Skip to main content

Historical documents

79 Heydon to Burton

Cablegram Austdel 237 PARIS, 17 November 1948


On 16th November discussions were completed on the position which
will result when the External Relations Act is repealed by
Parliament in Dublin.

At first the United Kingdom view was that this would immediately
result in Eire being legally a foreign country to the United
Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and other members of the
British Commonwealth and in acute difficulties in all treaties of
trade, commerce or navigation under which foreign countries are
entitled to the benefit of the M.F.N. clause. The consequence of
this would possibly be claims by Denmark or the Argentine that
they were entitled to precisely the same treatment as Eire.

The view taken by Dr, Evatt for Australia, Mr. Fraser for New
Zealand and Mr. Pearson for Canada was that Eire although not
being strictly a member of the British Commonwealth should not be
treated as a foreign country by the members of the British
Commonwealth providing a proper declaration was made on behalf of
the Eire Government.

Dr. Evatt drafted a formula by which the Eire Government would
publicly state its view that after the repeal of the External
Relations Act it would not regard members of the Commonwealth as
foreign countries. The declaration would indicate further the
important fact that in Eire nationals or citizens of the United
Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were being treated as
though they were Irish citizens just as Irish citizens in
Commonwealth countries were accorded the rights and privileges of
appropriate nationality or citizenship. Moreover, Eire
representatives expressed willingness to amend the nationality act
in order that the strict law might be brought into conformity with
the practice.

The proposed declaration by the Eire Government would also state
that these rights of nationality or citizenship would be
sufficient not only to negative the theory that the various
countries were foreign to each other but would positively evidence
the existence of a closer association which it is the strong
desire of Eire not only to maintain but to strengthen.

In the end, after discussion, this basic declaration drafted by
the Minister was accepted by the United Kingdom Ministers and all
Dominions and the meeting ended in a spirit of cordiality and

This is in great contrast to the position on Friday last when the
United Kingdom intended to issue a public ultimatum to Eire which
would not only have failed to prevent repeal but would have
embittered relations for a long period.

The Minister also expressed the view that there was no reason why
nationality and citizenship rights should not ultimately be made a
qualification for Eire's fun reentry into the British Commonwealth
and this view found strong support although the Eire
Representatives naturally spoke guardedly about it.

The Minister feels, of course, that it is very unsatisfactory that
Eire is making any change in the law at all but that decisions
having been taken it is best to mitigate the consequences and for
Britain to have declared Eire a foreign country would have caused
endless repercussions.

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