No. 80  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P70

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe
'Conscription Issue'

DUBLIN, 27 May 1941

The High Commissioner saw Bevan last evening. He did not find him on-coming, on the contrary. When the High Commissioner had gone over the ground with him, told him that the application of conscription would be disastrous, Bevan replied that a lot of rows were going on and that another row would not do them any harm. There was strong feeling in parts of England, especially Lancashire where so many young men from Ireland were working and were not liable to conscription. Dulanty replied that they were there with the full permission and encouragement of the British Government itself.

Bevan asked Dulanty why he had come to see him at all. The High Commissioner replied that Bevan was the Minister who administered the labour end of conscription. In effect, his Department had the first vetting of all conscripts in order to decide whether they should go into the reserved occupations or be sent direct into the Army. Bevan should realise that the Irish people did not accept that the British Government had any moral right whatever to be in the Six County area.

Bevan then repeated two arguments which he had clearly taken on Churchill's account of his talk with the High Commissioner the British were fighting for their lives; and we had accepted Partition when we accepted the Boundary Settlement.

The High Commissioner left Bevan feeling that we were by no means out of the wood.

Dulanty 'phoned Churchill's Secretary about 10 o'clock to enquire whether a statement was in effect to be made today. The Secretary said that at the moment it was not his intention to do so, but circumstances in the House might nevertheless oblige him to make a statement.

[handwritten note by Walshe]

The H.C. informed me about 12.10 that he had been to the House of Commons. Churchill after making a statement on The Hood and the cornering of the Bismarck (news of the sinking had not yet come in) said that the Govt. had considered the question of conscription for 'Ulster ' and decided it was not worth the trouble. The journalists immediately dashed from the House and the H.C. did not catch the protest made by MacNeill (Ulster M.P.) or Churchill's words in reply.1

J. P. W.

1 Sir Robert W. H. O'Neill, MP for Antrim (1922-52).

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