Last year five Members of Dáil Eireann were chosen as plenipotentiaries on a delegation, to meet an English delegation with a view to seeing how "The Association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire may best be reconciled with Irish National aspirations."
This delegation had secret instructions, but these instructions did not violate or restrict, according to International Law, the plenipotentiary authority conferred by Dáil Eireann, and expressly set out in the credentials over the hand of Mr. de Valera to be produced to the British Government and Delegates, and these are the terms that were given tp the Plenipotentiaries:—
TO ALL TO WHOM THESE PRESENTS COME, GREETING:
In virtue of the authority vested in me by Dáil Eireann, I hereby appoint
Arthur Griffith, T.D., Minister for Foreign Affairs, Chairman;
Michael Collins, Minister for Finance;
Robert C. Barton, T.D., Minister for Economic Affairs;
Edmund J. Duggan, T.D.;
George Gavan Duffy, T.D.;
as envoys Plenipotentiary from the elected Government of the REPUBLIC OF IRELAND to negotiate and conclude on behalf of Ireland with the representatives of his Britannic Majesty GEORGE V., a Treaty or Treaties of Settlement, Association and Accommodation between Ireland and the Community of nations known as the British Commonwealth.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF I hereunto subscribe my name as President.
Done in the City of Dublin, this 7th day of October, in the year of our Lord 1921, in five identical originals.
After a considerable lapse of time and many negotiations, reports concerning which had been transmitted here to the Cabinet of Dáil Eireann, the Delegates returned, and presented an instrument which represented, at that time, the maximum terms which the English delegation were prepared to accept. This instrument was rejected by the Cabinet, the late President Griffith undertaking not to sign that instrument—namely, the rejected instrument, without first coming back and informing the Dáil Cabinet that he would sign.
This is not a time for face saving, and no one's face is going to be spared to any disadvantage or any discount to our great and mighty dead. There sleeps at present in Glasnevin the late President and the late Commander-in-Chief, earning a rest they were denied on earth. One of them, President Griffith, honest man that he was, told me in London on the occasion that we were there in last May or June, that Mr. de Valera, then President of Dáil Eireann, in November, 1921, said to him previous to the Cabinet considering the terms that had been for warded by the British that it was a grave responsibility to turn down that instrument without consulting the people.
President Griffith kept his word, and he did not sign that instrument, and with General Collins and the other members of the delegation, returned to London. Negotiations were broken off, and subsequently resumed. Material concessions were made by the British delegation.
These great men signed the Instrument, but it was not the Instrument that President Griffith undertook he would not sign. They signed on behalf of the Nation that they represented, and on whose behalf they had so valiantly fought, and they died—one with his Ministerial harness on his back, and the other wearing the uniform of the soldiers of the Nation he had laboured so hard for, and for whose honour and existence and for the supremacy of whose Parliament he poured out his blood.
The late President also informed me when we were in London in May and June last, that Mr. Barton—and wherever he is let this message reach him— said to General Collins on the way to Downing Street to sign the Treaty: "I will never let you down, Mick." This gentleman, Mr. Barton, before he signed, went out of the room to discuss the matter with his friend and cousin, Mr. Childers, and returned in five minutes and said that he would sign—and let that message reach Mr. Childers wherever he may be.
These are just words now. They are not told for the purpose of influencing a single Member of this Dáil, but they are true, and the Irish people should know the truth. The rejected terms of accommodation which Mr. de Valera in the responsible position he occupied had said would entail a serious responsibility on those who would reject them without consulting the people, was not the ultimate Treaty, and if it were a serious responsibility to reject the one, how much more serious was it to reject the other? And to reject that other every conceivable device was invented to prevent the people from expressing their opinion.
When the Treaty was under consideration, Mr. de Valera issued a statement saying that there was a constitutional way of settling our difficulties. The constitutional decision having been against him, more elaborate designs were engineered against the Nation. A section of the Army was seduced from its allegiance to the Government. Amongst the papers of the late Commander-in-Chief there is a report of a convention of the disaffected section of the Army held on some date in March last, at which, amongst the matters that are entered as principal discussions, there occurred the following:—
"That matters of immediate concern for the Executive will include:—
1. Maintaining of Ireland as an Independent Republic.
2. Appointment of C.S. who will appoint G.H.Q. Staff Appointments can be vetoed bv Executive.
3. Declaration of Dictatorship (for this purpose the Executive shall be empowered to secure services of others who need not be members of Executive) with a view to:—
(a) Ordering dissolution of all pretended Governments in Ireland by prohibition of Parliamentary Elections until such time as an election without threat of war from Britain can be held on adult suffrage.
The Dictatorship would overthrow the four Governments in Ireland opposed to the Republic, viz., Dail Eireann, Provisional Government, British Government, and Northern Government."
The Treaty position being regularised by Dail Eireann and by a meeting of members elected to sit in the Southern Parliament, the work of taking over the administration of the country from the British began immediately. The Castle, for centuries the seat of alien Government in this country, was formally handed over, and that institution is now entirely and completely in the hands of the people's Government, and under the control of the Executive, and is manned at this moment by Irish troops. The transfer of the Executive has taken place, and Ministers appointed by the representatives of the Irish People have taken control of most of the public services, some of which are still reserved, but will eventually pass into our hands as soon as satisfactory arrangements are concluded.
In the papers left by the late Commander-in-Chief it is stated that "Mr. de Valera and his supporters were asked to take part in the Interim Government without prejudice to their principles, and their right to oppose the ratification of the Treaty at the elections. They were asked to help in keeping an orderly united nation with the greatest possible strength over against England; exercising the greatest possible peaceful pressure towards the union of all Ireland; with the greatest amount of credit for us in the eyes of the world; and with the greatest advantage to the nation itself in having a strong united Government to start the Departments of State, and to deal with the urgent problems of housing, land hunger, and unemployment."
At the Ard Fheis an agreement was arrived at, the elections being postponed for three months, those who were against the Treaty pledging themselves to allow the work of the Provisional Government to proceed. Already the political situation had affected business. The subsequent activities against the popular will, and for these activities the political sponsors, i.e., the Party in the Dail who are described as Anti-Treaty, are and will be held responsible by the people of Ireland. Neither age nor sex, not even religion were spared. Roads were blocked to prevent meetings; firearms were used against speakers, and in one case a meeting to be addressed by the late President was proclaimed. The elected head of the Nation was to be dominated by an army despot; the man who worked for thirty years in the service of his country was not to be terrorised in that fashion. At the risk of his life, and leaving behind the late Commander-in-Chief as President's substitute, he set out for Sligo determined to die before he would admit the right of any person, armed or unarmed, to restrict liberty, and he declined to barter the people's liberty even at the risk of his life. I bear witness to the cheerfulness with which the late President set out on that journey, and to the satisfaction expressed when he had returned from his encounter with these armed despots. In an adjoining county a deputy of the last Dail who was informed that he would get short shrift at the elctions, said a few revolver shots would settle that. Very few revolver shots were fired by that gentleman during the late war. The late Commander-in-Chief, General Michael Collins, who was unquestionably the most hunted man by the British during the late war, encountered armed opposition at meetings held in various parts of the country. In those places there was overwhelming support for him and his policy, but an armed minority sought to prevent the people hearing what he had to say. Trees were felled and placed across the roads to prevent people attending the meetings; rails were torn up to prevent people travelling by trains; newspapers were seized to prevent the people reading about the meetings, and terrorism of the basest kind indulged in under a political label, and few and feeble were the protests by the Anti-Treaty party against this new onslaught on democracy. There were merely individual expressions of opinion; no man on the Anti-Treaty side had the moral courage to stand up and say if these onslaughts did not cease he would retire from membership of that party. The ultimate policy of the Anti-Treaty party was now apparent, i.e. destruction. When a peaceful arrangement with Ulster was entered into and signed by President Griffith and General Collins, armed raids took place on goods coming from Belfast under an edict issued by the Irregulars, i.e., the Belfast Boycott. Every constructive effort made by the Irish Government was made the object of attack by the Irregulars or the overwrought members of the Anti-Treaty party. Meantime a business slump set in and economic chaos became inevitable. The Four Courts were occupied and barricades were set up. This institution had been handed over by the British and had become the property of the nation. Its use as a public building was very largely availed of. Offices in that institution were utilised to administer funds of orphans, widows and the insane. Documents important to the life of the nation were stored there. The Record Office was of inestimable intrinsic value; the only Brehon Decree in existence was housed there, and due and sufficient notice was given to these armed gentlemen of the value of these documents and of the necessity of safeguarding them. All these attacks on the people and on public and private property notwithstanding, the Government still continued a peace offensive, always in the hope that a statesmanlike appreciation of the situation would eventually command the attention of more responsible elements of those opposed to the Treaty. The fact that such a presumption was correct was evidenced when the Southern Officers published a statement. Meeting after meeting was held between representatives, and on the Treaty side the mere terms of any agreement counted for nothing. No price was too high to pay as long as the Treaty position was kept and the Treaty secured, and while that position was maintained, even though it shook the confidence of our friends and supporters and brought us very near the edge of a precipice, no action was taken, no statement was made, no word was uttered by the late General Collins that would give offence, or even umbrage, to the humblest member of the Anti-Treaty party. In all these efforts to effect stabilisation, the Government were being constantly reminded by their own supporters that they were playing with fire. Every act of grace, every effort made for peace, every consultation tried to bring about friendly co-operation on the points, which before the public were admitted to be common ground, was taken, as the sign of weakness. Reviewing the whole course of events now, and in the interim absence of proof, one is driven to the irresistible conclusion that a way was being fashioned for a return of the English troops and English administration, as if after the disorganisation so deliberately planned, the Nation could look to the same leaders with any degree of confidence. After making fruitless attempts to secure accommodation, a formula was found, and only the great heart now no longer beating, and lying in Glasnevin, could have out of its illimitable generosity given so much away. But what change of heart was seen on the Anti-Treaty side. It is well that those who talk so lightly now of peace as if it were something which could be had as easily as saying “Yes” or “No” should thoroughly appreciate the position. Peace with the politicians, or an apparent peace, was not the peace for which we had bargained. Well might the Anti-Treaty Party bargain for peace and demand and get the highest price, knowing well that another peace had had to be made with the Irregulars in arms.
On the 12th June—during the absence of Gen. Collins—an advertisement appeared in the Press over the names of Michael Collins and E. de Valera, which was not authorised by Michael Collins, and on the 14th he published a repudiation of it.
It is unnecessary to read the Coalition Panel Agreement, but it is right that this should be read:—
"During the absence of Messrs. Griffith and Michael Collins in London on Monday, 12th June, 1922, the following advertisement appeared in the Dublin papers of that date. It occupied a treble column space of about ten inches in each column. Here is a copy of the advertisement:—
"‘The English are furious with the Collins-de Valera Pact because the English fear Irish unity.
"‘Will you play the enemy's game, and destroy the Pact, or will you stand by that Pact and vote for the Sinn Fein panel?
"‘You won't get it by voting for a Dail of warring sections and interests.
"‘You will get it by voting for the Sinn Fein Panel which will secure a united effort from the forces of Irish Nationality.
"‘Peace, stability, order can only be secured by the two effective National forces, united by the Collins-de Valera Pact.
"‘Your only security against the Nation's enemies, foreign and domestic.'"
CUMANN NA POBLACHTA.
On the 13th June, Mr. Michael Collins was shown this advertisement which appeared in the Press of 12th June.
The following statement appeared in the Press of the 14th June:—
"On Mr. Collins' attention being drawn to the advertisement inserted in Monday's papers by ‘Cumann na Poblachta,' he said he had not seen it before it was inserted, nor did he believe that Mr. de Valera had seen it. The Pact agreed upon by him and Mr. de Valera stated clearly in Clause 4 ‘That any and every interest is free to go up and contest the Election equally with the National Sinn Fein Panel.' In his opinion the statement in the advertisement: ‘Do you want peace? You won't get it by voting for a Dail of warring sections and interests; you will got it by voting for the Sinn Fein Panel which will secure united effort from the forces of Irish Nationality,' was not in keeping with the spirit of the Pact, and to suggest that non-Panel candidates, by contesting the Election, branded themselves as national enemies was obviously contrary to the agreement signed by him and by Mr. de Valera."
On the 15th of June, negotiations having been going on with the Irregulars, the following document was handed to the Minister for Defence by Messrs. O'Connor and O'Malley from the Four Courts:—
RESOLUTION PASSED AT EXECUTIVE MEETING HELD ON 14/6/22.
That we instruct the Officers deputed to meet the Beggar's Bush Officers to inform them that:—
For the purpose of maintaining the Irish Republic, the Executive has decided that:
(a) Negotiations on Army unification. with Beggar's Bush must cease.
(b) We take whatever action may be necessary to maintain the Republic against British aggression.
(c) No offensive will be taken by our troops against the Beggar's Bush forces.
On the 18th June—after the Election— forces from the Four Courts seized munitions at the Curragh, the property of the people of Ireland.
We have positive evidence that on Sunday, 18th June, Rory O'Connor, Ernest O'Malley, and Thomas Barry, with an armoured and Lancia car, and a force of Irregulars from the Four Courts, held up members of the Civic Guard, disarmed them, and took possession of their arms, at the Cross at Kildare. The disarmed Civic Guards were there and then informed by the O'Connor-O'Malley-Barry party "that they had declared war on England, that they had issued an ultimatum for Monday morning, and that they did not want to be fighting with Irishmen," and they asked the Civic Guards "to come along with them."
On the 26th of June motor cars to the value of £9,000 were seized under the pretext of the Belfast Boycott at Ferguson's Garage. The Government being made aware of it, National troops were despatched to the premises, and they arrested an Irregular leader named Henderson. It was the duty of the Government to prevent illegal seizures not authorised by any Court functioning under the authority of Parliament. The following day one of the highest Military Officers of the State, General O'Connell, was kidnapped and taken prisoner to the Four Courts. These actions were a direct challenge to the authority of the people, as expressed in the elections, and to the authority of the Government. It was now evident that neither peace, order nor security could possibly be maintained if the Government did not take strong and definite action. An ultimatum was sent to the Four Courts, and military operations were begun against those who defied the authority. These actions were only taken after every possible effort had been made to effect a peaceful settlement. It must, however, be definitely understood that in all these efforts for a peaceful settlement the Government was bound to see that the Treaty position was maintained. At that time the Irregular forces could have withdrawn from the Four Courts, bowing to superior force, and still maintained, should it be so desired, an attitude of opposition on constitutional lines to the Government's policy.
If peace be made now it must be on well defined lines: it must be a constitutional peace. There must not, and will not, be an armed body in the community without the sanction of Parliament, and Parliament must have control of all arms, and an armed opposition to its will cannot be permitted. There must be no misunderstanding about that. We do not contemplate, and never said we would fire the last shot to consolidate the supremacy of Parliament. It won't be necessary to do so, but if those at present in arms, or at any future time in arms, think that the Government fears to assert the authority of Parliament, they are mistaken. Members of the Government may fall in that, task which it is their duty to carry out, and others will take their place and accept the same responsibility.
During the progress of the military operations within the last two months there has been an utter indifference on the part of the Irregulars—in their attacks —to the vital interests of the community. It is well known there is a house famine in Dublin, and throughout the country, but that did not prevent the occupation and the destruction of the habitations of the people. The Provisional Government had already taken steps to provide for 2,000 houses. It was evidence of their appreciation of the house famine. Hotel accommodation was strictly limited; that did not prevent a large number of hotels being seized by Irregulars, and during the occupation by Irregulars of the hotels, and other places, members of the Dail belonging to the Anti-Treaty party were in these hotels. Sniping and ambushing had taken place on a much larger scale than during the late war, and in one of the ambushes a most promising Officer— General Collison, with four Officers of lesser rank—was killed. I recollect the late President saying that he would at all costs attend the funeral of General Collison, and of four Officers that were killed in the ambush at Leix. The 25 men who took part in that ambush surrendered almost immediately to a force of six of the National troops, after doing their damage. They put up a white flag and screamed for mercy. General Collins went down and interrogated these twentyfive men, and not a single one of them had fired a shot against the English in the late war. Piers have been destroyed, roads trenched and mined, bridges blown up, railways seriously damaged, and signal boxes destroyed. In a word if there is to be war let us concentrate upon cutting the arteries of the Nation! Valuable mansions have been burned and the policy in this line of action cannot but have one effect, that is the driving of the wealthy classes out of the country with a consequent loss in the revenue of the country, and the attempt to develop a sense and feeling of insecurity which will damage the future prospects of the Nation. In one case a mansion was visited, and "The Book of Lismore" and numerous other valuable Irish manuscripts including the "Crozier of St. Patrick," were sprinkled with petrol, and but for the unexpected arrival of the National troops would have been consigned to the flames. In Cork, they took possession of the Custom House and seized the revenue of the country and the money belonging to the people to the extent of £100,000. They went so far as to make a demand for the payment of Income Tax. These particulars give a picture of the extent to which they are prepared to go to further the proclivities of those people until every man who possesses a revolver becomes a despot. While these operations are in progress and until order has been restored, reconstruction and reparation are obviously impossible. Only last night news was brought of a further attack on the people, namely, damage, to the Water Works. Action taken by the Government in this connection is solely and entirely with the intention of restoring order and taking steps to secure that life and property must be respected and that the laws of the country must be obeyed. The Nation is suffering now, and all this suffering, great as it may be, is less than that to which all the activities of those who are in arms against the Government wish to commit the Nation, i.e., renewed war with England. Peace must be on the basis of the Treaty and it is open to any section of the community to oppose it politically and constitutionally. Amongst the documents that have come into the hands of the Government in connection with this struggle occurs the following:—
KERRY No. 1 BRIGADE,
July 10, 1922.
"Dept. Ref. No. A/8
"O/c. 6th Battalion.
"With regard to the ‘E.D.J.' I understand that Ryan of Kilrush, who has large shares in her is, and has always been, friendly to us, and that another merchant named Glynn who is not friendly, has two boats—‘the Corona' and ‘the Turk.' Will you arrange with the bearer that if the ‘E.D.J.' is not of any great use to us that she be returned as soon as possible, and make arrangements that one of the others be taken.
"With regard to the Free Staters who are trying to get across, or those of the workhouse crowd who are active in your area, you will se that they are immediately rounded up and sent to Fermoy, which is now a detention camp for Free State prisoners.
"If that Triumph bike is not running, have it sent here immediately. Have any information transferred to us through Listowel as quickly as possible.
"If an English destroyer or sloop comes within Rifle shot of your shore, snipe it, and, if possible, have a rifle grenade dropped on deck. Possibly then they may shell the coast or make a landing— the very thing we want them to do. Then we have the old enemy back, and that will clear the whole aspect of the present war.
"(Signed) A. O. MURCHADHA,
"O/C Kerry No. 1 Brigade."
The man to whom this despatch was directed, Mr. Martin Howard, is now a prisoner in our hands.
On Tuesday, the 29th August, Erskine Childers and a party of Irregulars damaged one and attempted to cut a second Transatlantic cable at Valentia, Co. Kerry.
In July last an honourable Truce was entered into between the English on the one hand and the Irish on the other, that Truce was never called off and those are breaches of the Truce.
The Nation which has struggled so long against the most powerful foreign aggression will not submit to an armed minority which makes war upon its liberties, its institutions, its representation and its honour. During its long and bitter struggle Irish honour was bright and resplendent. An Irishman's word of honour was dearer than his life, and no political advantage can have any respect without honour. There must be clear thinking on this subject of peace. We demand no concessions which cannot be given without honour. We insist upon the people's rights. We are the custodians of the rights of the people and we shall not hesitate to shoulder them. We are willing to come to a peaceful understanding with those in arms, but it must be on a definite basis. We want peace with England on the terms agreed to by the country. Apart from the question of the honour of the Nation we are satisfied that the Nation stands to lose incomparably less from the armed internal opposition than from a reconquest. The National Army is prepared to pay the price, and so are we. Last December Ireland was in a position of power and of influence of great promise for the country. Foreign Nations expressed their appreciation of the settlement, and for a short period there was a boom in business. The action of the opposition destroyed that boom, lessened that power and damaged the reputation of the Nation. These potentialities must be restored. Great material loss has been inflicted on the Nation. It is impossible to estimate the extent of this loss, but it is easy to appreciate how much was needed to restore the country after the war with the English; war with the English in this sense meaning not the last 3 or 4 or 5 years, but the war which restricted National development, which left us a poor Nation, which left us industrially and politically on the same level with the smaller Nations of Europe, and the education of the country fashioned as if Ireland were a Province and not a Nation. Hard work lies before the Parliament of the Nation, and with the active and cordial co-operation of both and of the various sections making up the community it will be possible to restore the Irish Nation not alone to the position in which it was at the time the Treaty was signed but to the potentialities which the Treaty offered and which it is possible to get out of the Treaty. There is now no reason why blame should be shifted on the British or any other Government blamed if we do not succeed. This Parliament and this Government is of the people and expects to get that support which is essential to a Government and a Parliament. We must realise our responsibilities not to one section or to one order of the community, and we must seek to make the administration of this country and the business of the Parliament something worthy of the people. Our Army and Police Force must be efficient; the Courts must command the confidence of the people, and the Parliament must resuscitate the Gaelic spirit and the Gaelic civilisation for which we have been fighting through the ages and all but lost. The Nation is still full of vigour and is conscious that a mere handful of violent persons is for the moment standing athwart its upward and onward march towards the achievement of its highest hopes.