Enigma of Ireland (v).
Mail - November 10th, 1933
Why Mr. De Valera Hesitates to
Declare a Republic.
Armed Force Independent of Mr. de Valera
By Gareth Jones
Will Mr. de
Valera declare a Republic? That is the greatest enigma in Ireland.
personality, who still has a great hold over the uneducated masses and almost
dictatorial powers over members of his Cabinet, has been destroying some of the
links between Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The Oath of
Allegiance has disappeared, and so has the right of appeal to the Privy Council.
But when it comes to declaring a Republic the President hesitates.
Why does not Mr.
de Valera take the bold step and completely cut the slender bond which unites
him with the British Commonwealth? No one can read his mind, but I should
suggest that the following are some of the motives which guide him in his
refusal to break with Britain.
There is alarm in
Ireland and also in Britain as to what would happen to Irish folk on this side
of the Irish Channel if de Valera declared a Republic. It is conceivable
that Irishmen born in Ireland would become aliens in Britain, although that
would be a delicate legal point.
The fate of
hundreds of thousands of Irish folk in our large cities, especially in Glasgow
and Liverpool, would be a sad one if, as aliens, they were sent back to their
native land, or even if they were deprived of their unemployment benefit. It
would be a stupendous task or the Irish Government to provide for their subjects
deported from Britain.
If the Irish of
the Republic were declared aliens, the outlet in the British Commonwealth for
the men of talent who are produced in such large numbers in Dublin would be
I talked to a
doctor who, as a boy in school, had been in the Sinn Fein intelligence service
fighting against the British. He dreaded the coming of the Republic, for
that would make Irish medical degrees invalid outside Ireland, and that would be
a severe blow to medical students, most of whom aim at seeking a practice
outside their country.
The Ulster Problem
cause for delay in proclaiming a Republic may be the Ulster problem. If
the President declared a republic for the 26 counties, that is, for the present
area of the Free State, his action would amount to recognising the partition of
Ireland into two, and no nationalist Irishman would stand for that.
If he proclaimed
a United Irish Republic and considered Ulster as a terra irredenta, he would be
running the risk of a war along the Ulster frontier and, in the view of some of
his followers, the risk of a war with England. A break with Britain would
deprive Mr. de Valera of a valuable election slogan and political platform, and
there would be nothing left to fight for - a really grave situation for any
Ireland would be
thrown absolutely n her own resources and the remedy for all evils of “Blame
England” would no longer be applicable.
Blow to Trade
proclamation of a Republic would deal to trade a blow even more severe than the
economic war, and by closing still further the British market would send cattle
prices deeper down and increase the number of bankruptcies.
The Irish pound
might even be endangered, although this is a remote possibility, because the
Ministry of Finance would in all events try to maintain the link of the Irish
pound with the pound sterling.
reasons against declaring Republic are, therefore, overwhelming, but it is
doubtful whether reason will prevail. Pressure upon the Government to
break with the British Commonwealth of Nations is getting ever greater and the
I.R.A. is violently impatient.
Sitting on the Fence
Valera has such popular support that he can long continue sitting on the fence,
but the day may come when he will be obliged to yield to emotional clamour.
He already hears
a view such as the following, which is much nearer the truth than the fear of
war expressed by some Republicans: “In the event of the re-proclaiming of the
Republic, England could do nothing. She might bluster and threaten and
weep about the disintegration of the Empire, but she would take no action.”
The trend of
events in Ireland is towards the Left and, therefore, political observers favour
the chances of a Republic. But none will venture a prophecy, and so I look
to the future to answer the question, Will Mr. de Valera declare a Republic?
But I think that the chances are in favour of his doing so.