No. 11 NAI 2003/17/181
Dublin, 25 January 1937
Questions in the H of Coms on the Conversations of the 14th January1.
At 10.20 on the 'phone this morning, the high Commissioner told me that the following question was being put to the Secretary for the Dominions by Ross, M.P. for Derry:2
Whether the conversation with Mr. de Valera covered matters affecting the interests of Northern Ireland and, if so, whether he had consulted the Government of Northern Ireland thereon.
The following was the answer which Mr. MacDonald was to give:
'In the course of our recent conversation, Mr. de Valera expressed his wish that steps should be taken towards the establishment of a United Ireland. The matter was not further discussed, however; the second part of the question does not therefore arise.'
I informed the President immediately of the terms of the reply and he directed me to suggest the following reply:
'In the course of our recent conversation, Mr. de Valera laid stress upon the fact which he has so frequently emphasised in public statements, that it was only on the basis of a united Ireland that really cordial relations between the peoples of the two countries could be established. The detailed part of the conversation dealt with issues immediately in dispute between us other than that of a United Ireland. I have already informed the House that all these conversations were informal in character and did not constitute negotiations.'
In the course of a further conversation with the High Commissioner.3 The High Commissioner came back on the 'phone at 11.20. He had been talking to Mr. MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald wanted the answer put as briefly as possible and to prevent as far as possible awkward supplementary questions being asked. He therefore wished to keep to his original reply but on pressure from the High Commissioner he agreed to say instead of 'Mr. de Valera expressed his wish' that 'Mr. de Valera strongly urged that steps etc.' I repeated to the High Commissioner the President's chief objection was to the second sentence in Mr. MacDonald's reply, that is, 'the matter was not, however, discussed further.' On speaking further with the President on the matter, he suggested that this sentence should be replaced by 'no scheme for a united Ireland was discussed'. That change, together with the use of 'strongly urged' would make the reply relatively satisfactory.
The High Commissioner will be unable to see Mr. MacDonald again before two o'clock but he thinks that he will be able to secure his agreement for the change. Mr. MacDonald has gone to a meeting of the Cabinet which is unlikely to end before that time.
The H.C. eventually succeeded in persuading Mr. MacDonald to adopt the suggestion in last par[agraph] but one hereof.4
25th January, 1937.
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