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]