No. 77  NAI UCDA P150/2589

Letter from Eamon de Valera to David Gray (Dublin)

DUBLIN, 25 May 1941

Dear Mr. Gray,

As I feel that our telephone talk last night was quite unsatisfactory, I am sending you this note.

In your letter of May 24th1 you indicate that you would welcome constructive suggestions. I have naturally given this subject the most anxious thought, both on the former occasion when Conscription was threatened two years ago, and again since Mr. Churchill made his recent statement.2 But no matter how I consider it, I have not been able to find any via media. Your own suggestion for a conscientious objectors' clause for minority Catholic nationalists will unfortunately not solve the difficulty. Apart altogether from the fundamental principle of national sovereignty involved, which would make it quite impossible for any Government here to be a party to such a proposal and even fully admitting the de facto situation in the Six Counties the working out of such a clause would in practice lead to all the evil consequences to which you adverted in your communications to your State Department. Those who availed of it and remained at home would be branded by their Protestant neighbours as cowards, would be treated as outcasts and forced to live on sufferance in their own land.3 To escape this intolerable position they would have to leave, and we should then have the up to date twentieth century version of those 'clearances' of which we have already had so many in our history. How would such a clearance differ essentially from those of which we have been hearing in Poland?

On a former occasion I could see no solution other than the withdrawal of the proposal. I am unable to see any other solution now. Why at this critical time this new apple of discord should be thrown in, I cannot understand. If Mr. Churchill is determined, as he seems to be, to go ahead with the proposal, the prospect is indeed as dark as it can be.

I am sending you herewith a book which will show you what I see coming the moment this new differentiation between the nationalists and the other inhabitants of the Six Counties is instituted.4Almost inevitably this will lead to a new conflict between Ireland and Britain in which we shall all be involved. We are truly in a world gone mad.

Sincerely yours,

1 Not printed.

2 See No. 67.

3 Handwritten marginal note by de Valera: 'God knows there have been enough of bitterness engendered between the two sections of our people in this particular war to have this new cause of enmity and strife created amongst them.'

4 The book mentioned by de Valera is unidentified.

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