No. 208 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P13

Memorandum from Joseph P. Walshe to Eamon de Valera (Dublin)
(Copy No. 1)

Dublin, 1 July 1940

The British proposals for a united Ireland can be summarised as follows:-

1) The British Government would give a solemn undertaking that the Union of Ireland would become an accomplished fact at an early date. There would be no turning back from that declaration.

2) A joint body of the Belfast and Dublin Governments would meet at once to work out the constitution and practical details of the Union of Ireland. The United Kingdom Government would give whatever assistance might be desired towards the work of this body. The purpose of the work would be to establish at as early a date as possible the whole machinery of government of the Union.

3) The two Parliaments might even get together at once for the purpose of legislating for the whole of Ireland in regard to matters of common concern. This combined legislation would not prejudice the form of the constitution of the Union.

4) The condition that Ireland should forthwith enter into the war on the side of the United Kingdom and her Allies is the sole hypothesis on which the foregoing proposals are made. The fact that our entry into the war, instead of taking place through a formal declaration of war (the only way which would be appropriate to our independent status), would be realised by our allowing British forces into our territory, does not affect the issue.

5) The Joint Council of Defence appears to be part of the hypothesis of our entry into the war.


Comments on the Foregoing

Mr. Chamberlain's letter,1 according to a statement made to me by Mr. Antrobus2 of the British Legation here on Saturday morning, 29th June, proceeded from the labours of two different Committees sitting most of the day on Friday. No doubt, representatives of the Committee of Imperial Defence, of the Foreign Office and of the Dominions Office were the chief members of the Committee.

There is not any guarantee that, having accepted the very vague and half-boiled proposal for a Union of Ireland, the Northern Government would be under any obligation to accept our view as to what that Union should be. The Northern Government would, of course, desire the assistance of the British Government on the Joint Committee, and we might take it for granted that the complete absence of any previous guarantee of the status of the Union as a whole would lead to the establishment of a new State which would be far less independent than Éire. In any case, if the British succeeded in getting us to join the war as mercenaries, whether at a joint meeting of the two Parliaments or prior to it, they would naturally postpone any further developments concerning the Union until the war was over. The truly appalling situation in which they now find themselves, fighting alone against the might of Germany, would be quite a sufficient excuse before the world for concentrating exclusively on the defence of these islands against Germany.

Mr. Chamberlain's penultimate paragraph makes it clear beyond doubt that the British would not proceed with the suggestion for the establishment of the Union of Ireland if there were any possibility of the Six County area being withdrawn from its present state of belligerency. There is a clear warning in Mr. Chamberlain's last paragraph not to play with the idea that we can have any kind of constitutional unity without having beforehand committed ourselves to entry into the war.

The German Minister's statement to you on Saturday morning that Germany had a specific interest in the disposal of the Six Counties as being part of the State with which she was at war is true in international law, and the Germans have a certain basis for holding the view that we cannot now withdraw the territory of the Six Counties from the belligerent area without consultation with the German Government. Furthermore, it is a tenable proposition that negotiations undertaken with the British for the absorption of the Six Counties into a united Ireland with the intention, on either the British or the Irish side, of bringing a united Ireland into the war, constitutes a breach of neutrality.

Unless we make the clearest possible statement declaring that the policy of the Irish Government is and will remain that of strict neutrality, whether for the 26 Counties or for the whole of Ireland (should there be a united Ireland), until invaded by one or the other of the belligerents, the danger of an invasion by Germany will continue to exist. It is not sufficient to say that we want a Parliament for the whole of Ireland which will include amongst its rights that of going into the war. Such a statement only sows suspicion in the minds of the Germans and of our own people, and makes the latter believe that we might possibly accept entry into a war, which, so far, is none of our concern, as the price of our neutrality. Neutrality has given the people more faith in what the Government has achieved for the independence of this country than any other act of theirs. They regard it as a sign and symbol of our independence, and, if it goes, they will believe – and rightly – that our independence has gone with it.

1 Not printed.

2 Maurice E. Antrobus, Principal Secretary, British Representative's Office, Dublin (1939-41).

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