I send you herewith the proposals of the British Government, which I
promised you by this evening. I fear that they will reach you rather late, but I have
only just been able to submit them on behalf of the Cabinet to the King.
I shall expect you here to-morrow at 11.30 a.m., as arranged at our
Proposals of the British Government for an Irish Settlement.
20th July, 1921.
The British Government are actuated by an earnest desire to end the
unhappy divisions between Great Britain and Ireland which have produced so
many conflicts in the past and which have once more shattered the peace and
well-being of Ireland at the present time. They long, with His Majesty the King,
in the words of His gracious speech in Ireland last
month,1 for a satisfactory solution of 'those age-long Irish problems which for generations
embarrassed our forefathers as they now weigh heavily upon us,' and they wish to do
their utmost to secure that 'every man of Irish birth, whatever be his creed
and wherever be his home, should work in loyal co-operation with the
free communities on which the British Empire is based.' They are convinced
that the Irish people may find as worthy and as complete an expression of
their political and spiritual ideals within the Empire as any of the numerous
and varied nations united in allegiance to His Majesty's throne; and they
desire such consummation, not only for the welfare of Great Britain, Ireland and
the Empire as a whole, but also for the cause of peace and harmony
throughout the world. There is no part of the world where Irishmen have made their
home but suffers from our ancient feuds; no part of it but looks to this meeting
between the British Government and the Irish leaders to resolve these feuds in a
new understanding honourable and satisfactory to all the peoples involved.
The free Nations which compose the British Empire are drawn from
many races, with different histories, traditions, ideals. In the Dominion of
Canada, British and French have long forgotten the bitter conflicts which divided
their ancestors. In South Africa the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free
State have joined with two British colonies to make a great self-governing
union under His Majesty's sway. The British people cannot believe that where
Canada and South Africa, with equal or even greater difficulties, have so
signally succeeded, Ireland will fail; and they are determined that, so far as
they themselves can assure it, nothing shall hinder Irish statesmen from
joining together to build up an Irish state in free and willing co-operation with
the other peoples of the Empire.
Moved by these considerations, the British Government invite Ireland
to take her place in the great association of free nations over which His
Majesty reigns. As earnest of their desire to obliterate old quarrels and to enable
Ireland to face the future with her own strength and hope, they propose that
Ireland shall assume forthwith the status of a Dominion with all the powers
and privileges set forth in this document. By the adoption of Dominion status it
is understood that Ireland shall enjoy complete autonomy in taxation and
finance; that she shall maintain her own courts of law and judges; that she shall
maintain her own military forces for home defence, her own constabulary and her
own police; that she shall take over the Irish postal services and all matters
relating hereto; education, land, agriculture, mines and minerals, forestry,
housing, labour, unemployment, transport, trade, public health, health insurance
and the liquor traffic; and, in sum, that she shall exercise all those powers
and privileges upon which the autonomy of the self-governing Dominions is
based, subject only to the considerations set out in the ensuing paragraphs.
Guaranteed in these liberties, which no foreign people can challenge without
challenging the Empire as a whole, the Dominions hold each and severally by virtue
of their British fellowship a standing amongst the nations equivalent, not
merely to their individual strength but to the combined power and influence of
all nations of the Commonwealth. That guarantee, that fellowship, that
freedom the whole Empire looks to Ireland to accept.
To this settlement the British Government are prepared to give
immediate effect upon the following conditions, which are, in their opinion vital to
the welfare and safety of both Great Britain and Ireland, forming as they do
the heart of the Commonwealth.
- The common concern of Great Britain and Ireland in the defence of
their interests by land and sea shall be mutually recognised. Great Britain lives
by sea-borne food; her communications depend upon the freedom of the
great sea routes. Ireland lies at Britain's side across the sea ways North and
South that link her with the sister nations of the Empire, the markets of the
world and the vital sources of her food supply. In recognition of this fact, which
nature has imposed and no statesmanship can change, it is essential that the
Royal Navy alone should control the seas around Ireland and Great Britain, and
that such rights and liberties should be accorded to it by the Irish State as are
essential for naval purposes in the Irish harbours and on the Irish coast.
- In order that the movement towards the limitation of armaments which
is now making progress in the world should in no way be hampered, it
is stipulated that the Irish Territorial force shall within reasonable limits
conform in respect of numbers to the military establishments of the other parts of
- The position of Ireland is also of great importance for the Air Services,
both military and civil. The Royal Air Force will need facilities for all purposes
that it serves; and Ireland will form an essential link in the development of
Air routes between the British Isles and the North American Continent. It
is therefore stipulated that Great Britain shall have all necessary facilities for
the development of defence and of communications by Air.
- Great Britain hopes that Ireland will in due course and of her own free
will contribute in proportion to her wealth to the regular Naval, Military and
Air forces of the Empire. It is further assumed that voluntary recruitment for
these forces will be permitted throughout Ireland, particularly for those famous
Irish Regiments which have so long and so gallantly served His Majesty in all
parts of the world.
- While the Irish people shall enjoy complete autonomy in taxation
and finance, it is essential to prevent a recurrence of ancient differences
between the two islands, and in particular to avert the possibility of ruinous trade
wars. With this object in view, the British and Irish Governments shall agree to
impose no protective duties or other restrictions upon the flow of transport, trade
and commerce between all parts of these islands.
- The Irish people shall agree to assume responsibility for a share of the
present debt of the United Kingdom and of the liability of pensions arising out of
the Great War, the share in default of agreement between the
Governments concerned to be determined by an independent arbitrator appointed
from within His Majesty's Dominions.
In accordance with these principles, the British Government propose
that the conditions of settlement between Great Britain and Ireland shall
be embodied in the form of a Treaty, to which effect shall in due course be
given by the British and Irish Parliaments. They look to such an instrument
to obliterate old conflicts forthwith, to clear the way for a detailed settlement
in full accordance with Irish conditions and needs, and thus to establish a
new and happier relation between Irish patriotism and that wider community
of aims and interests by which the unity of the whole Empire is freely sustained.
The form in which the settlement is to take effect will depend upon
Ireland herself. It must allow for full recognition of the existing powers and
privileges of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, which cannot be abrogated except
by their own consent. For their part, the British Government entertain an
earnest hope that the necessity of harmonious co-operation amongst Irishmen of
all classes and creeds will be recognised throughout Ireland, and they will
welcome the day when by those means unity is achieved. But no such common
action can be secured by force. Union came in Canada by the free consent of
the Provinces; so in Australia; so in South Africa. It will come in Ireland by
no other way than consent. There can, in fact, be no settlement on terms
involving, on the one side or the other, that bitter appeal to bloodshed and violence
which all men of good will are longing to terminate. The British Government
will undertake to give effect, so far as that depends on them, to any terms in
this respect on which all Ireland unites. But in no conditions can they consent
to any proposals which would kindle civil war in Ireland. Such a war would
not touch Ireland alone, for partisans would flock to either side from Great
Britain, the Empire, and elsewhere, with consequences more devastating to the
welfare both of Ireland and the Empire than the conflict to which a truce has
been called this month. Throughout the Empire there is a deep desire that the day
of violence should pass and that a solution should be found, consonant with
the highest ideals and interests of all parts of Ireland, which will enable her to
co-operate as a willing partner in the British Commonwealth.
The British Government will therefore leave Irishmen themselves
to determine by negotiations between themselves whether the new powers
which the Pact defines shall be taken over by Ireland as a whole and administered
by a single Irish body, or be taken over separately by Southern and
Northern Ireland, with or without a joint authority to harmonise their common
interests. They will willingly assist in the negotiation of such a settlement, if
Irishmen should so desire.
By these proposals the British Government sincerely believe that they
will have shattered the foundations of that ancient hatred and distrust which
have disfigured our common history for centuries past. The future of Ireland
within the Commonwealth is for the Irish people to shape.
In the foregoing proposals the British Government have attempted no
more than the broad outline of a settlement. The details they leave for discussion
when the Irish people have signified their acceptance of the principle of this pact.