Dáil Éireann - Volume 4 - 14 September, 1921


PRESIDENT proposed they would then appoint and ratify plenipotentiaries so that he could give a note to the Press for publication to the effect that to-day the text of the letter to the British Premier was read, that the Dáil approved of it unanimously and that the following were chosen as a delegation of plenipotentiaries to continue any further negotiations with the British government.

He then nominated in the name of the Cabinet the following persons as the delegation: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. A Griffith, as Chairman, assisted by the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Economic Affairs and also Mr. Duggan and Mr. Gavan Duffy. He proposed that these five be ratified as their plenipotentiaries by by Dáil. They could take their names one by one. Also that Messrs. Childers and Boland be secretaries to the delegation, [95] and that their position was unchanged. As he told them at the last meeting he thought it wisest he should not be a member of the delegation the reason being exactly the same reason that they inserted that second paragraph in the letter, that they wanted to emphasise in these negotiations they were not entering as a political party but as a nation.

He asked them to leave analogies out of the question. Nothing disgusted him so much as introducing analogies when there was no analogy there. Their position was totally different to that of the American States or South Africa, and let them deal with plain facts.

He knew fairly well from his experience over in London how far it was possible to get the British government to go and when they came to that point they would have to deal with the matter in a very practical manner. To be in the very best position for the possibilities of a break down and to be in the best position to deal with those questions as they would arise and not to be involved in anything that might take place in those negotiations—to be perfectly free —he asked the Cabinet not to insist on his going as one of the deputation. They would therefore understand that the Minister for Foreign Affairs should be chairman. There was a question of whether they should send the delegation at all but he took it the approval of their letter meant that the Dáil would approve of the delegation going.

Now his duty was, he said, to propose one by one the delegation for ratification. He therefore proposed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Griffith, should be chairman.


MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT maintained the President should be one of the delegation. He had an extraordinary experience in negotiations. He also had the advantage of being in touch already. The head of the State in England was Mr. Lloyd George and he expected he would be one of the plenipotentiaries on the side of England.

DR. MACCARTAN said the Minister for Local Government was out of order. This was a Cabinet motion.

PRESIDENT explained that at a Cabinet meeting it was his own vote put him off and he gave permission the matter could be raised here. There was no analogy; they recognised themselves but no one else did. He really believed it was vital at this stage that the symbol of the Republic should be kept untouched and that it should not be compromised in any sense by any arrangements which it might be necessary for our plenipotentiaries to make. He was sure the Dáil realised the task they were giving to them—to win for them what a mighty army and navy might not be able to win for them. It was not a shirking of duty, but he realised the position and how necessary it was to keep the Head of the State and the symbol untouched and that was why he asked to be left out.

MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT pointed out that this was a team they were sending over and they were leaving their ablest player in reserve. Now it was not usual to leave the ablest players in reserve. The reserve would have to be used some time or other and it struck him now was the time they were required. He formally moved that the President be chairman of the delegation.

ASST. MINISTER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT said he differed from the Minister of Local Government on this point and was fully convinced the President should not go. It was a matter of tactics. They had to safeguard the Republic and the symbol of the Republic and to face the unpleasant fact that the plenipotentiaries might have to discuss other proposals than the sovereign independence of Ireland and it was not right the President should discuss such proposals.

COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ said she took the President's point of view.

G. GAVAN DUFFY seconded the amendment to call attention to one point. Were the delegation to be called plenipotentiaries? In Mr. Lloyd George's last letter he did not refer to them as plenipotentiaries and therefore if they sent him plenipotentiaries they would be making him a present of plenipotentiaries with full powers. He strongly urged the President to [96] consider should he give the delegation this name.

PRESIDENT said he understood plenipotentiaries were people who had power to deal with a question subject to ratification. They would go first with a Cabinet policy and on the understanding that any big question should be referred home before being decided by them. They wanted plenipotentiaries to give to the world the impression that they are sent over with full powers—to do the best they could to reconcile the Irish position with the British position. They should have full powers because if they go over they needed to have the moral feeling of support of the position to do the best they could for Ireland.

As far as he was concerned his oath of allegiance was to do the best he could for the Irish nation. That was the only allegiance he acknowledged, an allegiance to the Irish people and the Irish nation as he conceived it. Their plenipotentiaries would go over to do the best thing they could for the Irish nation and the Irish people. He again warned them of the fact they were sending men to do a thing a mighty army and navy could not do. They had got to face facts no matter how high their ideals were and to deal with a practical situation as they found it. The time was come to get to serious work. The men going over would be going to face a most difficult task. He thought they should be sent as plenipotentiaries unless there was some definite legal objection to that word. But the question did not affect his decision.

MISS MACSWINEY supported the President in his decision not to go. He knew how far Lloyd George would go and if the President had a clear inkling that Lloyd George would not go as far as insisted upon then the mere fact of the President going over would give him to understand the Cabinet had agreed to give in.

One thing she would like to say, she still stood by her analogy. The analogy was correct, the difference was one of degree not of kind and the analogy stood and would stand.

PROFESSOR STOCKLEY proposed the President would not go and that the House would support him in not going.

SPEAKER then put the amendment which was lost.

Original motion was then put and carried unanimously.

PRESIDENT then submitted the name of the Minister for Finance for ratification.

P. Ó MÁILLE proposed and P. Béaslaí seconded that the Dáil ratify the appointment of the Minister for Finance as plenipotentiary.

MINISTER FOR FINANCE said he believed the President should have been part of the delegation. He did not want to go himself and he would very much prefer not to be chosen.

COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ asked what were his reasons.

PRESIDENT said if he were not the symbol he would go. He felt it was absolutely necessary that the Minister for Finance should be a member. It was from the personal touch and contact he had with his mind that he felt and he knew the Minister for Finance was a man for that team. He was absolutely vital to the delegation.

Question put and agreed.

PRESIDENT proposed the Minister for Economics, Mr. R.C. Barton.

K. O'HIGGINS seconded.

Question put and agreed.

PRESIDENT proposed Mr. E.J. Duggan. He was Chief Liaison Officer and had contact with the enemy already. He was also a lawyer.

E. BLYTHE seconded.

Question put and agreed.

PRESIDENT proposed the name of Mr. G. Duffy.

S.T. O'KELLY seconded.

Question put and agreed.