No. 84 NAI DT S2027

Memorandum to each member of the
Executive Council by Kevin O’Shiel (Dublin)
(Strictly Confidential)

DUBLIN, 17 May 1923


1. The Memoranda sent you herewith comprise

a) Report on possible Boundary Lines

b) Report on Economic and Geographic Conditions governing the suggested Minimum Line

c) Report on Economic and Geographic Conditions governing the suggested Boundary Commission or Middle Line.

(N.B. These Reports are referred to hereinafter as Reports 'A' 'B' and 'C' respectively.)

2. Our standpoint has been that the Boundary Commission must be an international Boundary Commission between the two distinct and co-equal Governments of Saorstát Éireann and Great Britain, and not in any sense a mere Royal Commission under the aegis of the British Parliament.

Hence our case must take the form of a demand for a definite and specific piece of territory.

3. The Memoranda attached herewith have been prepared at my request by our experts for the information and assistance of Members of the Executive Council in order that they may be facilitated in coming to a conclusion as to what would be the best possible Line of the three suggested to base our Case on for presentation to the Boundary Commission.

When Members of the Executive Council have had time to consider these data carefully I would suggest that the whole matter be discussed and finally decided at a Meeting, whereat I can display maps and charts illustrating the various positions.

4. The Maximum Line - The effect of the Maximum Line will be seen to be to put a total of 781,488 Ulster people under our flag and 800,208 Ulster people under the British flag. Free Staters would form 66% of the population of the proposed Free State Ulster and 22% of the population of the proposed Belfast Parliament area. The net result of a decision on this Line would be to give us all Ireland save the County Antrim, the extreme North-East corner of the County Derry, portion of North and Middle County Armagh (exclusive of Armagh City) and all the County Down save the North and Middle portions.

The Maximum Line represents the greatest possible amount of territory we could get under the Boundary Commission, and can only be supported on one argument, viz., the wishes of the inhabitants.

It is approximately 148 miles in extent and offends against every conceivable geographic and economic principle. Yet there is a precedent for its successful argumentation, viz., the Silesian Boundary dispute precedent where, it will be recalled, Lord Balfour decided on the division of the industrial and economically self-contained Silesian triangle on the ground that by the terms of reference the 'wishes of the inhabitants' were paramount and above every other consideration.

5. Minimum Line - This Line represents not only the minimum territory that we should get but the best possible line, taking into account the three considerations in the terms of reference, viz., wishes of the inhabitants, geographic and economic considerations. It will be seen that it restores to us a considerable slice of County Derry, including Derry City, nearly all County Tyrone, save a small quadrangle bordering on the Lough shore, the Southern portion of the County Armagh and the Southern portion of the County Down, including the Borough of Newry and all the County Fermanagh.

From the population standpoint we would get 604,102 and the Belfast Parliamentary area 977,594 inhabitants of All Ulster's 1,581,696 inhabitants. Of our population only 179,421 people and of the Belfast Parliamentary area population only 266,135 people would be living under a Government not of their own choice.

The length of this Line is approximately 124 miles, and is thereby the shortest possible under the circumstances.

6. Middle Line (or Boundary Commission Line)

Fearing that the urging of the Maximum Line would enable the Chairman of the Commission to take a high and mighty attitude and refuse to consider our propositions on the ground of 'utter unreasonableness', and that the putting forward of the excellent and, in my opinion, almost uncontrovertible Minimum Line in the first instance would be a huge tacticable blunder inasmuch as it would leave no margin for the Chairman to concede something to 'Ulster', I requested our experts to furnish me with an alternative course. The result is the 'Middle Line' or 'Boundary Commission Line', as described in Report 'C'.

It will be seen that this Line concurs mainly with the maintainable 'Minimum Line' but bulges out in three places into a number of salients all of which may be, if necessary, surrendered to enable the Chairman of the Commission to yield something from our absolute demand - a very difficult thing for him to do if we put up at once the strong Minimum Line.

This Line, the 'Middle Line', is most arguable as it stands, on the ground that it alone of all the Lines practically balances the number of unwilling citizens in each area. They are:

208,191 pro-Belfast Government people in the Free State

227,760  ?  Free State      ?          ?      ?   ?  Belfast area.

Assistant Legal Adviser

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