No. 1 NAI 2006/39
DUBLIN, 16 December 1936 1
The President gave an interview this morning to Mr. Walshe and myself.
I said that I had the instructions for the coal-cattle pact, and I understood that I was to seek for a renewal of the existing coal-cattle pact. To this the President agreed, but said that paragraph (v) of the instructions meant first that we could not even seem to be asking for concessions on a general trade agreement. If a favourable opening presented itself, I was to begin tentatively on the question of a general trade agreement. I said that I had not seen the Minister for Industry and Commerce, but, in view of the President's statement, I knew now what my general line was in talking to the British.
On the political situation, the President said he was glad that I had been here during the recent difficulties about the King, because it had enabled me to get the home reactions on the question. As it appeared to me, the position was to see what could be done on these economic questions and on the ports. As a beginning to a settlement on the lines of a united Ireland, I was to make it as clear as possible that there was not to be any interference in our internal affairs from any outside source, notwithstanding any symbols that might have been handed down from the past.
Mr. Walshe thought that it would be a good thing to emphasise in any conversations with the British that they ought to appreciate that, in our recent legislation, we had really been assisting the British, and, if they were intent upon a general settlement they ought to see that we had done no more than carry out intentions which the Government had explained clearly well in advance.
The President entirely agreed, and said that he thought the thing to do was to fix up outstanding matters between the Saorstát and the United Kingdom on such questions as the economic difficulty, and then start with proposals for a United Ireland. He was not unaware that this might present political difficulties for the British, but the British were never to be misled into thinking that anything short of a United Ireland meant a really satisfactory settlement. The British ought to see that An Saorstát represented their wing and their back door.
The President also thought that what the Dáil had done last week was really of very great assistance to the British. It was important to make clear to the British that last week's events in no sense represented a manoeuvre but really a help to them.2
I said that I doubted whether the Dominions Secretary or any of his colleagues who were properly informed could regard last week's events in the light of a manoeuvre. There was, in the first place, the President's own public statements that, in the new Constitution, the King would have no part or lot on the internal affairs, but would be retained for the external functions which he was at present discharging. This had been emphasised almost ad nauseam by me in conversations with Mr. MacDonald and the leading British civil servants whom he had directed to discuss matters with me. Over and over again, I had explained that, whilst I was not in a position to present them with the details of the new Constitution, they could accept as definitive the intentions of An Saorstát to establish a Constitution on the above-mentioned lines, namely, no participation of the King in internal affairs, but the continuance of the King's existing functions in external affairs.
Mr. Walshe quoted from the London evening paper 'The Star', and referred also to this morning's leader in the 'Irish Times' which he thought indicated a nearer approach to acceptance of the new position than had appeared before.
I mentioned that, through a personal friend of mine in the Treasury, Mr. S.D. Waley, I had secured some figures, not yet quite complete, showing the financial relations between the Six Counties and Great Britain. The President said that he had given directions for some enquiries on the same matter, and he asked that he should be furnished with the figures that I had confidentially obtained, not that he would use them publicly, but that they might be helpful to him as a check on the figures which he had already received.
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