No. 228 NAI DT S1801H

William T. Cosgrave to Ramsay MacDonald (London)

Dublin, 17 June 1924

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

  1. A debate upon the Boundary Question which began on Friday is being resumed on Wednesday next, and I shall take the opportunity on that day to lay before the Dáil the text of the later correspondence between us on this subject.
  2. There are a few points arising out of your letter of the 6th instant1 which perhaps call for some observations from me. The most important is your view that there is scarcely any difference in principle between our proposal that the Chairman and Dr. Eoin MacNeill should proceed with the preliminary work of ascertaining the wishes of the inhabitants, and your suggestion that the Chairman with Dr. MacNeill and a representative from Sir James Craig should join in preliminary studies with a view to an agreed settlement being arrived at.
  3. The major difference is that our proposal involves merely a question of setting up the necessary machinery for ascertaining facts and raises no point of policy. The other proposal postulates explorations for agreement which the principals have already failed, after repeated conferences, to reach. If agreement can be reached, it must be reached, not upon the basis of my views, or of Sir James Craig's views, but upon the basis laid down in Article 12 of respect for the wishes of the inhabitants of the area affected and for the economic and geographic conditions.
  4. The possibility of agreement depends, therefore, upon considerations which have to be ascertained, and our proposal is that the work of ascertaining these considerations should be embarked upon at once. This work Dr. MacNeill is ready to operate in at a moment's notice.
  5. As far as we are concerned, we will cordially co-operate in any action which will make for friendship between ourselves in these islands, but we are satisfied that any departure from the elementary democratic principle enshrined in Article 12 would not tend in that direction. We feel that it is essential for the maintenance of harmony between nations that the wishes of the inhabitants should be a primary consideration in any system of government, and we are prepared to translate this view into practice to secure not alone a spirit of brotherhood amongst ourselves, but, so far as it can be accomplished, amongst the whole human race.
  6. This is the spirit in which I addressed the Assembly of the League of Nations last September.2
  7. I cannot conclude without assuring you that I appreciate fully His Majesty's Government's desire to have the highest available opinion as to their course of procedure, under their Statutes, for giving effect to Treaty obligations entered into by them, and I also appreciate that the delay which is caused thereby may be to a certain extent inevitable. At the same time, I would urge upon His Majesty's Government that it is in the interests of all parties concerned that existing sources of possible irritation be removed at once, and accordingly that every effort should be made to have all outstanding matters in regard to the setting up of the Boundary Commission composed at the earliest possible date.

Sincerely yours,
(Sgd.) L. T. MacCosgair

1 Not printed.

2 See No. 118 above.

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