Truce and Treaty (1920-22)
Truce and Treaty (1920-22)
Tim Healy Lived in Chapelizod. He was later to be Irelands first Governor General. He kept a diary when corresponding with his brother Maurice.
In December; 1920, Archbishop Clune, of Australia, was sent to Dublin by Lloyd George, with a guarantee from the Cabinet that he would not be followed by detectives, and would be allowed to find Michael Coffins, without any attempt at molestation.
De Valera was in America, and Arthur Griffith in jail. The Archbishop had been Chaplain-in-Chief to the Catholic Australian forces in the War, and was backed by the Australian Prime Minister, Hughes. He saw Collins, who gave him the lines on which peace could be made.
Afterwards His Grace visited Dublin Castle and outlined to the officials there the conditions necessary for a truce. These were telegraphed to Lloyd George, who was asked to reply definitely whether or not they could be agreed to by Government. The Prime Minister wired authorizing the Archbishop to accept them. So Cope (now Sir Alfred Cope) placed a Government car at his disposal in order that he might inform Collins that the Ministry agreed to what had been patched up.
He saw Collins twice, and communicated the facts to the Chief Secretary, Sir Hamar Greenwood, who was more or less in the dark as to the peace proposals. Sir Hamar consulted General Macready, who informed the War Office. Archbishop Clune journeyed back to London breast-high in hope, thinking everything settled. Yet he was not allowed to see Lloyd George for a day and a half and then only to be told that the terms he had negotiated with Coffins on the basis that they had been approved at Whitehall could not be agreed to.
The late Field-Marshal Wilson had advised the Cabinet that no terms should be accepted without a surrender of arms.(Wilson was shot by Reginald Dunne & Joseph O’Sullivan July 2nd. 1922 in Belgravia, London)
The Archbishop then left London for Australia. He travelled via Rome, and at the Vatican he told the Pope (Benedict) of the treatment he had received. He arrived in Rome at a moment when intense British pressure had been brought to bear on His Holiness to issue a rescript against the Sinn Feiners. The revelations His Grace made changed the current of Papal thought.
Politicians acquainted with ministerial minds have since attempted a defence of Mr. Lloyd George. It is that he first believed that repression in Ireland would succeed (as did Forster 40 years before), and wished not to yield anything beyond what Gladstone conceded in 1893. Then, growing alarmed at the effect on American opinion of the excesses of the Black-and-Tans, he retained Archbishop Clune to parley. After he agreed to the conditions of His Grace, counter-pressure was put on by opponents within the Cabinet, who had not been previously consulted.
The Irish Solicitor-General, James O’Connor, had brought to London Father O’Flanagan, the Vice-President of Sinn Fein, to discuss peace terms. Lloyd George treated this visit as a hoisting of the white flag and Griffith’s newspaper protested in vain against their intrusion, which resulted in Archbishop Clune being thrust aside.
Now the Partition Act of 1920 became law, but few Nationalists treated it seriously. The cue of the Orange Party was to pretend they did not want it, and that the measure was being forced down their throats. It was a fruit of the policy of abstention from the House of Commons by the newly-elected Sinn Feiners, inspired by the inexperienced de Valera.
The inclusion of Catholic areas within the ambit of Belfast jurisdiction in the 1920 Act was not made the subject of a prior Boundary Commission. Ulster had been “shired” on a “clan” basis three centuries earlier, irrespective of any question save shrieval jurisdiction. In 1920 six of its counties were compacted into a new territory wherein the descendants of the “planters” held sway. No Protestant zone could have been set up to justify the creation of a Belfast Parliament, except in parts of four counties. In Britain the transfer of a ward or a parish from one city or county to another for the minor purposes of local government would not be tolerated unless preceded by a public inquiry.
Material for comedy underlies the doings before the passing of the Partition Act. The Orangemen had sworn a “Covenant” that they would never have Home Rule, and imported rifles from Germany to resist it. Yet over an area which they selected in secret, they secured Home Rule for themselves two years before the Irish Free State was established.
Their decision condemns the Act of Union of 1800, which they were supposed to cherish, but which the rest of Ireland had resisted for 120 years. Lord Carson, at Belfast in October, 1926, declared that he never desired the Act of 1920. Still the first inroad on the Act of Union came from its alleged upholders.
The refusal of de Valera’s party to attend the House of Commons helped the Orangemen. “When the cat’s away the mice will play,” and the Ulster leaders prevailed on the Government to confer a Parliament on six of the Northern counties. Protestants surrounding Belfast had a majority in four counties, yet the counties of Tyrone and Fermanagh, where the Catholics are in greater strength, were added to give dignity to the new enclave.
At that date three Northern members were members of the British Ministry – the Attorney-General (Denis Henry), the Solicitor-General (D. Wilson), and Mr. Charles Craig. Their Party asserted that the measure was forced upon them against their will and they abstained from voting for it, although there was an inflexible rule that Ministers must support Government measures or resign. This was stage- managed between Lloyd George and Sir Edward Carson. The latter in 1918 gave up his seat for Trinity College, Dublin, to become member for Belfast.
Chapelizod, 23rd April, 1921. “We are gradually but surely tending towards a graver situation, unless some arrangement be arrived at. I heard some discussion about Lord Derby’s intervention in Ireland (announced to-day most improperly by the Freeman), but regard it as a device to ensure a decent reception for the new Viceroy. Lord Derby is to meet the leading Sinns in a country house, and they can escape from their dilemma about the Republic by an arrangement to leave the question of a settlement to a plebiscite.
The situation has outgrown de Valera. I have not seen him since 1918 (during the Mansion House conference on Conscription), but I don’t think he managed the American Mission with insight, and he cannot have strength other than to say Non possumus to whatever approaches reach him.
Hence I believe things will go from bad to worse. The Castle bulletins are undignified and provocative – framed solely for English consumption. Their authors care little for bringing about a peaceful understanding between the two nations.”
This was written because one of the police publications threatened an “appropriate hell” on this earth for those who opposed them. A little later I received a mysterious telegram of which I wrote my brother:
“Chapelizod 16th June 1921 Things seem bad in Belfast. If Lloyd George dissolves this year, he intends to do so upon the Irish question – like Disraeli in 1880, and I hope with like results. There are to be doings in England to stir up Protestant feeling, which will be attributed to the Sinn Feiners. The English don’t care what happens in Ireland, but it is expected (as the Yankees said) that by “waving the bloody shirt to stir the Northern heart,” his blunders will be condoned. He may be right tactically.
My opinion is that, while he pretended to Archbishop Clune of Australia that others were responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations, he is the obstacle. It is said that his colleagues are not convinced that his tactics are correct, and think they would do better if they were able to boast of an Irish settlement at the elections, and may force one on him. His Irish war is costing forty millions a year.
Lord Derby is not coming back here, and the Sinns won’t accept even a written pledge from the Cabinet, but say they will consider any Act placed on the Statute Book for Ireland, and if it is workable, will undertake to work it! In Dublin their forces seem bolder and more determined.
There is great military activity for the past week, and the Sinns seem equally busy. Drury, the ex-police magistrate, told me on Wednesday that the Sinns have a camp of 2,000 in the Wicklow Hills, with machine-guns and anti-aircraft guns. This is extraordinary, if true. The Irish Times makes similar allegations about Co. Down.
General Macready told the Government he would require 100,000 troops to properly occupy the country. He told Dr. Murphy, of the Independent, he would not allow newspapers to be printed, or any Press messages or correspondence, if the fight continued.
Cope and Lord FitzAlan have worked hard to effect peace. Cope continually meets the Sinn leaders, including Michael Collins. The military desire trouble, for to crush is their job.”
Gossip in Ministerial circles spread that there would be difficulty in securing the attendance of King George and his Consort unless something was done to make peace with the rest of Ireland The fiasco connected with Archbishop Clune’s dismissal had profoundly injured British interests at Rome and in Australia, so Lord Derby was selected to bring an olive branch to Ireland. Some writers have tried to belittle Lord Derby’s work. That judgment is mistaken. He secured the goodwill of Cardinal Logue, and his geniality and good-nature soothed the vanity of Mr. de Valera and enabled a meeting to take place between him and Sir James Craig.
The result was that King George and Queen Mary opened the Belfast Parliament, with the implied assurance that what was called “Southern Ireland” would not be left out in the cold. This paved the way for the Treaty, but unhappily the wranglings over that instrument, although signed by Griffith and Collins, led to revolt, and postponed the attempt to enforce the Boundary Clause it contained for three years. when strife ended, the Coalition Government had disappeared, and three Prime Ministers in succession had succeeded Mr. Lloyd George, all unpledged to his commitments. Lord Derby’s recognition, during his visit to Ireland by English and Irish sportsmen in the hotel where he put up, was a misfortune which changed the course of history.
In July, 1921, came the Truce. De Valera previously went to London to discuss terms with Lloyd George on July 14th. Chastened by his Chicago experience, and being told that the demand for a Republic would not be listened to, he returned to Ireland and assembled his M.P.’s. Then plenipotentiaries to treat afresh with the British Cabinet were appointed. The fact that such negotiations were on foot led me to write my brother:
Chapelizod, 9th July, 1921.
“The “misguided boys” have won. Ain’t the owners gay, ‘Cause we brought the Bolivar out across the bay?
The Cabinet has decided to grant full fiscal freedom, and the control of all Departments, including the Post Office, to a central Irish authority. This is to embrace Customs and Excise. A tribunal is to be set up to consider what should be Ireland’s proportion of the National Debt, taking all the years of over-taxation into account since the Union. I think the public will not jib thereat, in return for a settlement. There is to be no representation at Westminster, thank God.
The Northern Parliament is to retain its powers, subject to boundary questions. The details of the franchise of the Central Body, or the proportion of the Ulstermen therein, have not been discussed. In principle, Craig and Lord Londonderry are friendly to the arrangement. Lloyd George will no doubt try to whittle down these concessions, but the majority of the Cabinet would break with him if he does. He wished to go to the country on an anti-Irish cry, but his rivals prefer the cry of “Peace with Ireland” at the hustings.”
In the weeks which preceded and followed this change hundreds of the Sinn Fein party were released from prison. I again wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 27th July, 1921. “Victory has been achieved by the pluck and self-sacrifice of men who risked their lives. The names of those who have fallen will be held in honour when ours are forgotten.
If the Sinn Feiners are such fools as to allow Lloyd George to negotiate at Washington before the Irish Bill becomes law, he may trick them, but as they have shown judgment in their procedure heretofore, I don’t suppose they will be blind to that danger. Barring this obstacle, I think the road is clear to a settlement.”
My brother was never convinced that Lloyd George would yield anything, and thought all negotiation vain. So I wrote him:
Dublin, 29th July, 1921. “The terror you conjure up, that there will be an “aftermath “is probable, just as the Land League left its trail behind, but the abolition of landlordism was worth it. So the price we shall pay will be worth the tribulations. The result I take to be the fiscal freedom of the country, and its administrative freedom.
There will be pinpricks and bristles, but the main fact stares you in the face, which the Sinn Feiners won in three years what we did not win in 40. You cannot “make revolutions with rose water,” or omelettes “without breaking eggs.” If you read the judges’ charges in the Tithe War, the murders were as terrible as those lately committed, and for what a petty result! One of those orations was so like our Serjeant’s late deliverance that the Tories in the Law Library repaid him with the charge of plagiarism – which I thought unjust.
The position is that the Sinn Fein Cabinet have accepted the Government proposals in outline, and that a meeting has been arranged between de Valera and Craig in a few days. Mistakes of detail will be made by inexperienced men, and the experienced English Treasury will get the better of them on many points; but in broad outline they have got what was denied us by Gladstone, Asquith, and Bannerman.”
Outsiders then little knew of the jealousies between the Sinn Fein leaders, but the accounts which reached me told of hopes of settlement.
Chapelizod, 19th August, 1921. “From a visitor last night I gathered that de Valera at the private session of the Dail yesterday encountered the extremists in a statesmanlike fashion. One of the “intransigents,” forsooth, is Erskine Childers, a British officer, who has only a drain of Irish blood in his veins.
The men who were the foremost in the struggle are the most willing to abide by the decision of de Valera to compromise. I infer that unless the British Cabinet denounces the Truce, the negotiations must be prolonged. The Sinns have tightened their girths in expectation of hostility, which, after General Macready’s denunciation of the decision of the Master of the Rolls in Wednesday’s Irish Times, is not surprising. The counsel engaged in the case should bring to an issue the question whether ermine or khaki prevails in the land.
Lloyd George cannot visit Washington until he has settled with Ireland, and this is the only “pull’, we have on him. Gladstonian generosity is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Dillon, Muldoon and Condon met on Wednesday in the National League room as ex-M.P.’s, and drew up a statement which Brayden filtered through the Daily Mail, that John stood in East Mayo on the basis which the Republicans will now be driven to accept. Oh, gee!”
The jealousy of the defeated parliamentarians was treated as negligible. The Ancient Order of Hibernians remained opposed to Sinn Fein, but the British paid no attention to their captiousness. I wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 23rd August, 1921“The military are trying to break the Truce and recommence the fight, but their measure has been taken. They love nothing but “threatenings and slaughter,” and are without vision.
Walsh, the American delegate, lunched here yesterday and was pathetic over the downfall of President Wilson, which he attributes to Lloyd George’s refusal to receive the Irish delegation in Paris. He said that if he had done so (as he received Hertzog), America would have accepted the League of Nations and the Versailles Treaty, and that there would not have been a throb about Ireland afterwards.
Walsh is a close friend of Wilson’s, and never took up Irish politics until Lloyd George sent him here from Paris with instructions to “see everything for himself””
Intertwisting of American relations with Ireland’s was part of the polities of 1921.
We were expecting the return of William O’Brien when I wrote:
Chapelizod, 26th August, 1921. “William O’Brien is back from France, and is concerned about the oath lately taken by the Sinns to hold out for a Republic. I replied that they will find some formula to “shuffle off that mortal coil,” though I dislike trick circus-riding as much as himself.
Sir James Craig approved, in the document sent to Lloyd George, of terms that were omitted from the Government offer. A special envoy took the reply to Lloyd George on Tuesday night, but the formal presentation at Downing Street yesterday was part of the plan to give the Prime Minister a longer time for consideration than his colleagues. Lloyd George was solicitous that the answer should be first delivered to himself.
I have just got de Valera’s reply, which I enclose. The reason the British can afford to take the Sinns patiently is that, if there was disarmament after the Washington Conference, it would save England, in decreased taxation, hundreds of millions a year.”
Lloyd George made it dear, orally and in writing, to de Valera that negotiations could not proceed on the basis of the recognition of an Irish Republic, or the separation of the two islands. After a tedious and fruitless correspondence, the Prime Minister went to Scotland.
I wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 30th August, 1921. “Lloyd George has been recommended to enjoy his Scotch holiday and let Ireland simmer down for the next fortnight. He won’t go to Washington for the opening meeting, as there will be only preliminaries for some time.
The contrast you draw between Parnell’s and de Valera’s methods would be a complete condemnation of the latter had Parnell’s succeeded. The result of Parnell’s diplomacy was Gladstone’s conversion, and Parnell’s approval of a small Home Rule Bill that led to defeat in the House of Commons and at the Dissolution of 1886, owing to the British public being startled. This left us 35 years without Home Rule.
I am not saying these tactics were wrong at the time, but if Lloyd George and de Valera practised them the Tories would be seething with rage; whereas the rejection of the offer has left even the Morning Post dumb.
I agree that the tactics will provide grounds for taunts when the final “climb-down” is made, but the taunts will come from powerless people; whereas, in the other event, the storm would have been brewed by men able to give effect to their indignation. Not that I believe de Valera and his friends ever considered the question!
They seem to me to resemble a battle-aeroplane, which must leave and take the ground at 70 miles an hour, as otherwise it would be wrecked!
The Cardinal is in touch with de Valera as to Ulster, and did not respond to the Latin telegram dispatched by a Cork bishop recommending a meeting of prelates to accept Lloyd George’s offer. The Sinns, of course, got hold of the telegram!
The situation within the Cabinet is obscure. Lord Birkenhead may be contemplating a bolt from Lloyd George. He is designated as the next Tory Prime Minister by the group who ousted Balfour from leadership.
A crisis was organized in May within the Cabinet which would have succeeded, only Winston took Lloyd George’s side. I warned one of the Sinn Fein leaders of the instability of Coalition politics, and that they should “close” while Lloyd George is in the saddle.
The Ulster “Partition area,” and the question of Free Trade with England, are the stumbling-blocks in the negotiations. F.E., as a total abstainer, is a more formidable politician. He has completely dominated the House of Lords, and there is no one there to touch him.
If we could get the Catholic parts of the six counties away from the Belfast jurisdiction, I should be disposed towards the acceptance of compromise for the moment.”
Nothing was accomplished as regards the plan of confining Protestant rule in Ulster to the areas planted by the Scotch in the reign of James I. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics were pinned under the new jurisdiction of the Planters’ descendants by the Act of 1920. I wrote:
Chapelizod, 21st September, 1921. “The correspondence tends to show that Lloyd George has been laying a booby-trap for the Sinn Feiners. Apparently, his plan is to get them first to drop their extreme claims, then, having discredited them amongst their own extremists, to allow his “offer” to be whittled down in Parliament by hostile amendments. While at the outset he may have been sincere, his American advices since then have not been hopeful for us. I fancy Dillon has been gingering Scott of the Manchester Guardian into criticism of the Sinns,
I met Denis Henry [Attorney-General] on the boat on Monday, and he said thousands of Catholics in Tyrone and Derry voted for the Tory. I said, “They must have been the A.O.H.,” and he agreed.
Wexford town remains Redmondite, but they are losing elsewhere.
At a Dissolution there can be no Nationalist opposition to the Sinn Feiners. In England the Labour Party will be increased, and the “Wee Frees” will not gain strength. Lloyd George is tired, and reluctant to face the prospects of a bad Budget, which seems inevitable in 1922. This must affect his dalliance with de Valera.
With regard to your complaints about injustice by extremists, the temper of the central authority, and its desire to administer justice (if allowed) is the determining factor for an honest judgment. That the English Government included murder in their reprisal plans seems admitted by the correspondence in the Morning Post, and Mrs. O’Callaghan’s replies. Crozier’s revelations are to the same effect.
The sins of ignorant youths without experience or training are to be judged differently from those of an organized administration preaching law and order in the King’s name, and with talk about “German atrocities” on their lips. The Sinuns at least don’t pretend to rob or kill victims for their good.”
My brother was always sceptical that anything would be proffered by the Coalition Cabinet.
I wrote him:
Chapelizod, 26th September, 1921. “Your comments on the Sinn Fein anomalies lead me to say that we have to endure them while a native system is being built up and legalized. Youth is apt to be over-logical.
The people are determined to oust British jurisdiction if they can. They have largely succeeded – by methods that you and I would never have had the courage to undertake. History will judge them by their success, and by no other standard. Objectionable incidentals will be forgotten, or ignored, or excused.”
Lloyd George, tired of verbiage, called a meeting of the Cabinet in Inverness to denounce the truce and break off parley.
A letter of rupture was framed, but while it was being typed the late Edwin Montagu came to the anteroom where Cope was waiting. Cope begged Montagu to ask his colleagues for a hearing. This was granted, and the Cabinet letter, under the pressure of Cope’s arguments, was re-drafted so as to leave a loophole for further negotiation.
Faced with an intractable situation, de Valera determined to throw the responsibility for compromise on his comrades, declaring that “he was not a doctrinaire Republican.” On 16th September, 1921, he nominated Griffith, Collins, Duggan, Duffy, and Barton, on whom the Dail conferred plenipotentiary powers, to meet the Cabinet. Erskine Childers became secretary.
A few members of the Dail were for tying the hands of the plenipotentiaries, but de Valera declared that he and his colleagues would resign if this were attempted. I had warned Collins not to go unless de Valera also went, but he was too unselfish and unsuspecting to refuse. The personality of Collins had a profound influence on the negotiations.
In October, 1921, the plenipotentiaries proceeded to Downing Street, and found that their chief difficulty lay in the Partition Act of 1920. This stumbling block was the offspring of their policy of abstention from attendance in the House of Commons.
I often urged that abstention was a blunder after their victory at the polls in 1918. The reply made was that the oath of allegiance forbade attendance. I pointed out that they could haunt the corridors and lobbies, sit in the Strangers’ Gallery or on the Cross Benches, and make crashing demonstrations against Partition.
John Martin, M.P. from 1871 to 1874, did not take the oath, but his presence on the Cross Benches made mute protest. Sinn Feiners have kept silence, while their presence, even if they held their tongues, would have impressed British Parties, and contact with them would have moulded opinion. Such a course would not have violated their no-oath principles, while it would have prevented the Orange triumph. The new men, however, did not understand the terrain, and could not forecast the effect of the tactics I recommended on Ministers, to whom they were strangers, and whose psychology they had not plumbed.
The effect of the presence in the House and its precincts of an organized brigade of 80, whose tactics could never be calculated on, and who were all under military obedience, was not realized by their leaders. The House could expel them, of course, as a nuisance, but without their assent no Partition Bill would have gone through.
When the Treaty negotiations began I wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 24th October, 1921. “I was in London yesterday and saw the Prime Minister, after discoursing with the Sinn Fein delegates at their request. Both sides were gracious.
At the Grosvenor Hotel I was introduced to Liam de Roiste, who said he had been at an address I delivered at the Dublin Mansion House for the Catholic Truth Society, with great profit.
My impression is that things will come right.
The Prime Minister sent for the Attorney General to consider a proposal I made. He asked me to stay to advise the Sinns! I did not tell this to them, as unless invited, I could not do so.
The worst that can be said of my visit is that I have kept things going. Griffith and Collins were kindly.”
On my returning to Dublin, Austin Stack came to invite me to attend a conference in the Mansion House to consider a constitution for Ireland, which was to take effect when the Treaty had been signed. I went, and found de Valera in the chair. He foreshadowed that a compromise was pending. I said roundly to the grumblers that they had as much chance of getting a Republic as of being taken up to heaven in chariots.
The parleys lasted two months. During that period I again visited London. On the 6th December, 1921, the Treaty was signed. I wrote my brother:
Chapelizod, 6th December, 1921. “The peace terms will vex Belfast. The North is to be given a period in which to accept a Central Parliament, and if they refuse, then a Boundary Commission will decide how much of the six counties should be allowed to join us. The “Free State” is to be the status of the rest of Ireland. It is a victory for the Sinns, and their extremists won’t I hope, give trouble.
The Irish garrisons will be withdrawn. The Cabinet have acted well. I don’t possess the patience Lloyd George always displays. I found Gavan Duffy and Barton meticulous. Collins, Griffith and Duggan showed a wiser spirit. I hope there will not be friction amongst them, as an aftermath.
The Dillonites fervently wish a breakdown. Dillon wrote T.P. that he and his friends should abstain on the “vote of censure” in the Commons, but they refused. Lloyd George described T.P. to me as “a futile person,” which is not quite my aspect.”
Next came a struggle in the Dail. The signatories to the Treaty were novices in machine politics. I wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 13th December, 1921. “I am afraid the vote in the Dail may be closer than was first anticipated. On Sunday I was told de Valera would be heavily beaten. To- day all that was claimed was a majority. The fighters are for peace, with the exception of de Valera, Stack, and Cahal Bru. I am sorry for Bru. Stack, too, suffered more than any other in the bunch, and saw the inside of a dozen prisons.
Yesterday, as I was driving to the Four Courts, I met a broken-down motor in which were Collins and O’Sullivan, their “adjutant- general,” and I gave them a lift. They told me John MacKeown agreed with them, and I know that Mulcahy does. So, too, do other fighting men of the I.R.A. It is the pedants who are making trouble, such as Erskine Childers and the like. Ninety per cent of the population would support the settlement, but the pundits will take care that the utmost prejudice to the country shall first be done.”
After this I had occasion to go to England, and wrote on the way:
Mail Boat to Holyhead, 15th December, 1921. “Your apprentice, Kevin, made the best speech to-day in the Dail and although hitherto friendly with de Valera, he laid into him brilliantly, and told him his hasty action was the cause of the trouble, and that he had been appealed to again and again not to send out his condemnation, especially as, until the previous week, he had been in full concord with the delegates. It seems to me as if professors, as a class, don’t make the best “presidents
The Cork members were served with threatening notices warning them of the consequences of “treason.” This was publicly exposed and condemned, and drastic measures promised. Some, I heard, came to Dublin to intimidate Collins.
To-day the chief Cork military leader came round against de Valera upon his admitting that a Republic was untenable, and that he was only a critic of the Treaty on minor points. I hear the majority may be 20, but the debate will continue over to-morrow, as 12 speeches on each side have been arranged for.
Although John MacNeill is ineffective as Speaker, he made a good argument to-day for the Treaty. This, you will say, is in line with the “president” taking part in the turmoil of a deliberative assembly!
All the women are on the extreme side. Mary MacSwiney’s address was long. Kathleen Lynn, the Presbyterian’s daughter, sent a violent appeal to each member. Mrs, Pearse canvassed all she knew. The fighting men, except Cahal Bru and Stack, are on the peace side. Sean MacEntee, who applied for a commission to the British in the Great War, and got Devlin and the solicitor for the Treasury to give him a character before Lord Cheylesmore’s court-martial, is now a tremendous fighter!”
Sir James Craig sent a protest to Lloyd George against the Treaty, especially as to the appointment of a Boundary Commission. Leading members of the Cabinet met to consider a reply. That reply was a defiance and Craig kept it secret. For de Valera then to hinder the immediate functioning of the Commission was most harmful to Ulster Catholics, and his wrangling and obstruction in the Dail had the worst effects. I knew, having sat for two Ulster seats, that popular interests were endangered. Sir James Craig’s protest was intended to influence the nomination of a chairman of the Commission. I therefore hastened to Dublin, thinking that if de Valera got an assurance that an impartial nomination would be made, he might relent.
I telegraphed Duggan to meet me at Westland Row Station and explained the London situation. He took me to Michael Collins, who was working in the Gresham Hotel, although it was Sunday, and very early.
I told Collins that the Coalition Government could be relied upon to behave honestly as to the chairman of the Commission, and he asked me to see the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev. Dr. Byrne, and beg him to bear this news to de Valera. I visited His Grace that morning, and his answer impressed me. Sadly he said, “I will do what you ask, though I have already seen Mr. de Valera, but I cannot even understand the dialect he speaks.”
The Dialectician soon after headed an outbreak that prevented the Boundary Commission being constituted for years, and destroyed the hopes of Ulster Nationalists. No step to give effect to the Boundary Clause could be taken while the Free State itself and the Treaty were in jeopardy, I wrote my brother:
Chapelizod, 22nd December, 1921. I am in doubt as to the decision of Dail Eireann. Ninety-nine per cent of the people favour ratification of the Treaty. I thought Collins’s speech worthy of a lawyer as well as a politician. It was big enough for a trained statesman. I was surprised by its precision and detail, and absence of rhetoric.
There seems to be a brooding unreality in the minds of a few of our successors!”
Chapelizod, Christmas Day, 1921. “The Treaty will be ratified by much the same majority as carried the adjournment. Your comments agree with my feelings.
The R.I.C. will be disbanded and the military withdrawn by St. Patrick’s Day, and a Provisional Government established immediately the legal ratification of the instrument takes effect in Dublin, before any Bill is passed at Westminster.
Generals Tudor and Macready, in the meanwhile, will have been promoted elsewhere, and you will have Collins and Griffith in control before the spring is over.
The London Cabinet is determined to be rid of responsibility for Ireland, and to leave matters in the hands of the natives for good or ill.
I was glad to read William O’Brien’s letter. I tried when in London to get him to visit the Plenipo’s as he was there, but he refused, as he had not been invited.
I thought, as he had been a friend of Griffith’s, that he might come along, if only to say an encouraging word. It is true the Sinns suffice for themselves, but I always thought they were glad of encouragement. Their councils were divided, both in London and Dublin, for envy and jealousy are the main human frailties.
On the 27th December, 1921, William O’Brien made this appeal in the Dublin Independent:
“While fully alive to certain objections of the gravest character to the Treaty, objections altogether apart from those raised by the strict Republicans, an old comrade in the fight for Ireland may, perhaps, be permitted to appeal to the Dail not to refuse to try what the administration of the country during the next 12 months by a Provisional Government nominated by the Dail themselves may bring forth.
The power of handing over peaceful possession of the country to a native Government thus constituted is one that has never before fallen to the lot of Ireland. It ought surely to be exercised with general consent by the Dail. At the worst, the experiment will put the good faith of Mr. Lloyd George to a conclusive test.
Above all, let me appeal to the honoured leaders of both ways of thinking, whatever may be their legitimate differences of judgment for the moment, to explore every possibility of agreement rather than to do anything that might break up the present magnificent solidarity of the young men of Ireland.
That is our greatest national possession. They are the men to whose heroism we owe everything. So long as their solidarity can be preserved unbroken all else is safe for the future. The young men have only to show as much wisdom and self-discipline in preparing the way to peace as they shown gallantry in making war, and their names will live with imperishable honour in the history of our nation.”
This was ignored by de Valera. I wrote Maurice:
Chapelizod, 6th January, 1922. “The numbers to-day are calculated as 58 for, and 57 against, with 7 doubtful. If the Treaty is rejected, we shall see the converse of the Parnellite Split. There will be a broken movement, an Orange triumph, the withdrawal of the best elements of the fighting men, a dissatisfied population, and a gradual wearing down of a despairing people by brute force and courts-martial.”
Chapelizod, 10th January, 1922. I don’t think you make sufficient allowance for de Valera. He is “down and out,” by the acceptance of his resignation, but consider his record. In Easter week he was a poor professor thrust into military command. Yet he acquitted himself fairly without any experience or training. Instead of taking his ease when released from jail, he threw himself afresh into the struggle. He proposed the Mansion House Conference with the parliamentarians, to oppose conscription. Then he was again arrested, but escaped from prison and visited America, where he came in contact with extreme opinion.
We now see him apparently embrace it. He returned to Ireland, and, living underground for a year, can he be expected as fitted normally to undertake negotiations with the English Cabinet? No man ever had less suitable training or experience for such a job.
normally to undertake negotiations with the English Cabinet? No man ever had less suitable training or experience for such a job.
Beset with wild women and wild men, he resents touchily the supposed slur on his position. It seems like something out of dreamland when we remember old times.
As far as I can gather, Cahal Bru, Mary MacSwiney and Erskine Childers are responsible for his attitude. His manifesto was written for him by that editor of the late Cork Free Press, Gallagher, who was a penance to William O’Brien!
The minority resemble the Parnellites in their tactics, and in some cases are better card-players than the other side. Shaun Milroy, in the debates, a plain-spoken, rugged individual, was the last man one would credit with making vital points. Yet it was he disinterred and disembowelled “Document No.2.””
Chapelizod, 11th January, 1922. “The minority played their cards more cleverly than their opponents, but were worsted by the facts. What mischief small men can make, in responsible positions!
Childers and Barton, whom no one a year ago would deem worth reckoning with, have probably injured Ireland more than any others. If de Valera were not hounded on by them and the women, he would be reasonable. Extraordinary, that men who would not, in a pious sense, claim any high religious character, can trot out their “scruples” about the Oath and their “consciences” in the nude fashion to which we have been treated!”
The most shameful rumours were spread about by enemies jealous of Collins, and they actually broke into his office for the purpose of discovering proof of the supposed cheque given him by Lloyd George! Griffith was also slandered.””
Dublin, 12th January, 1922. “Lardner, K.C., says the de Valera Party, in spite of the interview to-day, doesn’t intend to obstruct Griffith. Childers is un-Irish and inept for this situation.
Griffith had a majority of several hundred at the Ard Fheis, but it was natural that they should wish to postpone the elections to give time for excitement to cool down. Yet J. J. Walsh, of Cork, warned them the night before that it would be fatal. Now the English suppose that it is fear of de Valera and of defeat that led to the compromise. . .
I helped to prevail on Bishop MacKenna, of Monaghan, to buy Clogher Palace and grounds for £20,000, as it was the ancient seat of St. Macartan, patron of the diocese. This enraged the Orangemen, and as it is within the Tyrone border, the day after the Bishop took possession, it was commandeered by the Belfast Specials without notice! To bring an injunction the Bishop would have to sue in Belfast, and they have got a military authorization, ex post facto. The malice of this is deplorable.
The creation of the six-county area condemns the policy of abstention from the House of Commons. The smallest criticism there would have shown its monstrosity.
On Monday, 16th January, 1922, Lord FitzAlan handed over Dublin Castle – the Norman stronghold, seven centuries old – to Michael Collins, who took it over on behalf of the Provisional Government. However, instead of occupying it, Collins was deterred by the outcries of his opponents from making it his head-quarters, so he immediately withdrew, and left everything there as before. The Black-and-Tans for weeks after made merry before glowing bonfires, destroying their archives in the Castle Yard. It was the first and last time Collins visited Dublin Castle.
He was to have presented himself there on the previous Saturday, but forgot the appointment, being occupied trying to avert a railway strike. When he remembered his engagement with the Lord-Lieutenant it was too late, so he motored to Granard to visit his sweetheart. Collins’s forgetfulness to accept the surrender on the appointed day becomes almost epic when we recall what “the Castle” meant to Irish minds. When Collins did not attend as arranged on an occasion so historic, the Viceroy, Lord FitzAlan was naturally puzzled and surprised. The telephone was set ringing, and explanations were tendered.
Then the Lord Lieutenant quietly adjourned the proceedings, with his accustomed phlegm and courtesy. Until 1923 the Free State Government did not take full possession. I wrote my brother:
Chapelizod, 23rd January, 1922. “Some Sinns have been out at my house since the Treaty. Collins, Duggan, Boland, Staines, Macartan, Stack, etc. I met the Plenipotentiaries in London two or three times, but I have not seen them since the Provisional Government was formed.
It was bold of Collins to handle the proposal for a Boundary Commission without, I assume, consulting Griffith, which might be calculated to lead to the same friction as arose with de Valera when they signed the Treaty without finally consulting him.
I suppose there was no time to see Griffith, but I assume, as Duggan and O’Higgins were in London, these were consulted. Taking off the Belfast boycott by the act of a single individual was also a bold stroke, but Craig will be as much criticized from his side as Collins from ours.
The Irish Unionists are taking things with resignation. If the blackguards who rob banks could be caught, we could endure with equanimity the performances of idealists. De Valera yesterday in Paris announced that Ireland is as firmly attached to the principles of a separate Republic as ever! Seeing that the mass of the people never cared a straw, this is a profound truth! Where is the “nth” dimension?
The Protestants are anxious about their charitable investments in England, and so should the Catholics be, as, if Ireland is no longer part of the United Kingdom, they would lose the remission of income tax for charitable purposes. The Protestant Archbishop called on Collins last week, and he undertook to do his best to make them secure. It would be a simple matter to provide for, if the British Treasury were agreeable.
Chapelizod, 8th February, 1922. “I am going to London on Wednesday to see Winston Churchill about the Dublin police. The younger policemen threaten to strike, and if such a calamity came to add to other troubles, the Free State would not endear itself to the citizens.”
For the sake of securing electoral peace Collins made some sort of agreement with de Valera, which had a bad result in England. Chapelizod,
24th February, 1922. I heard that Bishop Fogarty “read the Riot Act” for de Valera in Collins’s presence, and this had some effect. There was a meeting of Northern delegates the night before the Ard Fheis met, and the priest who convened it invited de Valera to take the chair. Father Phil O’Doherty protested, and left the room. De Valera got such a cold reception that he was chastened.
Still, his pact with Collins has alarmed the London Government. General Macready has been going about preaching that the evacuation should be suspended, and has nearly been successful. He fears the pact means that they will proclaim a Republic as soon as British soldiers have left.
I contradicted this to a high personage yesterday, knowing the hatred between the factions, and I am to see Collins to-day.”
In spite of the so-called pact over the elections, a meeting of Collins’s in Cork was fired upon by supporters of de Valera’s party.
Chapelizod, 6th March, 1922. “De Valera and Cabal Bru are breathing “threatenings and slaughter.” In Limerick their confederates are behaving in Spanish-American fashion.
With Belfast and the North in the condition they are, that patriotic men can so act shows the demoralization which afflicts Ireland. It is a throwback to the Parnellite Split, without its provocations.”
When, after the Truce, Collins and Boland called on me I learnt from Boland that they were my Sabbath visitors in 1918. Boland seemed a joyous soul, and remarked with a chuckle, “We knew d— well we could not bluff you then, but we hoped to fool the Lord Mayor and Dillon.” He and Collins laughed merrily. Before the next year ended each had been slain in an obscure conflict in which they took opposing sides as to the merits of the Treaty.
In no crisis did Collins lose his sense of humour. During debates on the Treaty he asked a friend to “tally” with him a list of the members so as to forecast the result. A Cork name came up and someone canvassed the side he would take. Collins muttered, “Against – dishonestly against.” Then he drew breath and laughed, “Or else dishonestly for.” END