No. 67  NAI DFA Secretary's Files P70

Memorandum by Joseph P. Walshe concerning British plans to
introduce conscription in Northern Ireland

DUBLIN, 21 May 1941

I 'phoned the High Commissioner this morning to ask him to give me the general attitude of the Press on Churchill's announcement yesterday that his Government had considered applying conscription to the Six County area. The High Commissioner told me that the London Press was generally in favour, and that the 'Daily Herald' had stated that the decision had actually been taken. The 'Times' Parliamentary Correspondent said that, while there might be objections from some quarters, it was unlikely that there would be any from Dublin.

Churchill told the House of Commons that he would make a statement at the first sitting after this week's session, i.e., on next Tuesday.1

I told the High Commissioner not to take any action with the British Government until I was able to get into touch with the Taoiseach for instructions.

I spoke to the Taoiseach at 1 o'clock after his return from the Rogation Mass of Intercession,2 and he told me to instruct the High Commissioner on the following lines:-

He was to see the Secretary of State for the Dominions as soon as possible and to inform him that the Irish Government were seriously perturbed at the action contemplated by the British Government. Such a course would bring about a situation the end of which no one could see. The British Government should recognise what an outrage it would be to seek to force the Nationalist population in the Six Counties to fight for a freedom which they had not themselves been permitted to enjoy. The effect on Irish opinion all over the world would be disastrous, and there was hardly any doubt that the desire of those Irishmen who wished to fight with the British forces would suffer a serious setback.

I told the High Commissioner he could add arguments of his own according to his discretion for the purpose of obtaining the desired result. It would be no harm to say that there was a real possibility of bloodshed amongst the Nationalist population and trouble of all kinds between the Nationalists and the Orangemen. It was incomprehensible that the British should look for so much more trouble at a time when they needed so much peace and harmony amongst their friends.

The High Commissioner was to 'phone me later in the evening when he had seen Lord Cranborne.

2. On the Taoiseach's instructions also, I sent a telegram to Washington3 telling our Minister to inform the State Department and influential friends of the danger and to urge the Administration to advise the British against taking a course which was going to be so detrimental to themselves and their friends.

1 On 27 May 1941 Churchill announced in the House of Commons that conscription forNorthern Ireland had been dropped. See No. 80.

2 The three days before the Feast of the Ascension, which in 1941 fell on 23 May (forty days after Easter Sunday), were days of prayer and fasting known as Minor Rogation Days.

3 Not printed.


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