward step should be made. Any other action would rob them of that right. This argument seemed to have more weight than all the others.

Finally both gentlemen said they would try and get the organization to carry on and they would do their best to fall in with the suggestions I had made but they felt they should not be left without an objective. Mr. Reilly stated he would write to you at once asking for some statement to be put before the special meeting of the executive which is to be held in Washington on the 22nd January.

During the discussion it appeared that both Mr. Reilly and Mr. Russell were half convinced that the American organisation was not wanted any longer by those at home. Reasons: (a) Mr. Russell wrote twice to Seán T. with- out getting a reply. (b) Mr. Reilly had written to you urging that someone should be sent to the convention and he had had a reply from Miss O'Connell to the effect that it was not considered expedient to send anyone. (c) Mrs. MacWhorter who had had an interview with you failed to attend the convention though she arrived back in America in time to do so. (d) The message you sent to the convention was addressed not to the President as hitherto but to the Chairman. (e) No report of the convention appeared in the 'Irish Press' though a report and pictures has been sent to that paper. (f) There was a complete absence of any advice from the Fianna Fáil organization.

I think I succeeded in heading off any tendency towards a walkout on the part of Messrs. Reilly and Russell.

I should be glad to know whether or not I acted on the right lines.

Mise le meas,
[signed] R. Ó Breandáin

1 American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic.

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