No. 207 NAI DFA Secretary's Files P13

Memorandum of talks between Eamon de Valera and Malcolm MacDonald by
Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(Copy No. 1)

Dublin, 28 June 1940

Résumé of Talks between the Taoiseach and Mr. Malcolm MacDonald

Mr. Malcolm MacDonald came to Dublin on Monday, 17th June. He told the Taoiseach that the purpose of his visit was to make clear the conviction of the British Government that a German invasion of this country was imminent. This belief was founded on

(a) the Held case;

(b) a story told by Dutch officers that they had seen a plan for the invasion of Ireland;

(c) what had happened elsewhere;

(d) Fifth Column activities, which they think are more dangerous than we believe.

Mr. MacDonald urged the Taoiseach to establish relations with Craigavon. Neutrality had saved nobody, and the sooner the Taoiseach and Craigavon got together, the sooner it would be possible to form a Joint Defence Council.

The Taoiseach replied that he appreciated the warnings of the British Government, that we were taking every possible means to protect ourselves against the invaders. On the other hand, we were very severely handicapped by the lack of war material, which, notwithstanding repeated requests, the British were still withholding from us. The Taoiseach added that the unity of Ireland was an essential and primary condition for the adequate defence of Ireland. The whole of Ireland as a neutral State would be in a position to present a united front to any invader. The Taoiseach further suggested that the whole of Ireland should be immediately established as a neutral State guaranteed by the United States of America.

Mr. MacDonald opposed to these suggestions the usual difficulties concerning the intransigence of Lord Craigavon and his followers and the reactions which would be provoked in England by bringing pressure to bear on the Six Counties.

Mr. MacDonald returned to Dublin on Friday, 21st June, saw the Taoiseach that afternoon and the following day. He came back to point out again the imminence of our danger and again mentioned the old reasons for the view that an invasion was certain. Everything would be all right if the Belfast and Dublin Governments could be brought together, but pressure on the Belfast Government would spoil the efficiency of that part of the United Kingdom as a participant in the war. The Taoiseach emphasised very strongly the comparatively defenceless position in which we had been left by the reluctance of the British to give us arms and munitions. Mr. MacDonald thought that the Germans had already captured enough of British war material and they did not intend to let them do it again. Giving war material to Dublin in present circumstances would mean its eventual capture by the Germans who were certain to invade Ireland. The only way to meet that difficulty was to agree now to allow the British and naval forces to co-operate with the Irish forces in the defence of the whole of Ireland.

Mr. MacDonald returned again on the evening of Wednesday, 26th June. He saw the Taoiseach that evening; and the following day at lunch he met the Taoiseach, the Minister for Supplies and the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures. In the course of the meeting with the Taoiseach on Wednesday evening, he handed to the Taoiseach a document containing the following:-

'The Government of the United Kingdom makes the following proposals for the consideration of the Government of Ireland:-

1) the United Kingdom would make a declaration forthwith accepting the principle of a united Ireland;

2) a joint Committee of representatives of the Éire and Northern Ireland Governments to be set up immediately to work out practical details of the 'Union of Ireland', the United Kingdom Government to give such assistance as might be desired;

3) a joint Defence Council of Éire and Northern Ireland to be set up immediately;

4) Éire to enter the war on the side of the United Kingdom and her allies forthwith, and, for the purposes of the defence of Éire, the Government of Éire to invite British naval vessels to have the use of ports in Éire and British troops and aeroplanes to co-operate with the Éire forces and to be stationed in such positions in Éire as may be agreed between the two Governments;

5) the Government of Éire to intern all German and Italian aliens in the country and to take further steps to put an end to Fifth Column activities;

6) the United Kingdom Government to provide at once military equipment for the Éire Government.

A list of military equipment attached.'

The Taoiseach told Mr. MacDonald that a declaration by the British Government of the principle of a united Ireland was of no use. He could not enter into serious discussions on any basis except the immediate establishment of a united neutral Ireland. Moreover, the Taoiseach made it clear to Mr. MacDonald that Ireland belonged to the Irish people, and Great Britain had no right of any kind to attempt to barter the unity of the Irish nation for the blood of her people. Ireland's unity and complete independence would come some day. The Government would defend the country against invasion, but they would not purchase unity by an act which would bring civil war and disaster to the people and would in all probability put an end to the independence we now enjoyed.

Mr. MacDonald appeared to be very depressed by the Taoiseach's reply to his proposals, but he assured Mr. de Valera that he would secure an amendment of the proposals which would be an advance towards the establishment in fact and immediately of an independent united Ireland. The Taoiseach agreed to wait for the amendment, but he warned Mr. MacDonald that he could not accept anything less than a completely independent neutral State for the whole of Ireland, the Parliament of which could alone determine the issue of war and peace in relation to our country.

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