No. 83 NAI 2003/17/181
London, 7 September 1937
Will you please read this for the President.
I went with the H.C. to see MacDonald at 12.30 today. Batterbee and Harding were both away.
I asked him what idea he had about the conversation to take place with the President.
He said that the last conversation had cleared the air and expected that further progress might be made now. The first conversations would naturally be exploratory, but he would report to his colleagues and it might be possible to reach some element of finality in a further conversation [on] the President's way back to Dublin.
MacDonald had just been asked to form part of the British delegation to Geneva as the Ministerial strength was a little low. He was still hesitating and a little worried lest the Press should say that he went to G. at the last moment because the President was going. And he thought that publicity of that kind might worry the P. I assured him that it would not. In any case if MacD. was a member of the B. delegation there would be nothing strange in his meeting the P. occasionally in Geneva whereas a special ad hoc journey to Zurich or some other place other than Geneva would - if it became public - cause much more embarrassment to both sides.
MacDonald thought the British would have to object to 3 + 4 of the Constn.
We were really declaring the 6 counties to be within the jurisdiction of the Dublin Parliament, part indeed of an existing state.
The six counties were part of the U.K. and the British had just as strong reason to object as if France or some other country declared part of the U.K. to be under her jurisdiction. I said it would be very unfortunate to raise that issue. 3 + 41 constituted a claim to the unity of the Irish Nation - it was a national matter of the utmost importance to us. His example did not introduce any element of parity. It was an undeniable fact that the Irish nation was one; and it followed that the assumption that the whole country should be one jurisdictional area was perfectly justifiable - and even essential - in such a fundamental document. The President's idea in drawing up the Constn. was to satisfy the greatest possible number of our people and to provide a basis on which normal relations with G.B. could be established. 3 + 4 were essential to the whole fabric of the Constn. and the whole object of the Constn. would fail without them. MacD. thought that feeling in the Six Counties was much worse since the passing of the Constn. To that I replied that the feeling was only transitory. If as the President most sincerely hoped the Constn. brought about a certain degree of contentment and enabled him to make some arrangement with G.B. the six county people would forget the Constitution and think only of the fact of the existence of better relations. The momentary worsening of feeling in the Six Counties - if his information was correct - was to be reckoned with as an inevitable stage in our progress towards better relations.
MacD. went on to say that he wished the President would not believe that the British wanted to perpetuate partition, or that they could put an end to it. Only the attitude of our Govt. towards the six counties could do that. I said that I felt sure that, given favourable conditions, the President would do everything possible to bring about good feeling - a favourable settlement of our quarrel was, of course, an essential preliminary.
He did not commit himself to any exact proposition on the financial question. He thought the President believed that there could be a complete settlement - if we spent just a few hundred thousand a year more on defence. He knew that the President would agree to nothing until it was quite clear that they were going to leave the ports. That they were ready to do, but they must be quite sure that the invitation would come to them if G.B. were attacked. Ireland was an absolutely essential element in their defence system and we could not expect them to leave themselves exposed to attack through hesitation on our part. My answer was that we had to safeguard our sovereignty first of all, but we were quite conscious of the fact that in modern warfare an attack on either of our countries might constitute a danger to both. He should speak further to the President about the 'invitation' issue. The President realised how important it was and had given it very serious thought.
Though MacD. would not say that a considerable advance on the question of Defence expenditure would make them abandon their claim to the annuities I did get the impression that it was still the best line of approach in present circumstances.
The H.C. and I can give the President a better idea of the atmosphere of this conversation when we meet on Thursday evening but these points may be of some use in the President's immediate consideration of the matter.
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