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77 Dignam to Evatt

Dispatch 82 (extract) [DUBLIN], 8 November 1948

In continuation of despatches No. 75, 79, 80 regarding the
intention of the Government of Eire to repeal the External
Relations Act, I desire to inform you that there has been a spate
of statements issued by political leaders not only in Dublin but
also in Belfast and in London. These public statements instead of
clarifying the situation make the position more difficult for the
'man in the street'. I have discussed the matter with the Prime
Minister and the other Ministers and they all give you the
impression that their contemplated step will make no difference to
anybody. Plus ca changera, plus ca sera la meme chose, that is the
way they argue. They state that the proposed legislation should
not be construed as indicating an unfriendly attitude towards
Britain. All they want is to obtain a formula which would allow
Ireland-as well as some other Dominions-to express their fullest
national independence while at the same time retaining their
membership of the Commonwealth. What is the problem? They state
that their present position is illogical. It is contended that the
External Relations Act imposes on Ireland the 'undignified'
position of claiming to be a Republic at home while presenting the
King's credentials abroad. Mr. James Dillon [1], for so long the
courageous champion of the Commonwealth, has described the removal
of this Act as part of a campaign 'for the elimination of fraud
and dishonesty from the public life of Ireland'. But Mr. Dillon
has found it necessary to go to the United States just as Dail
Eireann is about to embark on what may prove to be the most vital
session of its comparatively short but eventful career.

But the assurance that the repeal of the Act will not make any
difference does not measure up with the statement which Mr.

Costello [2] made to me when discussing the matter privately. He
said the repeal of the Act will take the gund out of Irish
politics and would give complete independence with a Republican
form of Government. The energies of the nation could then be
centred on ending Partition. Although, leaving the Commonwealth,
he said, 'we will continue to be on terms of complete cordiality
and friendliness with Canada and Australia. Our step cannot affect
our relations with any country in the matter of preference in
trade or otherwise.' (I had previously pointed out to Mr. MacBride
[3] that Irish goods get a preference in Australia which is not
accorded to Australian goods entering Ireland).

1 J.M. Dillon, Irish Minister for Agiculture.

2 J.A. Costello, Prime Minister of Ireland.

3 Sean MacBride, Irish Minister for External Affairs.

[AA: A1838/2, 1521/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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