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De Valera and Irish unity in 1940


parentheses

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In June 1940 the British government was desperate to get back the treaty ports which they had given to Ireland in 1938. They began negotiations with the Irish government to see what it would take for Ireland to ally itself with Britian and give back the ports. The Irish wanted ideally to remain neutral but they hinted that a British declaration in favour of a united Ireland might change their attitude.

There were three meetings in all and the British became more accepting of Irish desires. In early July Neville Chamberlain wrote to De Valera saying Britian was willing to make a solemn declaration in favor of unity and would also establish a joint body to examine how unity would be established. Ireland could stay neutral only having to give over the treaty ports. Lord Craigavon when he was finally informed sent an outraged telegram to the British government protesting the negotiations with the Irish. In the end however the Irish side did not accept the British offers and the matter lapsed.

Details are in this book. 1940: Myth and Reality: Amazon.co.uk: Clive Ponting: Books
 


realistic1

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In June 1940 the British government was desperate to get back the treaty ports which they had given to Ireland in 1938. They began negotiations with the Irish government to see what it would take for Ireland to ally itself with Britian and give back the ports. The Irish wanted ideally to remain neutral but they hinted that a British declaration in favour of a united Ireland might change their attitude.

There were three meetings in all and the British became more accepting of Irish desires. In early July Neville Chamberlain wrote to De Valera saying Britian was willing to make a solemn declaration in favor of unity and would also establish a joint body to examine how unity would be established. Ireland could stay neutral only having to give over the treaty ports. Lord Craigavon when he was finally informed sent an outraged telegram to the British government protesting the negotiations with the Irish. In the end however the Irish side did not accept the British offers and the matter lapsed.

Details are in this book. 1940: Myth and Reality: Amazon.co.uk: Clive Ponting: Books
From the above it sounded like a good deal. Knowing Fianna Fail and their record, it suited them not to have a United Ireland as they always used Partition as an excuse to distract from other issues.
 

Rocky

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I think Dev was right to reject it, as there was two big problems.

1. I don't think the British could have forced Northern Ireland into a United Ireland without war. I think Dev knew that as well. That runs completely contray to Irish propaganda which at the time argued it was all Britian's fault, but I think Dev was smart enough to know that was nonsense.

2. I don't think Ireland could have stayed neutral with part of it's state being invovled in the war. The Germans would have attacked the ports and probably us with them.
 

Little_Korean

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If Britain could have gone over the heads of the Ulster Unionists in Parliament and handed the 6 counties on a plate, it would have done so a while ago and saved itself the bother.

Chamberlain was either ignorant of past UU opinion (unlikely), was BSing about the joint body to promote unity, or knew it would lack teeth anyway and wouldn't matter.

Read a bit in The Cosgrave Party about Kevin O'Higgins suggesting to the Secretary of the Office of Dominions, a few weeks before his assassination, about the possibility of a united Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth (complete with a new flag replacing the tricolour). At least he would have had the excuse of not knowing entirely how the British parliament worked.
 

mickterry

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I will declare my bias firstly. I am a huge fan of DeValera. I often thing how good it would be if we had someone of his ilk negotiating for us in Europe today. On this issue I believe Churchill would have promised anything to get either the ports or Ireland into the war. On both issues Dev was right to refuse the British requests
 

Rocky

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If Britain could have gone over the heads of the Ulster Unionists in Parliament and handed the 6 counties on a plate, it would have done so a while ago and saved itself the bother.

Chamberlain was either ignorant of past UU opinion (unlikely), was BSing about the joint body to promote unity, or knew it would lack teeth anyway and wouldn't matter.

Read a bit in The Cosgrave Party about Kevin O'Higgins suggesting to the Secretary of the Office of Dominions, a few weeks before his assassination, about the possibility of a united Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth (complete with a new flag replacing the tricolour). At least he would have had the excuse of not knowing entirely how the British parliament worked.
In 1940 the British were in a extremely desperate position. I think the mindset was to do everything they could to win the war and even to survive and everything else could be dealt with afterwards.

O'Higgins actually did a fair bit of work in his latter days towards achieving a United Ireland almost by consent with the Unionists and even talked to Edward Carson about it. I don't think he would have achieved it had he lived though, but he was the last man to really try in that manner.
 

Little_Korean

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In 1940 the British were in a extremely desperate position. I think the mindset was to do everything they could to win the war and even to survive and everything else could be dealt with afterwards.
Probably.

O'Higgins actually did a fair bit of work in his latter days towards achieving a United Ireland almost by consent with the Unionists and even talked to Edward Carson about it. I don't think he would have achieved it had he lived though, but he was the last man to really try in that manner.
I'll have to look more into that, especially the meeting(s?) with Carson. Hard to imagine what O'Higgins or anyone could have offered the UU, as the 6 Counties were still the industrial powerhouse of Ireland, compared to the mostly agricultural South, and Ulster would still have had the scars from the previous fighting.
 

ergo2

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I agree with Rocky. GB would not have kept their word. Even if they did, the Ulster Unionists would not have agreed.

Dev played a shrewd game during the war.
 

realistic1

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I will declare my bias firstly. I am a huge fan of DeValera. I often thing how good it would be if we had someone of his ilk negotiating for us in Europe today. On this issue I believe Churchill would have promised anything to get either the ports or Ireland into the war. On both issues Dev was right to refuse the British requests
Bonds come to mind, I wonder why??? Don't know about the 'negotiating' lark, Dev seemed to be good at avoiding these.
 

Rocky

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Probably.



I'll have to look more into that, especially the meeting(s?) with Carson. Hard to imagine what O'Higgins or anyone could have offered the UU, as the 6 Counties were still the industrial powerhouse of Ireland, compared to the mostly agricultural South, and Ulster would still have had the scars from the previous fighting.
It's in Terence De Vere White's biography of O'Higgins. I think he over hypes O'Hggins work on this and what he could have achieved though. It's written in 1948, but it's still the best book on O'Higgins, although at times it can be a bit too pro-O'Higgins.
 

parentheses

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Interestingly the book also says the British considered giving Gibraltar to Franco in return for a promise of staying neutral and they seem to have made a definite offer to the Argentinians to lease them back the Falklands.

The files on that offer to the Argentinians are apparently still closed
 

odlum

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From the above it sounded like a good deal. Knowing Fianna Fail and their record, it suited them not to have a United Ireland as they always used Partition as an excuse to distract from other issues.
Tim Pat Coogan has frequently said that Dev saw this offer as "you join the war but a united Ireland was to be a deferred payment". At that stage Britain had already double crossed the Irish on trade various agreements as well. He said there was no reason whatsoever to trust them. He concludes de Velera was correct to refuse the "offer".

Also the fact Churchill was on the brandy and evidently drunk when he woke Dev in the middle of the night to give him the offer!
 

jmcc

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Doesn't exactly look like a United Ireland was on offer.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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Tim Pat Coogan has frequently said that Dev saw this offer as "you join the war but a united Ireland was to be a deferred payment". At that stage Britain had already double crossed the Irish on trade various agreements as well. He said there was no reason whatsoever to trust them. He concludes de Velera was correct to refuse the "offer".

Also the fact Churchill was on the brandy and evidently drunk when he woke Dev in the middle of the night to give him the offer!
I think you're refering to Churchill's telegram to Dev following the attack on Pearl Harbour?

“Now or never. ‘A nation once again’. Am very ready to meet you at any time.”
The June/July 1940 offer was primarily Chamberlain's work.
 

Dasayev

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The problem here is that the offer came with a Unionist veto.

If the plan is acceptable as a whole to the Government of Éire, the United Kingdom Government will at once seek to obtain the assent thereto of the Government of Northern Ireland, in so far as the plan affects Northern Ireland.
 

dresden8

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From the op unity wasn't offered.

Talks on unity were on the table.

Trust the Brits me hole.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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The problem here is that the offer came with a Unionist veto.
Initially the offer seemed to allow Stormont a veto on the deal but that was weakened in subsequent ill-tempered correspondence when Chamberlain "reassured" Craig that "you will have every opportunity of making your views known before any decision affecting ulster is taken".

Craig -
am profoundly shocked and disgusted by your letter making suggestions so far reaching behind my back and without any pre-consultation with me. to such treachery to loyal ulster i will never be party
Chamberlain -
regret you should make such unfair charge against this govt. surely you have not properly appreciated page 2 of my letter which shows that your position is entirely protected. macdonalds report indicates little likelihood of progress with eire but you can be assured that you will have every opportunity of making your views known before any decision affecting ulster is taken. meanwhile please remember the serious nature of the situation which requires that every effort be made to meet it
Furthermore the British cabinet agreed to bolster the offer of the 28th June and that "this declaration would take the form of a solemn undertaking that the Union is to become at an early date an accomplished fact from which there will be no turning back". Also in the accompanying letter Chamberlain offered to hold a joint session of the Northern and Southern Parliaments and also that a declaration of war would not be required provided bases were made available to British forces.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

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After the Belfast Blitz in 1941 Frank Pakenham was sniffing around - James Kelly records a meeting with him in which he and another Irish Press man were asked if it would be more acceptable for the USA to lease the Treaty Ports.
Following the American angle, DeValera made an interesting counter offer to the British Jun/Jul 1940 offer - that a united neutral Ireland would be protected by US forces. The idea of losing NI's war contribution was utterly inconceivable to the British. However suppose they had accepted such a proposal with perhaps Irish based American aircraft and ships providing escort and anti-sub duties for the transatlantic convoys inspite of their and our neutrality, following American entry to the war in Dec 1941 we would probably have followed along in their wake.
 

Troy_337

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Tim Pat Coogan has frequently said that Dev saw this offer as "you join the war but a united Ireland was to be a deferred payment". At that stage Britain had already double crossed the Irish on trade various agreements as well. He said there was no reason whatsoever to trust them. He concludes de Velera was correct to refuse the "offer".

Also the fact Churchill was on the brandy and evidently drunk when he woke Dev in the middle of the night to give him the offer!
Yes, Churchill drank too much, and he was drinking in New York when he got hit by a taxicab. Remember his father Lord Randolph - poxy eyed and telling everyone to "play the orange card."
 

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