First interview:- Thursday 27th January 1921. This interview took place at Sir
E. Carson's house, 5 Eaton Place, London, as did also the two other
interviews. The date is Thursday 27th January 1921.
Lord Justice O'Connor saw Sir Edward Carson by appointment;
O'Connor told Carson that he thought that there was a great desire in Ireland for
peace, and that he could see no insuperable objection to peace so far as
separate treatment for Ulster was concerned; that the Sinn Fein movement was a
perfectly honest movement, without anything in it of self-seeking or sectarianism.
Carson replied that he also was anxious for peace, and now that the right of Ulster
to separate treatment was accorded by the Home Rule Act, he would do
anything within reason to promote peace.
O'Connor said he thought Dominion Home Rule would bring peace,
and the Act could be amended so as to bring it within what is called
Dominion Home Rule; and that fiscal autonomy was essential.
Carson said that there was this difficulty about fiscal autonomy, that
Ulster was genuinely apprehensive of its results on their industrial centre, and
that they would not agree to it.
O'Connor said, would they not agree to it for the rest of Ireland.
Carson said that would lead to inconvenient customs barriers, and that
he thought that way impracticable. He added 'Would it settle the Irish question
if Ireland got off Imperial contribution altogether. The idea of a tribute is
revolting to me as well as to those for whom I speak. It savours of subserviency _
it would be much better to leave the question of contribution to come from
Ireland itself as a voluntary thing'.
O'Connor said that the question of Imperial contribution was a very
big thing: and of course that Ireland should escape it would be a big incentive,
and the idea was well worthy of consideration; he thought Southern Ireland
would not, for many a year at any rate, vote any Imperial contribution.
The general question of Irish unity was discussed. O'Connor
understood Carson to be in favour of ultimate unity, th[r]ough the means of the Council
of Ireland set up under the Home Rule Act.
The question of education in Northern Ireland was also mentioned,
and Carson said that any provision safe-guarding and providing for the
religious education of Catholics in the schools would have his approval, and that
he had offered this when the Belfast Education Bill was on the tapis.
O'Connor said that Carson's desire for settlement, and his general
outlook, led him to hope that a settlement might be arrived at; would Carson see
Father O'Flanagan? Carson said he would.
O'Connor then asked if Carson would see de Valera. Carson said he
would, and that he thought the quietest place (it had at the outset been agreed that
the meeting should be confidential, and the fact of its taking place, or its
import, should not be told to any person save those concerned _ the Prime Minister,
de Valera, Father O'Flanagan), would be his residence. An appointment was
made for the following Sunday night to meet Father O'Flanagan.
During this interview, Carson also mentioned that an agreement could
be come to to allot seats in Northern Ireland so as to avoid contests.
Second interview, Sunday, 30th January, 1921
Carson, Father O'Flanagan, O'Connor were present at 5 Eaton Place.
Father O'Flanagan expressed the view that the best prospect of peace lay by
an interchange of views between Irishmen themselves. Carson agreed.
Father O'Flanagan explained the Sinn Fein view as to a Republic. Carson said
he understood the position; but that a Republic was obviously out of the
question. Father O'Flanagan said that it would be impossible to get the Irish people
to accept anything less. Carson said he understood that; and he thought that
all that could be expected of Sinn Fein leaders would be to say:- 'Here is such
and such a settlement. We do not accept it. It falls short of our demands. But
we will work it. It is a step nearer to liberty. And we will work it in good faith'.
In this connection Carson went on to outline a speech which, under these
circumstances, he would deliver if he were in de Valera's place.
The consultation then drifted on to the question of a settlement.
Carson said the difficulty the Prime Minister had was that there was no one to
deliver the goods; no one to say on behalf of the Irish people that he would work
any settlement, as Father O'Flanagan had admitted to the Prime Minister, and
also to him (Carson) that he had no authority. Father O'Flanagan admitted the
force of this, but said that on the other side there was the objection that if Sinn
Fein receded from its position they would lose ground without any certainty of
the settlement being seen through. O'Connor remarked that if neither party
would express its mind, no progress could ever be made; he thought the
difficulty could be got over by a confidential interchange of views to men like
Father O'Flanagan and himself (O'Connor)?
The question of terms was here gone into, and Carson's attitude was
a repetition of that outlined in respect of the Thursday interview. Carson said
he did not know if Lloyd George would let Ireland off an Imperial
contribution, but that he would try and see him to-morrow (Monday).
Father O'Flanagan expressed neither assent nor dissent to Carson's scheme.
Monday 31st January, 1921
Carson, O'Flanagan, O'Connor, 5 Eaton Place. Carson said he had seen
the Prime Minister and Bonar Law together, and though he had no authority
to say so, he thought there would be no difficulty in getting off all
Imperial contribution if some reasonable assurance could be given that if the Act
were amended accordingly it would be worked. Carson said that the Prime
Minister had suggested either (1) a meeting between de Valera, O'Flanagan,
O'Connor, Carson and Craig, to be followed by a meeting between the above five and
the Prime Minister and Bonar Law; or, at de Valera's option, (2) a meeting
between de Valera, O'Flanagan, O'Connor, the Prime Minister and Bonar Law in
the first instance.