Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 14 Sep 1921

Vol. S No. 10


The Dáil assembled in Private Session in the Oak Room, Mansion House, Dublin, 14/9/21.
Speaker (E. MacNeill) took the Chair at 11.45 a.m.
The Roll having been called the Speaker called upon the President to make a statement on the business of the day.

, said that he presumed they all knew why they were summoned here today. They had probably read the letter which Lloyd George sent on the 7th inst., in reply to their previous communication. The Ministry had sent a reply to that and they wanted to have the approval of the Dáil to that reply today. The Ministry also wanted to put before the Dáil the names of the delegation plenipotentiaries that the Cabinet wished to send should a conference result from these communications. He thought better to start by reading the letter which the British Premier sent to them in order to have it before their minds when considering the Cabinet's reply.

He then read the letter of the 7th September from the British Premier which was as follows:

Town Hall, Inverness,

September 7th, 1921.


His Majesty's Government have considered your letter of August 30th, and have to make the following observations upon it.

The principle of government by consent of the governed is the foundation of British constitutional development, but we cannot accept as a basis of practical conference an interpretation of that principle which would commit us to any demands which you might present—even to the extent of setting up a republic and repudiating the Crown. You must be aware that conference on such a basis is impossible. So applied, the principle of government by consent of the governed would undermine the fabric of every democratic State and drive the civilised world back into tribalism.

On the other hand, we have invited you to discuss our proposals on their merits, in order that you may have no doubt as to the scope and sincerity of our intentions. It would be open to you in such a conference to raise the subject of guarantees on any points in which you may consider Irish freedom prejudiced by these proposals.

His Majesty's Government are loth to believe that you will insist upon rejecting their proposals without examining them in conference. To decline to discuss a settlement which would bestow upon the Irish people the fullest freedom of national development within the Empire can only mean that you repudiate all allegiance to the Crown and all membership of the British Commonwealth. If we were to draw this inference from your letter then further discussion between us could serve no useful purpose, and all conference would be vain. If, however, we are mistaken in this inference, as we still hope, and if your real objection to our proposals is that they offer Ireland less than the liberty which we have described, that objection can be explored at a Conference.

You will agree that this correspondence has lasted long enough. His Majesty's Government must therefore ask for a definite reply as to whether you are prepared to enter a Conference to ascertain how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire can best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations. If, as we hope, your answer is in the affirmative, I suggest that the Conference should meet at Inverness on the 20th instant.

I am, Sir,

Yours faithfully


Now the Cabinet discussed of course that letter and the following reply was approved of and sent:

Baile Átha Cliath,

12 Meadhon Fóghmhair, 1921.

Dáithí Uasal Leód Seóirse,

10, Sráid Downing,

i Lonndain.

A Chara,

Níl aon scáth orainn a rádh leat go bhfuilimid lántoilteanach "dul i gcomhdháil chum a dhéanamh amach conus is fearr is féidir an bhaint a bheidh idir an Saor-Chumann Náisiún ar a nglaodhtar Impireacht Shasana agus cuspóir náisiúnta mhuintir na hÉireann do réidhteach." Do chuireamar i n-iúl duit i n-ár litir, 10 Lughnasa, chomh fonnmhar is táimid a leithéid de chomh-bhaint a bhreithniughadh. Dá bhrígh sin tá glaoidhte againn ar DHÁIL ÉIREANN teacht le chéile chum go gcuirimid fé n-a brághaid ainmneacha na dteachtaí atá ar aigne againn a cheapadh chum a ndeimhnighthe. Tá súil againn go mbeidh ar chumas na dteachtaí seo bheith i n-Inbhear Nois ar an lá adeirir, an 20adh lá de Mheadhon Foghmhair.

Ins an nóta deireannach so is dualgas linn a rádh arís go bhfuil an sgéal againn díreach mar a mhínigheamar sa chomhfhreagrachas so é, agus nách féidir gan é bheith amhlaidh. Tá a neamhspleadhchus féin fógraithe ag Éirinn do réir nós na náisiún agus dar léi féin gur saorstát í. Is mar lucht labhartha ar son an tsaorstáit sin amháin agus mar lucht toghtha a cosanta atá ughdarás nó cumas againn beart a dhéanamh ar son ár muintire.

Maidir le "Riaghaltas do réir toil na ndaoine a riaghaluightear" tá sé do réir nádúra go gcaithfidh san bheith mar bhun fé aon tsocrughadh a thabharfaidh an rud is mian linn chum críche, is é sin, caradas seasmhach a shnaidhmeadh idir an dá náisiún. Níor bhaineamair-ne riamh aon bhrígh eile as an dteagasg san ach an ghnáth-bhrígh, an bhrígh, cuiream i geás, do bhain muintir chomónta an tsaoghail as nuair adubhrais ar an 5adh Eanair, 1918:

"... Caithfear socrughadh na hEuróipe nua a dhéanamh ar bhun éigin réasúin agus cirt nach miste bheith i ndóchas a bhuanuighthe. Dá bhrígh sin is é ár mórthuairim nach foláir riaghaltas do réir toil na ndaoine a riaghaluightear a bheith mar bhun fé aon tsocrughadh liomatáiste a déanfar de dhruim an chogaidh seo."

Siad na focail seo an fíor-fhreagra atá ar an léirmheas do deineadh orainn id' litir dheireannach. 'Sé brígh a baineadh as an uair sin ná ceart a bheith ag náisiúin a tugadh fé smacht impireachtaí i gcoinnibh a dtola iad féin d'fhuasgailt ón gceangal a bhí ortha. B'in í an bhrígh do bhaineamair-ne as. Le fírinne is é do Riaghaltas-sa a thuigfeadh leis an dteagasg "go mbainfí an bonn ós gach aon stát a sheasuigheann ar thoil na ndaoine agus go gcasfaí an saoghal sibhialta thar n-ais chum finidheachais" nuair a iarann sé-cúis chum ár náisiún ársa a stracadh as a chéile agus a liomatáiste do roinnt.


do chara gan cháim,

(Síghnithe) EAMON DE VALERA.

(Official Translation).

Mansion House,


Sept. 12th, 1921.

The Right Hon.

D. Lloyd George,

10, Downing Street,

Whitehall, London.


We have no hesitation in declaring our willingness "to enter a Conference to ascertain how the association of Ireland with the community of nations known as the British Empire can best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations." Our readiness to contemplate such an association was indicated in our letter of August 10th. We have accordingly summoned Dáil Éireann that we may submit to it for ratification the names of the representatives it is our intention to propose. We hope that these representatives will find it possible to be at Inverness on the date you suggest, September 20th.

In this final note we deem it our duty to reaffirm that our position is and can only be as we have defined it throughout this correspondence. Our nation has formally declared its independence and recognises itself as a sovereign State. It is only as the representatives of that State and as its chosen guardians that we have any authority or powers to act on behalf of our people.

As regards the principle of "government by consent of the governed," in the very nature of things it must be the basis of any agreement that will achieve the purpose we have at heart, that is, the final reconciliation of our nation with yours. We have suggested no interpretation of that principle save its every-day interpretation, the sense, for example in which it was understood by the plain men and women of the world when on January 5th, 1918, you said:

"... The settlement of the new Europe must be based on such grounds of reason and justice as will give some promise of stability. Therefore it is that we feel that government with the consent of the governed must be the basis of any territorial settlement in this war."

These words are the true answer to the criticism of our position which your last letter puts forward. The principle was understood then to mean the right of nations that had been annexed to empires against their will to free themselves from the grappling hook. That is the sense in which we understand it. In reality it is your Government, when it seeks to rend our ancient nation and to partition its territory, that would give to the principle an interpretation that "would undermine the fabric of every democratic state and drive the civilised world back into tribalism."

I am, Sir,

Faithfully yours,


continuing said he had nothing to do now but to submit to them this as the Cabinet's reply and formally to seek their approval for it.

said he approved heartily of the terms of the letter that the President in the name of the government had sent to the British Ministry. He thought it was in the minds of all the members here that on no account could Ireland's case be placed on the same level as any British Dominion no matter what measure of freedom that Dominion might have within the Empire. The Ministry were voicing the opinions of the Dáil when they said Ireland was a nation and a sovereign State and should be dealt with as such. They could not in view of their public declarations, and the fight and sacrifice their men had made, and the deaths that many of their men had suffered for an Irish sovereign State and the freedom of that State—they could not forego in any degree whatever the right of that State as a whole to this freedom.

In the name then of the nation the President and the Cabinet had, he thought, clearly expressed the view of Dáil Éireann that in any conference into which this Dáil might enter through its representatives they must enter as the representatives of a free and independent State. They should enter into such a conference without any conditions and must demand that Ireland be treated as an independent State whatever the sacrifice that might be necessary in the future.

He would therefore formally move that the letter of the Ministry be approved and that the Dáil would give them a direction that their letter was couched in a manner which met with their approval and that this Dáil would back them in whatever measure necessary so that Ireland would be treated as an independent nation and that they should do everything possible to preserve the rights of Ireland as a sovereign state.

seconded the proposal.


then read the motion which was as follows:

"Go bhfuil an Dáil sásta leis an litir do chuir an Riaghaltas ag triall ar Lloyd Seoirse, Príomh-Aire Riaghaltas Shasana, an 12adh lá de Mhí Mheadhon-Fóghmhair, 1921."

said he thought it only right the Dáil should know before finally approving of the letter that developments had taken place since it was taken over. Their couriers got definite instructions to the effect that at noon to-day the Cabinet intended publishing that document. Of course he was sure they were all alive to the importance of the second paragraph. That paragraph, in the Cabinet's opinion, was necessary on account of the terms of the last British letter. Had they gone into the conference without restating their position as set out there, there was no doubt that the British Press would have tried to convince the world they had abandoned their position in entering the conference. They could of course have avoided putting in that paragraph by a more diplomatic way, by saying their position was as it had been, but he felt it was absolutely necessary at this stage to state definitely and clearly what their position in their own regard was.

That does not mean that the British would have to recognise them. They could not ask that because the fight was not finished. If they recognised the Republic the fight would be over and there would be no question of negotiations. Negotiations were necessary because they held one view and the British another.

The Cabinet anticipated some possibilities out of this reply and something had already come. From a 'phone message and a telegram which had come from the couriers it would appear that they are anxious that this meeting should be postponed or that they should not take action on that note till they were able to report. He was against that. They had made their arrangements and they meant to stand by them. They wanted to meet them as far as they could. The British public were a party to this as well as the Irish public and therefore the British Cabinet would be anxious not to raise such an issue as that for the present time. He thought if the Irish Cabinet postponed it they could not stand by it as well as they could now. They were today sending a message that this letter was to be published in tomorrow's papers. They had sent a message saying they understood the British Cabinet would like to defer publication but they felt it their duty to communicate this letter to the Dáil today and that they intended to issue it to the Press this evening for release tomorrow.

He wanted the Dáil to bear in mind here in connection with the motion before them they were going to give a vote which if it meant war they were backing the Cabinet up. So it was a serious matter. Every single act at the present time may be an act of eace or war so would they please remember every matter was one of war or peace. He wanted the Dáil to remember when they were supporting this motion they were doing it with a full knowledge of what that second paragraph meant. The Cabinet intended to stand by that to the end. Now was the time to state that. They had stated that here definitely, and if the Dáil approved of the reply, it was committing itself to everything that second paragraph meant. He was ready to answer any questions put to him before they committed themselves. It was a very serious business and therefore he wished them to understand that before they voted.

said he would like to say that not only were the terms of this reply satisfactory to his mind but he thought it well the President should have made the few remarks he did to bring home to the Dáil the solemn responsibilities which this decision carried today. Therefore he thought there was something more than a mere formal and silent vote necessary. If the Dáil today approved of this letter their approval should be articulate and definite so that the Cabinet, when they proceeded to deal with the developments that ensued, would realise they had the whole Dáil and the whole nation standing behind them.

This was the most critical period in their history for the past eight centuries. They should realise this and the decision today ought to be one made in a manner as serious as the circumstances warrant. For his part he was loath to think that the outcome of this note would be war. He hoped the outcome would be an honourable peace between the two nations. But such a settlement could only be based on the principles re-affirmed in this note of the Cabinet. For that reason he strongly supported the motion before the Dáil.

said it was unusual for him to speak in this Assembly. But on such an occasion as this he felt the silent members should express themselves and he therefore rose to express his wholehearted approval of this letter and of the diplomatic correspondence conducted on behalf of the Dáil. If they had to continue negotiations with the British government let them do it as representatives of the Irish Republic. They had broken away from the British Empire. England knew it. Lloyd George knew it, and all their trouble for the last few years was to hammer them back again. Let them remain outside the British Empire as long as they could—that was his view and the view of all the people he had been speaking to.

asked where the request not to publish the reply was received from.

said he got a 'phone message from his couriers in Gairloch which said Lloyd George suggests holding up publication till Thursday till we [sic] return. From his previous experience he felt certain they should not change their arrangements. The Dáil was summoned to consider a reply and it was his duty to give it to them.

It was on the basis of that reply only they could negotiate. If they had asked Lloyd George to recognise the Republic he (the President) would say it would be an unreasonable request. Secret negotiations were of a certain value but here was a case in which he thought open negotiation was most valuable. This was particularly a case in which he thought open negotiations were absolutely essential. Therefore he proposed to go forward with the arrangements and ask the Dáil to ratify plenipotentiaries so that the world would see that they were offering no obstacle to negotiations save the main principle on which they stood.

asked was there any fear of their jeopardising their position in the first paragraph of the reply.

said they could not be responsible for Lloyd George's wording. The Cabinet in their note of the 10th August indicated they were ready to consider an association of Ireland with the community of states known as the British Empire. It is a question of whether any form of association with Britain is one which the Irish people could stand for. He felt it was and his Cabinet would have a definite policy to put before the Dáil when the time came. It was absolutely necessary to contemplate such negotiation or else to end the truce. They had to reconcile that position by negotiation or by force. If they could reconcile it by negotiation it was their duty to do so. When it came they would be able to deal with that question. It would be harmful to take it up now.

They referred to that particular paragraph in their answer in their own way. By reference to that they intended to make it clear that in whatever manner the British Premier wished it to be read they wished it to be read in their own way.

asked if the President had any information why the British Premier had not called his Cabinet together.

replied that he thought he had been given plenary powers. Lloyd George was the principal in this whole affair and he probably thought he would have trouble with them and if he could get the terms of the reply altered it would make it easier for him.

said he would like to speak in tones similar to those who had spoken before him. There were members here, he thought, who had not spoken and who, if they did not represent another tone, were agents of another tone in many surroundings they had mixed in. He would like to say to them that they were surely wrong and that those people who had been offering suggestions that it was impossible to hold out and impossible not to compromise with the British Empire were entirely wrong. They had failed to learn by the experience of history. In the 17th century at Kilkenny those who compromised ruined the Irish cause. If Ireland was beaten now it may be helpless for this generation, but he did not believe for a moment that their cause was hopeless. The next generation would rise stronger than ever. All people were timid the mass of people were timid, but all great changes were made by the few, the resolute, undaunted, courageous few.

said she was hoping those who represented the compromising element in the country would speak and let them have this matter out and give an articulate vote. None of them could shut their eyes to the seriousness of throwing the country back into war. The President had pointed out this might mean war and undoubtedly unless the British received them on their terms it would mean war in a very short time.

Throughout the country there had been a good deal of talk about the impossibility of going back to war and the alternatives seemed to be a settlement within the Empire. That, she thought would be clear to most of them, was impossible. Association with a community of nations known as the British Empire might be reconciled with Irish aspirations outside but not inside that Empire. An association that would involve any allegiance direct or indirect to the British Crown—that was one point on which they could never give in. If in the final suggestion made by our Ministry it was found possible in order to satisfy the fears—groundless fears perhaps —of the British government that Ireland might take part against her in a future war, if in order to satisfy that they gave her certain guarantees though it looked like a mouse guaranteeing neutrality towards a lion, they could do that provided only that it did not involve directly or indirectly allegiance in any shape or form to the British Crown.

Suppose it were even possible that such a thing could be suggested, the only outcome would be a split on the matter. All that was strong would stand against it and where would the weaklings be?

It was the strong uncompromising minority who had made to-day possible. It would be the strong uncompromising minority that would stand out and refuse allegiance direct or indirect to the British Crown. If the strong stood out against compromise the compromisers would get nothing. The only thing to say to the compromisers was if they stood behind the strong they would get more, if they broke away from them they would get nothing. They, the strong, would go back to 1914 and begin undaunted all over again and they would finish where they wished to stand to-day—under an Irish Republic. Their allegiance was to the Irish Republic. They had taken an oath to the Irish Republic. They had taken that without any reservation whatever and she knew everyone in the country stood behind them. They had no arriére-pensée when taking the oath, they meant a Republic not a Dominion inside the Empire. The fact that one could take an oath and not mean it was ethically and psychologically wrong.

Up to a few years ago the majority in the country were West Britons. If a compromise were accepted now that West Britonism would be re-established; therefore the compromisers would gain nothing. They could draw many examples from history. Take the strong analogy that lay between the position to-day and that of the American colonies in 1778. England then made all the promises and offers she was making to Ireland to-day. There were compromisers who at all costs wanted to remain with England. Even those who supported the Republic were divided, and Congress would have accepted a compromise were it not that George Washington and the army stood out. They in Ireland to-day knew they had a George Washington at their head not a Jan Smuts. It was absurd to say they brought the British Government to this stage and could not bring them further. Lloyd George could not go to Washington without this being settled. If they should accept such a compromise they would give away their nationality for the first time in 700 years; they would acknowledge themselves a domestic question of England and would have accepted a position of inferiority for the first time in their history. They would be putting it out of the power of any other nation to say anything on their behalf.

They were not minimising the difficulties. They knew if it meant war it would mean untold suffering, but all that was best if the country were willing to suffer. Those who never suffered, but who were watching their pockets and their own self-interests were the people who wanted compromise. There was always an element who did not want to suffer but those who suffered most realised they suffered for nothing less than the Republic.

Whilst there was even a score of them in the country who would not compromise no compromise could be accepted. The compromiser would get nothing.

It was only in the event of the whole nation agreeing that they would even get a Dominion Status.

There could be no compromise. If it was suggested it would mean they would go back again to 1914 and begin all over again. It would be an unforgivable sin. They had only to stick fast and they would get the acknowledgment of their Republic not without some suffering perhaps, but they would succeed. What had their losses been in comparison to the other nation's losses in the Great War. They had lost nothing like 2,000, and what was that to win a Republic for which our noble heroes had died.

If there were people who did believe in compromise let them now say what they had to say or for evermore hold their peace.

said he rose again just to show that no one should fear the words of great people in England. There was one of them, he said, stated in the time of the American War, "We will not go, we will not even enquire where there is a Congress of Vagrants to be found". Washington did not give in and that same man went as an ambassador from England to the American Republic.

said he had the utmost confidence that the members of the Cabinet were doing the right thing. He realised now as he did 35 years ago what compromise resulted in. The late Parliamentary Party since they stopped the Plan of Campaign at the bidding of a few influential landlords were nothing but weaklings, always ready to compromise, and they never got anything in the end. Those very people were now telling them they should accept the offer as a good one and that half a loaf was better than no bread. As far as he was concerned he would not accept half a loaf nor one slice less than he pledged his allegiance to. He felt were they to accept less than the men of 1916 died for, and the men since then, they would be a disgrace to the Irish race. They got a mandate from the Irish people to achieve this liberty, but they got no mandate to barter away Irish rights.

No one here had any anxiety to go back to war, but everyone must be prepared to go back to it if it is inevitable, and if they were beaten they would go down without compromise, and then the Irish race could see that while they were beaten they were no traitors, and then another generation would renew the fight and sooner or later he hoped that what they went down for would be achieved.

said that his feelings while listening to the speeches made were that they were premature. They were speeches that might be made when and if our plenipotentiaries had gone to Inverness and had returned with terms. Mr. Kent had said they had no mandate but a Republic. That was the position and that was why no plenipotentiaries of ours could go to Inverness on any other than a Republic basis. That was why they as a Dáil should go back to war if Lloyd George stood on his present terms and said he would not confer with us except on an Imperial basis.

When and if the plenipotentiaries returned with the terms it would then be a question for every member of the Dáil to ask himself whether he or she could recommend the adoption of those terms. Further than that he did not wish to raise the matter.

rose to support the motion. There was no room for argument in the matter.

said she thought the President and his colleagues in the Cabinet had written a magnificent document. They had a simple statement of facts. They had declared for a Republic. They understood the responsibility and they were prepared to stand by the responsibility. Connolly once said to her he could not prevent men from fighting and dying for Ireland if they were willing to do so. They were all pledged to the Republic. She was elected because she had once fought for the Republic and her electors believed she would do so again. That was the feeling of the whole Dáil she believed. They all realized the seriousness of it to-day. When they were elected for the Republic they faced the possibility of a long war, and she was glad that no voice to-day had voiced the possibility of accepting less than the Republic they were pledged to.

said she was probably the oldest member in the House. She had been elected here on account of her beloved boys. She was very happy she had been elected, though she was almost an ornament here, so that the name of a Pearse would be in the first Irish Parliament. But as her beloved boy had stated at the graveside of O'Donovan Rossa they were an unconquered and an unconquerable nation. She wanted to say the same and she trusted and hoped they would remain so. She felt grateful to their beloved President and to all those in charge of their destiny for the manner in which they had dealt with the negotiations and she felt confident they were safe in the Ministry's hands. She stood for the one thing, and she was sure she was voicing the sentiments of the other women members also, what their men in Easter Week died for, and that was an Irish Republic.


said the terms of the letter had his wholehearted support and approval. He felt if he took any other course but that those who sent him here would repudiate him.

said he rose to support the proposal before the Dáil.

said the sting of the letter was in the second paragraph. It was a mere statement of fact and no man who was not a humbug could get up and say he disagreed with it. It would be a different matter when the plenipotentiaries came back. They could not go into the conference except as a sovereign state. The second point was that it was only as representatives of that state they could act. That was also a statement of fact, so he really thought if the Ministry were waiting for a dissentient voice they would wait for some time.

said the best endorsement of this letter would be the singing of the Soldier's Song. He did not mean that as a joke. It was their soldiers who had brought them so far and it was to them they would look for victory.

said they were all entirely of one mind as to the letter. Some members had been talking as if a number of other Deputies were weakening. It was very easy for a member to stand up here and speak loud but it was another matter when they came to fight, and perhaps some of them would not be got then. The time for speeches would be when the plenipotentiaries came back from a conference with terms for a settlement. There was nothing before the House now but the approval of the letter and he thought everyone was agreed on that.

said he thoroughly agreed with the reply and he could not see how any Deputy could take exception to it. The negotiations had been carried on in a way that left nothing to be desired. This was not the time to make speeches but later on if anything came of the negotiations, when the question of their mandate could be discussed. This letter was one which should give them every satisfaction. Its simplicity was one of its greatest merits.

suggested that any further discussion be confined to anyone who wanted to dissent.

said he had no word of criticism or dissent to make. He agreed with the letter.

said he begged to move closure of this discussion. He did not think it necessary for them to get so many lectures on their duty to their country.

said he would like to make it clear the only reason he wanted discussion was that they would understand fully the consequence of that paragraph and what it might lead to. He had no other intention.

There were two courses open to the Cabinet—to leave out that paragraph which would make it much easier to have the negotiations and simply say their position was the same as it was before; or to put it in as they did, precisely in order to define their position before they entered the negotiations. It was a question of diplomacy. They asked the Dáil now to support them in that course.

Question put and agreed.