No. 226 NAI DT S1801H

Kevin O'Higgins to William T. Cosgrave (Dublin)

Dublin, 10 June 1924


British Prime Minister's Letter 7th inst1

The gist of the matter is embodied in the last two paragraphs of the second page. In effect Mr. MacDonald puts up 'conciliation' as against the 'arbitration' which the Treaty provides for, and clings to the hope of an 'agreed settlement'. Who are to agree? Prime Ministers, Governments, Parliaments, or people? There is a real difference and a difference in principle between our proposal and that of the British Prime Minister. Our proposal involves the two members of the Commission who have been appointed occupying themselves with work which is an obvious preliminary to the operation of the Treaty Clause, while Mr. MacDonald's proposal seems to involve participation by a person nominated by a Government which has stated repeatedly and in all the moods and tenses that it will have nothing to do with the Treaty Clause. One proposal is within the Treaty and is preparatory to its enforcement, the other is outside the Treaty and would be interpreted on all sides, British, North East, Free State as well as abroad, as preparatory to its evasion, or as containing an implication, tacitly accepted by us, that a Boundary 'in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants' is not within the sphere of practical politics.

I suggest a reply briefly summarising the situation - existing Boundary purely arbitrary drawn in 1920 without the vote of a single Irish Representative. Failure of Buckingham Palace Conference. Treaty provided for no coercion of whatever area would be found to be homogeneously or predominantly Orange and Unionist. Equally it provided that wherever a majority of inhabitants desired inclusion in Free State Jurisdiction those wishes would be respected subject to any necessary correction by economic or geographic factors. We have found no willingness in Sir J. Craig or his Government to recognise that it is the wishes of the inhabitants themselves which must be the deciding factor. Open Conferences, without prejudice to the position of parties have repeatedly failed and hold no promise of future success. We can only confer for the purpose of devising the best means to settle this question by the simple democratic test of a census of the adult population and ascertainment of their choice of Jurisdiction.

C. Ó HUigín

1Not printed.

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