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Thread: De Valera and Irish unity in 1940

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    Politics.ie Member parentheses's Avatar
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    Default De Valera and Irish unity in 1940

    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by parentheses View Post
    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.

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    Politics.ie Member Rocky's Avatar
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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.
    "Give us the future, we've had enough of YOUR past, Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in and to love..."

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    Politics.ie Member Cruimh's Avatar
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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.

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    Politics.ie Member Little_Korean's Avatar
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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.

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    Politics.ie Member mickterry's Avatar
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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

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    Politics.ie Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Little_Korean View Post
    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.
    "Give us the future, we've had enough of YOUR past, Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in and to love..."

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    Politics.ie Member Little_Korean's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    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.

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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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mickterry View Post
    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.

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