No. 183 NAI DT S1971

Joseph P. Walshe to Diarmuid O'Hegarty (Dublin)
enclosing a memorandum to each member of the Executive Councilon Irish Free State Passports
(No. 5/8)

Dublin, 11 January 1924


I am instructed by the Minister to ask you to kindly have the outstanding question about Passports brought before the Cabinet at the first opportunity.

I enclose a copy of Passport1 and a Memo. for each Member of the Executive Council.

[signed] S.P. Breathnach

1 Not Located.


11th January, 1924.



Issue Outstanding:  Use of the description: 'BRITISH SUBJECT'


  1. The Citizens of the Saorstát shall be described as British Subjects. (The British demand)
  2. or
  3. As having the status of British Subjects, i.e. All Irish Free State Citizens not included in the class of non-British Subjects referred to in 3 below shall write 'Yes' after the question 'whether bearer has status of British Subject'. (The Attorney General's suggested compromise)
  4. or
  5. As citizens of the Irish Free State without qualification. (A qualifying clause is added in the case of non-British subjects who acquired Saorstát citizenship under Article 3 of the Constitution. The Clause sets forth that the holder not being a British Subject is entitled to the good offices of British Consular Representatives only as a matter of courtesy, no protection being afforded in the country of origin unless the bearer has ceased to be a subject thereof.)

NOTANDA re (1)
The British contend that there should be a 'clear indication on the face of the Passport whether the holder is or is not a British Subject.' This description, they claim, is necessary both from the point of view of the relations with Foreign Governments and of the convenience both to the holder of the passport and to British Consular Officers abroad. They do not object to the description 'Citizen of the Irish Free State' provided it follows that of 'British Subject'.

NOTANDA re (2)
The Minister of External Affairs refrained from putting forward the compromise in (2) above at the recent Conference in London.2 The description 'British Subject' whether used as an individual description or as an indication of the category by virtue of inclusion in which certain privileges are obtained is odious to the ordinary Irishman, and its introduction in any form into the Passport would be followed by serious political difficulties here and in the U.S.A.

NOTANDA re (3)
The British had no serious reasons to oppose the case put up by the Minister of External Affairs namely, that the Request in the name of His Britannic Majesty was a sufficient indication to foreign Governments and to British Consular Officers of the privileges and protection to which the holder was entitled. The British Consular Officers are bound to extend protection to every Subject of the King and an explicit declaration that bearer is a British Subject would neither decrease nor increase the degree of protection to which he has a right.

The qualifying clause in 3 above obviates all possibility of confusion.

The basis of the British contention is that Irish Citizenship is purely local and that outside the area of the Irish Free State, Irish Free State Citizens are British Subjects in nowise distinct from other British Subjects whatever their place of origin might be.

The Minister of External Affairs holds that this theory is false. The right which we are about to exercise of not adhering to the Convention fixing the regime for foreigners in Turkey will oblige the latter country to make a distinction between Irish Free State Citizens and British Subjects from England and from such of the Dominions as adhere to the Convention. This distinction will become increasingly necessary.

In deference to a British request we have already yielded on an important point by omitting the words 'on behalf of the Irish Free State' before the words 'in the name of His Britannic Majesty'.

The Minister of External Affairs recommends that in our reply to the British we should refuse to agree to the use of the description 'British Subject' reiterating that the wording of the Request excludes any possibility of difficulties arising with Foreign Governments or British Officers abroad.

If the British establish to our satisfaction that insuperable difficulties would be created with Foreign Governments by the omission of the description 'British Subject', the Minister recommends that the Attorney General's compromise should then and then only be proposed.

1Not located.

2See above No.179.

Purchase Volumes Online

Purchase Volumes Online



The Royal Irish Academy's Documents on Irish Foreign Policy series has published an eBook of confidential correspondence on the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations.

Free Download

International Counterparts

The international network of Editors of Diplomatic Documents was founded in 1988. Delegations from different parts of the world met for the first time in London in 1989.
Read more ....