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No. 231 NAI Provisional Government Minutes G1/1

Extract from the minutes of a meeting of the provisional government1

Dublin, 8 p.m., 30 January 1922

1. North East Ulster Policy
The Most Rev. Dr. MacRory2 was of opinion that Sir James Craig should be urged to come in to the Irish Free State at once. He thought the policy of Peace with Ulster should be given a fair chance. He mentioned that there was anxiety in the North regarding the removal of the Belfast Boycott which he said was the most powerful weapon against the Northern Parliament. He asked Mr. Collins to make representations to Sir James Craig that firms such as Mackey's, Coombe and Barbour, The Sirocco Co., Musgrave Heating Works, the Rope Works, should take back their Catholic employees. This Mr. Collins noted.

Dr. MacRory mentioned that the Northern Government had given no indication of their Educational Policy, but that the salaries of teachers were being paid by them from 1st Feb. This raised the question of non-recognition of the Northern Government. Mr. Lynch undertook to inquire into the exact position as regards payment of teachers salaries.

Dr. MacRory was of opinion that there was a strong desire upon the part of Mr. Devlin3 and his followers to enter the Northern Parliament. He also said that people in the North were afraid that it would be difficult to reach a Boundary agreement under the Collins-Craig agreement.

Dr. MacRory also felt that if the policy of non-recognition was adopted, the people in the North would have to fight alone.

Mr. Collins pointed out that the Boycott was comparatively ineffective, and that if it became necessary to fight the Northern Parliament they could set up an effective tariff-barrier in its stead. They would either have to fight the North or make peace with it. A peace policy had been started and should get a fair chance.

Non-recognition of the Northern Parliament was essential otherwise they would have nothing to bargain on with Sir James Craig. He had suggested to Sir James that a meeting of all Irish representatives should be called to draft an Irish Constitution. He would put plainly to Sir James the advisability of the Northern people coming in under the Free State.

He was prepared to say that the Provisional Government would, so far as its resources permitted, finance schools in the Six Counties where the teachers and managers do not recognise the Northern Government. He would also support local bodies taking a similar course of action.

As regards the Boundary Commission Mr. Collins and Mr. Griffith pointed out that at first it was complained that an Englishman had been brought in - thereby making two votes to one in favour of the North-East - now when the Englishman was left out they were not satisfied. The Provisional Govt. regarded all the people of Ireland as their nationals and they would define what they considered the proper boundary and fight for that in the event of the North refusing to come in.

Mr. Collins indicated that steps would be taken to deal with the appointment of Commissioners by the Northern Government in cases where County Councils refused to recognise that Government.

The question of making the non-recognition campaign public was raised. It was suggested that if Mr. Devlin was agreeable, a conference consisting of representatives of Sinn Fein, public bodies, Mr Devlin's supporters and of the clergy should be called for this object.

This Act would contain two schedules - one the Treaty and the other agreed heads of matters to be covered in the Constitution. Matters such as the Constitution of Parliament, the Governor-General etc were included in these heads. Mr. Curtis4 was to send in a memorandum giving the different points to be covered in this schedule. Mr. Duggan and O'Higgins are to see him later in the afternoon with Mr. Kennedy.

It was agreed that this proposal was unacceptable and that Mr. Curtis should be told that an election on the Treaty was essential. He could be given every assurance that the Constitution would be drafted within the Treaty, but informed that the inclusion of the Schedule contemplated in a ratification Act would jeopardise the political situation.

As the Report of the Cabinet Committee was affected by these considerations, it was decided to defer it until the result of the interview with Mr. Curtis was available.

1 Present: Collins, Hogan, Walsh, Lynch, O'Higgins and Duggan. Griffith and Duffy and Dr. McRory were in attendance.

2 Bishop of Down and Connor (1915-1927), later Primate of all Ireland (1927-1945).

3 Joseph Devlin, leader of Northern Irish Nationalist party.

4 Lionel Curtis.

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