No. 19 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S1
London, 22 March 1932
Dear Mr. Thomas,
I write this note immediately after our conversation this afternoon to confirm the oral statement I then made in reply to your enquiry as to the intentions of the Irish Free State Government.
I said that I was in a position to answer your enquiry so far as the question of the Oath was concerned. The position of my Government on that question I stated, was that the Oath is not mandatory in the Treaty. We have an absolute right to modify our Constitution as the people desire. The Constitution is the people's Constitution, and anything affecting it appertains to our internal sovereignty and is purely a domestic matter. But besides these legal and constitutional considerations there is another and paramount consideration more than sufficient in itself to make the Government's decision final and irrevocable. The people have declared their will without ambiguity. The abolition of the Oath was the principal and the dominating issue before the electors. It has been the cause of all the strife and dissension in the Irish Free State since the signing of the Treaty. The people, and not merely those who supported the policy of the present Government, regard it as an intolerable burden, a relic of medievalism, a test imposed from outside under threat of immediate and terrible war. The new Government have no desire whatever to be on unfriendly relations with Great Britain. Quite the contrary. But the British Government must realise that real peace in Ireland is impossible so long as the full and free representation of the people in their Parliament is rendered impossible by a test of this character. The Minister and his Government have the most sincere desire that relations between these two countries should be allowed to develop on normal lines. And normal relations between our two islands should naturally be close and friendly. But there can be no normal relations between us so long as one side insists on imposing on the other a conscience test which has no parallel in treaty relationships between States. And even if the British Government hold the view that the Oath is mandatory in the Treaty, they must recognise that such a test and imposition on the conscience of the people is completely out of place in a political agreement between two countries.
In view of the fact that my Government regard the question of the Oath as being a purely domestic matter I said that I had not therefore been instructed by the Minister for External Affairs to make any communication, but that in my capacity as High Commissioner I had been informed by the Minister of his proposals, and was, therefore, in a position to answer your enquiry.
As I did not this afternoon deliver any document to you, it was, I think you will agree, not correct to say that you had received a document from me.1 What I gave was the information contained in this letter, which, for purpose of accuracy, I read from a typed note which I had for my own guidance.
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