No. 201 NAI DE 2/304/1

Memorandum by Erskine Childers1

London, 23 November 1921


Ireland's full claim is for a Republic, unfettered by any obligations or restrictions whatsoever.

Out of the ten paragraphs of the Proposals Nos.1 and 7 are the only ones which do not make concessions from this position.
(1) Ireland accepts the British Crown in a certain capacity. To accept it in any capacity is a tremendous step for her, in view of history, the existing facts, and the implications of acceptance.

The Crown is a technicality for free nations many thousands of miles away from Britain but Ireland can have no full security that the Crown in her case, even if it be not specifically an Irish Crown, will not be construed as implying authority over her.
(2) Ireland undertakes to become an associate of a group of States and to co-operate with them for concerted action, even in such vital matters as Peace and War and Defence. This is a grave step when the most powerful State of this group is her close neighbour and secular enemy and oppressor. In such cases human experience proves that the best security - not perfect but incomparably the best - is a detached independent status resting solely on international right. It is distance only which has led to the relationship known as Dominion Status, a de facto sovereignty qualified by theoretical ties.

Ireland would probably prefer, if left to herself, to proceed on her own path, friendly with all nations, without risk of implication in wars, oppressions of small nations and all the possible consequences of association with a militarist Empire covering a quarter of the globe. Purports to save her freedom of action, but again, she is the close and helpless neighbour of England.

The fact that it is necessary to insert the first part of paragraph 4 is the best proof of the risk to her status Ireland runs in agreeing to an association with Great Britain. The elementary duty of self-defence is incumbent on all States, but mere protectorates or subordinates, yet in these negotiations that duty and right have been repeatedly denied, though 'freedom' has been offered.

The second part of the paragraph obliges Ireland to abstain from action which she would never dream of taking because it would be suicidal. Nevertheless it is a distinct derogation from complete national status and in its present form might be construed as placing Ireland lower in this respect than Cuba because the obligation in the case of Cuba (and of Norway) is balanced by a reciprocal guarantee of integrity from the power or powers receiving the safeguard.

Ireland asks for no reciprocal guarantee under these proposals.

No nation receiving its independence would, willingly, accept defence from its late oppressor even for a period of years, however little defensive power of its own it had. The implications are too perilous and the defence demands made upon us in these negotiations demonstrate the peril of an armed occupation nullifying any nominal independence.

The Clause is not only a concession but the third successive concession since the negotiations began. Our first claim was for guaranteed neutrality which itself is a detraction from plenary independent status. The second was guaranteed integrity. A third series have all admitted Britain's right to temporary naval facilities.

No independent State, if it could help it, would for any reason agree permanently and as a constitutional obligation to limit its forces to a proportion of the forces of a powerful neighbour. The 'world movement' does not affect this principle. Camouflage apart, the Clause, as now drawn, meets the openly expressed fears of England that Ireland by raising large forces, will force conscription on her. It is a protective clause for England.

Sub-section (a) is a marked concession, especially if the free list is to be guaranteed as permanent by the Treaty.

Is, if not a concession of principle, a generous advance towards close association in matters of common concern.

Part 1 is a big concession - the recognition of the powers of a legislature set up without any Irish authority in an artificial area part of which objects to inclusion.

Part 11 outlines more concessions of great value.

1 Gavan Duffy, Childers, and Barton had been complaining that all the concessions had been made by Ireland with the British conceding nothing since 20 July. Childers drew up this memorandum to show the Irish concessions. Griffith remonstrated with Childers about the memorandum but later apologised.

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