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This day in Irish history,1938:Britain agrees to hand over the treaty ports to Mr De Valera


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An informative article by Ryle Dwyer in todays Irish Examiner about the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1938 which ended the economic war and by which Britain handed over the naval bases which it had held in Ireland since 1922.

Irish control of the treaty ports enabled the country to remain neutral in world war II.

TODAY marks the anniversary of the Anglo-Irish agreements of Apr 25, 1938.
The British not only agreed to end the Economic War but also to hand over the three Irish ports and abrogate all rights to other facilities in the 26 counties.
Chamberlain was so anxious for an agreement that he dropped his demand for Irish trade concessions to Northern Ireland. The British abandoned their treaty rights and agreed to a lump sum Irish payment of £10m in place of previous claims for over £100m.
The deal that safeguarded Ireland
 


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Worth pointing out that "Trade Concessions" to NI is a tad misleading.
What the British wanted was the removal of import duries from NI goods coming into the south. But they seem to have dropped that demand

All the British asked was that the Irish pay their uncontested debts and remove import duties on goods from Northern Ireland.
 

jmcc

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So was Chamberlain the UK's Brian Cowen or Enda Kenny?
 

Bismarck

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Interesting article thanks - first video underneath is worth watching
 

Cruimh

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What the British wanted was the removal of import duries from NI goods coming into the south. But they seem to have dropped that demand
Hardly a concession - asking that the 26 would treat imports from NI the same as they treated GB imports and the same way the UK treated imports from the Free state .... But that era has been glossed over. Asking that punitive duties aimed at NI be dropped was not asking for trade concessions.
 

Dame_Enda

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There is a legitimate argument that with 80% of the Irish industrial base being in NI. that Irish industry (at first) required protection to allow it to develop instead of being swamped by Northern imports. The Unionists wanted the benefits of unity i.e. free trade without the obligations thereof.
 

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Chamberlain was supposedly the UK politician who seemed to get on best with de Valera.
Yes Dev seems to have admired Chamerlain. I read somewhere that at the start of the war Dev had a conversatio with the British ambassador where he said Chamberlain had moral right on his side in the battle with Hitler whereas Hitler had forfeited any claims to moral justification. Eventually moral righteousness would act to the benefit of Britain was Devs opinion.
 

Cruimh

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There is a legitimate argument that with 80% of the Irish industrial base being in NI. that Irish industry (at first) required protection to allow it to develop instead of being swamped by Northern imports. The Unionists wanted the benefits of unity i.e. free trade without the obligations thereof.
But it was more than that - de Valera admitted that he was using it as a weapon against Unionism and NI.
 

Cruimh

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Yes Dev seems to have admired Chamerlain. I read somewhere that at the start of the war Dev had a conversatio with the British ambassador where he said Chamberlain had moral right on his side in the battle with Hitler whereas Hitler had forfeited any claims to moral justification. Eventually moral righteousness would act to the benefit of Britain was Devs opinion.
I liked this

There followed some discussion of de Valera’s style as a negotiator: MacDonald thought him friendly, and frank, but obstinate: Chamberlain feared that de Valera’s ‘mentality was in some ways like Herr Hitler’s. It was no use employing with them the arguments which appealed to the ordinary reasonable man.’ This judgement was offered in the context of a general agreement by the British ministers that Fianna Fail’s tariff policy since it discriminated particularly against Northern Ireland was ‘bad politics’ as far as re-unification was concerned. Adjustment of this policy to take heed of Northern Ireland’s interest was seriously debated on the British side in their preparation for the talks.83


83 Minutes, INC, 17 Jan 1938, PRO CAB 27/642, INC938) 1st meeting.
Pages 162-163, Bowman
 

Little_Korean

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Yes Dev seems to have admired Chamerlain. I read somewhere that at the start of the war Dev had a conversatio with the British ambassador where he said Chamberlain had moral right on his side in the battle with Hitler whereas Hitler had forfeited any claims to moral justification. Eventually moral righteousness would act to the benefit of Britain was Devs opinion.
Or was Dev telling the ambassador what he wanted to hear? Not disagreeing per se but one must always consider the context...

Dev seemed to have gotten along with both the UK and German ambassadors, though David Gray of the US was a different story. Being Roosevelt's cousin clearly has its perks, as the guy seemed to have been exceptionally stupid otherwise.
 

Cruimh

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Or was Dev telling the ambassador what he wanted to hear? Not disagreeing per se but one must always consider the context...

Dev seemed to have gotten along with both the UK and German ambassadors, though David Gray of the US was a different story. Being Roosevelt's cousin clearly has its perks, as the guy seemed to have been exceptionally stupid otherwise.
Gray was hardly stupid - he set a wonderful trap for de Valera which did him a lot of damage.
 

Little_Korean

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Gray was hardly stupid - he set a wonderful trap for de Valera which did him a lot of damage.
And damaging Irish-US relations, which is hardly what an ambassador is supposed to do. Unless we want to argue that Roosevelt intended for Dev's reputation to suffer as badly as it did internationally and that Gray was just following orders from home.
 

Cruimh

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And damaging Irish-US relations, which is hardly what an ambassador is supposed to do. Unless we want to argue that Roosevelt intended for Dev's reputation to suffer as badly as it did internationally and that Gray was just following orders from home.
I think the USA was mightily ticked off with Ireland. As a previous signature of mine reflected :

An opinion poll showed that 38 per cent of Americans approved trade sanctions against Ireland while a further 35 per cent thought a degree of force should be used against de Valera’s government to ensure compliance with American wishes.
By this time The USA had realised that Ireland was vital to the defence of the Atlantic - and not just for the duration of WWII but also for the foreseeable future.
 

Little_Korean

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I think the USA was mightily ticked off with Ireland. As a previous signature of mine reflected :



By this time The USA had realised that Ireland was vital to the defence of the Atlantic - and not just for the duration of WWII but also for the foreseeable future.
Trouble which any semi-intelligent diplomat could have seen off before it could begin.

It was obvious from the get-go that however much Dev worked with the Allies, being seen as neutral and above-it-all (however phoney that was) was very important to him personally. How does Gray respond to this delicate balancing act? Calls Dev out on his public neutrality, thus guaranteeing for Dev to up the ante against what the Allies wanted.

As an agent provocateur, Gray was great. As an actual diplomat, not so much.
 

Cruimh

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Trouble which any semi-intelligent diplomat could have seen off before it could begin.

It was obvious from the get-go that however much Dev worked with the Allies, being seen as neutral and above-it-all (however phoney that was) was very important to him personally. How does Gray respond to this delicate balancing act? Calls Dev out on his public neutrality, thus guaranteeing for Dev to up the ante against what the Allies wanted.

As an agent provocateur, Gray was great. As an actual diplomat, not so much.
On the other hand, Roosevelt and Gray knew that de Valera could cause trouble between the Allies over partition - and as such he was, in the US best interests, effectively neutralised. A clever manoeuvre IMO.
 

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On the other hand, Roosevelt and Gray knew that de Valera could cause trouble between the Allies over partition - and as such he was, in the US best interests, effectively neutralised. A clever manoeuvre IMO.
That is the same theory put forward by Ryle Dwyer

Fearing de Valera might seek to disrupt any post-war peace settlement that did not end partition, David Gray, the US Minister to Ireland, personally persuaded Roosevelt and Churchill to discredit de Valera politically in American eyes in 1943.

The plan was to ask for Irish bases not because they desired them, but to get de Valera’s refusal on record. The American and British military chiefs objected, however, because they feared de Valera might comply and they argued that Irish bases would only be a liability.

After that scheme was blocked, Gray suggested they ask de Valera to expel the German legation as a supposed espionage danger to Allied plans to invade the continent. At the insistence of de Valera the German legation had already surrendered its radio transmitter. Its only means of communication with Berlin was via cable to Berne, Switzerland. As this cable passed through London, the British could cut it off at will.

The British were reading all German messages to Berlin since 1942 and MI5 warned that expelling the German diplomats could actually endanger security because the Germans might replace the legation with an effective spy. Thus the American note demanding the expulsion of the Axis diplomats had nothing to do with security. It was strictly a ploy in which security was actually sacrificed for political expediency. Gray carried the security scam a step further at the end of April 1945 when he asked de Valera to allow the Americans to seize the German legation in order to get their hands on German codes in case U-boats continued to wage war in the Atlantic. The Allies already had the codes, so that was utter nonsense. The whole thing was just another ploy.
So we should have sided with the Allies in 1942? That
 

Little_Korean

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That is the same theory put forward by Ryle Dwyer

So we should have sided with the Allies in 1942? That
Hmm, interesting stuff. Will have to read Behind the Green Curtain when I can. Am a little wary of Dwyer's evident desire to defend Dev by portraying him as the victim of a conspiracy to discredit him - you don't have to be of the 'Tim Pat Coogan school of Irish history' to conclude that Dev did a lot of the discrediting himself.

Interesting, though, that the US and British military chiefs objected to much of Gray's carry-on.
 

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