No. 212  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P12/14/1

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 22) (Secret)

LONDON, 12 August 1942

This morning when I was leaving X1 after a brief conversation on minor current questions he asked me to stay and began to talk about Ireland and his long-standing interest in our country and people. As a Trade Union leader he had had a good deal of experience of Irish workers, and, although at times negotiations were difficult, the relations between our men and his Union had always been of the most cordial character. Our workers had in fact elected to remain in his Union rather than begin a separate organisation of their own.

He told me that he had personally handled questions dealing with the recruitment of Irish men and women who were now employed on war work in this country. He had, for example, seen to it himself that facilities for attending Mass and frequenting the Sacraments were provided in almost every case where they have been asked. They were splendid workers and their relations today with their employers and fellow workers here were, with one or two small exceptions, very good indeed.

'This being my attitude on Ireland', he continued, 'immediately I joined the Cabinet on Mr. Churchill's invitation I exhorted him to try and do something about Ireland. Mr. Churchill at that time was wholly absorbed in Dunkirk and the fall of France and told me to discuss the matter with Mr. Chamberlain.

Believing as I do that it is essential in the interests of both countries that a settlement should be reached, I suggested that Mr. de Valera should be asked to agree to the setting up of a United Defence Council, that he should give an undertaking to remain in the Commonwealth, and that the British should, in return, give an absolute guarantee for a United Ireland. The day has long passed when negotiations between peoples can be left in vague and indefinite terms. That was why I stipulated for an absolute guarantee of a united Ireland, not a promise that we would see whether this could be managed. I thought the Government of a United Ireland might be based on a Federal Constitution which should be drawn up by a Commission consisting of representatives of Ireland, North and South, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and I made a strong point of saying that that Commission should be presided over by an American. The experience of Canada and Australia, together with that of America on Federal systems of Government would obviously be of great value in shaping out a system of Federal Government for all Ireland.

Mr. Chamberlain told me he doubted whether Mr. de Valera would give any undertaking about remaining in the Commonwealth. Some time after this they sent over Mr. Malcolm MacDonald and, as you know, nothing came out of that visit'.

X began this conversation by saying it was strictly confidential and not for communication to anyone. He had not spoken to Mr. Attlee nor had he raised the question with his other colleagues in the Cabinet. He was, therefore, speaking for himself alone. Towards the end of the conversation, however, he said that he was still very anxious to find some solution of the present difficulties. That being so he would have no objection to my mentioning this conversation to Mr. de Valera.

I didn't think it was for me at this stage to argue with X but I did remind him that there was no possibility of any Irish Government entering the war unless and until we were attacked, and that there was, further, no present obligation on us to remain in the Commonwealth.

Speaking of course only for myself I expressed grave doubts whether the present Prime Minister was disposed to do anything at all in the way of improving the relations between the two countries.

'You are quite wrong' he rejoined, 'I think I know Mr. Churchill's mind as well as, if not better than, any of my Cabinet colleagues. We spend night after night together alone and the talk on both sides is as frank as it could be. He has said to me repeatedly – "I would do anything to get a united Ireland but I would not coerce the Six County Government”. What do you mean by 'coercion' X enquired. "By coercion I mean having troops there and using physical force to compel these people to take a course against their will. But I am willing to use pressure and have indeed done so. I have also used persuasion and am ready to do these things again, but I must have something from Mr. de Valera on which I can build”. I asked X what he thought Mr. Churchill meant by 'something on which he could build'. 'He meant some gesture of friendship towards both the Six County Government and Great Britain' said X.

I said from personal experience of Mr. Churchill away back in 19082 and on certain occasions subsequently I felt that he had been in what might be described as a state of approach to acceptance of our political conceptions but that there had been a violent reversal of that process since about 1932. His speeches, for example, on the Statute of Westminster, and also on the 1938 Agreement, together with his remarks to me when I had to place before him my Government's views on the proposal to apply Conscription to the Six Counties shewed a deep-seated hostility – to give it no worse name – towards my Government.3

X said he thought Mr. Churchill's attitude to us was far more liberal than I had given him credit for. 'Remember' he said, 'how fiercely he opposed the Indian Reforms of 1935. Remember, how when he lost that battle he stood up in the House of Commons and said that although he did not agree with the Government of the day his fight with them was over and he would do his best to help forward the new plans for India. He says frequently to me that he is willing to come out of India any day but that he is not prepared to leave British troops or other facilities to enable the Hindus to oppress the Moslems. His one desire today after winning the war is to realise his dream of a Parliament of Man and he is continually quoting Tennyson's lines' (He refers presumably to 'Locksley Hall')4

'When the war drums throb no longer, when

the battle flags were furled,

In the Parliament of Man, the federation of the



X said that more than six months ago he had pressed the Government to make a move about India. He knew and liked Pandit Nehru5 but he was not so friendly with Gandhi6 whom he had known well for many years. The proposals Cripps7 took to India in the Spring were both sound and honest and represented the utmost limit to which any British Government could go in the middle of a world war. He could not help thinking that had they been made earlier history might have been different.

As I do whenever I get a chance in conversation with Ministers here, I raised with X the question of Arms. He said I might talk to him again in a month or so when things might be better but at the moment they were in a bad way owing to the failure of American production. They could of course not tell the world, but the fact was that America was a long way behind schedule and the British were having continually to make up their deficits.

I formed the impression that this conversation was entirely impromptu and that the views he expressed were his own but possibly not those of the Cabinet as a whole. He is said to exercise a strong influence in the War Cabinet and his insistence on Beaverbrook's resignation is put forward as a proof of this influence. Although a negotiator of outstanding success in labour matters it is said that he has developed an autocratic attitude since he became a Minister. He is inclined to 'steam-roll' over opposition in the House of Commons instead of reasoning with his critics.

[signed] J. W. DULANTY

1 Ernest Bevin (1881-1951), British Labour politician; Minister for Labour and National Service (1940-5) and General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (1922-45).

2 See No. 78, footnote 5.

3 See Nos 67, 68, 78 and 79.

4 Written by Alfred Tennyson (1809-92) in 1835 and published in his 1842 Poems, the poem tells of the emotions of a weary soldier on arriving at his childhood home. The poem remains one of Tennyson's lesser known works. Churchill considered the poem a modern prophecy.

5 Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964), a leading figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Prime Minister of India (1947-64). Pandit is a Sanskrit honorific meaning 'scholar ' or 'teacher '.

6 Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian nationalist and a pre-eminent leader of the Indian independence movement.

7 Sir Stafford Cripps (1889-1952), British Labour politician, Leader of the House of Commons (1942), Lord Privy Seal (1942), Minister of Aircraft Production (1942-5). Cripps was sent to India by Churchill in March 1942 to negotiate with Gandhi and Jinnah in an attempt to secure Indian co-operation with the British war effort in return for a promise of post-war self-government. Cripps later served as Chancellor of the Exchequer (1947-50).

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