No. 143 NAI DT S10389 (Annex)

Minutes of the conference between representatives of the United Kingdom and Ireland
(Secret) (I.N. (38) 6th Meeting) (Copy)

London, 5.00 pm, 23 February 1938

Secretary's Notes of the Sixth Meeting of the Conference held in the Prime Minister's Room, House of Commons, on Wednesday, 23rd February, 1938 at 5.00 p.m.

The Rt. Hon Neville Chamberlain,
M.P., Prime Minister.
Mr. Eamon de Valera,
Prime Minister and Minister
for External Affairs.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Samuel Hoare,
Bt., G.C.S.I., G.B.E., C.M.G.,
M.P., Secretary of State for
the Home Department.
Mr. Sean F. Lemass,
Minister for Industry and
The Rt. Hon. Malcolm MacDonald,
M.P., Secretary of State for
Dominion Affairs.
Mr. Sean MacEntee,
Minister for Finance.
Dr. James Ryan,
Minister for Agriculture.
The Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas Inskip,
C.B.E., K.C., M.P., Minister for
Co-ordination of Defence.
Mr. J. W. Dulanty, C.B., C.B.E.,
High Commissioner for Éire.
Secretaries Sir R.B. Howorth, K.C.M.G., C.B.
Mr. W.D. Wilkinson, D.S.O., M.C.




MR. CHAMBERLAIN invited Mr. de Valera to open the discussion.

MR. DE VALERA, said that when he and his colleagues got back to Dublin a careful re-examination had been made of the possibility of making a Defence Agreement on the lines of the draft which had been prepared as a result of the discussions which had taken place in London in January. They had also considered the whole question of a Defence Agreement between the two countries in the light of what Mr. Chamberlain and other United Kingdom Ministers had said as to the position and attitude of the United Kingdom in regard to the Partition question. As a result of this further and very full reexamination of the position the Government of Éire had decided that they could not assume responsibility for sponsoring a Defence Agreement on the lines contemplated so long as no hope could be held out to them that Partition would be terminated. It seemed, therefore, that a deadlock had been reached and that if there was really no hope of Partition being brought to an end it would be necessary to abandon any idea of making a Defence Agreement on the lines of the draft which had been discussed in January.

Mr. de Valera said that he had already told Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. MacDonald of the attitude of his public opinion on the subject of Partition. There was no question on which the people of Éire felt more deeply or on which they were more united than on the need for the union of the whole of Ireland. In the view of the Éire Government, Partition had been established in an arbitrary fashion and under the legislation of 1920 and 1922 there had, in fact, been separated from the then Irish Free State the largest area in North-Eastern Ireland that would give a permanent and stable Unionist majority to the Government of Northern Ireland. It should be noted that the territory so separated did not comprise the whole of the province of Ulster. What was, in fact, cut off in this arbitrary manner was an area surrounding Belfast. If the four counties of Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh were taken as a whole, it would be found that a majority of their inhabitants would be in favour of a united Ireland. It was only if the other two countries, namely, Antrim and Down were added that that majority was converted into a minority. In the city of Belfast there was a Catholic and Nationalist minority of about 22 per cent of the population. In this connection it might be observed that the number of those in favour of a united Ireland exceeded the Catholic population. It could be taken for granted that every Catholic was in favour of the abolition of partition, and that in addition that view was shared by a number of non-Catholics. Adjoining the border of Éire there were substantial majorities in South Down and in South Armagh in favour of the abolition of partition. The Nationalists in these areas had decided to boycott the recent elections in Northern Ireland although had they decided to vote they would, as in the past, have returned Nationalist representatives to the Northern Ireland Parliament by substantial majorities.

It would therefore be seen that along the Northern Ireland side of the border there was a population keenly desirous of joining with Éire but prevented from doing so by arrangements for which there could be no possible justification. This was a very serious and acute question and he (Mr. de Valera) and his colleagues could not return to Dublin without making very strenuous attempts to find a remedy. Under the administration of the Government of Northern Ireland there was a great deal of indefensible discrimination against the Nationalist and Catholic minority. He had received numerous memoranda on the subject, and he understood that similar representations had been made to Mr. Chamberlain. One example of this discrimination was the granting and withholding of employment. The Northern Ireland Government had failed to act in the spirit of the 1920 legislation that there should be no discrimination on the grounds of religious belief.

In the view of the Government of Éire it was impossible for the Government of the United Kingdom to maintain that they had no responsibility in the matter. While it might be argued that that Government had no direct legal responsibility for what happened in Northern Ireland, it was clear that they had a very definite moral responsibility because of considerations such as the reserved powers under the 1920 Act. In view of these and other considerations the people of Éire felt so very strongly on this subject that it would be impossible for the Government of Éire to enter into any agreement on the subject of Defence with the Government of the United Kingdom so long as the Partition question remained unsolved.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN said that he and his colleagues were very sorry indeed to hear of the conclusion to which the Government of Éire had come. That conclusion seemed to make impossible the signing of a Defence Agreement between the two countries on the lines which had been contemplated. He could not too strongly emphasise that the United Kingdom Government possessed no legal powers or authority which would enable them to compel the Government of Northern Ireland to change their alleged attitude towards the minority in Northern Ireland, even if any discrimination was, in fact, shown against that minority. From Mr. de Valera's observations he had gathered that there were really two main difficulties: (1) the alleged discrimination of the Government of Northern Ireland against the Nationalist and Catholic minority in Northern Ireland; and (2) the larger question of the continuance or otherwise of Partition. These questions were, of course, of a very different character. It would be possible to remedy any discrimination against the minority in Northern Ireland without having recourse to the abolition of Partition. For example, one possible way of dealing with the problem might be to transfer to Éire those areas on the border which were predominantly Nationalist and Catholic. It was, however, clear from what Mr. de Valera had said that the real objective of Éire was to get rid of Partition and secure a united Ireland. He (Mr. Chamberlain) must once again point out that not only had the United Kingdom Government no legal power to implement such a policy without the full consent and approval of Northern Ireland, but it would be politically impossible for the Government of the United Kingdom to take any action or to put any pressure upon the Government and people of Northern Ireland to force them to agree against their will to the abolition of Partition. No Government in the United Kingdom could adopt such a policy and survive, and it must be clearly recognised that any such proposal was quite out of the question and could not, in any circumstances, be entertained. Mr. de Valera had said that the Government of Éire could not make a Defence Agreement with the United Kingdom unless they received satisfaction in regard to the question of Partition. Was there any other possible alternative which Mr. de Valera would like to suggest?

MR. DE VALERA said that there appeared to him to be two possible alternative courses which might be taken. The first of these might be that the two Governments should make an agreement covering finance and trade but leaving outstanding the question of the defended ports and all other items of a defence agreement. In effect this would mean that there would be a settlement of the outstanding financial and economic questions at issue but that the outstanding political questions would remain unsolved. He thought that in the circumstances a solution on these lines would probably commend itself better to the majority of the people of Éire than any other solution which did not satisfactorily provide for the termination of partition.

The second possible course was one which he (Mr. de Valera) and the Members of his Government would themselves prefer. If this course were adopted the defended ports would be taken over by the Government of Éire without that Government entering into any Agreement of any sort with the Government of the United Kingdom on the subject of defence. In this event he (Mr. de Valera) would be able to inform his people that the Government of Éire were assuming full military responsibility for the ports in the same way as they were now responsible for the other defences of Éire, and also the responsibility for the very considerable financial consequences which would be involved in the transfer, and the expenditure of large sums of money which could not be regarded as productive. He would have to explain that in assuming these responsibilities the Government of Éire had entered into no commitments or engagements of any sort or kind with the Government of the United Kingdom, and that the military policy of the Government of Éire in the future would be directed to preventing any hostile strangers from entering Éire territory and repelling any aggressor who attempted an invasion. He would, in fact, repeat the assurances which he had already given on the subject in the Dáil that it was the intention of the Éire Government to protect their territory and forbid its use to any foreign hostile Power. If he was questioned on the subject, and he was not prepared to volunteer the information if he was not questioned, he would take the opportunity in a debate on the defence estimates in the Dáil to outline the general policy of his Government in regard to defence, which would be based on two alternatives. If the Government of Éire could reach an entirely satisfactory settlement of all the outstanding questions with the Government of the United Kingdom, including a satisfactory solution of the partition question, he would be able to go a very long way in the direction of giving the kind of assurances which were contemplated in the draft defence agreement. If, however, it was not found possible to solve the partition difficulty, he would have to say that in the unhappy event of Éire being involved in some conflict she would naturally have to see where, in her own interests, she could best obtain assistance. In this respect regard must be had to the fact that it was most improbable that Éire would ever have any foreign enemies who would wish to attack her, and that if she was attacked by some foreign Power it would only be because that Power wished to use Éire territory in order to facilitate an attack upon the United Kingdom. It would probably be found desirable that the defence plans of Éire, in such an eventuality, should be such as would dovetail in with the defence plans of the United Kingdom. If this were so it would naturally mean that there would have to be meetings between the defence experts of the two countries for consultation and advice. He must make it clear, however, that he could not possibly enter into any formal agreement covering matters of this kind.

He could not too emphatically impress upon United Kingdom Ministers that the establishment of good and close relations between the two countries could not be looked for so long as Ireland remained partitioned. The people of Éire would be prepared to make very great financial and other sacrifices if the question were one of defending the whole of a united Ireland, but if a united Ireland was withheld from them they would see no reason or justification why they should in any way relieve the United Kingdom of any of her anxieties or of the heavy capital and other costs of the defended ports.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN said that he would like to ask certain questions. The draft defence agreement consisted of five clauses of which the first read -

1. The harbour defences (including buildings, magazines, emplacements, fixed armaments with the ammunition therefor at present on the spot, and instruments) of Berehaven, Cobh (Queenstown) and Lough Swilly now occupied by United Kingdom care and maintenance parties will be handed over to the Government of Éire).

As he understood it, under Mr. de Valera's proposal this clause would stand while clauses 2 and 3 would disappear. Clause 4 read as follows:

4. Until such time as the Government of Éire can arrange for the provision of the forces necessary for the defence of the ports, the Government of Éire will invite the Government of the United Kingdom to co-operate in their defence by the supply of such forces, and the Government of the United Kingdom will so co-operate on such terms as may be agreed between the two Governments.

Was it proposed that this should stand?

MR. DE VALERA said that he would prefer some much simpler arrangement in place of Clause 4. He thought that a date for transfer should be fixed and that until that date such arrangements regarding the ports should be made as might be agreed between the two Governments.

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS pointed out that Clause 4, as at present drafted, provided for more than was covered by Mr. de Valera's formula.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN did not think that the transitional arrangements contemplated in clause 4 should give rise to any particular difficulty. He observed, however, that at present the United Kingdom had certain obligations in regard to the Naval defence of the coasts of Éire. Did Mr. de Valera suggest that these obligations should be modified?

MR. DE VALERA said that he recognised, of course, that the security of Éire ultimately depended on the Royal Navy keeping the command of the sea. This was a consideration which must always be in the mind of every Irish Government. In these circumstances he recognised that if the United Kingdom lost the command of the sea, Éire would be unable to effectively defend herself against a strong aggressor. Clearly Éire could not undertake the Naval defence of her own coasts though she might be able to make some contribution by providing and maintaining a certain number of small Naval craft. All that he had said was, of course, much more applicable to the circumstances of a united Ireland than to those of a partitioned Ireland. The whole attitude of the Government of Éire and the people of Éire would be very different indeed if partition could be got rid of and an entirely different spirit would prevail. This would particularly apply to Naval defence matters.

SIR SAMUEL HOARE said that United Kingdom Ministers fully appreciated Mr. de Valera's difficulties vis-a-vis his own public opinion. Mr. de Valera must, however, realise that United Kingdom Ministers must have regard to public opinion in the United Kingdom, which was certainly much less embittered than was the case years ago. If however the Government of the United Kingdom were to hand over the defended ports to the Government of Éire on the terms which Mr. de Valera suggested, there would be very severe criticism and dissatisfaction from almost every quarter of the United Kingdom, and this would be all the more difficult to deal with if Mr. de Valera was unable to adopt towards this defence question a less detached and a more sympathetic attitude than he had indicated. Was it not possible for Mr. de Valera to go further than he had done?

MR. DE VALERA said that it was quite out of the question for him to enter into any formal contracts or agreements with the United Kingdom on the subject of defence. He had no idea of the kind of reception the proposals he had envisaged would get in Éire. There would be a criticism from at least two quarters. There would be those who would maintain that in regard to defence the right course was to maintain the status quo which was quite satisfactory and under which Éire would in fact be effectively protected in any emergency that might arise. Another section would urge that defence should be made a lever in order to secure a united Ireland and would argue that only in this way could effective pressure be brought to bear on the United

Kingdom to facilitate the abolition of partition. He, Mr. de Valera, could not do or say anything which failed to take account of criticisms of this character.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN observed that the comprehensive agreement covering Defence, Finance and Trade resembled a three-leaved shamrock, and it was necessary for United Kingdom Ministers to consider very carefully how public opinion in the United Kingdom would regard such an agreement. He would be very sorry indeed if, after all, it was found impossible to reach agreement, but even this regrettable outcome would be preferable to a revival of bad feeling between the two countries if it was subsequently found that the Government of the United Kingdom were unable to carry Parliament and public opinion with them and had to denounce the agreement as unfair and unjust. It would, in any case, be very difficult indeed to defend and justify to United Kingdom public opinion the making of Finance and Trade Agreements of the kind now contemplated. It would be necessary to persuade the public opinion of this country to make very large and important financial sacrifices and the Government would be asked why the country was being required to make these sacrifices. Under the trade agreement it was proposed that the United Kingdom should abandon the Special Duties. Public opinion would ask what the United Kingdom was to get in return, and would have to be told that the principal contribution to be made by Éire was the establishment of a Prices Commission to review Éire's protective duties, which might or might not make recommendations satisfactory to the United Kingdom trader. The critics would say that in return for concrete and tangible concessions we were to receive assurances and very little besides, and that, in fact, the United Kingdom were showing much faith and confidence and were getting little, if any, tangible benefits in return for irrevocable, solid and permanent concessions. He had hoped that United Kingdom Ministers would have been able to answer their critics by pointing to certain provisions in the Defence Agreement which would be of material assistance to the United Kingdom and would justify the Government of the United Kingdom in agreeing to other matters in regard to which they might feel considerable doubt and hesitation. This would have been possible if the Defence Agreement could have taken the form of the present draft. He and his colleagues could have said that we had handed over the ports to Éire, that they would be maintained in full efficiency and that there would be co-operation in defence questions generally. Assurances of this kind would have been of very great help in securing approval of the other parts of the general agreement. As it was, the outlook was going to be very bleak and gloomy. The events of the last weekend had not made the position of the United Kingdom Government stronger, but rather weaker1. The supporters of the Government were being bombarded with letters from their constituents and the bombardment would be greatly intensified if the United Kingdom Government had to publish an agreement of the kind Mr. de Valera desired. In these circumstances the supporters of the Government might not be in a position to resist the pressure of their constituents.

MR. DE VALERA said that he fully agreed and realised well enough the political difficulties with which United Kingdom Ministers would be faced. The real fundamental difficulty was that there was nothing tangible that Éire could give. Her people regarded the defended ports and other items which the United Kingdom were proposing to concede as theirs by right, and that they were only recovering what had been wrongfully taken away from them.

SIR SAMUEL HOARE said that so far as he was concerned it would make a considerable difference if he could feel that there had been some forward movement on the part of Mr. de Valera and his colleagues. Could not Mr. de Valera, with his great influence in Éire, make some substantial advance and so help materially in bringing about a comprehensive agreement fully satisfactory to both sides?

MR. CHAMBERLAIN said that he would like to use his recent conversations with the Italian Ambassador as an illustration2. He had pointed out to the Ambassador [that] for a variety of reasons, of which recent events in Spain were probably the most important, the United Kingdom and Italy had not been on the best of terms. He had suggested to the Ambassador that, if things were to be got moving, a gesture of goodwill on the part of Italy would be most desirable. If possible this should take the form of Italy's acceptance of our formula for the withdrawal of troops from Spain.

Count Grandi had pointed out the difficulties which lay in the way of Italy's acceptance, but had agreed, on Mr. Chamberlain's insistence to put the matter to his Government. The result had been satisfactory, for the Italian Government had very quickly notified us that they were willing to make the gesture which we had suggested. They had done so for the sake of getting Anglo-Italian conversations started.

Was it asking too much of the Government of Éire to suggest that they also, for the sake of healing the breach between the two countries, should make a helpful gesture of a kind which would carry conviction to the United Kingdom Parliament and people? Failing some gesture of the kind, opinion here would be only too certain to regard an Anglo-Éire Agreement on the lines now in contemplation as an extremely bad bargain.

The best advance which Éire could make to meet this country would be a gesture of goodwill in the direction of Northern Ireland - for example, some concession in the Trade Agreement which would ease the Northern Irish position.

Mr. Chamberlain added that he knew Éire had already made concessions in the Trade Agreement. Could they not go further?

MR. DE VALERA said that he would have liked to do so if it had been possible. He was certainly animated by no ill-will against Northern Ireland; he wished it every prosperity, if only for the reason that one day, sooner or later, it would be part of a reunited Ireland. The trouble was that Great Britain and Northern Ireland constituted one fiscal system. He could not make concessions to Northern Ireland without making them to this country also. That meant a small population of 4,000,000 people opening their doors to the mass-produced exports of a great country of 42,000,000 people. It could not be done.

He much regretted that this should be so. Many years ago, when partition first took effect, he had wondered whether something could not be done to retrieve the position by means of a Customs Union of all Ireland. On examination of course, he had found that this was impossible.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP said that it was not only in Éire that the view was held that the partition of Ireland must one day come to an end. Many people in this country also took the same view. Mr. de Valera, of course, was more interested in the present than in the distant future. He wanted to see the unity of Ireland achieved in his own day.

That being so, it was for Mr. de Valera to make a move. The position was not unlike what often happened in a great industrial strike. Each side made it a point of honour not to budge from its position. The task of the peacemaker was to get one side to move first.

The move might come either on the Trade Agreement or on Defence. He (Sir Thomas) had wondered whether, if the Defence Agreement went through, it might create a tendency towards the unification of the measures for the defence of Ireland. After all, Lough Swilly, although not in 'Northern Ireland', was in the extreme North of Ireland.

MR. DE VALERA said that he realised the force of these arguments. It was certainly his intention, if the general Agreement went through, to use it as a jumping-off ground for entering into better relations with Northern Ireland. At first, of course, he would have to do something to steady and to educate his own people. This was why he was unwilling to enter into a Defence Agreement. It would mean losing his own people and not getting into touch with Northern Ireland either.

MR. MACDONALD pointed out that there was another step which lay within Mr. de Valera's power, which would be of the greatest possible assistance in promoting better relations with Northern Ireland. His meaning was that Éire should do something to emphasize that its membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations was a reality. The sooner something was done in this direction the better. People in Ulster believed that Éire was gradually moving out of the Commonwealth, rather than talking its rightful place inside it.

MR. DE VALERA said that this was a matter in which he would have to move very slowly indeed. His people, at the best, regarded association with the British Commonwealth of Nations as a sacrifice which the majority in Éire ought to be prepared to make in order to achieve unity with the minority.

His people, however, were most anxious to get on good terms with Great Britain. They were very willing to think of the future, not of the past.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP said that he was anxious to know how United Kingdom Ministers were to make public reference to whatever understanding existed between Éire Ministers and themselves in the matter of defence. The suggestion now was that this country should hand over the Treaty Ports without securing the rest of the draft Defence Agreement. Nevertheless, Éire Ministers had given utterance during the negotiations to views on defence which would be satisfactory to the people of the United Kingdom, if they were allowed to know of them. Would Mr. de Valera allow it to be stated publicly that during the negotiations he had said that he would take certain steps regarding defence?

[MR. CHAMBERLAIN left at this point to keep another engagement.]

MR. DE VALERA said that Sir Thomas Inskip's request put him into a difficulty. His (Mr. de Valera's) statements during the negotiations on the subject of defence were, of course, an indication of the direction in which he conceived that the interests of the people of Éire lay.

On the other hand, not only was a formal defence agreement politically impossible, but it was equally impossible for him to enter into an understanding. He had not done so and would tell his people that he had not done so.

There was no question of there being any understanding just because he had told United Kingdom Ministers what was the defence policy of the Government of Éire. He was perfectly entitled to do that at any time.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP suggested that the distinction was a subtle one. The practical difficulty, however, remained, viz. that United Kingdom Ministers were being asked to inform the House of Commons that, without securing any defence agreement with Éire, they had handed over the defended ports.

MR. DE VALERA said that United Kingdom Ministers could refer to his (Mr. de Valera's) published statements. They could add that they understood that his policy was unchanged.

It would, of course, be better still if he could make his next statement on defence before the debate in the United Kingdom House of Commons. He did not, however, know whether he could arrange this.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP suggested that United Kingdom Ministers would go on to say that they knew that Mr. de Valera could be relied upon to keep his word. Would not this, for the purposes of the United Kingdom, amount to the same thing as an agreement, although it was not set out in black and white?

MR. DE VALERA said that, if this was the same thing as an agreement, he certainly did not want it. He would like United Kingdom Ministers, after carefully counting the cost, to take the step of handing over the ports on their own responsibility. He was not willing for them to take this action on the basis of trust in him.

There would, however, be no objection to references being made in the Parliament at Westminster to his speeches on defence in the Parliament in Dublin. It could be added that Mr. de Valera, and his Government, were believed to be still of the same mind.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP had no doubt that this would carry conviction with those who knew Mr. de Valera. The ordinary audience in this country, however, would say, 'we have not had the pleasure of meeting him'.

[A House of Commons Division took place at this point. After the Division, MR. CHAMBERLAIN returned to the Meeting.]

MR. MACDONALD said that he had gathered that Mr. de Valera's next public statement on defence in the Dáil would be either: (1) during the Debate on the present agreements, if they materialised, or (2) a later Defence Debate. It would help United Kingdom Ministers very greatly if it could be (1), and further if the statement could be made before the Debates in the Parliament at Westminster.

He quite understood the importance to Mr. de Valera of not entering into any understanding on defence, whether published or unpublished.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP suggested that use could be made of the natural assumption that Mr. de Valera's Government would take all necessary steps to defend their own country.

MR. DE VALERA did not dissent. He wished it, however, to be made very clear that nothing which was said over the Conference Table by the Éire Delegation was to be taken as the consideration in return for which the United Kingdom were to hand over the treaty ports.

Mr. de Valera went on to refer to the position of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa. It was now, he thought, accepted policy that those Dominions were under no obligation to engage in war simultaneously with the United Kingdom. The same was certainly the position of Éire. Under the new Constitution the power to declare war was reserved for the Parliament of Éire.

The line, therefore, which he would take in his statement would be that Éire was not bound to go to war because the United Kingdom was involved in one. The Government of Éire must be the sole judge of whether it would co-operate or not. If he were asked on what lines Éire staff officers would be instructed to prepare their plans he would answer that those plans would have to be made on two alternative hypotheses, (a) that Éire went to war alone and (b) that United Kingdom interests would be involved and that the United Kingdom also would go to war. In that eventuality Éire would be glad of assistance from this country. The staff would make their second set of plans on that hypothesis.

He would say so much, even at the risk of defeat in the Dáil. In actual fact he did not believe that such a statement would offend his public opinion.

He realised that a statement on these lines would not go far to reassure House of Commons opinion at Westminster. United Kingdom Ministers would probably find it more useful to refer to speeches on defence which he, Mr. de Valera, had made in the past. One of those speeches was very categorical and had caused some dissatisfaction in Éire at the time.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP was not sure that Mr. de Valera's statement of the position of the Dominions with regard to participation in war gave a complete picture of the position. The actual fact was that Australia, for example, depended for her safety on the sea power of the United Kingdom; a fortiori Éire was similarly dependent on the Royal Navy.

SIR SAMUEL HOARE said that the theory was that the Dominions were responsible for their own local defence but that the United Kingdom had the responsibility for their overseas defence.

MR. DE VALERA took the view that the relationship of Éire to this country was different from that of Australia.

SIR THOMAS INSKIP said that, from the Defence point of view, Éire's relationship with this country was far more intimate than that of Australia. Her interests were as closely linked with those of this country as if the two were separated only by a land boundary.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN thought that the discussion could not profitably be carried further that evening. Before concluding he would like to refer once more to the economic side of the problem. It might conceivably help towards a solution if Éire could give Northern Ireland some different Customs treatment from that which she gave to the United Kingdom. Would the Éire Delegation think over this suggestion before the next meeting?

MR. DE VALERA indicated that this would be considered.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN said that the United Kingdom Delegation also would explore the suggestion. If nothing helpful emerged from it, he hoped that the Éire Delegation would consider seriously whether they could not make some concession on the particular duties which bore hardly on Northern Ireland. These duties were a great stumbling-block in the present negotiations.

He was glad to hear that the separate discussions on the draft Trade Agreement were to be carried further the same evening.

A matter to which United Kingdom Ministers would have to give some anxious consideration was the difficulty of handing over the Treaty Ports without obtaining the remainder of the Defence Agreement.

Mr. Chamberlain enquired how long it would be possible for the Éire Delegation to remain in London. He greatly regretted that the Delegation had been kept waiting in London for some days owing to the crisis in foreign policy3. The Éire Delegation were, of course, in no way to blame for the fact that a beginning was only now being made.

MR. DE VALERA said that he and his colleagues had an important engagement in Dublin on Monday, February 28th. It would be awkward if they could not be back by that date. The engagement was connected with the nominations for election to the Senate and was not one which could be postponed.

Turning to Mr. Chamberlain's suggestion that Northern Ireland might conceivably be given differential Customs treatment, Mr. de Valera expressed the strong hope that there would be no question of giving Northern Ireland anything approaching Dominion status.

MR. MacENTEE suggested that Northern Ireland ought to go some way to meet Éire in this matter. There were a number of ways in which Northern Ireland could co-operate with Éire, without detriment to their present status, if only they were willing.

MR. CHAMBERLAIN remarked that Northern Ireland had repeatedly expressed a desire to be left alone. They said they wanted no change.

It was agreed:
  1. That no Press communiqué need be issued at the close of the present meeting. Mr. de Valera and Mr. MacDonald were invited to confer together regarding any guidance which the Press might require.
  2. That the time for the next full meeting between the two Delegations should be left to Mr. MacDonald to settle. It would probably be convenient to meet in the afternoon of the following day, Thursday, February 24th.

1 Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden resigned over differences of opinion with Chamberlain over British policy towards Italy and because of Chamberlain's increasing contacts with Italian diplomats behind Eden's back.

2 Count Dino Grandi, Italian ambassador to Britain (1932-9).

3 The resignation of Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (see above footnote 1).

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....

Website design and developed by FUSIO