Treaty Negotiations


Eamon de Valera T.D.

First President of the Republic addressing the nation on the eve of the London Negotiations on October 7, 1921

“Our delegates are keenly conscious of their responsibility. They must be made to feel that a united nation has confidence in them and will support them unflinchingly. The delegates are aware thai no wisdom of theirs, no ability of theirs, will suffice. They indulge therefore, in no foolish hopes nor should the country indulge in these. The power against us will use every artifice it knows in the hope of dispiriting, dividing and weakening us. The unity that is essential will be best maintained by an unwavering faith in those who have been deputed to act on the nation’s behalf, and in a confidence manifesting itself as hitherto in eloquent discipline. It is no wonder that the older men among us, who remember the bitterness of political divisions thirty years ago, should be afraid of cleavage. But we who have worked together as brothers ought not to be afraid to face each other in argument, and to abide by whatever the result may be. We are asking the delegates to do what our army has been unable to do – to get the British out of the country.

“On October 25 I sent the following memo (No 7 in our documents! to the Chairman of the delegation in London: ‘I received the minutes of the 7th session and your letter of October 24. We are all here at one that there can be no question of our asking the Irish people to enter into an Irish arrangement which would make them sub-jects of the Crown, or demand from them allegiance to the British King. If war is the alternative, we can only face it, and the sooner the other side is made to realise that the belter.”



“By virtue of the authority vested in me by Dail Eireann, I hereby appoint
Arthur Griffith, TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs (Chairman),
Michael Collins, TD, Minister of Finance.
Robert C Barton, TD, Minister of Economic Affairs:
Edmund J Duggan, TD, and
George Gavan Duffy, TD,
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 hereof, I subscribe my name as President.


Arising out of Mr. Jones’ conversation with Mr. Griffith, the latter indicated to me last night that Mr. Lloyd George desired to see me. This conversation took place subsequent to the official conference held at 10, Downing Street on Sunday evening at 5 p.m. I did not attend this conference for the reason that I had, in my own estimation, argued fully all points. This morning Mr. Griffith came to me again and suggested in his official capacity as Chairman of the Delegation that I should have the meeting with Mr. Lloyd George as so much depended on the Delegation at this vital time. Mr. Jones had suggested the interview for 9.15, but as I had not made up my mind until after speaking to Mr. Griffith this morning I did not see Mr. Lloyd George until 9.30 as stated above.

Acting on the general résumé of points of difference as sketched by me at the Cabinet Meeting on Saturday, 3rd instant, I had my points set out as follows:—

(1) The essential unity of Ireland. Suggestion that we should press for a letter from Craig indicating either:

(a) Acceptance of Conditions, and naming those Conditions.

(b) Rejection.

(2) Oath of Allegiance. Clause 4 of British Document.

(3) Defence. Clause 6 and Annex A. of British Document (29a)—date 1st December.¹

¹ appendix 9.

(4) Trade. Clauses 9 and 10 of ditto.

Mr. Lloyd George opened the conversation indicating that he was having a meeting of his Cabinet at 12 o’clock and was putting it to them that the Conference had broken as a result of the interview last night. I said I understood that. He went on to say that the break was therefore definitely on the question of “within or without” the Empire (at this stage he did not refer to allegiance except to say that he would be willing to consider any form of Oath in order to meet, or attempt to meet, our wishes). I said I wished to express what my view was on their document. I said that I was perfectly dissatisfied with the position as regards the North East, and I put it to him definitely under headings (a) and (b) of paragraph I above. He remarked that I myself pointed out on a previous occasion that the North would be forced economically to come in. I assented but I said the position was so serious owing to certain recent actions that for my part I was anxious to secure a definite reply from Craig and his Colleagues, and that I was as agreeable to a reply rejecting as accepting. In view of the former we would save Tyrone and Fermanagh, parts of Derry, Armagh and Down by the boundary Commission and thus avoid such things as the raid on the Tyrone County Council and the ejection of the staff. Another such incident would, in my view, inevitably lead to a conflict, and this conflict, in the nature of things (assuming for instance that some of the Anglo-Northern police were killed or wounded) would inevitably rapidly spread throughout Ireland. Mr. Lloyd George expressed a view that this might be put to Craig, and if so the safeguards would be a matter for working out between ourselves and Craig afterwards.

The question of the Oath was then referred to again, Mr. Lloyd George insisting that paragraphs 1 and 2 of their document were the substance, that a definite understanding had to be arrived at on those, then we could discuss the form of Oath.

I then passed on to Defence. I objected to Clause 6 on the ground that the word “exclusively” implied that we were not to take measures for raising coastal Defence forces. Mr. Lloyd George said that if I had the idea of building submarines they could not allow that. I said that my objection was on the principle that we could build nothing. If I were met on this part of the clause I thought we could find agreement and as to the second part of the clause I thought we could find agreement on the basis of an understanding that the Review Conference at the end of ten years definitely meant the transfer to the Government of the Irish Free State of the responsibility for coastal defence.

In dealing with this matter I asked for a definition of the term “Admiralty property and Rights” mentioned in paragraph I, sub-heading (a) also that Mr. Churchill should define what he meant by “care and maintenance parties”.

I passed on to paragraphs 9 and 10 and pointed out that it was the fetters I objected to in these clauses. Mr. Lloyd George suggested that if there were complete freedom on one side, there should also be complete freedom on the other. This I said would meet my view, as also would paragraph 8 on page 2 of our document of the 22nd November (Copy of paragraph 8 attached). Mr. Lloyd George made notes of all my objections as expressed above and suggested that if we thought fit he would meet us at 2 o’clock to-day. I left the appointment stand tentatively.

Finally the conversation developed into a statement by Mr. Lloyd George to the effect that were Clauses 1 and 2 accepted he would be in a position to hold up any action until we had, if we desired to do so, submitted the matter to DÁIL ÉIREANN and the country. I left it at that saying that unless I sent word to the contrary some members of the Delegation would meet him at 2 o’clock.


(TRADE CLAUSE, paragraph 8.)

“8. It is pointed out that the Memorandum submitted by the Irish Delegation on the 29th October contained the following:—

‘We are prepared to execute a Trade Convention which, while recognising the advantage to both countries of the fullest freedom of trade, transport and commerce, will not derogate from Ireland’s complete fiscal autonomy.’

Paragraphs 8 and 9 of the Memorandum handed to us on the 16th November do not, in our opinion, constitute a reply to this proposition, but, on the contrary, do imply a derogation from Ireland’s complete fiscal autonomy, and do in their implication mean that Ireland must inevitably fall into a position of economic subservience which cannot be accepted by Ireland. It is therefore requested that our previous statement should be met and it is suggested that:

(a) An Agreement be reached as to the commodities that shall be dealt with on the basis of free trade, and

(b) An understanding be reached that each Government is free to deal with all other commodities as seems suitable to its own requirements.”



(a) The following formula was unanimously approved:—

“That Ireland shall recognise the British Crown for the purposes of the Association as symbol and accepted head of the combination of Associated States”.

(b) Vote of annual voluntary sum to Civil List unanimously approved.



(a) Mr. Griffith in favour of Treaty. Refused to break on question of Crown and thereby hand to Ulster the position from which she had been driven.

(b) Mr. Barton of opinion that England’s last word had not been reached and that she could not declare war on question of Allegiance. The Treaty would not give Dominion Status nor any guarantee re Ulster. Would vote against acceptance.

(c) Mr. Gavan Duffy agreed with Mr. Barton that England was bluffing and that the Irish proposals, with small reservations on Defence etc., could be obtained. Would like the Treaty to be rejected by An Dáil and sent back amended. Said “No” definitely to Treaty.

(d) Mr. Duggan agreed with Mr. Griffith. Believed Treaty to be England’s last word and would not take responsibility of saying “No”

(e) Mr. Collins was in substantial agreement with Messrs. Griffith and Duggan. The non-acceptance of Treaty would be a gamble as England could arrange a war in Ireland within a week. Sacrifices to N.E. Ulster made for sake of essential unity and justified. With pressure further concessions could be obtained on Trade and Defence. Oath [of] Allegiance would not come into force for 12 months—question was, therefore, would it be worth while taking that 12 months and seeing how it would work. Would recommend that Dáil go to country on Treaty, but would recommend non-acceptance of Oath.

(f) Mr. Childers of opinion that Par. 6 of Treaty would give Ireland no national status. Sec. 7(b) was important also as it meant that when England went to war she would bring Ireland with her.

(g) In reply to a question by Minister of Defence as to who was responsible for the splitting of the Delegation so that two Members (Messrs. Griffith and Collins) did most of the work and that the other members were not in possession of full information it was stated that the British Government was responsible for the arrangement but it had the approval of the whole Delegation.

The Minister of Defence here remarked that the British Government selected its men. On the motion of Mr. Griffith this remark was withdrawn.


(a) In the course of a lengthy discussion of the Treaty the President gave it as his opinion that it could not be accepted in its then form. He personally could not subscribe to the Oath of Allegiance nor could he sign any document which would give N.E. Ulster power to vote itself out of the Irish State. With modifications, however, it might be accepted honourably, and he would like to see the plenipotentiaries go back and secure peace if possible. He believed the Delegates had done their utmost and that in now remained to them to show that if document not amended that they were prepared to face the consequences—war or no war. He would deal with present document exactly as with that of 20th July—say it cannot be accepted and put up counter proposals.

(b) Mr. Griffith did not like the document but did not think it dishonourable. It would practically recognise the Republic and the first allegiance would be to Ireland. If it were rejected the people would be entitled to know what the alternative is. The country would not fight on the question of allegiance and there would be a split. He would not recommend the Government to accept but would say that the Plenipotentiaries should sign and leave it to President and Dáil to reject.

(c) The Minister for Defence was in perfect agreement with President, the only matter upon which he could disagree would be the question of recognising the King of England as Head of the Associated States.

(d) Document does not guarantee essential unity of Ireland.


(a) Mr. Griffith would not take the responsibility of breaking on the Crown. When as many concessions as possible conceded, and when accepted by Craig, he would go before the Dáil. The Dáil was the body to decide for or against war.

(b) The President took his stand upon last Irish proposals which meant external connection with the Crown. He suggested the following amendment to the Oath of Allegiance:—

“I……………………do solemnly swear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the Irish Free State, to the Treaty of Association and to recognise the King of Great Britain as Head of the Associated States.”

(c) Delegates to carry out their original instructions with same powers.

(d) Delegation to return and say that Cabinet won’t accept Oath of Allegiance if not amended and to face the consequences, assuming that England will declare war.

(e) Decided unanimously that present Oath of Allegiance could not be subscribed to.

(f) Mr. Griffith to inform Mr. Lloyd George that the document could not be signed, to state that it is now a matter for the Dáil, and to try and put the blame on Ulster.

(g) On a majority vote it was decided that the Delegation be empowered to meet Sir James Craig if they should think necessary. The following voted for and against:—

FOR: President, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Economics and Local Government.

AGAINST: Defence and Home Affairs.

(h) It was decided that the President would not join the Delegation in London at this stage of the Negotiations.

Colm Ó Murchadha,

ar son Runaidhe na hAireachta


10, Downing Street, S.W.I.

13th December, 1921.


As doubts may be expressed regarding certain points not specifically mentioned in the Treaty terms I think it is important that their meaning should be clearly understood.

The first question relates to the method of appointment of the Representatives of the Crown in Ireland. Article III of the Agreement lays down that he is to be appointed “in like manner as the Governor-General of Canada and in accordance with the practice observed in the making of such appointment.” This means that the Government of the Irish Free State will be consulted so as to ensure a selection acceptable to the Irish Government before any recommendation is made to His Majesty.

The second question is as to the scope of the Arbitration contemplated in Article V regarding Ireland’s liability for a share of War Pensions and the Public Debt. The procedure contemplated by the conference was that the British Government should submit its claim, and that the Government of the Irish Free State should submit any counterclaim to which it thought Ireland entitled. Upon the case so submitted the Arbitrators would decide after making such further enquiries as they might think necessary; their decision would then be final and binding on both parties. It is of course understood that the arbitrator or arbitrators to whom the case is referred shall be men as to whose impartiality both the British Government and the Government of the Irish Free State are satisfied.

The third question relates to the status of the Irish Free State. The special arrangements agreed between us in Articles VI, VII, VIII and IX, which are not in the Canadian constitution in no way affect status. They are necessitated by the proximity and interdependence of the two islands—by conditions, that is, which do not exist in the case of Canada. They in no way affect the position of the Irish Free State in the Commonwealth or its title to representation, like Canada, in the Assembly of the League of Nations. They were agreed between us for our mutual benefit, and have no bearing of any kind upon the question of status. It is our desire that Ireland shall rank as co-equal with the other nations of the Commonwealth, and we are ready to support her claim to a similar place in the League of Nations as soon as her new constitution comes into effect.

The framing of that constitution will be in the hands of the Irish Government, subject of course to the terms of the Agreement, and to the pledges given in respect of the minority by the head of the Irish Delegation. The establishment and composition of the Second Chamber is therefore in the discretion of the Irish people. There is nothing in the Articles of Agreement to suggest that Ireland is in this respect bound to the Canadian model.

I may add that we propose to begin withdrawing the military and Auxiliary forces of the Crown in Southern Ireland when the Articles of Agreement are ratified.

I am, Sir,

Your Obedient Servant,

D. Lloyd George.

A. Griffith, Esq.,

Mansion House,


Arthur Griffith, T.D.

Chairman of the Irish Plenipotentiaries

“Before we went we were told we might be made scapegoats of, I was prepared to be a scape-goat, if even one per cent could be added to Ireland’s gain. Before I left I said plainly at a Cabinet meeting that if I were to a go to London I could not get a Republic, that I would try for it, ceitainly, but I did not think I would be able to bring it back. If we were to get a Republic and nothing else the thing could have been dismissed in six lines by writ-ing to the British Premier and telling him that we would meet him only on the condition that he recognised the Republic. This Treaty is the first ever concluded between the people of Ireland and England”.
“It is also the first Treaty that hands back to Ireland the right to govern itself, to work out its own career and its own des-tiny. It gives our people solid ground upon which to stand: for Ireland has been a quaking bog for three hundred years, with no foothold for its people. I live in a world of reality. I would like to make my dreams and all the dreams of my people come true – But we have to face facts -above all the fact that our country is not equal in physical strength to England.
“So I went to London without any illusions, and told President de Valera that I could not bring back a Republic- We had power to sign anything we considered it well to sign, and the power of the Dail was the power of ratification. That was the position on the Saturday, We went back to London and met the British Cabinet on Sunday, and fought straight up and down all day. We nearly broke on Sunday night. As a matter of fact we did make a break, but we went back again on the Monday morning and started it once more. In the end, Lloyd George was sending the final reply to Craig, who had called his Parliament for the Tuesday. I say we fought all day, and Lloyd George had two letters written to Craig, which were going over at ten o’clock that night. One letter informed him that negotiations with us were broken off, and the other was putting the proposal to him which is now our Treaty.

We, therefore, had no alternative, and had to face the decision. I tried hard to get it put back for another week, so as to return to An Dail. But I could not get it done. I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that the issue was peace or renewed war in Ireland:and this was also the impression of every mem-ber of our delegation. War would have started afresh not with any formal declaration, but with casual shooting on one side or the other. Mr de Valera came back from America when I was in prison, and he advised the members of An Dail to ease off the war somewhat. It is a fact that he entered into negotiations with the British Government while I was in gaol, describing himself, not as President of the Irish Republic, but as the spokesman of the Irish people.
“When our Cabinet sent me to London, I distinctly said that ‘neither I nor any other man could bring back a Republic, and de Valera admitted to me that it could not be done. He said be was no doctrinaire Republican, and he sent a deputy to the United States to make the new situation clear. Moreover, de Valera appealed to me before I went to London – “Get me out of the straight-jacket of the Irish Republic – I cannot get it.”
Every night, from Hans Place in London, a special courier was sent to Mr de Valera, so that he had on his breakfast-table news of all that had passed.